With reciprocal linking you as an SEO consultant (or web site owner) have more control over the quality and quantity of the text links obtained. Unfortunately if you are starting with a low PR site finding quality reciprocal link partners is practically impossible.
Every low quality website owner and their dog seems to be the main users of reciprocal linking rather than the sort of websites you want links from.
If you’ve owned a site for more than a week you’ve had the emails “Saw your great site and thought you’d like to reciprocal link, blah, blah, blah… you sell shoes and we sell Viagra, perfect match don’t ya think” You look at the site and find your link will be part of a large directory and your link is 10 clicks from the home page on a PR0 page (wonderful, sign me up!).
When you get in the position we are in (many PR6 home pages) you can pick and choose who you link with. Personally I only setup reciprocal links with people I know and trust because I don’t want to have to check the links every month (I’m a lazy SEO guy :-)), hey I do own over 100 websites, imagine keeping track of all the reciprocal links I could setup!!
So what I advise is avoid the standard reciprocal link type schemes: I give you one link you give me one back! Instead find people you trust (look to your industry forums and newsgroups etc…) and setup multiple links between your sites.
I’m not talking about a text link farm here!
Just a reasonable number of pages from your site linking to another site and back again. I try to keep the number of links to below 10% of the pages indexed or no more than 50 pages (from a large site >500 pages), so a 100 page web site gives you 10 links, 500 or more page web site 50 links max. Avoid site wide links as a general rule (link from every page of a site is site wide linking) unless it’s a small site (below 50 pages) AND relevant to your sites content.
Also don’t accept reciprocal links pages, waste of your time and they won’t do much good. Some SEO’s think link pages are downgraded by Google, I don’t think this since there is no need for Google to go to an effort to determine a links page to downgrade the links, they already are low quality: reciprocal links pages tend to have low PR (PR4 or less) and have a lot of links (less than 100 links is rare except on the really low PR pages), this means the links are low quality and pass little link benefit. Also doesn’t help that links pages tend to have no content focus, they tend to link to anything meaning if theming is important (which is debatable**) this links won’t help much.
**Theming, and interesting topic and one that deserves it’s own page. Does Google etc… have the ability to determine a pages theme?
I’m not sure to be honest, and even if it does experience tells me unthemed links work well anyway.
That said we’ve found when a page receives links from related content (so themed) they do really well. It might be a simple case of if the anchor text used for your links is also found within the content of the linking page Google gives it a little more Google juice