A backlink is created when one website links to another. And it’s important you put time and energy into building and maintaining a healthy backlink profile for your website by securing links from other authoritative sites, because this is one of the most effective ways you can get into search engines’ good books. As a result, it’s great for your SEO.
However, all links aren’t created equal. So, when link building, you need to make sure you’re working hard to secure links that are of a high quality. And, to help you with that, I’m going to take you through a step-by-step checklist for assessing the quality of a backlink. Read on to find out more.
When you identify a site you would like to get a link from, the first thing you want to do is evaluate the domain authority (DA) and domain rating (DR).
Domain authority is an SEO metric that gives you an idea of how likely a site is to rank well on search engine result pages. And domain rating is similar, but it’s used to determine the quality and quantity of the backlinks that point to the website you’re assessing.
These two metrics are measured on a scale of 1-100, with 100 being the highest. As a rule of thumb, Webris recommends you opt to build links on sites that have a domain authority of at least 20 and a domain rating of at least 15.
Regardless of the type of link-building strategies you choose to use, you need to check out these metrics and ensure you’re targeting high-quality sites, because higher-quality links will give you a better chance of boosting your SEO.
One sure way to check these metrics is with a reputable domain authority checker. At Loganix, we offer a domain authority checker tool that allows you to check the authority level of any site you’re thinking about building a backlink on. It also gives you an insight into other relevant SEO metrics, like a website’s domain rating, trust flow, and citation flow, which will help you make a better decision about which target sites to consider.
A site’s trust ratio is another important factor that you need to consider, and you can work this out by dividing its trust flow by its citation flow. A site’s trust flow indicates how trustworthy it appears to be, based on the quality of its backlinks. And citation flow looks at how authoritative a site seems, depending on its overall number of backlinks.
According to Majestic, a popular SEO analysis tool, if the citation flow of a website is much higher than the trust flow, then it’s likely the site is getting a lot of links, but potentially from spammy sites.
Ideally, you want to look for a trust ration of one or above. So, for example, if you have a target website with a trust flow of 60 and a citation flow of 45, the TF:CF ratio would be 1.33, which is good and suggests that the site has links from trustworthy sources.
But, if you’re looking at a site that has a trust flow of 20 and a citation flow of 80, the ratio would come out as 0.25, which indicates that a lot of the site’s links aren’t from reputable sources. So, it’s best to avoid that particular site and look for one that has a healthier backlink profile that’s going to help boost your SEO.
Before building a link on a website, you’ll also want to check how much traffic it attracts. If you are able to get links from high-traffic sites, you’ll be able to effectively raise more awareness of your brand.
One way to determine the traffic of a site is to use tools like Ahrefs or Semrush. These will give you an estimate of the amount of traffic each website pulls in, and a good rule of thumb is to target sites with more than 500 monthly visitors. This will indicate that the site you’re looking at is of a high quality and actually provides value for people.
You should also check which countries bring in the most organic traffic and see if they align with where your ideal audience can be found. You want to reach the most relevant people with your links, after all!
To give you an idea of one of the ways you can check which country a particular site gets most of its organic traffic from, I’ve analyzed the site of a company called Doors Plus using Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.
The company is based in Australia and, as you can see from the screenshot above, it receives a great deal of organic traffic every month. As you might expect, the vast majority of this does come from Australia, making it an ideal target if you’re building links for a business that wants to reach more customers in that particular country.
However, if you are looking to build links for a company that’s aiming to reach more people in the US, for example, this wouldn’t be such a great target site. Instead, you’ll want to build links on websites that have the American flag at the top of the organic traffic leaderboard.
You only want to build links on websites that rank for keywords relevant to your business, as this will increase the chances of your site being seen by people in your target audience. And, again, to check which keywords a website ranks for, you can use a specialist tool like the ones I mentioned earlier.
Looking into which keywords your target sites are ranking for, and consider whether your ideal audience are likely to be typing these phrases into search engines. So, for instance, if you’re trying to build backlinks for a website that sells kitchen utensils, you should focus on building links on websites that already rank for queries related to kitchens and cooking.
To give you a practical example, let’s study a website that ranks for keywords related to a specific topic.
Musician Authority is an online resource for people who want to learn how to play instruments like piano, guitar, bass, or the ukulele. I’ve entered the website’s URL into Ahrefs to search for the keywords and phrases it is currently ranking for and, in the image above, you’ll see that it ranks for keywords like “ukulele and guitar duet” or “music teachers near me”.
These are all very relevant keywords for this website, as its main focus is musical instruments and learning how to play them. So if, for example, you were looking to build links for a guitar or ukulele manufacturer, or possibly a music school, this site would make a fantastic target based on these keywords.
Regardless of what kind of niche you’re looking to build links in, the technique won’t be too different. You simply need to find the keywords your target site is currently ranking for and check to see if they are similar to the search terms or queries that are relevant to your clients’ customers.
Another way to check whether it’s worth building a link on a particular site is by checking the quality of its backlink profile. There isn’t a particular number of backlinks that a site needs to have, but you should ensure that there are quality links coming from relevant and high-authority websites.
When you’re checking over a site’s backlink profile, you should also make sure they have a healthy range of referring domains, as it can be a bad sign if your target site is getting a lot of backlinks from just a handful of publishers.
Let’s take a look at a typical example of a site with a healthy backlink profile.
