diberry - 6:15 pm on Nov 1, 2011 (gmt 0)
I would urge everyone to get re-involved with webrings. They were popular before Google existed, so they have a track record. In my experience they cannot replace a top ranking in the SERPs, but on the other hand, you won't wake up one morning to find that top ranking has disappeared, and there is something to be said for a bunch of dependable traffic sources. Get enough of them and they WILL replace your once-upon-a-time Google position.
Webrings in the past often suffered because they weren't kept up - they linked to sites that were down or hadn't been touched in years, or weren't relevant anymore. We need to look at stuff like this and revive the practice, but do it much better than it was once done.
Google's advice and warnings - it's all lodged in my head, and I'm working to get it out. I have a couple of sites I link together sitewide, because they're designed to work as a network. I asked several friends who aren't web savvy what they thought about how I was linking them together - they liked it, but thought the links weren't visible, and I could be clearer about what the other site was, blah blah. I took their advice with no consideration for what Google might consider inappropriate. The result? I'm already seeing an increase in people clicking between the sites.
I think some webmasters I know would read your post here and shake their heads: "You have no idea how much traffic Google sends me! I could never replace it with webrings!" I'm sure in some cases that's true. It's almost unfortunate to have a site that beloved by Google, because someday, that traffic WILL go away. Forget Panda and penalties - someday Google will not direct the vast majority of search anywhere because they'll only control 30-40% of search, period. That's just the way of things - nothing lasts forever.