If you are like most Internet marketers, the biggest problem you face is bringing potential customers to your site. It does not really matter how great your Web site is, if no one sees it, your online business will not be successful.Perhaps you have tried many different marketing techniques, but have not seen an appreciable increase in traffic. You probably also submitted your site to the various search engines, but have you considered how the search engines truly work and how their users would actually find you?This is a rather complex topic. The top search engines use complicated algorithms and criteria to rank Web sites in their searches. However, one such measure used by the leading search engines is link popularity.So, what exactly is link popularity? Put quite simply, link popularity describes the quantity and quality of other Web sites that link back to your Web site. It serves as a basic measure of a given site’s popularity. Generally speaking, the higher your Web site’s link popularity, the higher its ranking among the search engines. In addition, they usually assign higher scores to higher quality links.Before getting into exactly how to increase your site’s link popularity, first I need to talk about how search engines work. To locate information stored on the millions of Web pages, search engines employ software robots, called spiders, to build lists of key words and phrases found on the Internet. The process spiders use to build these lists is called web crawling. Each search engine works a little differently, but the initial process is generally the same. They usually start with the most heavily trafficked servers and most popular Web pages. The spider then follows every link found on the sites. The information is then indexed so that search engine users may retrieve it later.What can I do to increase my Web site’s link popularity?1. Reciprocal linksOne way to increase the number of links to your site is to develop relationships with other Web masters and make arrangements to simply “trade” links with them. Contact the owners of businesses that compliment your own and offer to put their link on your site if they will put your link on theirs. Be sure and explain how a link to your site will benefit their customers. You should send the link to them as HTML code and never send your link as an image unless they will also include a text description with it. Not every Web master you contact will agree to link to your site and you may have to approach many Web masters before you see any significant results.2. Link exchange servicesAnother way to generate links is to register with a link exchange service. When you register with a link exchange service, they add your link to the links page that other members place on their Web sites. Most of the link exchange services are free, but you should be careful that the links are relevant to your own site content. Otherwise, you may find your site being dropped by the big search engines, since they have been known to ban sites using “link farms” because they artificially increase a link’s popularity.3. Classified adsYou can also increase link popularity with online classifieds ads. There are countless free classifieds on the Web, though these are not usually considered the highest quality links. You may also submit paid ads, but stick to the more highly trafficked sites, if you can afford it.4. Write a testimonialFind Web sites that will allow you to submit a positive testimonial for their product or service. Include a link back to your own site with your signature.5. Submit your site to directoriesThere are multiple directories on the Web that will allow you to add your URL for free. Before adding your site to the directory, make sure the links are direct links and not redirecting links. This will make it more search engine friendly. Also, be sure you submit your site to the proper search categories, to increase your link popularity further.6. Blogs and forumsEach time you post an entry on a blog or chat forum, include a hyperlink to your Web site in your signature. However, avoid posting blatant advertisements, or you will risk being banned.7. Writing articlesAnother means of increasing your link popularity is by writing articles and publishing them on the Web. Many reputable sites welcome new authors. An Internet search for “free articles” will reveal several such directories. All you need to do is register with the site and complete a profile. Once you have written your article, you just submit it to the site for approval and publication. You will also include a brief bio of yourself, along with a hyperlink back to your Web site. Not only does this increase your link popularity, if a reader is particularly impressed by your article, they may just click on your link, increasing your site visitors.If ranking high in the major search engines is the goal, link popularity should be an important concern for any Web site. The disadvantage of link popularity as a ranking device is that it punishes new Web sites, since it takes time for a new site to accumulate links. Therefore, the process requires patience, since it can take considerable time to see a significant change in your rankings with the search engines. In the meanwhile, you can track your Web site’s traffic ranking on http://www.Alexa.com. There may be no data at first, but over time, if you employ the techniques described above, you should see an increase in your rank over time.