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Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.
God forbid you actually exchange links in your link building efforts.
link exchange pages are not against guidelines
Google is to clever to just come out and say why link exchanges had to be wiped out...
Matt: Use your gut. Trading links is natural and it's natural to have reciprocal links. At some level, natural reciprocal links happen, but if you do it way too often, it looks artificial. My advice is to go with your gut and if you're worried, you can use nofollow.
The reciprocal url often looks like a resource page. The links on the reciprocal url must be based on quality and subject relavency and not page rank basis alone.
As far as I have seen, it is webmasters who have created the FUD around this topic by reading too much into various Google comments over the years. In fact, the webmaster community creates a lot of SEO FUD by the time some original comment gets passed on in a second or third hand. We even see some of this distortion on this forum from time to time.
Anyone who has used reciprocal links in the way described above knows from their own experience that they do help and they don't cause penalties. When you get off-topic and off-quality reciprocals, they tend just to have no effect, in my experience.
can you or someone else define "bad neighborhoods"?
Bad neighborhoods are groups of sites (often pyramids or rings) that are used to artificially inflate backlink scores. The end goal may be webspam or something more malicious like malware distribution.
The sites in these bad neighborhoods often use the same template or theme. The bigger ones may use several different ones. The content is pretty useless and it exists only as a vehicle to put the links online, so you frequently see scraping and spinning to create the text that fills up the pages. The text from public domain sources is another tactic.