A Cre8asite Forums thread goes into a debate about the nature of link swaps or link exchanges.
EGOL, forum moderator, sparked the debate by saying:
Link swapping is manipulation.
Now, you and I know that he did not mean that to be a blanket statement. I would think he would have liked to put the word, "Most" at the beginning of that sentence.
Joe Dolson, moderator, expands by saying:
Practically speaking, if you want to swap links, swap links. Just be critical of the properties you're working with; and don't swap links exclusively. The "give a link, get a link" exchange doesn't need parity.
Let's analyze the typical link exchange request. An email comes into your inbox and it reads (here is a sample one someone sent me recently):
I would like to express my interest in 3 Way Link Exchange with your website for our mutual benefit.
Your website link will be placed on http://www.domain.com/ or http://domain.com/
I will add your link here:
http://domain.com/Internet_and_Web_Services/Search_Engine_Optimization/ OR http://domain.com/directory/Search_Engine_Optimisation_2/ OR We will make an article about your site here: http://www.domain.blogspot.com/
Below is my linking information:
URL: http://www.domain.com title: Internet Search Marketing Consulting Location Description: Internet Search Marketing Inc. is a search engine optimization and Internet marketing consulting company near Location Name.
Exchanging 3 way links would benefit our websites by increasing their link popularity, boosting traffic, and moreover three way links, being counted as one way inbound links by the search engines receive greater value than conventional reciprocal when it comes to rankings.
Blogging is the new way to go! Business blogs can be an excellent choice for both large and small companies - most companies already have a profile on the internet, but especially smaller companies are struggling to get visitors, and have serious problems reaching people interested in their field of business. Blogging can be a tool of communication to give hints for your sites new products to get featured.
I hope you will find the proposition interesting. If you feel, this will mutually benefit our websites, don't hesitate to send me your website details, and I will add it right away.
Thanking you in anticipation of a favorable reply and hope to communicate with you again for link exchange with more websites.
Mr. First Last Link Builder Specialist email@example.com
Now, right off the bat, this person did not even mention my content. The whole purpose of that email was to, and quote, increase "link popularity, boosting traffic" with search engines.
Most link exchange emails work that way. And by typically, someone who asks you for a link is not wanting it because they think your site's audience will find it valuable. But this is not always the case. Danny and I often get genuine requests for placing a link to an SEO's blog on the blogroll of Search Engine Land. Those requesting that link are typically in the SEM industry and want to stand out on that blogroll. I am sure they want some of the link popularity, but to them, it is more about being included on the list of SEO blogs as opposed to the link value. Note: I do not control who is on that blogroll, so please do not email me about that, only Danny is involved in that (which I am grateful for).
Are all link exchanges manipulative of search engines? Not all, but I would say the majority are. So be careful with them and be selective.
Forum discussion at Cre8asite Forums.