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 website 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”

SEO“Link building,” then, is the process of developing “inbound” links to your web pages to drive traffic to your site and improve your search engine ranking. It sounds simple, but there are so many complex online link-building programs and strategies it’s mind-boggling! And some techniques, even legitimate techniques implemented incorrectly, may render inbound links completely useless.

I started this article 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?” 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 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 conclusions. I do hope you conclude that there are several 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 your disdain for your high school prom king/queen election process. Popularity and Page Rank aside, you are interested in driving qualified traffic to your website 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” area might be an educational organization (.edu), a publication, a government agency (.gov), a known subject matter expert, or an organization/association in your or a related industry.

As for “related” sites, partners and vendors, but not competitors, are good “reciprocal linking” (discussed later) opportunities. Their sites should be related to the products and services you provide. Make sure to set your standards high! Analyze the inbound links to the page where you want 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”. 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 are 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 mentioning 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