I think perhaps nearly everyone in the webmaster community understands the importance of writing articles and submitting them to article directories. Writing good articles equals writing good content. Submitting to popular article directories equals to more relevant backlinks and better rankings. So writing unique and useful articles is a good way to improve your site’s rankings. But when you submit your articles to directories, your content is now on somebody’s site, not on yours. Although you do get the backlinks, you lose the unique keyword-rich content, unless you rewrite your own article and have it up on your site.
Now let’s talk about relevant link exchanges. This is also another favorite technique to get backlinks. You choose someone whose site is related to yours and you two do a link swap among yourself. However, the problem here is that the page where your link is placed may be populated with a whole lot of other links. This will reduce the value of the link. And it is very likely the page itself has a very little content or information. Just links. Because of this, Search Engines have devalued link exchanges to a point that it may not be worthwhile to continue link exchanges. Of course, link exchanges doesn’t take up much an effort anyway.
Before we continue, I will need to explain a little on Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). Google has been using this method to find out what a page is about and has increased it’s importance. It uses keyword co-occurrence and best of all, it looks at the content on the whole and see what other content has the same words. Although it is not prefect, LSI seems to look at patterns and similarity to judge a page topic. For more information, please visit Aaron Wall’s LATENT SEMANTIC INDEXING.
And equipped with these information, we will look at a better method of getting content and backlinks – Article Trading or Article Exchange. The idea is to write an article related to your site while your partner will do the same. Then instead of submitting to article directories, you do a article swap. Your partner’s article will be displayed on your site and yours on his. This way, you get unique keywords-rich content (from his article) and backlinks (from your article) as well.
The importance step is to write an article with good keywords so that Google will understand what your article is about and how “valued” the backlink on your article is by comparing both pages(source and destination). The added bonus is that you will have unique keywords rich content on your site. Even if you can’t optimize your partner’s article for important keywords (since it is written by someone else), Google’s LSI will probably figure it out by themselves. Best of all, it adds value to your human visitors!
Although from the looks of it, it is reciprocal, but unlike simple link exchanges, you have quality content on the pages with the links. Google doesn’t devalue a link simply because it is a reciprocal link, they take into consideration whether the link is useful to the viewer (and whether the link is in the body content or the page or at the footer among other things) and related to the page, hence the importance of relevance. A valuable link is a valuable link. The problem with a lot of reciprocal links, is that they don’t give any benefit to their viewers and to Search Engines. These links just exist to manipulate rankings. Thus Google has probably devalued a lot of such links.
Even though it will never beat submitting to Article directories for the sheer number of backlinks and exposure due to article syndication, Article Trading does have it’s advantages. You just have to weight each one carefully and see what is your priority.
Webwobot has an interesting concept of trading pages instead of just links or banners. It helps simplify the tedious process of article trading by provide a interface for all transactions between you and your pagetrade partner.