Incoming links (backlinks) are a huge part of the secret sauce that makes websites rank and stick high in Google’s search results pages. In a nutshell, what is really happening is a popularity contest, where search engines will look at who is linking to who and figure out who the popular pages are.Not all links are created equal and search engines put a lot of effort in deciphering just how valuable an incoming link might be for their ranking system. For example, known criteria to evaluate the worth of a link are link placement; Is the link part of the editorial copy or simply a blog comment, is it placed in the sidebar or footer of the site, does it show up on ALL the pages (not ideal after Google’s Penguin updates), are there many other outgoing links on the page, is the content relevant to the linked page, is there a rel=nofollow attribute attached to the link?These are just some of the pieces that complete the puzzle, oh, and did you know Google keeps changing the puzzle (algorithm) daily so no one can really put the whole damn thing together? This is what keeps SEO and link building fun for geeks like us. Cheap links, fast links or quality links – pick one.Like so many things in life, you can only pick one of these three – cheap, fast or good. The question you will have to ask yourself is what you’re trying to achieve and if what you’re doing is making the best use of your online marketing budget.Cheap links are cheap. They are also known as spam. You can get a whole lot of them all over the web for a few dollars and they will likely give you an initial boost in ranking – until the next Google update (which is now a rolling update) when Google kicks you out of their index and you’ll have to go through a painstakingly long process of link removal requests and compiling a disavow file for Google. Fast (quality) links are likely very limited (unless they’re cheap). You might be able to get some good quality links in a short period of time if you are an online influencer and get make use of your network of friends with great websites. Chances are 95% of us will run out of easy link placement opportunities rather quickly and will have to move on to labor intensive link prospecting and negotiating tactics (which is something we love doing here!)Quality links are the secret sauce ingredient that will make Google love your website. These are not cheap (don’t buy links, Google doesn’t like that) and often not fast either. However – try to think of it this way; The harder it was to get a link placement because the links were vetted by a real person who carefully selects who they’re willing to trust and link to, the likelier it is that Google will give that link a lot more weight when adding up the total SERP ranking sum. Seems legit, right?