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It used to be that you could get away with having low quality or even paid links to help boost the visibility of your website, but now Google and other search engines are not only showing a preference for some types of links, they will penalize you for the wrong kinds of links. More than ever it is important to understand the different kinds of links and how they stack up when it comes to getting your website notices by the different search engines.
Paid links are links where some form of compensation has been provided with the intent of getting a link to your website. The compensation isn’t always money, it can be goods or services, but it has to be something that is enough to motivate someone to put a link up and has to have the intent of getting a link. Things like swag picked up at a convention would not be considered compensation. If you run a beauty site that talks about makeup products which links to the products you review and talk about, it is expected that you will receive samples of the product, so that doesn’t actually fall into the category of compensation. If you have an app or software that you have given away to encourage a client to purchase additional products or services and they love it so much they put a link on their website just like paid directories, that also does not quite fit into the paid link category because your intent was to sell products and services not procure a link. The FTC has some good guidelines you can refer to that most search engines follow in determining if your link is paid or not.
These links are sometimes often also called organic links and are pretty much the holy grail of links. Often these links happen because you have some really great content on your website that other bloggers and websites have found helpful. You might also get these links if you have a product that has solved a problem and bloggers and other sites are talking about how great that product is. You might also get these if you are a recognized expert in a subject or field. The thing with editorial links, you still have to work for them, but they are worth it. That means having a website with really great content that becomes a reference for others. You will have to find ways for bloggers and websites to become aware of your content, but once the editorial links start happening you will find it was more than worth the effort.