Do automated link exchanges work?

We’ve all heard that getting other sites to link to our own is a great way to get noticed by the search engines. The thinking goes that if a bunch of sites link to mine it must be popular and this will improve the likelihood that my site will be found in the top rankings for a given keyword.

The best approach is to get other sites to “naturally” link to your own because your site provides great unique content. This takes time and considerably effort. With competition so fierce, we often look for a shortcut.

One such shortcut to reciprocal linking is to use one of the many automated networks. Many of these boast several thousand subscribers. Basically, the network provides code which you install on your website. Upon approval, a link to your site is immediately placed on every other website in their network.

This approach is questionably “black hat” (the search engines probably consider it cheating). There is strong anecdotal evidence to suggest that a site might be penalized for gaining too many reciprocal links too quickly. With their highly advanced algorithms, the search engines have little difficulty in following a site’s link trends.

I personally do not recommend this approach. I implemented this method several months ago and saw an initial spike in my rankings. But shortly thereafter, I found most of pages disappeared from the results pages altogether.

That being said, there are a few automated exchange directories that appear better than the rest:

Telalinks
Backlinks
LinkDIY
LinkMarket