The way that we acquire and judge links has changed a lot since the dawn of SEO, but one thing has remained the same, good quality links from relevant, authoritative sites hold a heck of a lot of value.
The influence of high-quality links on a marketing campaign, arguably, makes them more important than ever. We know that Google, Bing and any other leading search engines still use links as a core component of their ranking algorithms. But in the post-penguin era what makes a good quality link? And how can you judge the value of each link you receive?
To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the factors that form a quality link and how you can judge the value of each link you acquire from your next content or link building campaign.
1. Anchor Text Links
Anchor text is still crucial when judging the value of a link but this can easily appear spammy. Don’t build tonnes of links to a page using the exact anchor text that you’ve used to optimise the page. This looks spammy and is easy for search engines to spot and penalise you for.
Instead, aim to attract more natural anchor text links. It’s still great if you get a few links that exactly match the phrase you’re optimising for but building 100 or 1000’s of links in this way is asking for trouble. Just ask anybody hit by the Payday Loan update…
To check how natural your anchor text profile is for a particular page or your domain as a whole, you can use webmaster tools or open-site explorer to view your anchor links. You should see a diverse spread of phrases, branded terms and “click here’s” not just one phrase.
2. Relevant Links
Relevance is a bit more abstract than other link factors. There aren’t any tools that will give you an accurate relevancy score based on a phrase or topic, so you’ll need to judge this one yourself.
When you’re optimising for a particular phrase, try to attract or acquire links from relevant industry blogs, journals and directories. It’s not an exact science but gaining links from sites that write about broadly relevant subjects helps to tell search engine’s what you’re website is about. Think about it like this, each link you receive acts like a vote of confidence. If you bring relevancy into the equation, each relevant link you receive is not just a vote but more of an industry recommendation. That’s got to be worth more!
Despite this, the relevancy of a page or website that links to you isn’t the be all and end all. Whatever subject you’re optimising for, you’re going to get links from sites that seem irrelevant. These are still going to be valuable links and make up a natural link profile. So don’t turn down a link from Apple just because you’re blogging about poster frames!
3. High Authority Links
When you’re going for national keyphrases, a few links from a couple of trustworthy domains is more valuable than 100 listings in the most relevant directories.
Page Rank was the original source for statistics on authority but since this was discontinued a few other tools have taken it’s place. Moz’s Open Site Explorer or Ahref’s Site Explorer are now (arguably) the most reliable means of checking authority. Both of these are based on the original page rank patent paper developed by Google, so they should be making similar calculations to Google.
Out of all the factors that you should judge the quality of your links on authority should be it. You should at least try to acquire links from higher authority sites than yourself and aim for links over a certain number, 30 would be a good start. Links from high authority sites are more trustworthy recommendations and thus count for more in the eyes of a search engine. Not only this, but high authority links are more likely to drive referral traffic, so may more benefits than just SEO.
4. In Content Links
Studies show that links higher up the HTML of a page carry more value. There’s also evidence to show that site-wide links and links placed in the footer/sidebar are seen as unnatural by search engines and therefore devalued. What search engines are looking for are natural editorial links placed within the content. A link placed within a blog post or within a content page would be considered the most valuable.
Again, there’s going to be exceptions to the rule here. If you’re a web design or seo agency, for example, and you have hundreds of domains linking to you with credited links (Web Design by Herdl) then don’t just get rid of them! No matter what else you read, it’s unlikely that you’re being penalised for it, and you’re more likely to lose authority and keyphrase rankings if you simply removed or no-followed the links.
5. Followed Links
Following on from the last point, followed links are much more useful than nofollowed links. The way to think about it is that nofollowed links are basically telling search engines that they either don’t trust what their linking to or that it’s a paid for advert. Either way, value shouldn’t be passed to the link and the site owner is telling the search engine not to count this link.
If you’re judging the value of a link purely from an SEO perspective, then you don’t want to attract no-followed links. On the other hand, if you’re interested in referral traffic or exposure then a nofollowed link isn’t the end of the world. Think about it like an ad that you’re not paying for.