Link farms, blog and ping sites
You've seen them: you do a search for something, click on the link, and you hit a link farm page which has no content at all, just links to other sites.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, what's Google but a list of links to other sites? There is a diffence of course: the link farm sites and the blog and ping sites have no organization, no attempt to judge value: they just have links. What they really are is search engine traps, designed in hopes of getting a high listing in search engines, which in turn hopefully transfers into advertising revenue.
There's another aspect to these sites you may not see unless you also run a web site. These folks are constantly trying to get other web sites to link to them. Why? Because that increases their search engine ranking by way of credibility: the more sites that give them links, the higher their own rank will be. The rank of the site giving the link matters too: a link from a site with a Google Page Rank of 6 is a valuable coup; anything above that is more precious than gold. Because of this, these sites track other sites they think might link to them and say something like "I found your wonderful xyz.com site today and am very impressed. I've added a link to your pages at my foobar.com site and would appreciate a reciprocal link". Of course, legitimate sites do this too, though their email lacks the cookie cutter monotony of these trash sites, and the real sites really did visit your site. The link farm, blog and ping sites find other sites with automated tools, which means that often their link requests are completely off base: they might be selling home cleaning products but found a page here about SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol)! Actually it's usually much worse than that and you can't imagine what association their software thought it saw.
Blog Herald has a page on Understanding Blog and Ping you might like to read also. They point out that some of these sites are blatant thieves also.
The Web is not what it used to be. I'm sure that other sites cast a very jaundiced eye toward any link requests. I certainly do. Not that I won't add links: if your content is relevant and really is content, I'm happy to add a link to it. After all, that's what this site is for: providing information. I don't insist upon reciprocity, either, though it's certainly polite if you do link back.
Tomorrow I'll talk about the various ways you can get a link from here to your site.
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