And that's the big problem with link exchange requests, isn't it? They are often ignored. If you have the words "link exchange" or "reciprocal link" or anything like that in the email subject, the email will be unceromoniously deleted by 95% of webmasters. The other 5% probably aren't worth trading links with.
Why is that? It's because thousands of webmasters are using automated tools to crank out the link request emails, trying to get links to junk sites that have little real content and even less value. Because of this, webmasters have been conditioned to ignore link request emails.
First, Don't Ask For Link: Pay A Compliment and Give a Link
I solved this problem by not asking for a link in my "link request" email. In fact, I don't even mention a link at all!
Does it seem counter-intuative to not ask for a link request in my emails which are designed to get a link to my site? It probably does. But if you ask for a link, you'll just get your email deleted, so you need to take an alternate route.
My subject line is usually something like:
"I'd love to add your site to my directory!"
Then, in the message body, I tell the webmaster what I like about their site and ask them to add their site to my directory. (Note: You should always pay the webmaster a personalized compliment so that they know your request wasn't cranked out by a machine.)
Wouldn't you be much more motivated to open up an email that says the person would love to add your site to their directory than to open one that says "Link exchange request" or something impersonal like that?
They Add Their Link To Your Directory, And Then ...
Once the webmaster adds their link to your directory, only then do you ask for a link back. Once they've already been given a generous link by you, most often those same webmasters will return the favor. In fact, I generally see about a 70% reciprocal link rate.
For the other 30%, they are still a valuable addition to my directory, so I keep them in there, but I mark their links with the rel="nofollow" attribute so I don't lose any PageRank for a webmaster who won't return the favor.
Do The Math
In the typical, unproductive scenario, you might send out 100 emails asking for a link back. You might get 10% to open the email at all, and of those who do only 20% actually swap links with you. That's 100 emails times 10% who open, or 10 people who actually read the email. Of those 10, 20% swap links with you, so you end up with only 2 links. Ouch!
Using my method, I get a solid 50-60% who open the email, followed by 70% who swap links with me. So I end up with 100 times 50%, or 50 email readers, times 70%. So I end up with 35 links. That's more than 17 times as productive as the clunky old method.
But it still takes work, which is why I recommend using SEO Elite to automate the process of finding and emailing potential link partners.