10 Aug What Makes A Good Backlink?
Backlinks have a long history of importance in search engine algorithms. Backlinks were first brought to the fray by Google in the 90s as part of its original algorithm. Used as an indication of a website’s value, it helped Google sort the most relevant websites at that time. In some ways, this is what enabled Google to separate itself from the competition and establish a substantial market share.
Naturally over time, marketers realised that the acquisition of backlinks was a viable strategy to boost their website’s positions on search engine searches. As such, the strategy of acquiring quality backlinks started and has continued to persist for 2 decades.
How did “good backlinks” come about?
You will often hear digital marketers or SEOs mention the importance of “quality backlinks”. Which springs the question, just what is a “quality backlink”? To answer this question, we first need to understand the origin of quality backlinks and their relevance.
The birth of the “quality backlink”
\When SEOs first worked on websites in the 90s, they found that the algorithm valued the quantity of backlinks a website had. As such, they looked to build basic backlinks from as many websites as possible in order to push their website up. The result of this arms race was websites that potentially offered no real value to users being ranked at the top of search pages. Afterall, since links were such as a strong factor, marketers could overcome a poor website with mass link building.
This outcome was naturally highly undesirable amongst both users and Google. As such, Google responded by introducing algorithms such as “Panda” and “Penguin” to target such spammy link building tactics. These algorithms analysed websites’ backlink profiles for signs of artificially built links. Simultaneously, it rewarded websites that appeared to have quality organic backlinks.
Based off the changes introduced by these new algorithms, marketers thus shifted their focus towards building fewer but higher quality backlinks.
So what is a quality backlink?
In layman terms, a quality backlink would help your webpage to have higher rankings on Google while not posing any risks to your website. Recall the “Panda” and “Penguin” algorithms? These algorithms might cause Googlebot to ignore backlinks which are of poor quality. Worse still, automatic penalties may be placed upon your webpage. To avoid such risk when prospecting a potential backlink from a website, you should look out for:
- Website and webpage traffic
- The Domain Authority (DA) or Domain Rating (DR) of the website
- The Page Authority (PA) or URL Rating (UR) of the targeted webpage
- The spam score of the website
- The niche, topic or primary content of the website
- The title, meta title and meta description of the page
Website and webpage traffic
A leading factor of assessing a website’s suitability for a backlink is the traffic it receives. Naturally, a website that receives more traffic gives you an increased chance of receiving the traffic via the referral link. Additionally, we can intuitively see that a website that receives a ton of traffic is likely seen as trustworthy and valuable. As such, having links from such a website is likely a safe bet.
Getting links from a high traffic website can be challenging as they will need to see value in providing a link to your website. A good PR strategy here can go a long way, providing a reason for the website to link to you. For example, the website might gain more readers from having content on your brand, products, services or people. If so, you could assist them in giving the necessary information for the content piece. Thereafter, a link to the relevant page on your website would provide their readers a better user experience.
Domain Authority (DA) or Domain Rating (DR)
DA and DR are proxy metrics used by SEO professionals for assessing the value of a website’s backlink profile. These metrics are meant to mimic Google’s link algorithm and thus give you an overview of a website’s potential for SEO.
Links from high DA and DR websites are likely to be of higher quality as they are likely to have a strong backlink profile. While DA and DR are easy for you to measure and refer to, they should be seen as rough measurements of a link’s worth.
Page Authority (PA) or Page Rating (PR)
PA and PR are proxy metrics used by SEO professionals to assess the value of a link from a particular webpage. In relation to DA and DR, a high quality website need not necessary have evenly valued pages. Indeed, some pages will definitely be of higher value due to the structure of the website and webpages linked to it.
As an example, you could say that a link from a low PA/PR webpage existing on a high DA/DR website would not have the expected value from such a website. As such, it is important that you look at individual pages PA/PR, particularly if the page is already published online. Alternatively, it is a viable strategy to have a mini link building strategy to build links to the page that your backlink is on. This will help to improve the page’s PA/PR and thus pass that value onto your website thereafter.
Spam Score (SS) or Penalty Risk
A website’s SS is another proxy metric used by SEO professionals to determine the penalty risk of a website. Based on known algorithm penalties as well as tests run, the SS tells you how similar a website is to known penalised practices. Shown as a percentage, the lower the number displayed, the safer a website’s links are.
A website niche refers to the central topics or themes that the website’s content covers. It is much more effective to have links from websites that have the same niche as yours. For example, MediaPlus Digital’s website primarily covers all things web design and digital marketing. As such, another website in the same field or related areas such as marketing, web CMS, SEO and so forth will benefit from having a link from this website.
It is also worth mentioning that links from a same niche website would be seen as more natural. For instance, you certainly would not expect a website covering car parts to suddenly direct its users’ attention to a ballet school’s website.
Title, Meta Title and Meta Description
The page’s title, meta title and meta description are seen as a summary of a webpage. As such, in order to ensure relevance, they should contain the anchor text keyword or a variation of it. In essence, this would be telling search engines that the content revolves around the keyword and that the link to your website is highly related to the webpage. This process is typically part of keyword mapping which is done to build structure and optimise one’s page.
Choosing the appropriate link attribute
There are several different link attributes, and these can have a huge impact on how search engines assess a link. Furthermore, according to search engines’ recommended practices, you will find that certain situations mandate a different type of link. Failing to follow these guidelines could lead to your website’s backlink profile being seen as suspicious.
The common link attributes specified by Google include:
Dofollow links are the default link type that require no specified attribute. If you have used standard html code to link webpages in the past, then chances are that they were Dofollow links. These links are the core of your SEO strategy and inform search engines that your website is relevant to the content from the linked webpage. In layman terms, you can think of this type of link as an endorsement of your webpage or a formal link between webpages.
Nofollow links are seen by Google to have little or no value to a website’s backlink profile. There are 3 primary instances under which a Nofollow link is encouraged to be used:
- The linked website serves as an example of a negative practice or example. This allows a website owner to provide a bad example and users can visit the website. All this is done without search engines seeing a formal relationship between the 2 websites.
- The linked website is not relevant to the content on your webpage. If for some reason there is a need to link to another website which is not relevance, then a Nofollow link would make sense.
- An attempt at building an artificial link is in play here. For example, many SEOs in the past used to manipulate comment sections of webpages to give their websites links in bulk. As such, to prevent such spammy link building, most websites now have an automatic Nofollow attribute attach to outgoing links in the comment section.
The user generated content link attribute is used to specify that the link was created by a website’s user base. As such, the link is not necessary representative of the website’s link profile. It works similar to the Nofollow attribute but gives further context to search engines.
Interested to learn more?
Read more about other SEO techniques to boost your rankings and the factors determining how much an SEO campaign costs for a small business.
Keen to build a strong link profile for your website? Speak to our SEO consultants at MediaPlus Digital. We are a leading digital marketing and SEO agency in Singapore, who has run 100s of SEO campaigns for our clients.
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