Since the discovery of the importance of backlinks in the early 2000s, quality backlinks have played an important role in websites’ search engine optimization strategies.
So, if you’re on a link-building campaign for your website, how do you know what a high-quality backlink is?
Google and other search engines have evolved over the years, meaning backlinks have also evolved. Today, you must be careful with generating links on your site.
We have listed the 12 best markers of high-quality links that you should consider when evaluating backlinks for your website.
Let’s get started.
A backlink is a link on another website pointing to your website, usually placed on well-picked words or phrases to provide context for the link. Backlinks are also called “incoming links” or “inbound links.”
There are different formats of backlinks, including review links, guest posts, directories, forums, infographics, and many more.
For a backlink to be effective, it should always point to a website relevant to where it’s coming from. The page’s content or the website’s niche should close or be similar to yours.
Search engines like Google use backlinks as ranking signals when determining how high a site should appear in their search results. Google does this by carefully analyzing the quality of backlinks a site has.
Also, having great links signals Google that the content on your website is valuable and can be trusted by visitors.
Backlinks act as a “vote of confidence,” enabling search engines to understand that the domain with the backlinks is an authority in the niche and is also popular.
The more high-quality backlinks, the better since search engines will deem the site’s content valuable and rank it high in search results.
However, if a website has spammy or low-quality backlinks, it risks being penalized by search engines and losing its ranking. Google and other search engines have sophisticated algorithms that can identify sites with poor links and punish them.
How search engines decide the quality of a backlink is up for discussion. However, most SEO experts agree on the following three core elements of a high-quality link.
A natural backlink is one that a website owner decides voluntarily to link to your website because you’ve provided value in your content, and their readers can benefit from the additional information.
The natural approach to getting backlinks is a perfect example of “earning a backlink.” It differs from the unnatural methods of acquiring links, where the main objective is to game the search engines.
Unnatural methods include paying for the links, using PBN sites, and link exchanges. If Google discovers you build links unnaturally, it may decide to penalize the site and lower them in search results.
When a website employs spammy or unnatural backlinks, Google might drastically de-index the site. Consequently, the website would suffer a loss of visibility and traffic.
Here’s an example of a site suffering a loss of traffic after Google’s core update in May:
The reputation of a backlink is core to its quality.
Today, most search engines seek social proof that a website is credible. For Google, a dedicated algorithm called PageRank measures how important a webpage is and its reputation.
Google states that PageRank counts the number of links a page has and checks their quality to determine the importance of the website. The assumption is that an important page or website will likely have the most high-quality backlinks.
So, the more links web pages receive, the higher it’s likely to rank in the SERPs (search engine results page) for competitive keywords.
Relevancy is the third core element of a high-quality backlink. Search engines look for a domain and webpage’s backlink relevancy the same they look for reputation.
But what does a backlink being relevant mean?
A relevant backlink means that the link comes from a source whose content is related to or closely aligned with the content on your webpage.
Here is an example of the relevancy of a backlink.
Let’s say you run a cooking recipe website called CookWithMe. And your signature recipe book is “7 Breakfast Ideas for a Week.”
If your recipe website were to be featured on a sports news website blog post about eating healthy breakfast as a fitness enthusiast, the post’s relevancy would help your site’s page.
However, domain relevancy will be lacking since the website is popularly known for sports news. And your page will benefit little from their backlink compared to the following scenario.
Now, imagine your recipe book is featured on the Nutrition website instead. The backlink from the website will score highly on relevance, both domain and page-wise.
Still, on the Nutrition website example, let’s look at the page linking to your page. The link is anchored on a text like “breakfast ideas for seven days.” This way, the link gives the readers context about what they will find after clicking it.
The choice of anchor texts is crucial for link building for SEO since, like readers, search engines consider it while determining the link’s relevancy.
In our case, “breakfast ideas for seven days” is perfect for SEO since it matches exactly what our recipe book page is about, thereby boosting the chances of our page ranking higher in search engine results. So, always ensure your backlinks are from relevant websites.
Not all backlinks are created equal — some are high-quality, while others can be seen as spammy or low-quality by search engines.
A lot goes into making a backlink high-quality, and here are 12 factors you should consider during your quality link building efforts.
For a backlink to be effective, its page has to be live on Google. It’s the work of Google crawlers to find and index a page so that Google can see the page exists.
If search engines don’t know the linking page exists because of broken links, it won’t be possible for the link’s page to pass on link equity “juice” to other pages it’s linking out to.
Indexing a page is the process of ensuring it exists in Google’s database. Some pages are purposely assigned a no-index tag because other website owners do not want Google to know the pages exist.
A site that neglects its technical SEO will likely have problems with its pages not being indexed or taking longer than usual. Such a site needs a thorough indexation audit to ensure all problems are addressed and the pages are correctly indexed.
Link attributes are tools used to add more information about a link so that Google knows what type of link it is and how to treat it. In backlink SEO, there are three link attributes: nofollow, sponsored, and UGC (user-generated content).
