Let’s find out the benefits of linking from the searcher’s and Webmaster’s perspective.
You are searching for some information, say you wish to gift someone a bottle of wine and you wish to get information on brands, and popular wines. You go on to a search engine and type in the keyword. You scroll down the list of sites that comes up when you search with that keyword. You click on the most relevant site, perhaps you like the title, or the description describes exactly what you want…
When you arrive at the site, you find that the web site basically has a few lines of information on wines and there are a whole lot of links from each of the pages. Would you like to explore further?
I would much rather go to a Wikipedia for my informational requirements or, to a really good portal on wines. Links are good, link farms are not. Think about it; if you need information, would you not rather go to a web site that is well established or authoritative? As a searcher who needs quality information, I would rather get it from a web site that gives me the information minus the other distractions. Having said that, if I find that there is a suggestion of another site on the relevant topic I may be inclined to click on it. But when too many links and ads pop up from everywhere, I would click my way out.
For webmasters, if you need to link, link to good quality, and relevant sites that will really-really be of benefit to your visitors. This is where you will provide benefit to your visitors and not when you have 100s of links from your site which are not even relevant. The game is changing and search engines are getting smarter. You will find that sites like the one I described above are fast disappearing from the search engines. I won’t say that they are completely gone, but the search engines are getting good at weeding out the low quality sites that only exist because of link farming. You need links; but not just any link will do. Obtaining links that are relevant to your site’s visitors are important. Keep adding unique content and promote your website.
The fact remains that the web site’s exit to, by, and for visitors.
You may find my earlier article “linking for users” useful.