Link text (the text that is clicked on when clicking on a link) is singly the most important factor when Google determines the rankings for any given search term. This article isn't about that aspect of inbound links, although it briefly touches on it. Rather, this article discusses inbound links for their link popularity / PageRank value, and provides ideas on how to acquire them.
Why Do We Need Inbound Links?
Even before Google came on the scene, link popularity (linkpop) was being used by one or two search engines as part of their algorithm when determining the rankings for any given search term. Then when Google arrived with their link-based PageRank, link popularity took off and became an essential ingredient in achieving top rankings.
The idea behind linkpop is that the more pages that link to a page, the more important the page is, and it, therefore, deserves a higher ranking than it would otherwise have.
Some engines simply counted the number of links coming into a page (inbound links), but Google took the idea a step further. Each inbound link comes comes from a page which itself has inbound links. The more inbound links on the linking page, the more important that page is and, therefore, the more important the link to our page is. So Google gives more weight to inbound links from important pages that it does to inbound links from lesser pages. They call the idea "PageRank."
Google is the world's number one search engine, and currently provides the results for around 80 percent of all the searches done in the world. Because of that, it is vitally important for any website that relies on search engine traffic to do well in Google. Doing well in Google means making the site 'important' in Google's eyes and, to do that, the site must have good inbound links - as many of them as possible; preferably from important pages (pages with medium to high PageRank).
How Do We Get Inbound Links?
There are a number of ways in which you can increase your inbound links, including:
Link Exchange Centers:
Find a free link exchange center like LinkPartners.com. There you can find a categorized directory of websites that also want to exchange links. Be careful not to sign up with FFA (Free For All) sites because they are mostly email address gatherers and you can expect a sudden increase in email spam soon after you sign up. Also, only sign up with centers where you can approach other sites personally, and where they can approach you personally.
Do Not Join Any "Link Farms!"
Link farms, such as LinksToYou.com, sound excellent for building up linkpop and PageRank, but search engines (Google in particular) disapprove of them as blatant attempts to manipulate the rankings and they will penalize sites that use them. Once a site has been penalized, it is very difficult to get the penalty lifted, so avoid all link farms.
Search on Google for your main searchterms and find the websites that are competing with you. Then find which sites link to them by searching "link:www.cometitor-domain.com." Email them and ask for a link exchange. You should also search on Google for websites that are related to your site's topic, but not direct competitors, and ask them for a link exchange as well.
Pay for Them:
There are websites that want to sell links. They are usually medium to high PageRank sites, and often the link will be placed on multiple pages. Otherwise, the links wouldn't be worth very much money. There are even centers and auctions for links, such as the auction at LinkAdage Auctions.
What Type of Links?
Inbound links serve three purposes: they add linkpop and PageRank to the site, they send traffic to the site, and if the link text (the text that will be clicked on) is good enough, then the page's rankings can be improved.
For linkpop, either text or graphic links are fine. For traffic, text links are known to be more effective than graphic links, and to positively affect a page's rankings, text links are the best. So get text links and not graphic links.
For linkpop, get links from anywhere, for traffic, get links from related sites, and to improve the page's rankings, get links from anywhere - the higher the PageRank of the linking page the better, and, whenever possible, make sure that the link text is one of your main searchterms.
Inbound links are important for websites that want to move up the rankings. Inbound links, with the right link text, are essential for achieving top rankings.
Most websites are not natural link magnets, and link acquisition can be time-consuming and frustrating. Many websites that are approached by e-mail will say no, but some will say yes. For top rankings, it is essential to take the time to get many inbound links. Perhaps the best place to start is at a free link exchange center.