As time passes algorithms change and more is required to be remarkable, and easy link opportunities die off. In the past I was a big fan of donating for links, but eventually the typical page that you can donate and get a link from gets filled with junk co-citation that puts the page in a bad neighborhood. For example, Moodle has a donation page that says
Donators over US$50 can add their link to this page (it seems to bring good Google Juice!). Please remember to hit the "continue" button after paying to see the form where you can enter this linking information yourself.
It is no surprise that the page has a bunch of gambling links on it. When I donated in December of 2004 that link probably carried weight (as the page was yet to be spammed out and the link relevancy algorithms were not as advanced back then). No way a sophisticated search engine would still want to count that same link today though.
If you can get a PR6 or PR7 link for a one time $50 fee then eventually the market is going to drive its true value toward that price. And if all your authority rests on those links then your risk to reward ratio of owning a business with a foundation in sand is not good.
I also donated to Mozdev for a link back in 2004. Soon after I did it many people followed my path, spammed the page up with a ton of donations, and the price was increased to $1,000. Now if you donate there you can't even get a link.
I just saw on the 2007 Bloggies page that they no longer allow you to get links for donating prizes. Another link opportunity that was closed off.
Google's duplicate content filter improvements and changing crawling priorities were largely about keeping many undesirable link sources (like low quality directories that will sell anyone a link) out of their index.
Some link sources are closed off due to greedy people taking advantage of them (like people offering to donate prizes to Bloggies winners and never donating the prizes, or directory owners selling hollow PageRank without enforcing any editorial quality standards), some are closed off due to algorithmic improvements, and others are closed off because as time passes you have to do more to be remarkable.
Many of the best ranking SEO sites rank well because they have crappy submit your site to search engine buttons that were placed on many authoritative college pages long ago. You can't compete by hoping that naive webmasters or webmasters no longer maintaining their websites will change their pages.
You have to find where the current conversations are today and find ways to get people to want to talk about you today. Instead of trying the search engine submission button maybe people would be willing to link to SEO for Firefox. Instead of creating a better Yahoo! Directory or a better DMOZ the popular new directories are social bookmarking sites like Del.icio.us. Find out where people are going rather than where they have been.
If you are first to market, it is worth doing something well such that you create the market standard, and are hard to beat. If someone else already owns a market position you may need to come up with another angle to beat them. The good thing is that now more than ever there are more people actively sharing their thoughts online. If you watch ideas spread all day long (Techmeme, Digg, Del.icio.us, Technorati, etc. etc. etc.) then it shouldn't be that hard to create a few ideas that will spread. And if you understand how to create ideas that spread, it will be much harder for competitors to duplicate than a profile that is powered exclusively by donation links and other links that will be algorithmically discounted or links that just about anyone can get.
When you are new there is nothing wrong with chipping away at the edges to try to get a bit of a boost from it. But it is still important to learn how to spread ideas. If you understand how to create ideas that will spread and how to spread them, then every day the web is feeding into your future profits. If you are only picking at the market edges then you are fighting algorithmic improvements and the general nature of the web, which will get tougher and tougher every day.
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