Engaging in link exchange will create too much outbound links on your site. Outbound links or outcoming links are links or URLs found on your blog or website that when clicked lead to another site. Outbound links are usually URLs you collect from link exchange, blog referral banners or widgets, image and html links, and even the webpages you cite on your articles. Note that too much outbound links decreases the authority of your website.
So what will happen?
If you are really willing to build your site and get more traffic or visitors, you must establish higher content authority. Remember that search engines crawl your site and when they found that another site is linked from your page but has similar keywords or contents, that site will be more likely to be indexed above you. Search engines detect that you are copying contents from other site or blog even though you are just citing a source. Citing sources of your articles could mean non-originality of the content you publish. Also, Search Engine robot could not or could hardly identify a cited link from the others.
Another thing that is associated with the content authority of your website is the Page Rank and they are directly proportional. This means that if your content authority is higher, you probably got higher page rank or, you got higher Page Rank because search engine detects you have content authority. Page rank usually measures the number of sites linking to your website or blog (backlinks) or the proportion of your backlinks over the outbound links. No exact formula is actually revealed but too much outbound links may decrease your Page Rank.
And the worst thing that could happen is, Google Adsense disabling your account. Deriving traffic from link referrals (which may considered as encouraged visit) and copied contents are violation of Google Adsense terms. So if you’re account has been disabled and you are clueless about what you violated, this could probably be the reason.
So how will you get backlinks without exchanging?
The answers is, share (like the buttons shown below) and comment on high Page Rank website and use your website as a signature. Participating in online forums or discussions will also get you valuable backlinks.