No one but Google has the "real knowledge" about reciprocal links. You
can find a lot of persuasive argument from all sorts of sources about
whether they help or hinder or are just ignored with search engine
optimization. But that is as much speculation as my answer below. What
we *do* know is that Google isn't talking about it, thus my answer
isn't the authoritative source you are seeking.
What Are Reciprocal Links?
Let's first define "reciprocal links".
Search Engine Positioning defines reciprocal links as "Outbound links
exchanged for inbound links "
This definition is similar to other definitions, which all say the
same thing. A link TO a site in exchange for a link FROM a site.
See also AMGY:
Are They Good, Bad or Indifferent?
I'll answer this as succinctly as I am able ... Google has long
admitted that linking was an important part of its page ranking
technology, but it seems every webmaster with even a bit of savvy
figured out how to 'game' the system to get their site in the top
search engine results.
What you've seen in the last few weeks is a pretty clear indication
that the free ride is over. If you're going to get into the top search
results, you're going to have to earn it.
Quoting from Jill Whalen's "High Rankings Advisor" of December 3rd,
"... fake credibility (as in reciprocal linking schemes)
is finally a thing of the past. At least until the
scammers figure out a new way to scam."
"Links are still important, but we're talking about REAL
links. As in the kind you get just because people like
you and your company."
To answer your question as best I can:
In the past, there were sites which didn't belong in the first 10 (or
even the first 100 or 1000) that got there through reciprocal links
and other methods to game the system.
Now, sites with a page or pages of links containing nothing but links
to other site may not be penalized for those links, although there are
a lot of those sites missing in certain sectors. But it's pretty
clear, too, that no one is *gaining* anything from them, either.
After the Florida update, many sites or groups of sites whose only
purpose was to interlink in order to gain page rank are gone. If
they're not gone, they're so far in the rankings, they may as well be.
There is nothing wrong with "reciprocal links", per se, but they
should be "real" links, with a purpose, contained within the content
on a page for a reason. Likewise, if they're linking *back* to your
site, there should be a reason for that link, too.
While Google's results at this time are less than ideal and in some
cases laughable for some queries, there is no reason to believe
they're going to stay that way.
There is a lot of reason to believe that ultimately sites with real,
relevant content will end up with high rankings, and the rest will be
relegated to much lower ranking in search engine returns.
A plethora of articles and other information have come out without any
real explanation of *why* it happened. But the obvious answer seems to
be that Google got rid of the sites that never really belonged in the
first place. Thousands of sites lost their high rankings, especially
those with no real content other than a bunch of reciprocal links.
If you pay attention to those with stellar reputations for search
engine optimization, such as Danny Sullivan, Jill Whalen and the
others, you find that most of the sites they have optimized didn't
suffer in the Florida Update. But then, most were optimized not for
page ranking or the latest algorithms, but for good, relevant content.
Jill Whalen's archived copies of past High Ranking Advisors can be found here:
I highly recommend subscribing to keep abreast of changes which may affect you.
Likewise, Danny Sullivan's Search Engine Watch, is an excellent source
As stated, I can't answer with authority what works or what doesn't.
Only Google can, and they're not talking.
But there haven't been any changes in Google's guidelines, although
they seem to have started to more stringently enforce their warnings
about linking and other schemes whose purpose is to increase page
Google's Guidelines are here:
Notice these are the same tactics preached by the SEO experts for some years now.
By all means, do link to other sites, just do it the 'right' way.
Define: reciprocal links
I wish you the best of luck!
Google Answers Researcher