Link-Building Campaigns to Promote Your Web Site
A link-building campaign can accomplish a great deal for your web site. Links from other web sites to yours are a vote for you — a recommendation of your site as a good resource for information. When you increase the number of quality, relevant links pointing to your site, you are increasing traffic that is pre-targeted to your subject-matter. You also are demonstrating to search engines that your site has been deemed worthwhile by people who know something about your field. This will improve your site's ranking for keyword phrases that are highly relevant to your audience.
While I strongly believe that link building is just a part of the process of optimizing a site, it is not uncommon for me to be hired to just run such a campaign. I am often brought in to projects being run by other search engine optimization firms in order to handle the link building.
The Five Types of Links
Reciprocal Links From Complementary Sites
When you trade links with a site with similar subject-matter to your own, the two sites are basically voting for each other, telling their respective audiences that the other site is a worthwhile source of information. The main benefit to a link exchange is an increase in targeted traffic, since the other site's audience is similar to your own. There is a benefit to your search engine ranking, but it is generally believed to be lessened somewhat because search engines have come to understand that such an exchange is often more a business arrangement than a strong recommendation. Reciprocal links are much easier to get than one-way links, because the other site owner gets more or less the same benefit from the arrangement you do. However, because less than credible SEOs tend to send out massive numbers of boiler-plate link exchange requests to sites that are often barely or not at all related to the one they're promoting, many webmasters have taken to deleting any emails that look like link exchange requests without even opening them.
Non-reciprocal Links from Complementary Sites
A one-way link from a site with similar or complementary subject-matter to your own offers all the benefits of a link exchange, and a great deal more. Because there is no reason to see such a link as a quid pro quo arrangement, the boost it gives to your search engine ranking can be significantly higher. You also do not need to worry about your traffic being sent away to the other site. However, because the owner of the other site needs to be convinced that linking to you is a good idea, with the only benefit to them being that they will be providing an improved service to their audience by recommending your site, attaining such links can be very difficult. It's even more important that your site offer something that will be seen as valuable by owners of other sites.
Listings in Major Directories
The major human-edited directories (Open Directory Project, JoeAnt, GoGuides, Skaffe, and Gimpsy) are highly regarded by the search engines as reliable sources of information. Because of this, they send their spiders through the directories on a regular basis, and this provides them with lists of new sites to crawl and add to their index. For new sites, it's almost essential to get listed on at least some of these directories.
My role in directory submissions is as follows: I will locate the proper category for your site, write a clear, concise description, make the submission, check up on its progress through the editorial process, and if necessary, consult with directory editors in order to expedite your listing and respond to any questions. Keep in mind that it can sometimes take months for a site to appear in a directory (in the case of the Open Directory, it can take years), and it's usually impossible to accelerate that process. In the case of directories that require a fee for the review of a site, you will need to forward that amount to me before I can make the submission, or give me your credit card information so that I can charge the fee to you directly.
In the case of sites with a significant amount of high-quality informational content, it's sometimes possible to gain additional directory listings pointing to deep pages on the site. These can be extremely valuable, but they are rarely easy to get.
Listings in Mid-level and Minor Directories
There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of other directories on the web. In general, they don't get a lot of traffic (although some of them are clearly growing in importance), but a link on them certainly won't hurt you, and it may well help. It's very easy for me to submit your site to numerous directories. Keep in mind that if you pay me to submit your site to fifty directories and just one or two of them send you someone who becomes your customer, the process has quite possibly already paid for itself.
Listings in Paid Directories Requiring Annual Renewal Fees
Because I don't always carry on long-term maintenance contracts with my clients, it does not make sense for me to take care of submissions to such directories myself unless the client gives me their credit card information so that annual renewals will be charged to them. If I were the official contact for a given listing and it came due for renewal, I would have to contact a client I may not have spoken with for nearly a year and have them advance me the fee before I could authorize the renewal. It makes more sense to me that my clients act as their own representative with such a directory. As such, they are the primary point of contact, and can make their own decisions about renewals.
Therefore, my role in gaining listings on such directories if I'm not given access to credit card information is to recommend which directories to which you should apply for a listing, provide you with the proper category, and write a good description for you to submit.
Of course, there are other kinds of links, but I don't personally see any real benefit to getting them. If you're interested in hiring someone to get you links from guest books, link farms, FFA (free-for-all) links pages, or links on pages that are wholly unrelated to yours, I'm not the consultant you want. You can also purchase links from popular sites. I personally find it somewhat unethical to post a paid link without labeling it as an advertisement, so I prefer not to deal with those unless their commercial nature is clearly disclosed to the user.