Develop a Successful Link Building Campaign: Part 2
Published: August 10, 2022
Author: Brooke Sikora
How to Get High-Quality Backlinks and Decipher Authoritativeness
This is part two of our three-part series, Develop a Successful Link Building Campaign. Part 1: Website Link Building Fundamentals covered what link building is, how it works, and the purpose and benefits of link building. This series aims to help expand your link building knowledge and cover the basics of creating a robust link building campaign.
In part two of the series, we cover backlink quality, how to ascertain link relevance and authority, and why these are important considerations for linking strategy.
The Best Type of Backlink
Getting backlinks from relevant and authoritative websites is the search engine optimization (SEO) best practice. These links help improve your website’s SEO profile. There are numerous factors that make a link strong. The first, and arguably most important, is the HTML structure of a link.
For the purpose of link building, you want to earn links that pass the mighty link juice. This happens through a “dofollow” link within the webpage’s code. The “dofollow” aspect comes from a command in the tag that omits the rel=nofollow tag.
Here is an example from 3Q/DEPT’s backlink profile:
In this example, search engine crawl bots will follow (i.e., crawl) the link because nothing is telling them not to do so (e.g., a rel=nofollow in the tag).
Ultimately, there must be something in place that tells search engine crawl bots whether or not to follow or “count” a link. Conversely, a nofollow tag is used to indicate that you cannot be certain of the authority or trustworthiness of the external site page being linked to.
Example of a “nofollow” link:
In 2019, Google rolled out two additional tag directives that are relevant for backlink profiles and outbound linking:
The sponsored directive is used to indicate when a placement was paid for. The UGC directive is used to indicate user-generated content (i.e., content the website did not publish directly, such as a forum post or review).
Though some SEOs have hypothesized that these additional link tag directives are setting the stage for Google to possibly start allowing authority to flow through nofollow tags, there have not been any conclusive studies to date that confirm this is the case.
Check out Google’s documentation about qualifying outbound links to learn more about link tagging directives.
Factors That Constitute a High-Quality Link
1. Link Relevance
- How relevant is the link to the page it connects with?
- How relevant are the two sites to each other?
- How relevant is the website that gives the link to the industry as a whole? For example, a page talking about flowers that links to a website about gambling is out of context and would not be considered a good link.
2. Link Position
The best links are in the body of the content and need to actually be put in the copy by the webmaster. Links in the comments, footers, or headers of a page are usually seen as spammy and ultimately dangerous. This is a result of an old (and underhanded) practice of stuffing a high number of irrelevant links into these sections of websites. Google eventually caught on and subsequently devalued these types of links.
Hidden links (i.e., links that are not visible to a user until it is clicked) are especially risky as they are a clear sign of an attempt being made to trick search engine crawl bots into counting links that users cannot see.
3. Domain Authority or Domain Rating of the Website Giving the Link
Domain Authority (DA) and Domain Rating (DR) are made up metrics (from 1-100) that Moz (DA) and Ahrefs (for DR) use to score a web domain as a whole. A brand new website with little to no traffic will likely have a DA/DR of 0. A more authoritative website, like Facebook, has a score of 100. It’s a sound practice to use both DA and DR when qualifying websites, but there are others tools to utilize as well (e.g., Semrush’s authority score, Majestic’s Citation and Trust Flow).
Page Authority (PA), a metric that indicates the strength of an individual webpage, is also an important factor in a backlink’s strength. You can identify PA by using Moz’s link explorer. From there, Moz will show you the authority of any specific page on a scale of 0-100.
As a general rule of thumb, the higher the DA, the better the link.
Authority & Relevancy of Link Building
In addition to DA and DR, you can use other tactics to help determine a link’s value and identify the difference between good and bad links. Keep in mind that third-party tools’ metrics are generated with the intention of formulating a data-based perception of how search engines interpret a website’s authority.
Page Authority & Relevancy
You should always pay attention to essential information about the page that is linking to your webpage.
Pages with strong rankings within search engine results pages (SERPs) are better to get links from than those that do not rank well. This goes back to the link juice (i.e., value of a link). More specifically, pages with rankings in your industry are better to get links from.
Say your company just wrote an awesome piece on tips for buying a house. The absolute best case scenario (though likely improbable to achieve) is to get backlinks from all of the top 100 articles ranking for the term “how to buy a house:”
Pro Tip: Use third-party tools to conduct keyword research in order to get an idea of what people are searching for online and how to capitalize on receiving backlinks from relevant web pages with targeted anchor text.
For instance, getting a backlink on a finance-related website with a DA or DR of 60+ that uses the anchor text “how to buy a house” and points to your article on buying a home, would be considered a perfect backlink.
Important Consideration: If a site has a strong DA or DR but no traffic or ranking keywords, it is likely that website has engaged in unethical practices to inflate the score from a 3rd party tool. This is seen as a spammy and unsafe practice. It is best to steer clear of pursuing backlinks in this situation.
Authority Tools for Link Building
While you can leverage Moz’s DA for strength scoring, you can also leverage other tools to understand the power of a link, including
- Semrush: Use this all-in-one tool suite to understand if a page has non-brand traffic and keyword rankings that are improving month-to-month.
- Pages with more keyword rankings and more traffic have more value.
- Ahrefs: Use this SEO software suite to look at competitors’ backlink profiles to find relevant backlinking opportunities.
- You can also use Ahrefs to look at your own backlink profile to find old, irrelevant, or broken backlinks that you should reach out to the webmaster to get updated to priority URL targets (i.e., URLs that you would like to drive traffic to in order to increase visibility on the search engine results page).
- Majestic: This SEO software tool’s useful “topical trust flow” metric allows you to see where your competitors are receiving backlinks so you can better build out linking campaigns around these topic clusters.
- Screaming Frog: Use this tool to quickly scrape websites (i.e., retrieve/extract content and source code data from them)to find potential linking opportunities through external links on blogs and editorial content.
In a nutshell, the most sought-after links are the ones from websites with high domain and page authority and these are the backlinks that you most want to secure for your content. The best case scenario is to get a link from a high-authority site that is closely related to your own (e.g., same industry, similar audience).
Looking for help getting high quality backlinks to your site that adhere to the philosophy, “earn backlinks from websites that are authoritative and relevant to your industry”? Reach out to 3Q/DEPT to connect with our team of experienced SEO professionals.