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One thing I'd bet my hat on though is that PR is not any sort of indicator as to the value of a link. Like, virtually 0.
The value of a link is primarily dictated by two things. OK, three.
1) Trust of the site. That is dictated by the backlinks to the site giving you the link. If it's got great links pointing to it, it's going to be a great link for you. So check the backlinks of a site before you go for a link.
2) Age of the site. Generally this goes hand in hand with the trust since it takes time to develop good backlinks. Maybe it's not even a discrete factor and is just part of the trust issue. But it's something I look for.
3) relevance of the page giving you the link. I want a link from a page that is ontopic to my site. Right now this would probably be number 1 in terms of importance in my opinion. I decline link opportunities right now from sites that are trusted and aged that aren't on topic.
Combined in all of that is that I also look for links from sites that have trusted links from *relevant* sites.
Nothing but my own experience for this, but I believe that a link from a PR1 or 2 page that has all of the above is many times more powerful than a link from a page that is missing one of the above but might be a PR5. So that's not a tool or even a method to value a link, just a methodology for getting high value backlinks. And it works - and I expect it to continue to work for the forseeable future.
I buy links for PR, not for traffic. I have no interest in getting traffic from links, only a boost in the rankings.
I donít think buying links is going to help much with rankings. My felling is that if a link gives you traffic then itís also possible/likely it will help with rankings. SEs are trying to give humans the most relevant results, so one could surmise that if a link is bringing a lot of traffic, i.e. humans are clicking then SEs in other ways could see the link also as valuable.
Buying links can get you top rankings in competitive fields. It will absolutely help your rankings.
The SE's are trying to stop it. They'll never stop it completely. Will it be mostly stopped anytime soon? I don't think that's going to happen either.
The only fear IMO from paid links is a hand edit. That's too catastrophic for my tastes, but there's lots of folks making a bundle from ranking right now, have been for a while, and not looking to stop anytime soon.
Forget about PR. You want inbound links from authority websites in your niche. You have to think about traffic as well, even if you're just taking it from a SE angle, because the two go hand in hand. If you see a lot of traffic from a referring site, that obviously means the site linking to you does pretty well with search engines.
The high rankings of sites with paid links would seem to disagree with your premise :).
Geesh, I just watched somenoe climb a few spots below me using sponsored templates. Not exactly a clickable link.
The only way an Analytics program would be able to determine which links on example.com are being clicked is if you had access to the analytics of that site. I mean, i can view the amount of times a website refers a link to me and from that i can divine the worth of that link. That's how i do it.
I don't care about links on links pages because those just work for the spiders. I care more about bringing interested visitors to my website through those referrals. In every case, the websites that bring a decent amount of referrals are great links to have.