“…there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare
Pretty dramatic way to start this post, right?
But it’s true!
You would think this debate would be over, but there still seems to be some people who debate what a quality backlink truly is.
It’s time to put an end to this debate.
11 Characteristics of a Quality Backlink
The characteristics I’m about to show you are for the absolute best quality backlinks you could ever get. Keep in mind, a link can still be of decent quality and not meet some of these standards. HOWEVER, you should do your best to stick within the quality guidelines because it will not only keep your site safe, but it’s also more effective.
Although I’m primarily writing about acquiring real editorial links, these standards can be applied to other types of contextual links like private blog networks.
1. Site-Level Relevancy
Getting links from sites that are relevant to yours is the mecca of quality link building. It’s also one of the best ways to avoid getting hit by Google Penguin.
An exact relevancy match is the most ideal situation. For example, for Gotch SEO, getting links from SEO-specific websites would produce the best results.
But is this always possible…?
That’s why it’s critical that you expand your link prospecting into more general categories.
With that being said, I prioritize my link prospects based on relevancy.
So, stage 1 of my link acquisition would focus only on the most relevant sites about SEO. After that, I go into stage 2, which targets the second most relevant sites pertaining to marketing. For stage 3, I would expand into sites that are generally about business. In most circumstances, you will have more than enough link prospects within the first 3 stages, so you won’t need to decrease the relevancy any further.
However, let’s say for some reason I run out of prospects in these three topics, I would then expand into entrepreneurship and maybe self improvement.
The point is that you want to focus your initial efforts on the most relevant link sources before expanding out.
Keep in mind there are always exceptions to the rule when it comes to site-level relevancy. For example, links from social media, business directories, and even some traditional directories can still be considered “quality” even though the relevancy isn’t that strong.
2. Page-Level Relevancy
Okay, so now you have a nice list of sites that are relevant to yours. The second most important element of a “good quality” backlink is page-level relevancy. In essence, the content surrounding your link should be relevant to the content on your site.
An example of perfect site-level and page-level relevancy would be if a search engine optimization blog linked to my anchor text article from an article about anchor text.
That brings me to my next point about page-level relevancy…
YES, it would be perfect relevancy if an article about “anchor text” linked to my article about “anchor text”, but this generally doesn’t happen. Although that situation would produce the best results, you can still get strong relevancy signals even if the article is loosely related to the content being linked out to on your site.
A general SEO article linking out to my anchor text article will still produce strong relevancy signals. Google is fully capable of pulling topics together to determine relevancy.
Here’s some examples of what you should and shouldn’t do (—> = backlink):
SEO blog + anchor text article —> anchor text article = Most effective
SEO blog + general SEO article —> anchor text article = Effective
SEO blog + cat training article —> anchor text article = Barely effective (only because of site-level relevancy)
Cat training blog + cat training article —> anchor text article = Ineffective/You’re wasting your time/what are you doing?
3. Link Relevancy
Before you start running out and grabbing guest posts, you need to prioritize one more time… Except this time, it’s going to be based on Topical Trust Flow. As I explained in this post, Topical Trust Flow is based on a link relevancy chain.
In essence, it’s relevant links linking to relevant links. In the image above, “Computers / Programming / Internet” is a Topical Trust Flow category in Majestic.
If you prioritize sites that are A) highly relevant on the content level and B) have highly relevant links, then you’re going to see results very quickly.
4. Domain Authority
If you followed the previous steps, then you should have an amazing list of highly relevant link prospects. But now, you’ll want to categorize those prospects based on Domain Authority (DA). I’ll be honest, DA is one of the most inaccurate metrics available because Open Site Explorer refreshes its link index at a snails pace. So, some sites may be showing a weaker or inflated DA because Open Site Explorer hasn’t updated its index or recrawled your site. With that being said, it’s still a decent way to determine the strength of a domain.
