SEO Link Building - Who, What, When, Where, Why (and How)

In this article, we discuss search engine optimization link building strategies that you can implement.

Perhaps you've read an article or two by search engine optimization ("SEO") experts stressing the importance of link building to the visibility of your web site on the major search engines. If, for example, you happen to navigate the Google online documentation to the "Webmaster Help Center" you will see the Google response to the question "How can I improve my site's ranking?" The Google response includes the statement "In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.2"

"Link building" then, is the process of developing "inbound" links to your web pages in order to drive traffic to your site and improve your search engine ranking. Sounds simple, but there are so many different complex online link building programs and strategies it's mind boggling! And, some techniques, even legitimate techniques implemented incorrectly, may actually render inbound links completely useless.

I started this article intending to cover the 5 W's - who, what, when, where and why. But, at the risk of detracting from the clever title, I felt the need to add "How?" in order to make it more useful. So this article is designed to provide insight into the following questions:

1. Who should link to my web pages?

2. What should the link entail?

3. When should I add a link to my site?

4. Where should a link appear?

5. Why should you care?

6. How can businesses develop their own inbound links?

No doubt, reasonable minds can disagree with some of the opinions and strategies contained in this article. I direct your attention to footnote references to several online articles that I found helpful. I encourage you to review these articles so you can draw your own conclusions. I do hope you conclude that there are a number of legitimate link building strategies that you can tackle!

Why Should You Care?

Sorry, I have skipped over who, what, when and where to begin instead with "Why?" After all, if I cannot make the case that link building is important, you certainly will not read the rest of this article!

It is believed that, in the eyes of the major search engines, the number and quality of the incoming links that point to your site are indicative of the worthiness of your site. I know, it sounds like a popularity contest - perhaps this stirs up memories of the disdain you had for your high school prom king/queen election process. Popularity and Page Rank aside, you are interested in driving qualified traffic to your web site and developing relationships with businesses that offer complementary products and services. Link building techniques are designed to accomplish this.

Who Should Link to My Web Pages?

It is believed that links from "authoritative" websites and "related" industry sites carry the most weight. An "authoritative" site might be an educational organization (.edu), a publication, a government agency (.gov), a known subject matter expert or an organization/association in yours or a related industry.

As for "related" sites, partners, vendors, but not competitors are good "reciprocal linking" (discussed later) opportunities. Their sites should be related to the products and/or services you provide.

Make sure to set your standards high! Analyze the inbound links to the page where you would like to see your link. Are they in fact authoritative and relevant sites? How do you research inbound links to your potential linking partner?

There are some excellent SEO link building tools out there! Netconcepts provides a free "Link Popularity Checker" at Another site is Use these tools to assess the quality of the links to the page before you ask for a link! While you're there, check out the link popularity of your web pages and those of your competitors.

Note that many SEO experts believe that you should stay away from a web page that already has too many links. How many is too many? According to an article in Website Magazine, "... it is best to shy away from any pages with more than 20 outbound links.3"

You'll recall that we mentioned the term "PageRank" earlier in this article. The Google PageRank scoring system is used to quantify the relative importance of a web page. You can determine PageRank by downloading and using the free Google ToolBar (

Should you consider PageRank while determining whether to ask for a link on a page? One contributor to the online article "Over 125 (Legitimate) Link Building Strategies", Dixon Jones, suggests that the PageRank of the web page where you would like your link to reside should be between 3 and 10.4 In his article "The Nitty Gritty of Link Requests", Chris Boggs suggests that PageRank is not as useful as it used to be but "PageRank is still a good guide.5"

Many Internet marketing professionals continue to suggest that you submit your site to the appropriate category within the major directories as well as to vertical engines and industry directories. Examples of popular general directories include Yahoo!, Open Directory (, GoGuides, Gigablast, JoeAnt, Gimpsy and BlueFind. Many allow you to submit your website URL for free. Some may require you to add a reciprocal link to their directory.

In his article, "SEO: Weaving a Web of Links", Stephan Spencer cautions against seeking links from "free for all" links pages that are packed full of links.6. Again, pay attention to PageRank and topic relevance. Watch out for automated submission programs that submit to irrelevant search engines and directories. link building

What Should the Link Entail? What Should You Put on Your Link Page? Once you have targeted an inbound link opportunity, you will want to suggest the link location and the exact link language you wish to appear on their site. Make it easy to implement your link - place HTML on your site that your partner's webmaster can cut and paste onto their web page.