Good, in-bound links are essential to your rank in major search engines.
They are in integral part to the algorithm of every major search engine.
So just what makes a link a really good link? That is a question that you must answer!
Natural, Text Based Links
For a quality link-building program, you MUST be sure that the following things are taken into consideration:
Are the links valid? How many of them reciprocate? Is the speed at which they are being added sensible? Are they coming from different domains and servers? Do you have enough of them?
How many of them proceed from domains that have good placement in search engines themselves? Is the link-building an on-going affair?
Natural Link Profiles
The job of the search engine is to deliver the most relevant and legitimate results to the users - always keep this in the forefront of your mind. You need legitimate links. You need CONTENT that is worth linking to! If your links have been obtained legitimately, you will naturally have a natural link profile for your domain.
Where to start? ALWAYS start with asking business associates that you know to publish a link from their site to yours. These links may be reciprocal, but one-way links are best. If you are not already doing this, you should also begin a tertiary linking program.
Link validity is paramount. What makes a link valid?
1) The contents of the webpage. The link promises content on the subject on and about the anchor text. (The anchor text is the text from which the link procedes). If someone clicks on a hypertext link that takes them to your web page, does the landing web page offer contextually relevant information?
Do the META tag elements actually reflect the content of the page? Does the body of the page confirm what the META tags tell the browsers? Are the keywords used in the anchor text from which the link proceeds to be found in the body of the webpage to which they redirect visitors?
A good rule of thumb is to be changing your webpages as frequently as you want your clients coming back to view them. (Monthly would be minimum, especially for your main pages.
Reciprocating links were "the original" linking program. It was the "I link to you and you link to me" approach to a link-building strategy. Reciprocating links don't carry as much value as they used to, simply becuase the search engines continue to evolve in the never-ending effort to provide the legitimate results that their users seek.
Should you use reciprocating links? Sure! It makes natural sense to trade links with those who would be your "power partners" in business. Anyone that you would refer business to should be considered an excellent candidate for a reciprocating link.
There is a way, however, to benefit much more from a non-direct form of reciprocation that we call tertiary links. A tertiary link is created by using a third website. The links travel in a trio like this website a --> website b --> website c --> website a. A links to B and B links to C and C links back to A. They do NOT directly reciprocate, however, they do still accomplish the trade for like links.
One-way, In-bound links are better, of course. You will get these without even asking or paying when you have compelling content and adequate search engine visiblity. It is getting there that is a problem. Paying for links that are good links is a good option, which is why you are reading this content now.
How fast are you adding links? It is more natural that your links be added steadily over time. If you have an on-going link-building program, then having "peaks" from time to time make sense.
The more content you have and the longer you have been online, the more likely it would be viewed as "natural" to have an escalating quantity of links added in a shorter time period.
A good link-building strategy takes time. So take your time. Don't fret over having a low number of links, just keep adding them steadily.
A link is a "vote" of confidence in the election campaign that you are running for your website. In legitimate elections, you only get one vote. Keep this in mind! Having a hundred votes from the same domain (same person) will not help you, it is likely to get your site penalized for "cheating" in the voting process.
The "votes" should each proceed from different people, i.e. other domain names. The more diverse the source of the domains are, the better.
So long as the "votes" are legitimate (proceeding from different sources - not all from the same few domains) the more you get, the more likely you are to "win the election" and be found on the first page for your sought after keyword search queries.
You need the quanity of votes. It is a "popularity" contest, after all.
In the U.S.A., the wealthiest individual's vote counts for 1, just like the poorest citizen. It doesn't work that way in search engines. Having some links from "authority" sites actually count a lot more than links from smaller, less popular sites.
Sites that have good rank themselves for their own keyword phrases, have a higher than average Alexa rating or google pagerank are generally deemed to be more "weighty."
Having links from topical or geographical directories as well as high-ranking blogs are ways of getting authority links.
You should maintain an on-going link-building strategy. Have a plan for getting links back to your website regularly.