Many financial and social markets are destroyed by short term opportunism. Because the web is virtually limitless, it is easy to make sales pitches that sound like everyone gains. But that is rarely, if ever, true. Every clean traffic source gets gamed. So do the dirty ones.
A recently launched blog Ponzi Scheme has more holes in it than swiss cheese. What kind of desperate people get in on the 5th tier of a Ponzi Scheme? Does it benefit your credibility to recommend low quality sites or have ads for your site seen on their sites? What type of readers do the low quality sites have, beyond the robotic community? No reason to link out to those sorts of sites, and you can probably use AdSense to buy ad space on their site for about 3 cents a click, if it even has that much value.
The reason many reciprocal link networks stink is that some webmasters marketed low quality sites they intended to get burned. Anything that has you trading with anonymous unknown parties has you trading your time, attention, and exposure with a spambot of some sort. Your site is better than that, and your time is worth more than that.
Many more programs will come out telling you how to get something for free, but if it is market exposure be leery. When I started on the web I did arbitrage on some smaller pay per click search engines and never paid me. Digging deeply for the deals has you focused on bargain hunting when your time would be better spent building value. The deal diggers keep getting made obsolete by increasingly efficient markets. The people creating real value keep making more money as the market gets more efficient.
What I have come to appreciate is that it is easier, cheaper, and more sustainable to associate with the people you want to be grouped with. If you want to link out to a bunch of other sites do it in your content, and hand select the content you reference. I have showed some projects to friends who asked "how the hell did you get X to be involved with this?" I simply asked them. Aim high, not low.
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