I keep hearing people saying link swapping is dead but then the next breath they say you should publish content that has links in it pointing to prominent bloggers/publishers sites in the hope that they’ll read it and respond or mention your article on their own site. If that’s not a link swap then I’m not sure what is.
The same people are running around saying not to waste time on useless directories as the links from them won’t count. Now that is a good piece of advice, but lets examine how link swapping used to be performed.
The majority of link swap requests I used to get were from automated systems, churning out thousands of requests in the throw enough mud and some will stick mindset. The link you got from them would be buried in some obscure corner of their site, usually in a directory format and (Google Toolbar) pagerank would be non-existent. Similarly if you responded to these requests you ended up pretty much building your own directory full of crappy links. Google wasn’t keen on bothering counting all these useless links pages and thankfully the process is dying out a bit.
So what’s the difference now. Well now you are still swapping links, but by doing it in a well thought out manner and adding the links in an appropriate piece of content. The link to the other site is contextual. It means something and it must be there to illustrate the subject of the content. When the other person reads your page and responds in an equally well thought out manner, then their link must be worth something too.
Sure, it takes more work, building relationships, writing content, baiting bloggers, but in the end it is still just a link swap.