We all know the importance of link building to get a site indexed in the search engines; to have the search engines crawl deep into a site (especially a forum) to index most of the site; and to have the site rank well in the search engines.
One way of building links is to exchange links with other sites. This is the good old fashioned, I will link to you if you link to me. That way both sites were supposed to help each other rank in the search engines. A while ago things just got out of hand. Sites were installing scripts to automatically link exchange with 1000’s of sites to get good rankings. These link exchanges were only to game the search engines and had nothing to do with the quality of the sites being linked to. As it was getting out of hand, the search engines were getting smarter at detecting these artificial ways of increasing rankings.
Google’s Guidelines say specifically: “However, some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results” A Google employee, John Mu specifically said in response to a sites rankings dropping, that “it might also be that the links to your site are not counting the way they might have in the past. In general, it is important to us that links are not just exchanged, bought/sold or otherwise used in an attempt to manipulate rankings”. The site in question was involved in link exchanges.
Many now consider links exchanges for the purpose of improving a sites ranking to be against Google’s Guidelines and the site will get no ranking benefit for those links. It is clear from posts in the Google Webmaster Help Group that many sites who used to rank well in the past due to link exchanges, lost their rankings as they lost the benefit they were getting from them.
I have not done any link exchanges since last century and do not waste my time even reading the spammy link exchange emails (the occasional time that I do open them, the site that wants to exchange with my site is usually an absolute shocker!)
Webmasters are better of spending other ways to promote their site and build links than engaging in link exchanges. The search engines want to see a “natural” gaining of links and exchanging links is not natural.