The Ten Commandments Of Link Building
Published 12th July 2015
What makes a really good back-link? I’ve been working within the SEO industry for several years now and am yet to have a definitive answer to that question. But there are certainly a number of key considerations you should take into account. Gone are the days where we’d asses a link based solely on its domain authority or page rank. Instead we find ourselves using a range of tools to monitor a number of different metrics. But it shouldn’t stop there. You should be looking at a wide array of factors; from the relevancy of the donor site, to the quality of content that the link is contained within. As long as links remain vitally important to Google’s algorithm, understanding what makes differentiates a good link from a bad one remains important to organic search. With that in mind, below are a number of different elements I like to assess when assessing the value of a back-link.
Domain trust and authority
There’s a huge amount number of poor quality web pages and sites on the Internet. I’ve seen estimates suggesting that as much as 60% of all content is ‘spam’. This content has been created just to manipulate Google’s algorithm and market aggressively to or exploit other users online. In order to filter out the irrelevant content, Google has systems in place to measure the trust of a site. A site that has a link pointing to it from a highly trusted domain can result in a significant increase in its trust and authority. Examples of hightrust domains would be university and government websites, as well as large media organisations and brands. There are several metrics I use to establish the authority of a website. Domain strength, widely known as domain authority is the cumulative value of an entire domain. This is calculated by Moz and runs on a scale of 0-100, with 100 being the highest. Trust Flow is another metric that is used to measure the overall trust of a website. This is based on a site’s back-link proximity to trusted domains. Gaining links within trusted neighborhoods are of course more trustworthy than links from spammy neighborhoods. Citation Flow is used to reveal how influential a URL is based on the number of sites linking to it. You’ll find that the more links that a site has, the higher the citation flow.
Google aims to provide relevance in their search results, so it’s logical that you should consider this when acquiring links. Look at the relevancy of the donor site; would a link to your site look natural? The search engine’s algorithm will take into consideration a range of factors to determine how appropriate a link is. Not only will Google monitor the overall relevance of the donor site, but the relevance of the specific page and the content surrounding the link.
The original purpose of links was to add value to a page by directing traffic to a useful and relevant resource. This is something that often gets forgotten about, which is strange considering that engagement is considered in some quarters to be playing an increasingly influential role in rankings. I suggest using SEMrush to get an idea of how much traffic is going to linking domain prospects. The tool measures a site’s performance using a range of metrics such as SEMrush rank (which analyses a website’s popularity based on organic traffic coming from Google’s top 20 organic search results) and SE Traffic (traffic brought to the website via Google’s top 20 organic search results).
I have briefly mentioned that engagement is now thought to play an influential role in how a site ranks. Take this into consideration when acquiring links. A good link is one that has been shared multiple times across a number of platforms. This gives Google a clear indication that the content (and link) is useful and valued to the extent that it is widely shared. Social engagement around content is thought to be a key consideration of how the search engine’s Hummingbird algorithm assesses the value of content.
As previously stated, relevancy is important, and this also holds for the content that your link is surrounded by too. Make sure that the link is in context with the rest of the page. Stay away from site-wide links and ensure that your link is incorporated within content. Site-wide links can often look paid for, and not editorially given, which can attract unwanted attention from Google’s unnatural linking algorithms (read Penguin).
Anchor texts give Google an indication of the subject matter of the page being linked to. For example, if I was to link to a page using the anchor text ‘free casino’, then it’s likely that the page being linked to contains information about free casinos. Google will use this information as a signal that indicates what the site being linked to is about. While misuse and over optimisation of anchor text is associated with Penguin penalties, it is clear to us that anchor test gives a clear indication to Google of what a page being linked to is about. The trick is to try not to build too many links that have the exact same anchor text in them, particularly if the links are not of the highest quality. Ensure your link profile looks as natural as possible and keep a high percentage of your anchor texts branded.
When building a link to your website, ensure that it is amongst other links that are pointing to high quality sites, even better if the sites are in the same niche as yours (not your competitors’!). This looks natural and indicates to Google that your site provides value.
The number of links on a page
The value that a link passes is diluted by the presence of other links on a page. This means that acquiring a link on a page with few links is better than being linked to by a page with many links. An extreme example of this would be that of a directory or blog-roll, which has dozens or even hundreds of links going out from a single page, and is likely to dilute the value of the link all together.
Link exchanges were abused in the past, which has resulted in the value of reciprocal links being reduced. A link gained from an exchange won’t carry the greatest authority; if you do come across an opportunity like this, ensure the link that you’re acquiring is coming from a site you’re not linking to from your own site.
Acquiring links from websites with the same IP may be seen in a negative light by Google, as it suggests a blog network or similar has been created. There are a number of tools available online where you can check for duplicate IPs and duplicate Class C blocks. We may not know for certain which proprietary metrics that Google uses when assessing the quality of links. However through analysis, experience and testing I have made some informed assumptions which work. All of the above signals are considered by myself and my team when measuring link value and assessing how much resource to put into acquiring it.
“The original purpose of links was to add value to a page by directing traffic to a useful and relevant resource. This is something that often gets forgotten about, which is strange considering that engagement is considered in some quarters to be playing an increasingly influential role in rankings.”
“Social engagement around content is thought to be a key consideration of how the search engine’s Hummingbird algorithm assesses the value of content.”