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That was a bit of a rant. What I am asking is, in a waffly style, do people sometimes feel a little lost for ideas when building links in ultra competitive markets.
Here's a few tips that might help you get out of your rut. Ask yourself, "where does my target market hang out on the web?" then get links those types of sites. If your site is local specific targeting a specific city of town, search "town/cityname links" or "town/cityname request link" or town/cityname add link" and that will show you some low hanging fruit of sites that are actively looking to link with sites that target the same market you are after.
Another suggestion is to publish your own "suggest link form" which would act as a receiver to capture all inbound link requests. Sure it will receive some irrelevant link requests but on average, some requesting links will link to your first since they are initiating. Then you can decide who you want to link back to.
Some industries are harder to get links for than others so sometimes you have to reverse engineer where the target market is hanging out on the web and then get links from those markets.
I agree, and it annoys me to no end.
For me, chasing links simply drains the enjoyment out of it for me - and is a WASTE OF TIME that could be better spent adding new products, talking with customers, etc.
I have the same bad attitude towards ppc.
I miss the good 'ol days of roughly 1998-2001 when I could actually concentrate on keeping customers happy and running the business.
But still i think there are link brokers who can help you to build some high PR links and outrank your competition if you are really finding it difficult to get links in your domain.