Google has updated their link schemes page, a guide on linking to and from your website, basically saying all links need to be “nofollow”. That’s the gist of it anyway. If you are putting links on your site just to pass PageRank, they want you to stop.
My take is, and always has been, write for your visitors, not for Google. Yes, you absolutely should get the title, description and some keywords in there, but make your content flow and share links your visitors will enjoy (that open in a new window/tab!). Why are you playing the Google game anyway? To get visitors to your site so they’ll take action, right?!
Basically, Goog is saying if you are paying for links, that is bad. I do not fully believe this. I do think that if you just pop a link to your site out there on every available directory you can find, it’s not going to help you and may hurt you. If you find quality, niche directories and you pay to be listed, go for it.
For example, I’ll use a site I work on, The Boudoir Photography Network, which by the way isn’t always safe to view at work. (See I linked that? If you photograph boudoir, this link is useful to you and it fits the flow of my post here, and opens in new tab so I don’t completely lose you!) This is a site directory, but it’s not just any old submit a link directory. Your main purpose of getting listed here is to connect with potential clients. Forget Goog, you want the clients to find you. This type of directory, in my opinion, shouldn’t ding you and I haven’t seen any cases where it has. This is a legit link back to your site whether it’s dofollow or nofollow.
Swapping links with a friend might be okay. If you both are in two completely different industries that do not complement each other, don’t do it. If you both sell a product or service that complements the other, then by all means, share a link. In this case you are helping your site visitors find another item of interest.
Your goal should always be to create great content. Not content for Goog, but content for your visitors, and link where appropriate. Create something they want to read and share. As your readers share your content, your authority grows and Google gets happy.