What is a SWL and how does a Link Exchange System work?

Aleksander KasprzakAleksander Kasprzak
Published: 02.01.2019
9 minute

SWLs have long provided a lot of excitement and divided the SEO specialist community. The opinions of those in the industry are based on what experience they have behind them and at which agencies they have gained it. Find out what link exchange systems are, how they work and what is the current value of links from SWLs!

To begin with, I will explain what a SWL is in general and how it works. In this post, I’ll focus on publicly available SWLs that anyone can use, and on the aspect of linking directly to your target site – the one whose positions you care about.

What is a SWL?

SWLs are platforms that offer access to hundreds or thousands of websites from which we can acquire links leading to our site. They post links leading to subpages of our choice, usually with any anchor – for points.

Points are a system currency that can be bought or sold for real money. Each link generated in the system will cost X points, where X will depend on the selected parameters.

There is a division into two types of SWLs:


  • SWL dynamic – is one where links on subpages in the publishers’ domains are assigned randomly and rotate every so often (e.g., every 2-3 days) between different subpages of domains plugged into the system,
  • .

  • SWL static – is one where the link is assigned permanently on a given sub-page in the publisher’s domain until it is removed – either by you or automatically when you finish paying for the service/renting points.
  • .

In a nutshell, the process of posting links in a SWL can look like this, for example:

  • We specify the url that we want to link to with the SWL system. This can be the main page of the site or any of its subpages.
  • .

  • We specify the anchor (anchor), i.e. the text that will have to be clicked on in order to move us to the URL specified in the point above. For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that links with an anchor containing our chosen keyword phrase are stronger than those without the keyword phrase or with the URL alone, and that links with anchors are easier to harm ourselves, so don’t overdo the amount of them.
  • Choose thematic categories of sites on which to place our links, e.g. a site about building houses will fit construction, real estate, etc.
  • .

  • We choose the number of points we want to allocate per acquired link (e.g., a range from 1 to 100 points per acquired link)
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  • We choose the number of links we want to acquire (e.g., 20 total)
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  • We specify the time in which we want to acquire these links (e.g. 2 links per day/week/month)
  • .

Different link exchange systems may have their own additional parameters to choose from, e.g.

  • System domain power parameter calculated by a given SWL based on domain age, Trust Flow (data from MajesticSEO), Citation Flow (data from MajesticSEO), Domain Rating (data from Ahrefs) or others,
  • .

  • The option to choose whether links will be generated on any subpages of the site or, for example, only on the home page.
  • .

Where do domains available in SWLs come from?

Domains available in SWLs come from users, which we can divide into three types:

  • ordinary users – they buy points and add links to their sites.
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  • publisher – that is, someone who plugs his pages into the system and gets points for it, which he can “rent” to an ordinary user for real money.
  • a publisher who not only sells points, but also uses them himself.
  • .

SwLs used to be perfectly fine

The very idea of SWLs in SEO is very old. Until a few years ago, many SEO agencies, after accepting a client, did nothing else but sub-link from SWL. The selected key phrases jumped to high search engine positions very quickly, and the client was satisfied. The agency issued a FV “for the effect” and that’s how it worked.

The problem is that Google, also has a lot of smart people on its team. It is also capable of reacting to actions it deems to violate its rules. Leaving aside the automatic actions of the algorithms, there have also been quite extensive actions carried out by Google employees. In early and mid-2014, a team from the Search Quality Team (the team that cares about the quality of search results) manually inspected Polish SWLs. Plenty of sites, including publishers as well as ordinary users, were hit hard.

Why exactly Polish SWL-e were taken under the magnifying glass and whether they were used only in Poland?

Not only Polish link exchange systems were checked and penalized,other countries also use or have used SWLs and manual actions were carried out there as well. Examples include SWLs operating in Germany – Rankseller.de and Teliad.de, which were also penalized in 2014. In addition, systems operating in countries such as France, Italy and Spain, for example, were penalized.