The nofollow attribute tells Google to ignore a link and not to pass the page’s authority to the website it’s linking to. Website owners commonly use this attribute when unsure how credible and trustworthy the site they are linking to is.
The user-generated content attribute tells Google that the link has been placed on the comment section of a page by guests reading the content, so the page does not endorse it.
As the name suggests, the sponsored link attribute tells Google that a particular link on the page was paid for, and therefore it should not pass any authority to the page it’s linking to.
Even though links that utilize attributes are seen as not valuable for passing authority, they are a great way of driving referral traffic to the pages they are linking to. The attributes only signal to Google that the links were not organically acquired or earned.
An outbound link is a link on a webpage that directs visitors outside the website and to other sites. They are also called outgoing links and are the opposite of internal links.
The number of outbound links on the page linking to your website affects the quality of the backlink you’re getting from the site.
A backlink from a page containing thousands of other outgoing links is considered poor quality for several reasons. The abundance of outgoing links on such a page suggests that the site may be engaging in link spamming, where it excessively adds links without proper consideration.
This raises concerns about the credibility and trustworthiness of the linked websites since the linking site does not take the time to vet the websites it is connecting to.
Adding to the number of outbound links as a factor affecting the quality of a backlink is the quality of the outbound links.
If the outbound links are linking to spammy or lower-quality sites, Google’s algorithm picks up on the signal and treats all the links as low quality, diminishing the value you would have gotten from the backlink.
Site penalties affect the quality of the backlinks they provide. If Google had previously penalized the site, they most likely have engaged in spammy link-building techniques.
Receiving backlinks from a site previously associated with bad SEO could harm your website. Google might categorize your site in the same group as the site linking to you, which may hurt your SEO efforts.
Regular site audits can help you monitor what types of links you’re receiving and act whenever you feel like a certain link is not trusted. To check if a link is from a previously penalized page or site, you can check for sites with a 50%+ traffic drop in the last year.
This data type is a starting point for determining if a site has a history of penalties.
Anchor text is one of the most crucial factors affecting the value of a backlink. An anchor text is the actual word/words that have the actual link, and you can click them to follow the link.
The main importance of anchor texts is providing information or context of the link to which the link will lead the visitor. Therefore, an anchor text must follow a few guidelines or best practices for it to be effective.
The anchor text should:
The above guidelines allow search engines to understand the type of content being linked between the two pages and therefore decide on better keywords that should rank to promote the pages.
Another main factor that influences the quality of a backlink is the overall authority of the website giving the backlink. The authority of a website indicates how credible and trustworthy it is in the eyes of search engines.
Indicators of a website’s authority are domain authority (DA), page authority (PA), and link authority. High-quality sites with high scores on these metrics are perceived as authority sites, and their backlinks have a higher value.
Google and other search engines strongly dislike spammy links. If you have spammy, shady links pointing to your site, you will likely be penalized and lose your rankings.
Then, what are spammy links?
A spammy link is a link that’s from low-quality sites associated with bad SEO practices and broken link-building strategies. These sites are often irrelevant to your content and send thousands of links to other websites for gaming search engines and manipulating rankings.
The common source of spammy links is paid links. Some websites buy links in the hopes of better ranking but receive spammy links that can harm their sites.
Good quality links are earned organically. It means no outreach has been done, but other websites link to your valuable content.
Earning organic links is a slow process that brings in few links and could take a long time to yield substantial results. That’s why webmasters opt to build backlinks, but in a way that follows the best practices.
The point is to not engage in buying links from questionable link vendors but instead conduct a proper outreach and get well-optimized backlinks from external websites.
Ensure all your backlinks are naturally earned or through industry best practices like organic placements.
Variety affecting link quality encompasses a site’s backlink profile instead of an individual link. A link profile consisting of various links signals search engines that the website’s backlink acquisition is organic and diverse, which can positively impact its SEO efforts.
A good example of a bad backlink profile is link placements on the same set of pages with the same perfectly optimized anchor text. In a case like this, Google’s algorithm may flag your site.
When acquiring a backlink, ensure it is well positioned on the referring page to get the most out of it. One position that has good results is high up the page. You want readers to meet your link before they bounce off the page. Another good position is contextual.
Are your backlinks leading to the right pages? You don’t want your backlinks to lose their quality because of linking to irrelevant pages that have nothing to do with the content on the linked page.
Always ensure that your links end up on pages with related content to where they are coming from. One of the biggest consequences of a wrong link destination is an increased bounce rate, which may give the wrong signal to search engines that your site provides little to no value.
Building links is a great way of improving your SEO for the long term. Links allow search engines and website visitors to discover your site naturally and recognize its authority and relevance within its niche.
However, you should be careful with the links you receive since some can hurt your site instead of improving its ranking.
You only want backlinks from reputable sites that have the potential of passing link equity to your site. If you’ve been doing it wrong, this calls for upping your link-building strategy, like publishing quality content that naturally attracts links.
Always check the types of quality of links you receive, and if you identify low-quality ones, immediately take action, like disavowing them. Keep your backlink profile healthy with proper link-building campaigns.
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