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(I brought up the issue of incoming links from totally unrelated sites not having much value for SEO, but let's ignore that for now.)
Mr SEO Guru recommended that in order to avoid cross linking to each other, we can have a set up where we each get 30 incoming links in exchange for 15 outgoing links. This eliminates any two sites exchanging links.
I know that 9 of these sites have content very close to mine because I wrote the original copy and gave them permission to use it, albeit with a few changes. The other 35 sites I have no idea about. It's safe to assume that they are not peer sites as far as Google is concerned.
Is this plan a recipe for disaster or have things changed sufficiently in SEO over the past 3 years to make it viable?
PS Right now I'm sitting purty in the #1 slot on Google for the category in question so my motivation to collaborate is pretty miniscule.
However, in your case that would not even be my primary condiseration. You're #1 already. You'd be risking alot and gaining nothing. Thats pretty poor decision making on a risk/reward basis.
[edited by: Shaddows at 10:29 am (utc) on Mar. 6, 2009]
I think the most important question is what binds these businesses, and consequently what motivation is there to link each other apart from obvious self promotion? If for instance location is a common ground, a page with "other widgettown" businesses would probably not do any harm in the search engines and for sure it will bring in real traffic.
Other common grounds might for instance be that all owners belong to a certain race, religion, political view, or whatever. But that would be harder to spot for Google. It would then help to have a common site about that particular common ground, "the green witgets site", linking all businesses in a directory: "green widget plumbers", "green widget real estate agents", "green widget trucking companies", etc.
Rule of thumb I feel is: is it usefull for your visitors? If so, does it also look legit to a search engine algorithm? Otherwise: stay away!
Is this about fixing something that isn't broken? What are your goals, what was the point of the meeting, what objectives are they trying to achieve?
Are they trying to grow traffic by expanding on keyword phrases used to find the site?
Are they trying to discover new sources of traffic apart from search?
There are visual tools out there (Google has one I think) that show how networks that seem all smarty-pants actually stick out like crazy.
A couple of years ago I would have run from this. Now, they might get a secondary, unrelated site out of me to tyry it out. Given that it's probably relatively obvious that this is an attempt to game the serps, I'd say this is a high risk strategy. Worth the reward?
He has the unbridled enthusiasm of someone who's just discovered SEO and PPC in the last 12 months.
Unfortunately, the big boss loves the idea and wants us all to participate, but it won't happen.
Thanks gents for all your replies. Each and everyone has been very helpful.
We are all trying, in varying degrees, to promote a new concept just being launched. This cross linking idea is supposed to accomplish several things. One, it's supposed to create increased traffic for everyone in the 45 member group. Two, it's supposed to help us as a group dominate our most important search terms in Google and Yahoo.
IMHO, it's all too vague with too many objectives and too little clarity.
You don't need this .. get rid of them and simply get links from sites relevant to yours. If the other site wants a link back, and if it benefits your end user, GET THE LINK. There is absolutely nothing wrong with link exchange just as long as you maintain high relevancy and slow/natural volume.
The idea is dead as far as I'm concerned, although I have no control over what the others do.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," is my motto.
PS You guys have been very helpful. Much appreciated.