This is a guest post from Carol Wiley. It is part of The “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.

I get a lot of link requests from sites that want to exchange links and put my link on a long page full of links. I usually delete the requests without replying.

Why? How much credibility do you think search engines give to a link amid 50 or 100 other links? Here’s what Google has to say: “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 [emphasis mine] and can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results.”

What’s the option if you want to exchange links? Relevant in-content links – links from within a content page using a relevant keyword.

Taking this approach means you have to find relevant sites (that don’t directly compete with your site) related to content pages you already have on your site. You contact a site and offer to link from a content page using anchor text that includes a relevant keyword in exchange for an in-content link from a quality page on the other site.

This approach offers the opportunity for deep-linking (getting links to pages other than the homepage). For example, if you have a landscaping site, you could approach a rose-growing site and ask for a keyword link to one of your pages that complements, but does not compete, with the rose site. You also offer to link from one of your rose or flower pages to a page on the other site that contains information you don’t offer.

Or you have a beauty-related site with an article about pedicures. In your article, you can link to a site with more detailed information about sterilizing pedicure tools – as I just did here. In return, you might request a link to one of your pages about relaxation (with the anchor text ‘relaxation’) from the other site’s article Relaxation Benefits of Pedicures.

Two points to keep in mind when choosing link exchanges:

(1) Make sure all links on your site provide value to your reader. In other words, choose links to benefit your site’s visitors, not to artificially attempt to influence search engine rankings.

(2) Link only to quality sites, and generally only to sites with similar or related topics.

Although links are important for SEO, Google explicitly says that the best way to get links is by creating content to which people want to link. Using your time to create this content can provide a higher payoff than excessive time spent trying to set up link exchanges, especially because you have to educate many site owners about in-content keyword links.