You are taking the wrong perspective to back links. Back links are not directed at sales, the purpose of back linking is to boost your standings in the search engines. This is what brings sales. People directly searching for what you are providing. I agree the traffic from these kinds of links are piss poor because they are not targeted traffic.
I was averaging 50 unique visitors per day before the ranking change. My traffic nearly doubled from Google just because the site is now ranking at #2 instead of #9. This is the kind of traffic I want, not traffic coming through the links that I create. I want my traffic coming directly from the Google search results and you should as well.
These links come from PR2-8 .edu sites and the links are designed to be permanent. Some of the sites are off shore .edu.xx from places like Pakistan, Russia, Australia etc. while the others are .edu in the US. It is a mixture from around the world. All of these links are of a do-follow nature where the page rank travels with the link. This is used by Google as one point in determining your own page rank.
I tell people all the time that they can do this themselves, but I can tell you that you would spend way more than $45 worth of your time looking for these sites and there are 25 of them in each package. You really have to know what to look for in order to locate them.
There is no trial period I build them and they are there. This is a one time fee and if they are missing within 90 days, I will replace the links for free. It may be on a different site but they will be replaced. This is another reason that it takes a week or more to complete, because we watch them to make sure they stick and do not get deleted before we consider the job complete.
If I was trying to take advantage of someone there would be no guarantee that the links will be live for at least 3 months. If I did not believe in this type of linking I certainly would never use in on my own sites.
You are right and wrong in your assumptions that the sites need to be relevant to yours. A site that is relevant tends to be better for linking from as far as the weight of the link value but there are many more sites out there that can provide links for you, they just don't carry as much weight. For instance a relevant site may carry a value of 1 where a non relevant site may carry a value of .5 so you would need 2 links from a non relevant site to equal 1 from a relevant site. Don't say that they don't count because they do and the site mentioned proves that. Most of the links for that site are from non relevant sites.
The key I feel is finding back links with sites that are similar in subject matter as your own. Do you offer that? Do you supply all the locations you actually place a back link too? Do you update that info. when or if it changes? Is $45.00 a monthly charge?
Yes I do offer that but I can tell that it will cost you more than your are willing to spend. We are talking hundreds of dollars per month because of the amount of work involved. Yes I do supply all the locations and the login information for those accounts. No I do not update the info. It would be a bad idea to change your link keywords. These are text based links that either say "Deck Staining" or "Deck Stain" If those were to change that would defeat the purpose of the link. You want that keyword anchor to stay in place. You will have all the login information, so you can change the anchor text any time you want to. The $45 is a one time charge.
All of this work is done manually. I have 10 people working on this type of linking alone. Some are creating links, some are searching for new places to post links.
You sir are a skeptic and rightly so. There are many companies out there that are preying on unsuspecting business owners, but to paint everyone in the business with a broad brush is wrong. It is the same as people thinking that an owner operator of a lawn care business is not a business owner and as such should not be paid accordingly. They look at the industry as a handyman with a lawn mower and that too is wrong. I get people every day calling me or emailing me to sell ME SEO services to rank my sites. I tell them to open their browser and type in "xxx keyword" and read me off the results. Gets them every time.
If someone buys sprinklers from you do they just get the parts or do they also get the benefit of your knowledge in sprinkler systems? You don't always tell them in detail why this design or that design is better but they still get the benefit. It is the same here other than I am not selling physical parts but rather the knowledge. They get the benefit of my knowledge but as that is my asset, I can not share all of that knowledge. That is my hole card so to say.
Here is an email I got from a customer today....
Don't know if it was extra effort on your part because you knew %$^& Hills was my main target, but I see that we come up # 1 on power washing %$^&* hills #$ on google search. Just quoted and got a $xxx job power washing patios and walkways. I am VERY happy with this. It more than pays for my $xxx of SEO. I will be even happier if we come up number one in the other cities.
Edited of course because the location and pricing are proprietary information for my customer. This customer is paying a monthly fee and one sale paid for the service because they are ranking #1. This of course was a high dollar sale but the point is traffic from links suck. Traffic from Google searches is money in your pocket (if you can sell).
They are not using this particular service as of yet and we just started this month so there needs to be a little more age to the site first.
One more thing to think about, as you well know, returning customers are your best customers. They are also the most expensive customers to replace. If I were to sell crap services or do something that hurt the rankings of a site, I am out of work quickly. I currently have 6 monthly customers, one of which is a large sealer manufacturer. If I was to sell them crap, I would be sunk in this industry. I don't look for the big score, I look for the long term revenue. This is just a little service that I can offer to help those that need that little boost in the SERPs without breaking the bank so to speak. It should not be the only thing that you are doing but just one part of a larger picture.
If you want it, you want it. If you don't that is ok too. I do however resent the fact that you said all companies like mine like to prey on businesses. Not all of them do, I actually enjoy getting emails and phone calls like the one above. It really makes my day. It makes all my hair pulling worthwhile, especially with Google constantly mixing things up.