My main company website has been online now for almost 20 years. My motto has always been to keep things simple and honest, and it hasn't done me any harm. The site appears high up in most search engines (depending on the search terms) and I have an average Google PageRank.
I'm often asked to add links to help other sites up their search engine results, but I never do. I like to think of my sites as free resources, a place for the discerning visitor to use to get some quality information. They are not designed to manipulate visitors, be they human or bots, in any way. Whilst this may cost me some visitors in terms of numbers, I like to think that more of those that do come are looking for something rather than just clicking through.
Recently, though, I've been noticing a worrying search engine listing obsession which is threatening to turn much of the web into a second-class backwater. Sometimes, when one person from a company has asked me to add a link to their company, a few days later another asks me to remove it because it might negatively effect their search rankings. This has recently happened with a company with whom I have previously had very good relations and who directly benefits from being named on my site. Whilst the webmaster who requested the link removal won't know me from Adam, you can be sure that the CEO knows me well. When people ask my advice about companies working in the data quality field, I point them to a page with links. If I were to remove the links those companies would get no referrals from me.
A shot in their own foot.
So why the obsession with numbers instead of quality?
The worrying aspect in the latter case was the threat to bad mouth me to the search engines by posting a disavow report to them, which would have grouped my site with spammers, link farmers and those trying to manipulate search engine results in shady ways. It appears that these companies are trying to associate themselves only with the highest ranking sites on the internet, and will do this by pushing the rest, by fair means of foul, out of the way and down the listings.
As you can tell, I'm not happy about this. But I still refuse to stop being honest and open with my sites. I don't add links to increase their rankings or mine, and I don't remove links for those reasons either. Isn't there room on the internet any more for high quality sites with smaller numbers of high quality visitors? What do you think?