Elfchen: Could you elaborate at all on that statement? I mean, I haven't really been keeping up on the SEO world much over the last couple of years, and yeah I've heard that google has been trying to reduce the potentcy of 1:1 linking relationships, but I've never heard someone say that a link exchange could HURT your rankings, especially when that exchange is with a well established, RELATED website.
I know this stuff changes rapidly but one thing I've seen to be a constant over the years is that google doesn't auto-penalize things that a non-seo-minded webmaster would do. And pretty much every webmaster wants to exchange links with relevant sites even if they've never heard of SEO. I would venture to say that google would even want to REWARD sites that do "proper" link exchanges with similar sites... otherwise the algo would punish the wrong people, and all the affiliate guys who keep up on all the latest 0-day google tricks would prosper. I've got a bunch of well-ranking sites that were promoted exclusively through 1:1's with real, relevant websites, in an organic fashion over time with links that are still around today.
Please understand I'm not arguing against what you're saying, I'm trying to prod for more info. Like I said I haven't been keeping up with the SEO forums lately so I don't know about recent developments, sandbox tests, etc. But I do think that google sticks to certain ideologies as their algo develops, and punishing sites for 1:1 linking does not fit within my perception of those ideologies. I've completely avoided anyone who has asked me to participate in silly 3-way link schemes and that entire way of thinking because I think it's very non-organic and even if it might be providing some benefit today, it seems likely to become tomorrows target because ONLY the seo guys do it.
If anyone could point me to some GOOD info on this subject that goes beyond mere speculation I would much appreciate it.