The Great Linking Debate

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Page Rank is not Authority

Remember that PR is not the same as Authority.

Let's look at incoming links. Link exchanges have a poor Authority index with Google. As do so-called link-farms. So, getting inbound links from there is not going to help your SERPs position, but it will generate traffic. If you have a highly converting article (i.e. one in which more than 10% of visitors click an advert) then this may be a good thing.

However, getting inbound links from an Authority site, or a site with a PR 6 ot 7 (like About.com, for example) will help your SERPs position.

Content is King

A sidenote, here. Content is still the biggest differentiator when it comes to SERPs and positioning strategies. Keyword stuffing is dead, however, since Google has worked out how to extract the keywords from the content without them being explicit. Latent Semantic Indexing, as it has become known, means that content really does count for most of your success.

Inbound links will only really matter if (a) all other content is equal, or (b) the quality is so high that it outweighs other site's LSI. Association with an Authority site would help with clause (b).

Use Outbound Links Carefully

Outbound links are another matter. The thing is that Google scores these links based on whether they point to something relevant, can be identified as such, and where they point to. As far as I can ascertain, they affect the Authority of the site (or perhaps even the PR, not sure), again only as a differentiator when all other things are equal.

So, use outbound links carefully, being careful to use appropriate keywords in the link, and only associating yourself with quality.

To wrap up - remember that Google's search algorithm is a collection of dials. They can, and will, be tweaked continuously as certain elements try to defraud the whole SERPs system. We're not, but sometimes it can look as though we are, if we try to use the system in a certain way.

That's why link exchanges, and link farms are good for temporary traffic hikes, but can kill the sites PR/Authority and SERPs in the long run.