This is an interesting question that comes up quite a bit in SEO marketing and business talk.  You probably know by now that Google and other search engines on the Internet place a high importance in the number of links a site has onsite (smooth internal linking structure) and offsite (total number of connections all over the web).

However, it’s confusing when you read reports about search engines penalizing websites that “over-optimize” or have too many “cheap links.”  Well, what are cheap links?  What’s the difference between a paid link, a cheap link and a free link?  It’s not actually about the price.

When search engine experts refer to “cheap links” they are referring to cheap writing or cheap links without any writing to accompany the link.  Ideally, Google, Yahoo and Bing place great priority on quality text and accompanying links that are appropriately “anchored.”  Think of a quality site like Wikipedia – it’s all writing and all quality anchor text that perfectly describes the linked page.

Now compare a quality link with a cheap link or a bad, SPAM link.  These links might include a directory with free for all links, too many consecutive links, links to low PageRank rated sites, links from link farms or links for low quality (no filtering), low traffic article directories.  Not all blog comments and footers and forum signatures are considered “high quality” links.

The best quality links are the ones that provide quality writing, excellent anchor text and that are actually read by human beings.  Even social media pages are considered average to high quality links.  It’s clear to see that search engines are really looking to “keep it real” and reward the sites in which intelligent human beings are communicating with their contemporaries.  The “robot” consumer doesn’t exist…not anymore.  It’s now the robot “crawlers” job to think more human.