In a word, yes. Since this flies in the face of conventional wisdom, let me qualify it a bit. Swapping links for the sole purpose of getting a link is a bad idea.
What is a good idea, is to swap links with sites that are truly aligned with the subject matter of your site. Presenting a good link to your users that can help them in the event that they don’t find what they want on your page is by itself useful. From an SEO perspective, it also helps the search engine understand more about what your site is about. In short, linking to relevant content helps your rankings.
The outbound link becomes a part of your relevance scoring when you link to directly related content. In addition, it looks good to humans who visit your site, including those who are thinking of linking to you. It makes sense to take a page out of the blogging world’s book. Bloggers are ferocious linkers (they are constantly citing relevant sources), and they are well rewarded for it. In other words, linking to authoritative sources can cause more people to link to you.
One of the big problems with swapping links for improving your rankings is that it’s a slippery slope. Once you start down this path, the boundaries blur. The moment you complete one of these exchanges with a site whose relevance to your site is low, you have hurt your rankings.
So we will swap links with people when the match is highly relevant. This adds value. But we do not spend time looking for these trades. There are much more effective ways to promote your site and better ways to spend your time. Just say no to engaging in active link swapping.
Eric Enge leads the Digital Marketing practice for Perficient Digital. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO. Learn More About Eric Enge