You should categorize your link prospects based on highest Topical Trust Flow AND Domain Authority. Some people prefer to target the lower authority sites first because the approval process is typically easier. This is a fine approach, but I just prefer to get high authority links as quickly as I can because they produce results faster.
This should be pretty apparent based on the examples I gave you above, but links within content, also known as contextual links, are the most powerful. Stand alone links can be effective, but are much sketchier and are weak in comparison to contextual links. If you decide to use stand alone links, make sure they meet the site and page-level relevancy standards and that all the other outbound links are relevant to yours (OBL’s will be explained below).
6. Content Quality
This is something many people think about, but the actual quality of the content that is hosting your link is very important. It should be a well-developed article free of grammar and spelling errors. Most importantly, the article should be providing some level of value.
High value content = more social and link activity = more authority for your link
7. Relevant Outbound Links
Anytime you acquire a relevant contextual link, it should be surrounded by other relevant outbound links. Relevant outbound links increase the trust of the site linking to you, which will ultimately increase the trust of your link. You should avoid any websites that are linking out to “bad neighborhoods”.
If you’re getting published on legitimate sites with an editorial process then there’s a good chance all the outbound links will be relevant and high-quality. However, if you’re getting published on sites that are built just for guest posts or public blog networks, then you will likely see spammy irrelevant outbound links.
8. Anchor Text
Google still holds pretty significant weight to keyword-rich anchors as long as they are used sparingly. I explain anchor percentages here, but you really don’t want to exceed 1% exact match anchor text. Focus on branded anchors and mix in some keyword-rich anchors every so often and you’ll rank.
9. IP Address
This should be obvious, but the site you’re getting a link from should be on a different IP address than yours. You want as many unique IPs as possible linking to your site.
10. Referral Traffic
A legitimate link should drive at least some referral traffic to your site. This is really the only time Alexa rank comes into play. If you’re trying to drive referral traffic through your link, then you should consider prioritizing your link prospects based on Alexa rank as well. Often times, referral traffic is some of the highest converting traffic you’ll receive.
11. Acquisition = Hard
A good quality link should by definition be difficult to acquire. There should be a strong editorial process in place and there should be nothing but quality information on any site you’re trying to get a link from.
For example, getting a link on Forbes is going to be way more effective than registering a web 2.0 and placing your link. That’s because ANYONE can do this. It takes hard work and/or a lot money to get on Forbes or other high authority sites. That’s what makes them valuable.
Link Boosting Strategies
Okay, so you have successfully acquired an amazing backlink, but what now? You now need to increase the authority and trust of your link even further. If you accomplish the following boosting strategies, then you will have completed the equation for a “good quality” backlink.
You don’t see this often, but don’t you think you should milk the opportunity you got to be published on a site? That’s why you should go through their site and find opportunists for them to internally link back to the article that’s hosting your link. These internal links will increase the authority of the page hosting your link and subsequently send more link equity to your website.
You should spend an equal amount of time promoting pages with your link than you would your own blog post. Social signals increase trust for the linking website and your link. Work hard to promote your links!
Okay, so now you have strong internal links going to the article as well as some social signals, but is it a ghost town in the comment section? Try to provoke some discussion in the comments because user generated content keeps the article “fresh” and will provoke Google to crawl it more frequently.
Tier Two Links
The best tier two links to promote your tier one properties would have relevant Topical Trust Flow. If you can achieve this, you’re going to increase the authority of your tier one properties quicker and also improve your rankings much faster. But as you probably know, this isn’t always possible. At the very minimum, build nothing but high quality, relevant tier two links. You just worked your butt off trying to acquire the absolute best link imaginable, so make sure you treat it right by using quality links.
Don’t spam GSA links to a quality tier one guest post or property because A) it will likely decrease trust and B) the webmaster might remove the article because you’re spamming.
Good quality links are hard to get, but they will produce better results than hundreds of mediocre links. Work hard to get these links and stop caring about quantity. Or, you can use our guest posting service to save you time.
Have some questions on what qualifies as a good quality link? Let’s talk in the comment section.