Whitey - 2:37 am on Mar 11, 2011 (gmt 0)
You often can push the envelope without any trouble
I think that especially in competitive niches this is going on all the time. Then every now and then out comes some serious FUD ( e.g. JCPenney etc ) and actions that self promotes about the ranking loss or penalty that a site has incurred. Defendants vary from folks that depend on link sales, to those that do it modestly and see no evil.
The truth about linking for me is that it's necessary, it shouldn't be the ultimate focus of a site and it's abuse and use is only tempered by the fear of getting dropped or penalised. Over time i think links will continue to regress in favour of alternative signals that are harder to game and therefore more in Google's control.
Trophy terms in popular verticals leave folks badly exposed to being flagged and open to human scrutiny for link building.
The game for those that rely on link building, largely is, when have you pushed the envelope too much, and if you can pre empt it , get out of it or will it cost you in lost business.
In most e-commerce verticals , link building is a struggle and Google probably understands the lack of natural linking out there. Most if it is contrived and artifical by some degree.