Synergy. If the site for dog owners has a FAQ with a question about doggie doors, or an article on the pros and cons of doggie doors, that’s where you want them to link to your site. If they don’t have appropriate content, offer to provide it. See our how-to article on asking for reciprocal links for another example.
Any time you can offer more than a simple exchange of links, your chances for success (meaning that both parties benefit) are dramatically improved.
We’ve given you our criteria for evaluating reciprocal links. Remember, the person on the other end is making the same kind of evaluation about you. Do whatever you can to address any concerns the other party may have about your site’s quality, traffic, or visibility. The real tie-breakers, if the decision is in doubt, will be compatibility and synergy. If you can offer something that’s truly of value to the other party, that goes beyond a simple exchange of links, you are well on your way to developing a great network of partnerships.