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There's been a firm stance recently against such programs due to their having been used to artificially promote link popularity. In fact, a number of sites have been banned from search engines for participating in them.
Before making a final decision, go through our Google forum and this forum for threads that apply, to see for yourself.
While some are still managing to use them successfully, it's my personal opinion that there's too much potential risk.
A better idea is to look through the appropriate category at Open Directory Project [dmoz.org] and submit your site for listing there. It's probably the most important link you'll ever have. You can probably also find other like-minded sites there to exchange links with on a one-to-one basis.
Here's some good information on getting listed with ODP [laisha.com].
The old fashioned hand-picked way is still safest.
They are, at this time, charging $49.99 or $89.99 per month for automated submission to 1440 search engines, plus their links page.
However, I just checked, and the company itself is not currently listed with Google, not even one page.
Something must have gone amiss recently. I don't think they can currently be recommended.
>Something must have gone amiss recently. I don't think they can currently be recommended
I wasn't necessarily recommending them, just providing an example of a link exchange program that I have used and therefore have known to work, although I confess it is 6 months or so since I last looked at them in any detail. I will take the new information to heart though, and thanks for the heads-up.
I dont think that this changes their validity as an example of the type, but it definitely makes the point about the potential usefullness of link exchanges, and how they are being treated by the SEs at the moment. Who knows, maybe their star will rise again?
As other posters have noted, your best bet is to get your major directory listings (ODP, Yahoo, Looksmart). You should also seek out smaller, topic-specific directories that offer free listings. These can be particularly effective if they are on-target with you site's topic.
Finally, getting other sites related to your topic to link to you is worth the effort. Some will generate a little traffic, but all will help establish your link pop and site reputation. Text links with your keyword(s) are best. You can find good sites manually using search engines and contact them. Offering a reciprocal link is essential. I've worked with sites that don't want to put up reciprocal links, and the response rate is terrible.
I've used Zeus to automate the process of finding related sites and soliciting links, but be aware that plenty of effort is still needed. You can look in the [url=webmasterworld.com/forum12/242.htm]About Zeus thread[/url] in this forum for more info, or check out Zeus Review [aim-pro.com] at AIM-pro. If you decide to try Zeus, be sure to customize all e-mails, customize your link directory, and in general use common sense. The other discussion thread talks about how lazy Zeus users look like spammers. Used properly, though, it can be effective.