Links help SEO analyze popularity, trust, spam and authority

For search engines that crawl the vast metropolis of the web, links are the streets between pages. Using sophisticated link analysis, the search engines can discover how pages are related to each other and in what ways.

Links aren't everything in SEO, but search professionals attribute a large portion of the engines' algorithms to link-related factors. Through links, engines can not only analyze the popular websites and pages based on the number and popularity of pages linking to them, but also metrics like trust, spam, and authority. Trustworthy sites tend to link to other trusted sites, while spammy sites receive very few links from trusted sources. Links are a very good way of identifying expert documents on a given subject.

SEO has much of its roots in the practice of targeted link building. And while it's no longer the only core component involved, it's still a hugely valuable factor when it comes to rank boosting. Link building is a staple piece in your online marketing strategy and reputation management.

Link building is all about building a relationship 

Despite what many self-appointed gurus out there would like you to believe, link building will never be completely dead. Link building is now about marketing your brand, product, or website to your niche-obsessed audience with the primary goal of building a relationship.

While many link building tactics are great, you need to build links by customizing each link building campaign with a little TLC. Ensure there are no shortcuts, no thin content, no payment exchange, and no links from robots.

Link building is the most challenging SEO skill. Actually, it’s a culmination of several skills: you need to master content creation, sales, pr, psychology, and marketing if you want other people to consistently link to your site.

Great content helps you build relationships within your industry

The foundation of every great website is great content. One of the most common mistakes people in SEO make is to set their crosshairs on links instead of content. When you create stunning, Earth-shattering content, link building is a breeze. Epic content also opens doors for you so that you can build relationships with the movers and shakers in your industry. Like anything in business, creating link-generating content has a formula. 

Which link building path do you want to follow?

There are two clear paths to go down with respect to link building, link spam and merit based. Link spam will require less effort but won't build long-lasting links where merit based requires more effort but builds links that will stand the test of time.

Search engines are continuously trying to purge their search results of pages employing link spamming techniques. The last thing you want is to work hard to get your site ranked in the top 3 for the keywords you need in your niche for all your hard work to go away overnight. Building merit based links that will last is the long-term strategy that works.

Links should be a part of the larger marketing cycle, due to their foundation value to the web. As long as you need to market your business, you’ll have a need for manual link building. Other marketing practices will naturally generate link opportunities — and without manual, intentional effort, these opportunities will be missed.

Links serve a core function to the internet

Regardless of how Google and other search engines alter and tweak their algorithms, links will continue to be fundamental to the web. Google’s search algorithm is not what makes links valuable — it’s the value links add to the web that makes them so worthwhile. Links serve a core function to the internet — without them, the web would be incredibly difficult to navigate.

People use links to navigate the internet, and that’s not going to change. Manual link building will continue to be valuable and should be a consideration in online marketing.

If you ignore links, you’re missing out in search, and you’re also missing valuable marketing opportunities.