http://www.wordstream.com/link-building Arnie Kuenn is the president and founder of Vertical Measures, LLC , as well as the founder and president of the Arizona Interactive Marketing Association (AZIMA) and has presented at SMX Advanced, AMA Phoenix, Pubcon and many online webinars. Follow him on Twitter: @ArnieK .
Can you tell us a little about Vertical Measures and your role there?
Vertical Measures is a full-service internet marketing and link building company in Phoenix. We help our clients gain more business from their websites by providing internet marketing  solutions using innovative and ethical strategies. We achieve this by developing expertise across multiple disciplines while constantly adapting to current trends. The company is comprised of a group of individuals with backgrounds in internet marketing, social media, web design and technology, each offering their individual expertise in order to provide our clients with the very best services available. I founded Vertical Measures in 2005 and continue to play a very active role in the day to day operations.
How important is link building relative to other SEO activities? In other words, how much of their time should SEOs devote to link building – 10%? 50%?
Link building  is obviously very important to any SEO campaign, and I think anywhere between 60% and 70% of your time should be spent in this area, although I may be a little biased! Obviously once the foundations of a site are laid down correctly, having the right titles and meta tags for example, the most important thing to work on is getting good quality links pointing toward it. Not only is this important for your search engine rankings, but also for creating traffic and conversions for a client, which is the real reason why we are in business.
What factors go into a "quality" link?
The best quality links will always be within the actual content of a webpage or article on a strong, well-known domain, both in terms of value to human visitors and for the weight given to them by a search engine. The article or news story containing the link should be contextually relevant to the website it is linking to, and preferably with strong keyword anchor text, no “click here”s or “read more”s. After these factors there are the other variables out there in the industry, such as PR and do-follows, the importance of which is always being debated, but they are always something you would rather have.
What are your favorite link building tools, paid and/or free?
We use a lot of the SEOMoz tools, as well as SEO Majestic and Link Diagnosis. Those along with Yahoo Site Explorer are great for doing backlink analysis, although the rumors are that Yahoo Site Explorer’s days are numbered, and I will be sad to see it go. However, the best tool for finding links truly is your brain. Having experience and thinking in the right way, as well as knowing how to use the right search operators, you are able to track down the perfect sites.
What features would the ultimate link analysis tool include?
Oh, wow, tough question! Good one! Well, I guess the absolute ultimate link analysis tool would have access to the Google data to tell us the exact worth of the link to show off to our clients. Failing that, something that can reliably and accurately combine the important numbers – like the number of linking root domains, number of links to a page, PR and social media mentions – and give me one output to approximate the value, I think would be a fantastic resource.
How does social media change the link building game? Does "social linking" via Twitter and Facebook reduce the importance of traditional links?
As they say, Twitter is cannibalizing the link graph, and I see it changing the link building game via the relationships that can be established on that medium. You can reach out to industry experts in the particular field that you are link building in that you never would have become acquainted with before, not to mention the intensive exposure for no-follow links that you tweet out yourself. I don't think "social linking" reduces the importance of traditional links because you need both kinds to be considered a quality link builder. This just gives us one more outlet through which to get links.
Any tips for marketers embarking on link requests? What tactics get the best response?
You catch more flies with sugar than vinegar. Being polite and unassuming while assertively stating your case for the link is the best way to go with link requests. They are doing you a favor, not the other way around, so it's important to keep the tone respectful. Also, be prepared for rejection and don't let it get you down. Just remember the old sales adage that every ignored email or negative response just puts you one closer to nabbing that elusive link.
Is it ever okay to buy a link? If so, how do you avoid getting caught/penalized?
Buying links for traffic is a good thing. Buying links to manipulate search engines is never a good thing. You should not be thinking about how to avoid getting caught and penalized because you are not smarter than all the engineers at Google. You will be caught, so it would be a much better use of your time and resources to figure out how to get links in a more ethical and natural manner.
Which link do you think helps your site more and why: a link from an authoritative, totally unrelated website or a link from a pretty authoritative, highly relevant website? Both are anchor text links, and you have to pick just one.
Can I have both of them? J If I can pick only one, I'm going to go with the authoritative unrelated site. Although relevance is important, higher authority still carries more weight today. The golden standard of link building still involves getting links placed on highly authoritative websites.
What's the best link you ever scored and how did you get it?
This is a really difficult question to answer. We have several link builders here and we get hundreds of links for our clients every month, maybe thousands. In fact, most of the time we are creating content for a client and promoting it and that is probably where we get the best backlinks, so we wouldn’t really say we “scored” in the traditional sense. However, every once in a while someone does jump out of their chair telling us all about the link they just scored. But I have to admit, when I read the question a specific link came to mind. I don’t actually do any link acquisitions myself any more, but two years ago I did and was pretty proud of this particular link. Mostly because it was many links all at once. I was proud enough that I wrote a blog post about it . Basically we managed to get links to several of our client’s sites all on one page of a very nice site. You can read the entire story on that post.