On the Microsoft Office Live Small Business Blog (and even in a second post), Senior Product Manager Skip Chilcott writes that link exchanges are a "popular way to generate more links." Blogger Saad Kamal has a problem with this. Citing several guidelines from Google, Yahoo, and even Microsoft itself, it's apparent that link exchanges to artificially inflate rankings is frowned upon.
But Saad Kamal goes further to say it's black hat SEO. Really? The idea that it's "black hat" might be a stretch; link exchanges themselves are sketchy. Most would consider black hat SEO to be a lot worse than a simple link exchange that thousands of webmasters do daily. I'm sure they'd argue that black hat SEO is a practice that only a fraction of webmasters even knows about and thus employs.
But while being equated with black hat endorsements, Danny Sullivan considers this "embarrassing" because the Microsoft Office Live team doesn't seem to be on the same page as the Microsoft Search team. I guess it's hard when Microsoft's initial project and core goal isn't search whereas a company like Google or Yahoo emerged out of their search services. In the latter case, the idea of search appears to preside over the entire company.
Forum discussion continues at Sphinn.