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As we all know now, Google got tired of having its search results manipulated in this way. So they tweaked their ranking algoritms (one tweak widely known as dreaded "Florida Update"), to put an end to these methods. They started actively punishing web sites that were caught using devices such as "Free For All" link exchange sites, and implemented many other measures also; too many to mention here.
So, getting many inbound links is a dead concept now? That is what some people claim, but they are wrong! What IS dead is idea that links are nothing but search engine food. Rather, we are getting back in direction of good ol' days, when links were not there just to bait search bots. Some folks may have forgotten that links really are there to serve as paths of communication for Real People. Inbound links to a web site means paths for humans to enter, and browse content. And that is what all of us webmasters want: VISITORS!
This also means: stop trying to manipulate search engines. Keep your directory of links, if it does provide some real value to visitors. But if those links are just a messy jumble, hidden somewhere in a dusty corner of your site - repent! Get those links out of closet, let them breathe some fresh air!
Kai Virihaur is a web developer, researcher, and artist. He runs The Hosting Finder (www.thehostingfinder.com), a web hosting directory featuring articles and RSS feeds on web development, web site promotion, and internet marketing.