When it comes to backlinks, you should never think of it in terms of quantity, it’s quality that counts. One high-quality backlink can be worth more than 10,000 of those free-for-all links.
So you could easily need thousands of links to try to compete with a single link garnered by a savvy competitor. One of you is working hard, the other, smart.
Another thing to consider is how many natural backlinks you are getting. If your natural backlinks are coming very slow, then your time might be better spent on improving your content. With really great content, all you need is a single backlink to get the ball rolling.
Here’s a tip for choosing the best kind of backlinks to go for. Forget what everyone else tells you and focus on a single factor when evaluating a potential link. Focus solely on how much referral traffic that link is likely to send you.
Don’t worry about nofollow attributes or the page rank of the site. Those are just things that will send you down a path of disappointment. What you really want is targeted traffic. Don’t get distracted by little green bars and links from pages that aren’t likely to send you traffic.
Backlinks that send you targeted traffic make your site bulletproof from ranking changes due to algorithm updates. Real traffic will get you natural backlinks, the kind the search engines value the most.