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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.