Required recip's & "incentivized links"

Let’s say you have an internet directory.

For a qualified someone to get a “free directory listing” you say that a backlink is required. - Of course, a site link may or may not show in the free directory listing.

As pervasive a practice this is, is this “incentivized” as G sees it?
Hinting here toward potential penalities.

I would argue that it’s not given that users for other services will require a backlink. Some web developers sign their work in the footer and provide a link back and even some software installs like phpBB provide this link. Some one-off scripts you’ll find online will even have a requirement of a backlink in the license. WordPress plugins sometimes create backlinks.

There are just too many other examples that use a similar situation. However, it would seem that the links should be nofollow to be in guidelines with Google’s advertising specifications.

Not all paid links violate our guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such. This can be done in several ways, such as:

  • Adding a rel=“nofollow” attribute to the <a> tag
  • Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file

You might want to check out this recent thread:

These are not paid for, but free directory listings.

But they’re reciprocal which is paid in a sense, just not in monetary terms. I’m not trying to imply that I’m the authority on this, simply offering advice.

I’d take the cautious approach if it was my site.

These are reciprocal links and would be treated as such.

Punishment? Unlikely
Devaluing of link value? Probably

And at the end of the day you’re talking about a directory site. Google recognises directories for what they are and values links to and from them accordingly.