As we all know, links come in many shapes and sizes. And as long as they are back-links from quality sites, you can bet that they are going to help you rank higher in Google – the more the merrier. You probably also already knew that on-site links help boost your ranking signals to the Google algorithm as well, and they can even boost ancillary factors such as your bounce rate. The thing that most people don’t know, however, is what different characteristics of links have an effect on their quality and how these factors can be manipulated ethically.
- A Link’s Anchor Text
This is one of the first on the list because it is still incredibly important factor. Anchor text is the characters that are used to create the hyperlink, and a lot of lazy or inexperienced bloggers might just use the timeless ‘click here’ anchor text. If people link organically to your content, the chances that their anchor text is an exact or partial match is anything but reliable. However, that doesn’t mean that you don’t get any value from a back-link that doesn’t have exact match anchor text. But if you are working with someone to create a back-link to your site and you have some degree of control or influence over that link, you should still try to make the anchor text match keywords to boost SEO efforts.
- Domain Authority
Domain authority is among the most important link value factors and has a heavy bearing on the SEO value from your links. Older sites that have massive audiences and tons of relevant content are the best types of sites to get back-links from. This value has two main benefits. As we all know, it will help improve your SERP rankings more than a link from a burgeoning blogger. But also consider that the back-link from an authoritative domain is going to put a link to your site in front of a lot of eyeballs, and you will also benefit from the stream of traffic that is created when people follow that link to your site.
This characteristic can be a little tricky, because we don’t really understand the nitty-gritty details of how Google measures the relevance of a page. But you can certainly make educated guesses and plan accordingly. For example, let’s say that you are an ecommerce entity that sells pet food. While it would clearly be helpful to get back-links from relevant sources such as pet food manufacturers or animal-centric organizations such as the humane society, there are still ways to get value from other sites that will help boost your rankings. Perhaps you did a press release to let the world know about a specialty pet food you are now carrying, and back-links from news or journalism sites – though not as relevant as other pet-based sites – will still help your rankings. However, if all of your links come from sites that aren’t relevant, such as directories, your back-link profile is going to suffer.
- Page Location
Page location isn’t really as important as it once was – at least from a purely SEO perspective. In the past people had various ideas concerning how much ‘link juice’ you would get from the location of your link on the page. For example, a lot of people would think that they wanted a link in the first 25% of the page for increased ranking signals. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case today. Having said that, there is still a certain degree of value you get from having a link near the top of the article – more people are going to see it. If, for example, your link was in an article that was 3,000 words in length, more people will follow that back-link if it is near the top…and fewer people will follow that link if it is buried at the bottom.
- Spam Rating
This characteristic is critical to the value of a link – more so than many of the other factors mentioned already. However, while the previous characteristics have the potential to help you, this value can really only hurt you. Google certainly evaluates websites to see if they have a lot of spammy links, and it is probably a good idea to disassociate yourself with incredibly spammy websites to protect your rankings. But how do you know if a website is spammy? Just eyeball it – you’ll be able to tell more often than not. If you find back-links from a site that sells links, links to all kinds of irrelevant content, or just looks sketchy because they inundate visitors with ads, it might be high time to use the Google disavow tool.
- Speed of Back-Link Population
If you are the type of person that wants to legitimately boost your back-link profile through time, dedication, and elbow grease, you don’t need to worry about this factor. You should note, however, that Google does have ways of finding people trying to game the system with black hat SEO techniques. In the past, new websites found ways (through rather dubious methods) to make hundreds or even thousands of back-links spring up seemingly overnight. Some of these methods still exist today, and people are always looking for new ways to manipulate the search algorithm. My advice? Don’t take part in these practices – it will only hurt you in the long run.
- User Engagement
Google has a lot of sophisticated ways, such as Google Chrome and analytics systems, to track user engagement on a page. But if Google sees that a website is getting a lot of traffic but users aren’t spending much time on a page that contains a back-link, that link won’t carry as much weight for a couple reasons. Firstly, the page may be deemed to be a spammy, advertisement-ridden page. Secondly, you probably won’t get a lot of visitors to follow the back-link since they are turned-off by the page in question.