Why does Google control something manually when it has specialized algorithms?

In my opinion, there are 3 most likely scenarios here:

  • despite Google’s assurances, these “specialized algorithms” do not always cope with the creative ingenuity of SEOs,
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  • sometimes it’s simpler and faster to do certain things manually or semi-automatically,
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  • it’s simply about showing that Google is still watching ;).
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Despite the fact that pages in the system are created by users to users, in my opinion it is not worth using them

In SEO, what is profitable and not profitable is usually directly related to money. A link on a SWL is cheap and easy to get. So much for its advantages.

The process of creating a system page usually looks like this:

  1. Purchasing an expired domain (expired).
  2. .

  3. Posting the site on CMS WordPress.
  4. .

  5. Posting a few/ten/hundred texts written or generated as cheaply as possible.
  6. .

  7. Sublinking with as many links as possible automatically, so that Google will want to index these sub-pages at all.
  8. .

Basically, it does not pay to use SWLs, because these systems consist of thousands of sites without much value, without traffic, without visibility in Google.

This is because publishers add sites to the system to make money – after all, making money is a business goal. Publishers who meet the criteria for admitting their sites to a given SWL system get a certain number of points worth X zlotys. The more sites a publisher puts up and hooks up to the system, the more points he has.

Each system has its own requirements for adding sites, but they can’t be too exorbitant, because either the points would have to be very expensive or the publishers wouldn’t be paid back for newly created sites.

Let’s translate this into zlotys

Let’s assume that renting 1,000 points per month in a SWL costs PLN 10, and the average cost per link is 33 points per month. For PLN 10 we will get 1000/33 = 30 links. 10 zl/30 links = 33 pennies per link per month.

Considering that nowadays it’s hard to publish any sponsored article on a valuable site with at least light visibility for less than PLN 100 per year, a link from SWL will cost an average of PLN 4 per year.

I, however, prefer one link from an article for 100-200 PLN from a site of my choice than 30-60 links from a SWL.

What is the SEO value of the domains that publishers hook up to SWL?

Personally, I have several sites hooked up to a certain Polish SWL. The generated points either hang around unused or I use them for tests in which I link my personal backlink pages. For this article, I checked a few random domains from which my back-end sites get links.

Below are visibility snapshots from Senuto for the number of phrases in the top50, top10 and top3 for sites from several SWL publishers:



As you can see from the charts above, the SEO visibility of SWL sites is extremely low. This is shown, for example, by the lines indicating the number of phrases in the top50.

This raises the question – how can links acquired on such sites give you measurable results?

SWL vs. “diversification of external link profile”

In SEO, one often hears the term “link profile diversification,” which is supposed to mean that it’s better to link from different types of sources instead of focusing on just one. The term also refers to the appearance and construction of links themselves, but that’s another matter.

Such types of link sources are given as:

  • web forums,
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  • comments on blogs,
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  • publication articles,
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  • linking from graphics,
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  • catalogs of sites,
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  • SWL-e.
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These are only selected examples. I’m not going to write about how to link, because it depends on many factors – budget, client brand, market position, etc. However, I do not recommend doing it with SWLs.

Link Exchange Systems – summary

There are some people who praise the use of SWLs. I, in recent times, have not seen too many positive effects of such link building activities and do not use them on client sites.

Keep in mind that no conscious publisher will provide a valuable site in link exchange systems, so don’t count on valuable links. Why won’t a publisher do this? For a rather simple reason – you can earn more on good websites and in various other ways, and with SWLs there is always the risk that the site will get a penalty for outbound links.

As a curiosity, I can tell you that a year ago I started a test on my own operating online store, which I linked from a link exchange system. The store was systematically linked with links from SWLs (it was not the only source of acquired links), but after removing them nearly six months ago, the site did not see any drops in Google positions.I removed the links just to see what Google thought of it, and it said nothing….

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Aleksander Kasprzak

Specjalista SEO, który od dwóch lat zajmuje się SEO jako freelancer – Elizja.com.

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