>Would a spyder or crawler follow links with nothing between the tags? > e.g. Yes, they will. It is often used to hide a link leading to a spamtrap - a trap for those nasty spiders that suck email addresses off pages for spammers. People don't find it, vut the address-suckers do.
>If so, wouldn't this work for improving your listing on a search >by putting tons of empty links in your code NO, because the only links that count are links TO a page from outside the domain the links point to. Internal site links don't count.
>do search engines recognize this a penalize it? If the idea spreads, they would be easily able to detect an empty HREF and penalise a page with too many of them. Just counting the number of times > shows up in each page would detect it.