FreshBooks is a company that provides accounting software for small and medium-sized businesses. For the purpose of this article, I plugged their site into Ahrefs, one of the most popular SEO analysis tools, so I could check out their backlink profile.
As you can see, they currently have 526,000 backlinks from approximately 35,400 referring domains. These are very good numbers that indicate FreshBooks has a healthy backlink profile and would be a perfect referring domain for a relevant site.
Even though there is no exact number of backlinks that a site should have, you’ll want to check that your target site’s backlink profile has gradually grown over time, as this is a promising sign that their backlinks have been generated organically and are legitimate.
When reviewing the backlinks of each target site, make sure you look out for the quality of their referring domains, too. You can even pick a few and open them up just to scan through and determine whether they are of a low or high quality.
The best backlinks come from sites with a very clear and relevant niche. So, you’ll want to avoid building links on websites that publish articles about anything and everything. Instead, you should look for publishers that focus on a particular topic related to your client’s business.
You should conduct a quick sweep of every target site’s “about us” page, blog posts, and content marketing to confirm the kinds of posts they publish and the topics they write about. If you find sites that cover a wide range of topics in a lot of niches, cross them off your list and go for the ones that are solely focused on your niche or topics around it.
Google has been cracking down on guest posting as a way to build links. And, it’s likely the way the search engine identifies guest posts is by checking whether sites are soliciting them quite clearly and frequently.
The reason why Google is doing this is that it wants to provide a better search experience for users. And Google doesn’t think openly asking for guest posts will do much for the average user of search engines. Instead, it believes that this will result in spammy and low-quality articles that are exclusively created for the purpose of link building.
So, in your quest for backlinks, you want to make sure you avoid websites that prominently solicit guest posts from the public. Just as search engines would, you’ll be able to identify these sites if you see them talk about guest posting on their homepage, or if they have a “write for us” page in their top-level navigation.
High-quality sites will typically have a brief mention of guest posts in their footer, or will have guidelines you can only find if you really dig for them. While it will take more work to find these sites, it’s worth it because their links will be much more valuable.
You should aim to build links on sites that already have content that’s of high quality. This is because it shows the site cares about quality, will boost the site’s SEO, and also make your content appear more credible.
So, you want to check through the previous content that’s already on your target sites. Try to go for websites that already have valuable and useful information that seems like it would be very helpful to their audience, and yours. Also, take a look at the length of their content and try to compare it with that of other high-quality sites. Even though there is some evidence to suggest that pages with a higher word count of 1000-1500 have a better chance of ranking, your best bet is to go for sites that prioritize quality over the length of an article.
Another benefit is that, when you write for a site with high-quality content, you’ll be driven to make sure your content is as strong as possible. If you think your marketing team needs help in creating quality content, you can check out Webris’s content sprint — this is a service that allows the company to help you tackle major SEO tasks like conducting a keyword gap analysis or content topic ideation quickly and effectively.
Building backlinks, and making sure they’re of a very high quality, takes a lot of time and energy. So, whenever you’re carrying out the research needed to build a great link, make sure you record all of the relevant information you uncover along the way. This way, the next time you need to build a link for a client, you won’t have to go over old ground.
At Loganix, we have created a range of useful SEO templates that marketers like yourself can download for free. One of them is a backlink quality checklist, which you can use to collate all of the relevant details you’ve collected about the different sites you’ve been thinking about approaching for a link.
Our checklist is split up into four categories, and each of these go into detail about what you should look for in a site you’re planning to build a link on. The first category is “domain and hosting”, which covers sites’ DNS and A records, whether a site is secure, and if there are any hyphens in the domain name. These factors can indicate whether a particular site is of a high quality, so they’re well worth paying attention to, and you can use the checklist to tick the points off as you do your research.
Next, we have a “core metric” category, which looks at whether a target site’s pages have been indexed by Google, where their traffic typically comes from, and what a site’s DR, DA, and TF:CF ratio are. As I’ve previously mentioned, these details will give you an indication of how strong your client’s link is likely to be if you choose to build it on your target site.
There’s also a “history and trends” section, which will give you an idea of how your target site’s metrics have looked over time, and whether it has incurred any search engine penalties. Here, you should be looking for a positive trend when it comes to backlinks and traffic, as this will indicate that the site you’re looking to approach is legitimate and likely to supply you with a healthy backlink.
Last but not least, there’s also a “manual content review” category, which encourages you to take a look at the existing content on your target site. You should check the readability and look out for any instances of obvious anchor text abuse. As I covered previously, you should only look to build links on sites that are already home to great content, so this is a very important step. And recording the results will mean that you have all of the necessary information next time you want to build a link, and won’t have to put in all the legwork again.
If you would like to make your link building endeavors a lot easier and streamline your processes, download our template and you’ll be able to get started straight away.
In this article, I’ve taken you through a detailed checklist of steps you need to implement if you want to make sure you’re building high-quality backlinks for your site or your clients.
Some of the tips I’ve mentioned, which you can get started on, are to check the quality metrics of your target site, ensure it ranks for relevant keywords, and also try to determine whether your target site has a clear niche. The best ones always do! And, if you aren’t doing so already, you should follow the Webris blog if you want more useful tips on how to optimize your website and grow your business.
Adam Steele is the COO at Loganix, an SEO fulfillment partner for agencies and marketers. We build easy-to-use SEO services that help businesses scale. If you liked this article, please check out our SEO guides and templates on the Loganix blog.Find out more
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