Well, this linking stuff is all a blur to me. It's either a.) a voodoo scam b.) a "link or die" part of web marketing c.) a way for two college kids to make billions or d.) all of the above.
What I stress to my search engine consulting customers is that they find sites that not only will link to their's but actually pass traffic, which is why I call them referring sites. A referring site is better than a reciprocal link in my book.
So, am I to understand that as a web production/marketing shop every client site I link back and forth with whose content is not related to mine I will be penalized? Seems weird doesn't it? I did the site, but get slapped if we co-link.
Or how about this, speaking of linking to like content:
Two sites. One is about "pig farmers"
The other is about "all farmers are pigs"
content on A gives you info on pig farmers. Content on B tells you nasty stuff about farmers. Same keywords in titles, descriptions.
I'd love to know what Google does after the sites are parsed to put the phrases in context and know these sites are not "related" and therefore diminish or punish the value of the link.
You see, I have never seen or read an article (maybe someone can give me a link) that includes the specific mechanisms that are in place to analyze, evaluate and reward a link. I've read the Wonder Boys college paper about PageRank but I went into a self-induced coma and still couldn't figure it out.
Anyone know exactly what goes on AFTER the 'bot finds your link to another site and EXACTLY how the evaluation process takes place?
Or is it, really, just a sweet mystery of life.