Which is more important, links or content? To be true, in order to make your link building worthwhile, you have to also make a site worth linking to, or else you efforts at popularizing your site won’t grow or naturally develop among the denizens of the Internet. Then again, you shouldn't neglect links and all the other things that make your site SEO-friendly either, because no visitor will be able to have a chance to take a look at your all-original and interesting content either. Simply put, link and content building should go hand-in-hand. You shouldn't concentrate exclusively with one or the other if you want to ensure the success of your site.
SEO Linkage and Web Content Quality
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There are two schools of thought when it comes to optimizing a website for search engines: Content is king, or links are most important. On one hand, if a site has great content, links will follow and your website will virally spread across the Internet by the virtue of its merit. Content in this context means successful copyrighting, interesting news bits, discussing the latest trends, coming up with fascinating podcasts, making interesting viral videos that capture the imagination, and so forth. Links are the advertisements, and your product is your website's content, in this instance. At any rate, Google is forever tweaking their search engine algorithms in order to judge relevance better.
For those who believe that linking is king, they're the ones that realize that "quality" is relative and that exposure is far more important in order to spread the popularity of a website. The importance of inbound link quality and quantity cannot be overemphasized, because you can have the most interesting website in the world, but if it's so unknown (e.g., barely any effort was made in terms of link building) it might as well be part of the so-called "deep web" and disappear into the virtual ether. Of course, there are also proponents who want a balance of both. SEO success can be achieved by using keywords in site content and ensuring that incoming links contain these keywords as well.
Matt Cutts Reveals the Secret to SEO Success
Matt Cutts has admitted that "thematic incoming links from authority sites" or links from the more popular sites out there like Facebook and Twitter carry a lot more influence than optimizing your website through your content. Moreover, "content quality" is such a subjective term in accordance to everyone's tastes that wide exposure from the websites that are already popular seems like the best method in rising through Google's SERP ranks. As far as Google is concerned, it's all about the balance between "topicality" and "authority". Cutts insists that great content has to be the foundation of any good site.
On the other hand, Google is aware that users don't want popular sites to hog SERP rankings just because they serve as authoritative sources. They don't want Apple or Dell to be the very first result every time a general term like "computer" is typed into the search bar (the first term that appears as of this writing is the Wikipedia article about computers). There should be a balance between what is relevant and what is popular, in a sense. In other words, in order to rise through the ranks, take equal consideration with both your link building and web content creation. Leave no stone unturned, because links and content working hand-in-hand is the way an effective search engine is supposed to work.
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