It is a well-known fact that number of important relevant inbound links to any site counts in its Google PageRank and position in search results. Hence quest for inbound links from other webmasters is beginning of wisdom. This has spawned a whole new industry with experts in tow. The Webmaster world is abuzz with linking campaigns. Every Webmaster wants his site to show up on page one of search engine results.
Getting quality inbound links takes a lot of effort. Quite a number of link exchanges have sprung up to make job easier for busy webmasters. Like a dating agency, you register and seek, or wait for suitors. Within 24 hrs, they arrive in droves. Wish that was end of story. Sadly, it is not, in my experience so far. Practically 100% of my suitors come from a different planet. Our sites are totally unrelated. What has financial freedom got to do with renting a holiday bed-sit in Acapulco? Well, it may come in handy for dreaming…
It makes me wonder, do these webmasters fire before they aim? What is purpose of link exchange by way? Let's go back in time…
Once upon a time, before Google made linking Holy Grail, links were simply additional resources for audience, on topics which are not core to theme of site, but complimentary. For example, a site on fish farming would feature links to sites that deal with fish food as a core theme etc.
Before adding links, Webmaster would have checked out site, see what it offers, and make a judgment based on best interest of his audience. “Does that site offer quality fish food?” He will check out fish food on offer. As a matter of fact, Webmaster can take it further and negotiate a discount for visitors from his site who may wish to buy fish food from that site. Then he can boldly say, "Recommended Link". This means he had taken time out to check out site, and certifies it fit for his audience. His "trust me" then comes from heart.
Nowadays, you see bold disclaimer notices on link pages. Something to this effect:
"Visit sites listed hereunder at your own risk. If you believe what you see on these sites, you are on your own. You have only yourself to blame".
Funny and sad; makes one wonder, if a site's content is deemed harmful to your audience, why link to it in first instance? If you have managed to gain trust of your audience as an expert in your field backed by integrity, why send them to a site you cannot vouch for?
Am I against link exchanges? NO!!!!!!!!!!!! I am for it. But I believe Webmaster should put on table, a tiny little bit of his name and integrity behind every link he features in his link pages. His audience should be able to relax a bit and drop their guard once they click on a link from their favorite site. Otherwise, I believe webmasters should weed off all links they cannot vouch for to some extent. You may not be able to take full responsibility for what stunts other Webmaster may pull, but you should be able to watch out for interest of your guests visiting that site, and yank of that site from your link pages (alongside warning folks that have already landed there) if you find out something questionable about that site, no matter how much traffic that site sends you or boosts you Google PageRank. That spells integrity.
Some "experts" recommend; "if you link to a guy and he does not link back to you, remove his link and move on". Hey! Are you saying if a site has content your audience may be dying to see, and Webmaster of that site does not feel like linking you, then no matter how good and valuable that site is, yank him off your link pages? What is issue here? Your ego or your audience? Who loses? Your audience of course!
For rookie Webmaster, do not be enamored by number of links to your site you have been able to garner. Apart from quality of links and how they complement content of your site, you should always have at back of your mind, THE BEST INTEREST OF YOUR AUDIENCE. If you send them to a site where they get their fingers burnt, they will not trust you anymore, your PageRank notwithstanding. More than anything else, you need to inspire trust in your audience. If you fail on that score, then you can have your PageRank for breakfast, lunch and dinner.