According to Wikipedia*: “A reciprocal link is a mutual link between two objects, commonly between two websites, to ensure mutual traffic. For example, Alice and Bob have websites. If Bob’s website links to Alice’s website and Alice’s website links to Bob’s website, the websites are reciprocally linked. Website owners often submit their sites to reciprocal link exchange directories in order to achieve higher rankings in the search engines. Reciprocal linking between websites is no longer an important part of the search engine optimization process. In 2005, with their Jagger 2 update, Google stopped giving credit to reciprocal links as it does not indicate genuine link popularity.”
For a long time, reciprocal links have remained at the forefront of most inbound linking strategies. This is going to have to change. Google now discounts all reciprocal links. The algorithm has been altered to identify the exchange of links by two parties for the purpose of increasing their number of inbound links.
The concept of reciprocal linking defies Google’s original intention with the algorithm. Quality content should attract links. The exchange of links is nothing more than a mutual agreement to unjustifiably promote others’ content with the end goal of promoting your own. Google doesn’t particularly like this (see Link Schemes).
Some even claim that Google is now able to identify three-way linking schemes (i.e. website A links to website B, who links to website C, who links back to A). Whether this is true or not is hard to say. One thing is for certain though: inbound linking strategies should NOT be centered around reciprocal linking. This manufactured form of link creation is not well-received and is ultimately a waste of time. Instead, focus on creating unique, high-quality content in a given niche. The links will ensue.