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It’s all in the link – that’s what I always say. Just enough quantity with the right quality. The perfect mix.
We all know that a hundred good links is better than 10,000 bad ones – but how exactly can you tell? Where’s the dividing line between ‘really great’ and ‘downright shady’?
Here’s the complete list of link factors or metrics or whatever you prefer to call it and how to hit the ‘A’ with all of them.
There are several ways to draw it. One is checking your own or your competitor’s backlink profile with some smart and easy to use tool like SEMrush Backlink Analytics. You just paste the domain of interest into the search bar, hit the “Check it” button and get a set of reports featuring explicit data about the backlinks, referring domains, and referring IPs going to the queried domain.
From these reports you can learn about the type (form, frame, or image), anchor text, the trustworthiness of the host page (Authority Score), whether the link is follow/nofollow, and more.
However, if you have plenty of time and are eager to do everything yourself, enjoy the complete list of link factors or metrics – or whatever you prefer to call them – and the instructions on how to hit the ‘A’ with all of them.
First let’s define some terms. I will use the term ‘Host Page’ for the pages where we intend our backlinks to come from and ‘Host Site’ for describing a whole site or domain where we intend our backlinks to come from.
- Linking Page = Host Page
- Linking Site = Host Site
Next is scoring. To make it easy for you, I will outline the importance or weight of each factor on a scale of 1 – 10. 10 being the highest.
Got it? Good.
Here’s the short list of what’s important in a link today:
Domain Authority – 10
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Getting a link from big names on the web such as Forbes, Fastcompany, The Next Web, TechCrunch, and so on – is a huge win. One way of measuring this is using Moz’s DA. I know it’s not completely accurate but it’s the closest thing we’ll ever have to a summarized and defined Domain Authority.
Link Placement – 6
Where my links are on the host page is something that I would always want to be aware of. I really don’t like my links on the bottom part of the content or on the author bio (assuming the author bio is on the bottom most part of the content) because it has an extremely low chance of getting clicked. Given the chance, I prefer my links to be placed above-the-fold.
Links that aren’t clicked have less value. I don’t know when this factor came out exactly but it’s quite true. The less engagement the link has, the less authority it carries.
User Engagement – 8
The real reason why link placement has an importance of 6 is that it affects user engagement which is a heavy factor. Once a user clicks your link, goes to your site and does whatever user engagement metric Google can track (and they can track plenty), that contributes to the quality of the link.
This is a difficult factor to directly manipulate so I believe it’s gaining even more weight and importance as end-users get better with their knowledge of websites and technology.
Internal Links – 3
Hey, internal links still need to be built somehow, right? I mean not all websites out there have a good internal link structure. It takes a lot of work to build internal links with relevant anchor text on every page of your site.
And if the internal link does not get any engagement from end-users, it’s good-for-nothing. It has to get clicks. It has to attract attention.
Host Page’s Quality – 8
There’s really nothing better than getting a link from a high authority host page. You could use Moz Page Authority score for easily gauging a host page. Other than that, you have to check the page if it has spammy links pointing to it.
Use a backlink checker like Cognitive SEO.
Spam Score / Spam Signals – 9
A site with a high spam score (best way to measure it with a glance is Moz Spam score) is really bad. If you don’t get a link from a host page with high quality, the next best thing is not to get a page with a high spam score.
It goes without saying that you should avoid links from spammy host pages at all costs.
Author Rank – 5
Got a person with good Author Rank to write about you or link to you? Yep that’s a good thing. There aren’t too many signals that Google can get its hands on about how authoritative an author is other than their supposedly defunct Author Rank.
I still believe that it’s something special in getting a link from an author whose work is something Google knows personally. Although it has never been publicly acknowledged – so I’m giving it a 5.
Host Site’s Topical Authority – 7
The easy way to check if a potential host site is authoritative in a certain topic is by checking it using SEMrush and see all of the keywords that the site ranks for. This is quite important for me as I wouldn’t even try getting a link from a source whose topical authority is nowhere near the relevance I need.
Follow vs Nofollow – 10
Nofollow links will never really live up to the juice that a followed link will give. It just won’t. Ever.
So focus your linkbuilding energy to getting follow links 100% of the time. If you’re able to rank well and your content is gold, nofollow links will naturally follow suit to make your link profile look natural anyway.
Anchor Text – 6
Surprised? Anchor text is still important. I know that Google has discouraged a lot of SEO specialists from ‘over optimizing’ anchor text but the truth is, it’s still the single best description of a link. Why? Well, because it’s visible to the naked eye, it affects decision making (to click or not to click), and it affects the overall integrity of the page in terms of its editorial integrity.
Of course, exact-match anchor text is still the weightiest, followed by partial match, then brand-match then Call-to-action then raw URL.
Moz Rank – 7
However ‘for or against’ Moz you may be, it’s the best next thing to the great late PageRank. A host site or host page’s MozRank tells you how juicy a page’s inbound link is. Although I do not advise using MozRank without Moz Spam score in determining whether or not to get a link from a page because MozRank does not really tell you how spammy a host page is.
Host Page’s Site Thickness – 4
This concept is simple. The thicker the host site’s pages are, the better and naturally, the more authoritative it is. So maybe you’re wondering “What if I get a link from a thick site but it’s too deep in the site for Google to crawl?” The depth of your link from the host page doesn’t really matter. Google would be able to find that and credit it.
Prior Links from Host Site – 2
If you got a link from the host site before, your next links would hold a lot less weight. However if your previous link was built way way back and there’s little to no engagement happening to that host page, a newer, fresher link would help tons. I’m giving this factor a 2 because of its relative nature.
Heads-up: getting links from host sites that have the same C block IP addresses are really not going to help.
Ads Control – 7
I’ve mentioned earlier that getting a link above-the-fold is good but if it’s coupled with lots of above-the-fold ads, your link may also be regarded as a sort of, well… ad. Making sure that the host site controls the quantity of their ads and where it is placed will strongly define their editorial integrity.
It is very disheartening to see a link I’ve built to be in an article peppered with text link ads. I wouldn’t go so far as to say as that will be a negative factor that could cause a penalty – but that definitely will not look good to Google.
That’s it so Far – I’ll keep on updating this list as time goes by and as I uncover more factors that will surely affect the quality of your links. Hope you enjoyed this guide and hope it’s simple enough for new SEO specialists to understand.