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If it isnt useless then what would make it beneficial regarding homepage rankings?
Many votes from many websites are good, regardless of whether they are reciprocated.
As far as generating one-way links, look to industry related websites, especially non-profits and .edu's that are informational in nature.
Exposure is good.
On site, you can publish a clear call to action giving details on how you want visitors to link to your site and why. Make it easy for them - HTML code, visible link to a 'link to us' page. This will surely help.
I have seen web hosting companies doing this sort of thing to get good PR.
Just wondering if graphical links with alt text are as valuable as text links?
Consider an informational site separate from a sales site. Easier to get those high quality inbounds. Then link the informational site to the commerce site.
In that case it's best to install a blog, strip the uneccessary add-ons (calendar, css formatting, etc.) and make it so someone at the charity site can update it themselves through the blog interface.
Get an "edu" link by donating some time to update your child/niece/nephew/sibling/kid next door's school website. They have no idea of the value of what they are giving away, and it helps you create a little good karma to make up for some of the other things you are probably doing
This one I like ...
We've done this three times and have a standard package we offer associations that want to partner with us.
1) Hosting + Tons of Email space
2) A version of Mambo or Nuke which allows them to update their own site and post articles, calendar events, photos and downloads (PDFs etc)
3) Training and support via email
In return we get prominent exposure on their site AND a free advertisement every quarter in their magazines.
Don't forget offline advantages when working with charities and non-profits.
>>>Don't forget offline advantages...
Also, I tied in all my sites by creating a "Green Widget Network", with links to all the sites, background information, screenshots etc.
I don't think either could be construed to be a link farm, because (1) has many participants who are unrelated to me, and provides a legitimate service and (2) has real content about the Green Widget Network.