There are some that absolutely despise the competition. They go out of their way to keep tabs on what they are up to, and regularly check up on them. In fact, they probably frequent specific sites more than most regular visitors. A few webmaster forum types of sites I visit can be downright brutal at times when it comes to talking about the competition. Their site is always better. They work much harder, and their content is always higher quality. Some people take it a little too far in my opinion. I have better things to do than to bad mouth another site. I think it’s very low, and unhealthy to engage in that kind of activity.
I don’t see anything wrong with checking up on your competition from time to time, but I certainly don’t dwell on it or make a daily habit out of it. Nor do I despise my competitors in any way. If they out rank or one up me, then great, good for them. It doesn’t irritate or make me mad. If they put in the time to do so legitimately, then they most likely deserve it. As long as they play by the rules and don’t cheating or take advantage of the system, then I am all for friendly competition.
Some of my competitors are actually my friends. Others more along the lines of colleague’s and acquaintances. The thing is you never know if one might help you out or turn into a long lasting relationship.
I personally do not have a problem linking to a competitor’s website. I think it is healthy and even natural to be associated with a site that has similar content to my own. However, I do have a set of quality guidelines a site needs to meet before I will link to them. They should have similar quality (not copied) content with a decent number of posts, pages, and information to keep a visitor occupied. The site should also be online a minimum of six months. Preferably a year or more, but I will go less if I think it would benefit others. Other than that obviously it shouldn’t be a bad neighborhood or one that Google frowns upon.
So yes, I believe you should link to a competitor if you think that it will help or add value for your visitors. If not, then no don’t link to them just for the heck of it, or because others are. It’s certainly not a must.
One thing I don’t participate in is the “If you link to my site I will link to yours game”. If I link to a website I don’t expect them to link back to mine. If they do great. I am not going to complain, but it doesn’t matter to me if they don’t. Likewise if someone links to my website I don’t believe that I am obligated to link back either. I might, and I might not.
Where do you stand on linking to your competitors? Are you for or against it?