Depending on the link type, backlinks have varying levels of influence on search engine rankings, and on the results, you can see from acquiring them. A high-quality external link has two key advantages over traditional links: relevance and trust.
Therefore, in order to maximize your SEO efforts, you should aim for high-quality links. A good number of authoritative referring domains (backlinks) are important, as they can bring traffic to your website and help you rank higher for search queries you never envisioned.
But you might be struggling to determine them from the rest. This article aims to help with just that.
What are some examples of good backlinks?
The best type of links are hands down editorial links — when another website refers and links to your website in a piece of quality content
For instance, I read the Alexa blog when preparing this research for a client of mine, so I am referring to it in my report. This is an example of providing them with a backlink, citing them as a resource for additional information on the topic.
Other examples of editorial links include:
- Referring to your website as a resource for additional information
- Citing your website as the creator of an infographic
- Including your website or content in a link roundup
- Interviewing someone associated with your website
While they are decreasing in popularity, guest blogging backlinks are still an amazing backlink source.
Business profile backlinks on another site are great, and so are any form of resource links, such as webinars, free tools, whitepapers, or ebooks.
Backlinks that are good to have, but not as great are:
- Sponsored brand mentions
- Guest post backlink, but in the bio of the author as opposed to the body of the text
- Newsworthy PR backlinks
- Comment backlinks
What are backlinks that a site should avoid acquiring?
Bad backlinks can damage the site’s authority by association.
Having non-relevant links pointing to the website can also lead to misleading analytics data, as well as a bad user experience.
Here are the links that should be avoided:
- Paid links
- Non-newsworthy, spammy PR, intended only for the purpose of capturing links
- Generic Directory Listings that don’t add value
- Forum links and Comment Spam
What impacts the value of a link?
The 3 main factors that impact link are:
- Domain Authority (of the linking site)
- Follow/Nofollow link status
- On-site link location (best — in the body of the text)
These factors assist search engines to provide a value weight to the link.
What can you look out for when assessing the quality of a backlink?
1. The Domain Authority Score.
It’s important to know the domain authority of the sites that you consider for link acquisition.
A great tool for this is the Moz Bar and its Moz Backlink Authority Checker, which shows the authority status of any domain or keyword in the search results, as well as Semrush, which has a domain score assessment of backlinks.
2. The Domain Relevance
Getting links from relevant domains to your business and niche is highly important for scalable link building.
Domain relevancy is also a key Google ranking factor and is especially important if you want to escape the penalty of Google Penguin (an algorithm update that causes sites to be devalued or filtered) on your search engine rank.
3. Search Engine Index
A quick benchmark is to look for good indexation of the site with the major search engines, such as Google, Alexa, and Bing.
Aim for a strong Alexa Rank:
- The Alexa Rank shows how authoritative a site is online.
- The lower the number, the higher the authority of the site, and the more valuable the link back from the site is.
- Check a site’s Alexa Rank before reaching out to them using Alexa’s free Site Overview Tool.
…and a high Google, Bing and Yahoo Index Numbers:
- Search engine indexes show the number of indexed pages examined for the given domain.
- The higher the number is, the better.
Download and install the free SEOquake site checker chrome extension to get these parameters quickly, for any site.
4. Trust Flow
Trust flow is a metric that captures perceived quality, designed by Majestic to determine the quality of links pointing to a site. It ranges from 0 to 100. The higher the number, the better. If most links pointing to the site have a high trust flow, its own perceived quality will also improve by association.
Use Majestic to analyze the links that currently point to your site. Input the root domain into the box and click the search icon.
5. Citation Flow
This is another Majestic metric, designed to predict how influential a website link is. The downside of using citation flow as your benchmark is that it doesn’t measure the quality of inbound links, but their quantity. The more inbound links a site has, the better its citation flow. On its own, citation flow isn’t very useful, because the quality is more important than quantity with link building.
6. Branded Keywords and Anchor Text
Anchor text is highly important, too. Best practice recommendations include using the brand name with a variation of the keyword.
What is the end-to-end process in determining the backlink’s quality?
Let’s go through what the end-to-end process will look like for a link, the quality of which we are unsure of.
1. Select a domain.
The best way to select one is to extract domains, which are linking to your competitors but not to you. SEMrush is a great tool for that.
For the purpose of this demonstration, I am using db-tools.com.
2. Extract their Semrush Domain Score.
This is a very low score, but this alone should not be used as the sole source of information.
3. Extract their Moz domain authority score from the Moz Backlink Authority Checker
Both domain scores from Semrush and Moz are quite low, which highlights potential issues with the site. Some sources point out that if the domain authority is lower than 40 on a web directory, we should be cautious of the site and only pursue it as a backlinks lead following an editorial review.
3. Assess the site’s search engine index location, using SEOquake.
After installing the SEOquake extension, simply, go on the site, and click on the SEOquake icon in the extensions section of Chrome.
All of these index rankings are extremely low. Remember, the higher the index number, the better.
For comparison, here is the index of Microsoft’s blog:
However, as the blog is an informational and content-rich website, it might be wiser to compare it with a site of a similar purpose.
db-tools.com appears to serve the function of a directory, hence let’s compare with a site of a similar purpose — yelp.com (of course, with an understanding that the former is operating in a niche industry, while the latter is more mainstream).
As we can see, both numbers here are significantly higher in comparison.
4. Evaluate the site’s trust and citation flows
There is no data on the Majestic’s backlinks checker for the website.
One reason for this might be that web directories and link farms are no longer ranking on Google SERPs. While it does not necessarily mean that the site is a link farm, it does highly indicate that is not worth pursuing as part of a backlinks strategy.
Should this (or any other) site be recognized as a link farm or removed from SERPs, it may be best to find other, high authority blogs to pursue backlinks from. Your customers should ideally already be visiting them, but also enjoy doing so.
6. Evaluate the site’s domain relevance to your business.
The domain relevance is something only a client or internal company stakeholder can determine.
As an SEO consultant, I can only look at the data, which at the end of the day is just that — data. Industry context, in-depth product knowledge, and business strategy should also be incorporated into the decision-making process.
Backlinks are great.
Some are good, others — not so much. Avoid the bad ones by being data-savvy.
Never rely on one metric to tell the full story.