I've read a lot about link building and SEO and it seems like links are pretty much the main factor in ranking high on Google. So why is there no legit, Google-friendly site where you can swap relevant links with like-minded individuals who abide by Google's Terms of Service?
I'd be glad if somebody put here a link to that kind of website, but it seems nonexistent.
Because that's not the point of link building—at least, not as I see it. What you are asking for sounds a bit artificial to me, whereas the real aim is that links are built naturally, because of their real perceived value. (What you are suggesting sounds a bit like a dating agency to me. While they have their place, it's nicer to meet someone naturally, in the course of one's life, that in these artificial situations. At least that's my view. )
I totally agree with you that it is better to meet someone or something - be it a link or an individual - as a course of real life. But how do you make it happen when your niche seems very saturated? I mean how do you go from Google Page 1002 to Google Page 29? I have not yet found a single article that points out a legit but plausible way of getting links and traffic by doing hard honest work. I don't buy "manual link requests" by the way - it doesn't seem to work. You have many awards from this website, so I guess you must know something I don't. Would be nice to get a link or two to what you consider best link-building advice.
What you have to remember is what Google's aim is here.
They want to give surfers the best result for whatever query they type in. That means the pages that are most likely to be helpful to them, not the pages that the authors have spent the most time promoting. Any straight-forward technique that enables you to benefit your own website is, or quickly becomes, worthless ... because as soon as you can do it, so can every other website owner out there. So no, there is no kind of website where you can easily get links that will benefit you in Google. There are websites where it is difficult to get links, such as DMoz, that do benefit you, but only because they have such strict quality control.
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