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1) if my site is small, low PR, or otherwise suseptable to ranking damage, then
I think twice about linking to a PR0 or Greybar site.
2) if my site is established, high PR, and/or has established traffic from sources other than Search Engines, then I link based on the content of the page I am looking at and whether it will benifit my users.
Or, to put it another way, there is a critical mass for sites, different for each site, where they begin to stand on their own feet and are not quite as vulnerable.
Until a site has reached critical mass then I am concerned with building the credibility and traffic for that site, which are interdependant, and so am a bit more careful about to whom I link.
Once a site has reached critical mass then I shift my focus to links that are increasing the information factor and content, which goes to credibility and therefor traffic, regardless (to a certain extent) of the PR of the links I am considering.
Of course, no site, regardless of PR, is entirely immune to ranking damage so I am carefull to keep the ratio of low PR link in moderation.
My point is that ideally no-one should dictate what sites you can and cannot link to. In practice of course, linking to certain sites can reverse theme your site which can lead to unwanted consequences. In reality, we all need to eat.
I have definitely been helped by better ranked sites in the past-they took a "risk" in linking to me when I was low ranking. Now that I have developed a good ranking and an established site, I try to lend a hand when possible.
Hey, Let's all link to each other and then we'll all have the same PR and everyone will stop getting so worried about it! It seems like people go PR crazy, when evidence seems to suggest that good site design, titles and keywords are the main key for a good ranking. Oh yes, and a bit of spam here and there (joking).
When our new site started in June, I had no trouble getting some links. Our links page started out with a PR0 - not penalised but a genuine zero, not close to even a PR1. I don't think everyone is logged on to Webmasterworld or even knows about toolbar PR's. Now after a few months, I am starting to get link requests myself, and will usually oblige IF IT'S A GOOD SITE. Couldn't give a monkey's about the PR. All that concerns me is "Would this site be useful to my customers" and "Is it a related site". There are even a few links to sites where you can find information on our competitors.
I agree with you-most people don't know and don't care about the toolbar and we shouldn't worry so much about this, or as Woz said no one should tell us who we can link to. Mine is still a new site though(started this year) and I've heard too many stories on PR0 and how hard recovering from that can be.
Macguru, I don't know if the domains have had some sort of penalties before? I checked the site with the webcrawler and it's not listed. So the domains might be brand new. Is there any way I can check whether there was a penalty or not?
As monkscuba said, if you think the link is valuable to your visitors, then link to whomever you want.
Attempting to optimize a site with the fear of what your PR might be is ridiculous. Don't believe all the "chicken little" stories you find floating around these boards - unless you're doing blatant, vicious spamming, hardly anyone ever gets banned.
Write good content and link to whatever sites you think are good for your visitors. Done.
Knowledge is bliss as they say.
To know is a domain was already online I use www.waybackmachine.org
If it is listed there I take a closer look at the code.
To know if a domain name is banned, check his backlinks and compare your results with others with very low PR domains...
Just because you link the same pages as everyone else does not mean you are linking the best pages (or with most information). The guys at Google know this I'm sure and will be adjusting the algorythm in the future.
I'll have to agree with some people on the whole PR thing - yes PR is important but how high up that little line guys on that bar is not the full merit of you page (site) - spend time on title, site structure, text and themes or all the PR is good-for-nothing!
I would have to agree with TWhalan. I installed the toolbar about 2 months ago. I spend as much time as I can requesting link trades, sometimes sending out over 100 emails in a day when I am so motivated. My sites have good PR for what they are. But this was never a concern until I downloaded the toolbar. Now I find myself second guessing and analyzing potential link partners. A big waste of time. When I spent a day reviewing the PR of all my link partners prior to using the toolbar. I found most had a PR similar to mine. I find it hard to believe that I had not linked to any grey or white sites not being aware of what PR was at the time. We all know the difference between a good site and a garbage site. If you don't link to garbage sites you won't get hurt. If you link with similar content quality sites, regardless of PR, you will be helping those sites and your site over the long haul. Too much analysis leads to paralysis.