If you've read anything in the internet marketing arena while trying to promote your website, you've no doubt come across the advice that you need to get links to your website in order for it to do well in the search engines. I'm not here to tell you otherwise, only to point out that when someone gives you advice on getting links, don't assume that any and all links are helpful or desirable. You need to learn to go after links that will give you the best results for the least amount of effort.
Years ago, in the early days of the internet, it was not uncommon for internet 'gurus' to council people to place links on FFA lists in order to get traffic. Besides these FFA lists, webmasters were encouraged to get links from classified ads, webrings, link farms and all manner of beasts like these. These links didn't help the average user find useful information faster. In fact, if anything it made it more difficult for people to find what they were looking for.
Years ago search engines were simple by todays standards. Back then you could often achieve top ranking for a particular keyword by simply repeating these keywords over and over again. Early search engines assumed that the more often a keyword was mentioned, the more likely the page was relevant to the topic. This, of course, was not true and search engine companies eventually wisened up to this tactic.
Getting a mass of links from websites that are not relevant to the topic of your website produces little return. It does produce some return on some search engines but very little for the two biggest ones, Google and Yahoo, with Google being the most sophisticated of the two engines. Based on information from a Google patent application released a while back, experts surmise that Google will track a number of factors when determining how to rate the value and authority of the link pointing to your site.
Some of these factors include the topic of the website linking to you. If it is about deer hunting and your website is selling access to a website builder, the link won't count as highly as if it came from another website promoting a website builder or a web hosting company, web hosting directory, etc...
Number of links on a page is also important especially when factoring in Google pagerank. When another website places a link to your page, it will transfer more pagerank to your website the fewer the links on their website. Depending on how much pagerank the other website has, your link may tansfer little or no pagerank back to your website if there are too many links on the page.
Placement of the link on the page is another factor to consider. Advanced search engines like Google are now trying to discount links that are obviously advertisements or paid linking. To this end, links under partner sections, on links pages, on 'partner' pages are being discounted.
So what kind of links should you get? The best kind of links are keyword rich, contextual links within the body of the web page. Links that are relevant to the context of the page are going to get more attention that links that are clearly off topic. Including your targeted keyword between the html anchor tag is also a good idea.