There are three ways to get people to link to you.
Method 1 - Hope
Creating an amazing Web site that impresses people so much that they feel compelled to add a link on their site that takes people to your site. With this method you do not even have to ask people to add a link they just do it out of the goodness of their heart and because they feel obliged to send as much traffic your way as possible.
Method 2 – Ask
The second method is to get in touch with the webmasters of sites you would like to have a link from and ask them to put up a link to your site. You could do this by e-mail, by conventional mail, or by phone. You may offer them some small inducement to add the link. For example you might give them free access to the members area of your site for a month (assuming of course that you had a member's area) or you may give them a copy of your ebook or a sample of what you sell. The most common way is to offer them a reciprocal link, which we'll come onto in a moment.
Method 3 – Pay
The third method is to dust down your wallet and hand over some money, i.e. pay other webmasters to add your link to their pages.
Most people who put together Web sites seem to rely solely on method number 1. As idealistic as this may sound it is unlikely to happen. Yes, occasionally you will get some kind soul linking to your site for no apparent reason, but it is unlikely to amount to much.
If you have the money method three is definitely worth considering as it can allow you to build-up a wide spread of high-quality links in the least amount of time. However, do not adopt this strategy unless you are willing to spend some time testing the results (see below).
The method that is suited to most people is method number two.
This is often known as a reciprocal linking strategy, which works like this
You e-mail the webmaster of site X and ask him or her if they'd put a link on their site to your site and in return you promise to put a link from your site to site X.
This sounds nice and simple, but in practice it can take a long time and it can be quite disheartening as most webmasters won't reply and only a small percentage will say yes. Nevertheless, this is great news as it means most people just give up. If you are willing to stick at it you are guaranteed to build up a substantial list of inbound links this way. Even better still, is that these links will usually continue to exist for as long as the linking site exists, because once webmasters add a link they are unlikely to take it down, unless you do something to offend them.
Should you pay for links?
If you can get a link for free that's ideal, but do not dismiss paying for a link. There are a couple of reasons why paying for a link can be very worthwhile.
First, by paying for the link you can usually negotiate as to where the link will appear. If paying an appropriate amount gets you to the top of a well visited page then it can be money very well spent.
Secondly, a payment can often buy you exclusivity. It can often be much more effective to be the only car hire company on a page than being just one of two dozen.
The golden rule here is test and monitor. If you pay for $100 a year for a link that generates you $1000 in extra revenue each year it is money well spent, but if you are paying the same $100 and do not have a clue whether it brings you any extra business or not then it could be money down the drain.