Hand coding links is great; however, most of the services that track your blog's success do so by checking blogrolls. I found that out the hard way. If you visit Technorati
(supposedly *the* source on what's HOT in the world of blogging), you'll see that very few of your reciprocal links show up if they're hand coded. My blogs are listed on twice as many blogs as the service has me registered on. I kept wondering why my links were showing up on Technorati. THEN, I started using the blogrolling service I'd signed up for months before. Once other people found themselves on my blogroll, they would add my blog to theirs if they liked it. Only then did I start seeing my links show up.
Now, the blogrolling links don't do you much good in Google because it's a java script and not hand coded. How blogrolling helps you is that the more blogrolls you're on, the more credibility you have. So, people start noticing you and linking to your blog within the content of their posts. It's those links that help you in Google.
(a make believe stock market for blogs used mostly by people to see what blogs are hot) is one that doesn't recognize blogroll links -- only hand coded links, from what I can tell so far. They may be working on that.
I used to hand code links, but the way blogs are recognized in the blogosphere using blogrolls and such -- well, I gave in. It's easier for a new person who wants to trade links with me to just sign up at blogrolling, add me to their list, then email me to let me know. The marketing is viral and it really seems to work better than waiting for Google to give you a top placement.