As the debate over paid links continues to wage a lot of innocent business owners get caught in the crossfire. They often hear bits and pieces of information and then have to make decisions based on that information. Rarely is the average business owner as fully informed as the average SEO. Heck, even the average SEO is in the dark much of the time trying to parse statements and warnings made by the search engine representatives.
One of the areas of confusion that many have regarding paid links is knowing when a paid link is really a paid link, and when is a paid link penalized. I think a fair argument can be that a payment doesn’t necessarily always have to be monetary. Any quid pro quo on a link can legitimately be considered a “paid” link.
But not to worry, Google and the other engines don’t work that way. In fact, in their attempt to eliminate all forms of paid links from affecting their natural algorithmic search results Google has left one giant loophole in the paid link witch hunt: paid directory links.