How to Tell Good Links from Bad Links

All links are good links, right?

Well, not exactly.

Some links can actually harm your rankings. Crazy,right?

Most people know that the number of backlinks a web page gets helps elevate its status in Google's results, but many business owners and web administrators simply don’t know how to measure an inbound link’s quality. After all the time, energy and elbow grease spent producing and publishing high quality content, it would be a real shame if low quality inbound links thrashed your content’s potential to succeed.

Part of the problem is the ever-changing nature of search engine technology and the challenge to keep up with it. Whether you’re a business owner, web administrator or marketing professional, it takes a fair amount of time and attention to keep up with the latest search algorithm changes. Plus, you're busy running a business - not learning the latest SEO changes!

So today, we’re going to take a closer look at factors to consider when judging the quality of link from a 2018 perspective.

Esteem, Rarity and Value

Hey, some sites are easy to get links from.

On the other hand, even with intentional outreach efforts, targeting your white whale of links may not yield so much as a reply after months of effort.

And darnit, some links are drastically more difficult to procure than others.

For instance, consider a restaurant that’s trying to get backlinks to its website from the trendiest and topical online food publication.

There’s often a ton of competition when trying to obtain the attention from such a posh and high quality source, making it much more difficult to garner a link. Yet on the other hand, consider how much easier it would be for the restaurant to gain a link from a local food blogger. Obviously the online food publication is going to have a much larger audience than the local food blogger, and is worth a lot more.

Furthermore, some of the smaller and decidedly easier links you obtain may not really provide any advantages. If the source of the link, in this case a local food blogger, rants and raves or displays otherwise inappropriate behavior or projects unsavory values that don’t align with your business or target audience, you may end up wanting to disavow the link altogether.

For instance, if some conspiracy-theorist-whackadoo starts fanatically linking to multiple pages of content on your site, it could actually harm your credibility.

When trying to gauge the esteem of a website that has linked to your content, consider the number of monthly visitors, frequency of posts and new content, exclusivity of linking standards and how much (or how little) the site uses nofollow tags.

We like to use AHrefs to do our link/domain research.

High Social Activity and Engagement

The amount of social activity and engagement is really a secondary indicator of a quality domain, but it is worth taking the time to check out how well a domain’s posts are performing on Facebook. Do note that social media signals don’t seem to currently have an impact on a pages ranking in the SERPs. However, snooping on an inbound link’s pages on social media is a great way to measure social proof and level of activity.

If a domain linking to your site rarely posts and has an odd and fractured assortment of followers from inexplicably unrelated countries, they may be running some gambit with black hat SEO techniques and bots.

On the other hand, if they have a large devoted following of avid and engaged fans, your backlink is likely more reputable.

Important: Social media activity isn’t a ranking factor to help pump your pages full of “link-juice,” but is instead a key indicator of a thriving domain.

In particular, check the following metrics:

  • Frequency of posts on Facebook and Twitter

  • Number of shares and retweets

  • Authenticity of social media accounts following the website or business

  • Comments indicating approval or disapproval

  • Likes

Domain Authority and Number of Links

Domain authority is a composite metric created the famous and well-loved nerds at Moz, and it’s a great way to quantify a website’s power in its given niche or industry. Part of the composite domain authority metric is the raw number of inbound links a site has, which can be a good indication of its social proof and validity.

There are some cheap corner-cutters (otherwise known as Black Hat SEOs) out there who still try to game the search engine with irreputable or low quality links, targeting quantity instead of the quality of inbound links. You’d think people would have learned by now, but it still happens. To suss out the validity and domain authority of a website with tons of links, simply take a sample of 30 inbound links (from the site that linked to your page) and check them for quality.

If there are too many broken links, bad domains and sketchy links, it’s time to consider using the disavow tool. Too many red flags could harm your rankings, but a high domain authority can boost signals and metrics for the Google ranking algorithm.

BONUS: What does Google think about link building?

Anchor Text

Anchor text has been and continues to be a relevant and significant trait that factors into the quality of an inbound link. Unfortunately, its a factor that you have very little control over. After all, imagine if someone sent you an email asking you to change your anchor text to their site. Would you even respond?

However, there are some instances where you can influence the anchor text and attempt to make it match keywords relating to your domain, product or service. Guest posts are still a viable and legitimate way to get backlinks, provided the site hosting your guest post is related to your topic or niche.

Final Thoughts

Some inbound links are simply worth more than others, and in 2018 digital marketers need to strive for quality backlinks as opposed to quantity. Unfortunately, we don’t have a tool that objectively quantifies which links are worth more than others with the same accuracy as the Google algorithm, so we have to make judgment calls. Lastly, remember to disavow yourself from suspicious and odd inbound links. If you get the feeling something is a little off regarding a domain that has linked to your content, do a little research and decide whether or not to disavow the link.

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