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My question is...will google frown upon me one day for using this technique? If so, what should I do as opposed to linking directly to the sites?
It is quite sad to head that you don't feel like linking directly to the site. Actually you won't lose anything by lighting out others candles! Share some of your brightness! That's the spirit of working together. Even competitors can help each other out when come to link exchange.
I can fully understand you not wanting to link to another site from your main page. We work so hard to get visitors to our site.....the last thing we want to do is distract them and send them somewhere else. It's hard enough getting visitors without doing that.
Thats the same as recommending someone in your retail shop to go look at the competition down the road. Might be nice but not good for business.
Ask yourself why you are doing it - and if it is ONLY for google - don't do it.
All your competitors will report you for hording pagerank, deceptive redirects, and whatever else they can whine about.
You should be afraid to link to other relevant sites. You are NOT losing traffic - you are qualifying it.
People get to webpages all sorts of ways - many that YOU would never do.
If you have multiple options - you will make more sales.
For example - I have a site on - shall we say "Big Widgets". Almost all my traffic to that site comes through text links that clearly say it is about "Big Widgets".
Despite this - I put a link to another site I have about "Samll Widgets". This works well. I also have links to "blue widgets" and "smooth widgets". This allows people to see what I have - and then pick something else.
The real way you lose traffic/sales - is by people hitting the back/exit/home button or typing in a new site.