7 Crude Links — If Link Building Was Oil Drilling (Infographic)

Before the search engine, the Internet was an untamed territory of disorder and difficult navigation. Google civilized the Web, making information discoverable by giving links tremendous value. Like “word of mouth,” links pass merit and should signify quality, utility, or popularity. As links denote significance, they themselves appreciate in value due to demand.

Links are like Crude Oil

Links are the crude oil of the Web — the most valuable ones are difficult to find and have great worth. The more quality links you have, the better you’ll rank. As you know, not all links are equal. Oil barons must go to greater depths and use more resources to drill oil-rich wells. Similarly, quality link building can require a great deal of time, difficulty, or creativity to find. Here are 7 types of links that can make or break your SEO:

1. Automated Spam

Derived of duplicate, nonsense, no purpose, and time-wasting content. Crawlers and Web users recognize its uselessness and quickly move on. Its value to the Internet is like a paper boat floating on the surface of the water. Sure it’s easy to setup but it will be the eel that stings you in the end.

2. Paid Links

Search engines recognize peddled links. If paid links were valued to PageRank, the Web would end up being bought by the highest bidder. Paid links are a really costly pebble to skip on the surface of the water. Go here to report a paid link to Google

3. Reciprocal Links

Search engines quickly picked up the notion and devalued the “You scratch my back, I will scratch your back” links. While there may be a time and place for these types of links, use them in moderation.

4. Directory Links

Once again search engines give little value to heavy burdened link sites. This simple tactic was successful in the past but it appears it may be losing its promotional abilities.

5. Article Posts

Now we are getting to some depth. Quality content with contextual links have value to users therefore search engines are more apt to pass rank. Tap that pipe and you may actually have a bit of a geyser.

6. Widgets and Badges

A quality website widget or tool will inherently bring in more links. If your widget adds value through functionality or creativity, it can be a great source of natural link building. Breach true depths and you’ll have quality links flowing to you.

7. Quality, Unique Content

The true essence of the internet is unique, creative, useful, or beautiful content. If your content is truly unique you will naturally receive backlinks simply out of merit. Tap that well and you’ll have more than liquid gold.

SEO.com Knowledge Base Update 2014

As the search engine industry changes, old information and blog posts go out of date. With all the recent algorithm changes, though, many people have been asking if link building as a search engine optimization tactic is still relevant. Amit Snghal, a Google Senior V.P., head of Google’s ranking team, said that links are an important signal for Google and they are used when ranking content against relevant search queries. Can or will Google break away from links as a ranking signal?

The one thing that remains consistent is the focus on quality, unique content. Some ideas for creating unique content include:

  • Answer questions online
  • Ego bait
  • Update outdated or out-of-touch content
  • Refurbishing infographics
  • Refresh/repurpose competitor content
  • A microblog series on Google+
  • Developing evergreen content on your website

This Matt Cutts video is from 2010 and yet it is still relevant to today’s search engine optimization.

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17 Comments

  1. AJ Wilcox says

    Nelson, great post and infographic! I don’t entirely agree with you on the types of links though. I know directories range from crap to good, paid directories, but they’re mostly worthless. On the other hand, purchased links (I don’t advocate their usage – but making an observation) can be of EXTREMELY high quality. Someone could sell you a link that passes no juice too, but you obviously wouldn’t attempt such a purchase. I would switch paid links and directory links on your infographic.

    I would also put widgets closer to quality content. Widgets are more likely to pass a link, and when the links are valued, they are often valued very high, coming from the homepage of linking domains.

    In general, you’re totally correct that better content makes better links.

  2. Khaleel says

    You forgot to mention links from sites that are non reciprocal.. if sites link you in their content pages.. blog posts.. great post!

  3. Rob Bromilow says

    Hi there, I agree with AJ Wilcox in that paid links can actually be of more value, certainly more than reciprocal links or directory submissions. Are any directories actually going to pass much value?

    • says

      You have a valid point although as noted by Matt Cutts as soon as a search engine finds out a link is paid it passes no link juice. If you are going to pay for a link you mind as well pay for the creating of quality linking content.

  4. Thomas says

    Yeah PAid links are pretty high up there especially if the site has a high PR with a low amount of outbound links.

    I would think Blog Commenting is a gigantic link building method that needs to go on there.

    And how about User Generated Content (squidoo for example)

    All in all there are a lot more link building methods you could have added in no time.

    But I do like the idea!

  5. Zarko Zivkovic says

    I see comments mentioning more linking methods, well there are tons, but from what you described here I couldn’t agree more. in fact I would put paid links on the same rank as SPAM links.

    You said it perfectly, once Google finds out they are paid they are worth nothing, I don’t like that risk, I would rather pay for good content than a link any time of the day!

  6. Julien says

    Great infographic, one shot and everything is clear! I think directory links are little under rated but that’s my opinion

  7. says

    I really enjoyed reading this post on various type of links and there values. At last one thing is sure the contents can drive organic quality links.

  8. Ryan says

    Great illustration of the value of certain backlinks… Does OPEC control most of the quality unique content as well? ;)

  9. Sebastian says

    Quite a well thought out post. I’d argue that paid links do hold a lot more value than people give credit for. If it didn’t work, why would there be a thriving market for it? (You could argue people are stupid but I believe even the most obvious link networks still pass power albeit reduced)

  10. says

    Have to say that I’m firmly in the “paid links have a positive impact” camp! We’ve seen our rankings drop significantly as those of a specific competitor have risen dramatically, corresponding to a massive growth in their backlinks.  When you examine these links though, probably about 90% are paid, so while Google ‘claims’ to be given less (or no) weight to paid links, that doesn’t seem to be borne out by results.  Maybe Google just hadn’t found out they’re paid yet…..

  11. says

    Very interesting article. I noticed someone further up (James Colin Campbell) asked how much Amazon spend on SEO. The answer is £0.00. They use PPC but they don’t do any other advertising in terms of SEO. We’re a vendor for them and they gave us a big speech about how their company doesn’t have to pay for any general advertising costs and prefer to do advertising via PR for refunding customers on new launches etc.

    Interesting Info-graphic though, very very true! 

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