Annej, Try putting a no follow tag on your recip links page and wait a week to see if it has an effect.
Personally, I definitely would NOT do that. The last thing I'd do is try to artificially manipulate and upset the delicate balance of the linking profile for a site, particularly one that has always and is still for the most part doing well, for the following reasons:
1. You want to be very_careful about trying to increase the authority score of a site while decreasing the hub score of the site by manipulating the links. Source: GoogleGuy, I can find the post if you need me to.
3. Temporary measures and alterations in the OBLs = link churn [webmasterworld.com]. If there's one word we can use to describe what Google looks for in sites it's stability. Not doing a lot of SEO tricks, not tweaking and tuning - stability.
4. According to some papers/patents, there is a ranking benefit for a site for on-topic OBLs. It's also been the experience of many people. Why lose that for no reason?
5. It's unethical and unfair to those with whom quality reciprocal links were exchanged, by agreement.
From yet another of the same endless arguments about reciprocal links that happens all over. Straight from the horse's mouth at the Google group:
Marcia's right: reciprocal links have been around forever, and Google doesn't frown on engaging in reciprocal linking in moderation.
The key here is, indeed, moderation :). If, say, 90% of your backlinks are reciprocal, that's probably not going to improve how our algorithms view your site. Or worse, if 90% of your backlinks are reciprocal and not likely to be of interest to your user.
But exchanging links here and there -- *especially* when done with clear editorial judgement (e.g., you're not just accepting dozens of link exchanges willy-nilly) -- that's not the sort of thing Google looks down upon.
Hope that helps clear things up a bit!
But not improving how Google looks at the site is not the same as penalizing, is it? There's a big, big difference between things hurting and things just not helping.
90% of the sites that are in the -950 penalty either were involved in link exchanges or have recip links pages. That is the common factor.
And I betcha 100% of them have URLs that start with http:// too!