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I've got a page of links on my site to various folks for various reasons (friends, relatives, reciprocal linking, etc.). It's been said that who you link to can "harm you but never help you." (bad neighborhoods, PR0, etc.)
So, if I disallow this one page with robots.txt, I shouldn't have to worry about possible penalties in terms of PR/link pop, right? Spiders should never see the links page, and therefore, couldn't penalize me for any "bad" outbound links.
Am I thinking straight?
If you are just wanting to provide links to your visitors for resources you value and don't care that the sites you link too benefit from increased popularity from your link, then you are fine with this.
If you are trying to get link partners (like you indicated), then you are creating a situation where you get popularity/PageRank value from their link to you, but you aren't offering the same popularity/PageRank value to them. If your page is not indexed, then it is not shown as a link to that partner. Hence you don't have a reciprocal link that is of value for popularity of PageRank.
The value, still remains for driving traffic to each other other, but you need to make clear to whom you are trading links to that you are not going to help their popularity/PageRank by your quality link to them.
Why don't you just put friends and relatives on a different page you keep robots from and then only associate with sites that you, your visitors, your link partners and the search engines would all benefit from knowing about?
By the way, what is the consensus on whether or not reciprocal linking is a zero-sum game, meaning there is no gain or loss of link pop/PR?
There is no question about the fact that links to you from quality sites in your theme area are helpful for PageRank and popularity. This is exactly why they started looking at links, to determine if anyone thinks you have value for a particular search term. If others link to you, then perhaps you are really a quality site for ranking higher for a particular search term query result.
Personally, I don't think that one or two links going south on you from a hundred you link to is going to significantly affect your ranking. Also, if someone is an eggregious offender in your field, you would proably know it and you can drop the link and ask them to stop linking to you.
And, be sure you look at their PageRank in the first place before you link to them. And, perhaps take a quick look at their source code and see if you see something questionable there. If you do, don't link to them.
By the way, part of the "sum gain" for our sites is that there are sites referring to us, regardless of the popularity issue. Search engine traffic is important, so is traffic from qualified referral sources. :-)
There would not be any cancelling out set in the algorithm. If they started setting up that kind of thing it would destroy way more than it would help in trying to get people to stop improper reciprocal linking. But, there is nothing inherently wrong about the fact that we are willing to link to each other. After all, that's really what the Web is all about anyway, linking, linking, linking.
I think that a few months back, I read a post somewhere that made me think that reciprocal links would (or could) cancel each other out in terms of link pop. Whether the poster meant that as a reality or just a possibility is the uncertain part for me.
Thanks for your help.
At the same time, I just wouldn't take a chance with something that I consider important for my site and would still look for alternatives to cover things if at all possible. ;)