The main concept you need to repeat to yourself daily when trying to do SEO is:
"Make it look NATURAL"
Google is probably one of the most complex (if not THE most complex) and sophisticated algorithms anywhere. They can easily see through any link facade you might be trying to run, and they will penalize you for it. As such, building links needs to be done with these 3 things in mind:
1. Start Slow, Gain Momentum
2. Spread Out Your Link Sources
3. Get Your Most Authoritative and Relevant Links FIRST
Let's start with #1. Apart from movies and news stories that gain thousands of back-links the day they launch, no website launches with that kind of link growth. Even most news stories don't hold their ranks in the SERPs very long, simply because they get a blast of links, and then that's it - they don't have a steady stream of people linking to the website, which is what Google is looking for. What this means for you? To make your link building look natural (and thus make it more effective), you need to start off slow and gain momentum. If you are planning on creating 10 links per day to a website, start off with 1. Then 2, then 4, and so on. A website that starts off with 10 links per day and continues to get 10 links per day doesn't show the same amount of growth as a website that starts off with 1, and eventually gets a steady 10. It sounds odd, but you have to remember - the more natural looking it is, the more effective (and higher ranking) it will be.
On to #2. SPREAD OUT YOUR LINKS! 80-90% of the time when I ask a new marketer what his traffic strategy is going to be, he/she tells me one thing. "Article marketing". When I ask why they chose to go that route, they tell me because they will get great traffic from the articles, and it will build back links to their website, allowing them to get ranked in the search engines as well. That's fine, but if you are concentrating 100% of your efforts into creating and posting articles to Ezinearticles.com or a similar site, you won't rank well in the SERPs (quickly or easily at least). The reason? Remember, Google is looking for a natural pattern of links - the ideal site has hundreds of different people from different websites linking to that site because it has interesting, relevant content. So when you get those 150 backlinks from Ezinearticles.com, Google sees one site that finds your website interesting and relevant enough to link to. The result? Not very much "weight" in the search engines. You want to spread your links out from many, many sources - here's a small list to get you thinking:
1. Website Directories (especially the powerful ones I mention in a bit)
2. Article Directories
4. Competitor Websites
5. News Websites
7. Forum Signatures and posts
All of these should be employed in one way or another when you are working on a link-building campaign.
Finally, #3 - Get Your Most Authoritative and Relevant Links FIRST. This is huge, as link age has a lot to do with your ranking in Google as much as anything else. You are going to want to grab your most authoritative and relevant links in the beginning, so that as the months go on and you build more and more links, you will be aging your most important links. Here is a small list of the links you should try to grab early on:
1. Powerful website directories (Yahoo is the #1, DMOZ, etc.)
2. Niche News websites -Try to get the authority sites in your niche to link to you in the very beginning. If you have done your niche research, you should know which websites are the "Hubs" of the niche (where your target customers go to get their news, etc.) This is huge, as relevance is a big part of the Google algorithm, as well as authority - if you can get them both by scoring a link with the powerful sites within your niche, you will do very, very well with your SEO efforts (especially as the links age over time).
3. Competitor Websites - Find your top competitors (the very largest websites in your niche). Get links from them in the beginning (pay if you have to, but make sure they don't advertise that they sell their links). Let them age. Get high rankings for your website in return, over time.
Once you've grabbed as many authority and relevant links as you can in the beginning, start writing your articles, commenting on blogs, making blogs and linking your site to them, making posts in forums linking to your site, grab LinkVana and make some blog posts, get a list of your competitors using SEO elite and contact them for links, etc. Do everything you can to build up a stream of targeted, relevant links to your website, and do it consistently. This will get you above 95% of the competition that is just writing articles, and you will be able to get some serious traffic from Google, MSN, Yahoo, etc.
As a little step-by-step guide, here's a list of what I tend to do within the first 3 months when I create a website:
Have 30 articles created for content
While it may not seem like promotion, additional content is added mainly for Search Engine benefits - when content is added consistently, search engines "see" the site expanding, and thus give it higher rankings (resulting in more traffic). These 30 articles will be created when the site is created, and will be added to the site one every 3 days for a period of 3 months.
Have 90 articles created for submission to EzineArticles.com
One of the main sources of traffic will be from these article submissions - not only will they provide traffic towards the site through the links in the articles; they will also greatly increase the website's Google rankings. These articles will be keyword rich, and they will be submitted to Ezinearticles.com gradually and consistently over the first 3 months (1 per day).
Submit site to Yahoo, DMOZ, Jayde, and a few other website directories
Remember, high-power links early on. These links will get the site indexed, and over time will significantly boost my website rankings.
270 forum posts with signature pointing to site over 3 months (3 per day)
Each day, 3 posts will be made in popular forums in the website's niche; with links pointing towards the site in the "signature" of each post. 1 post will be posted in each of the top 3 popular forums in the niche - this will be done consistently over 3 months. This will create some great traffic to the site through forum members, and again will also help to create additional incoming links pointing towards the website (which will help with Google rankings).
All other competitors will be contacted for reciprocal links
After the site is created, e-mails will be sent out to each competing website asking for a reciprocal link. A reciprocal link is a link that points towards your website from their site (a powerful link as they are in the same niche with related content), in return for a link pointing back to their website. This will help greatly with Google rankings. If I'm really planning on marketing a website hard, I will create a third website, and use it to generate 3-way trades with my competitors (thus getting 1-way links to my main website from the competitors).
180 Blog posts on related blog sites without "nofollow" tags, to help linking (2 per day)
I generally use Comment Kahuna to find all Blogs in the niche that does not employ "no-follow" tags on their website. On these websites, 2 posts will be made each day (2 blogs posted on each day, alternating so that each blog is posted on numerous times); creating additional incoming one-way links and increasing Google rankings. These links will be powerful because they will be on related websites (niche blogs), and will often times be on very highly ranked websites. This will be done consistently over 3 months.
Write (2) 150 word blog posts and post onto LinkVana
Basically the same as writing articles, except LinkVana posts your content onto relevant blogs in your niche. Incredibly powerful.
Sounds like a lot of work, right? It's really not that bad, and honestly you can outsource a ton of it. But man, you will be shooting above the competition (who won't be nearly as thorough) in no time. The result? Tons and tons of traffic from all of the search engines.
I hope this helped some people!