From Link Farms to Link Exchange 2.0
Search engine promotion has changed quite a bit over the years. It used to be that all you had to do was buy a domain, slap up some content, join a link farm and whammo, you'd be listed in the results pages of popular search engines in competitive positions. No more, dear friends. No more. Now it takes lots of well crafted content, perfectly seamless site architecture, proper coding and inbound links from other well respected websites.
So in essence, the only thing that has not changed is the links pointing to your website? That's right....sort of.
Building IBLs (inbound links - links to your websites from others) is an essential part of placing in respectable and competitive positions on popular search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN and others. In days gone past, many web marketing teams utilize what are known today as link farms. Link farms worked in the following way. You (the website owner) joined a network of other website owners and everyone agreed to place a set of pages on their site that were filled with links of the other network partners' sites. Since you are a member of the network, all of the members of that link farm network in essence pointed a hyperlink to your site, thereby increasing the number of links pointing to your site.
The problem with link farms from the perspective of the search engines is that most everyone was using them. This made it immensely difficult for them (the search engines) to determine who was really popular based on the most integral part of their ranking algorithms - inbound links. What most search engines did was penalize or completely ban sites which participated in link farm schemes (that's right, link farms are a very dirty Web word) because they (the site owner/web marketer) attempted to artificially inflate the appeared popularity of their site(s).
Link Exchange Has Changed
You realize the importance of building links - every website owner, webmaster and online marketer does or should. Realizing that the process of building inbound links has changed over the years is an important one. There is a different perspective on how to actually go about the process of building inbound links inspired by today's most popular Internet buzzword "Web 2.0".
Via Wikipedia, "Web 2.0 is the transition of websites from isolated information silos to sources of content and functionality, thus becoming a computing platform serving web applications to end users". Let's go a step further, "Web 2.0 is also a social phenomenon referring to an approach to creating and distributing Web content itself, characterized by open communication, decentralization of authority, freedom to share and re-use, and "the market as a conversation." If that makes your head spin or your eyes glass over, let's try to simplify that exhaustive definition a bit into something a little more palatable.
Welcome to Link Exchange 2.0
For all intents and purposes Web 2.0 is about collaboration. Sites which essentially enable the Web community of site owners and marketers to work together for the communities greatest benefit are those in the 2.0 realm. What is lacking in Web 2.0 for website owners is an ability to collaborate for the benefit of their Internet promotions; primarily their link building efforts and in turn their search optimization campaigns.
Participating in a link farm in the past made your site an "isolated information silo" and failed to embrace the open approach to creating and distributing Web content or appreciating the "market as conversation" paradigm. One site which gives website owners an ability to collaborate for the benefit of their Internet promotions is LinksToYou.com - an online forum and bulletin board system where members meet to establish one way and reciprocal link arrangements and collaborate on ways to improve Internet visibility by establishing relationships.
LinksToYou has embraced the concept of Web 2.0 and by enabling those responsible for Web promotion and optimization to exchange links with quality websites that complement their content. The result is a positive difference in site traffic and increased Web exposure almost immediately. There are many 2.0 websites like LinksToYou which help website owners increase exposure of their sites but few if any go to the level that LinksToYou has to help website owners engage others for the sole purpose of increasing Web exposure.