What is a Quality Backlink? 8 Key Indicators to Look For

High-quality backlinks have 8 characteristics including relevance, traffic, authority, link profile quality, editorial standards, outbound link quality, indexation, and anchor text.

In this guide, I’ll dive into each of those qualities so you only get the highest quality backlinks imaginable.

Let’s dive in.

8 Characteristics of Quality Backlinks

1. Relevance

You should spend most of your link building time trying to get links on sites in your industry. I recommend using a model I created called The Relevancy Pyramid.

The Relevancy Pyramid can help you prioritize your link prospects based on relevance.

The model is simple:

There are fewer link building opportunities that are 100% relevant to your website. You should focus on these first.

Then, once you’ve tapped those out, move down the pyramid where there will be more prospects with less relevance.

Now there are two exceptions to this prioritization strategy.

First, it’s ALWAYS okay to get links from super authority sites like the New York Times, Washington Post, or .edu/.gov sites.

Second, The Relevancy Model changes if you’re working in local SERPs.

I recommend focusing on geo-targeted opportunities first. Then move onto topically relevant prospects on the national level.

This will create the most natural and relevant link profile.

Now, of course, it’s not all about relevance. If that were the case, you could create hundreds of relevant websites yourself and link to your site.

That doesn’t work because it would be missing all the other factors that make a backlink powerful.

Bringing me to standard #2:

2. Traffic

You need to get links to your site from websites that are relevant and have organic traffic.

Think about it:

If Google is sending organic search traffic to a site, what does that say?

It means that it’s likely a trustworthy website. In general, sites that are popular in organic search are valuable link building opportunities.

You can use SEMRush to see if a website is getting organic search traffic (and to see the “value” of that traffic):

3. Authority

If a website is getting organic traffic, it likely has authority. You can use Ahrefs’ DR to prioritize link building prospects based on their site authority.

The stronger a website is, the harder it will be to get the link.

That makes those links even more valuable, so it’s worth the effort.

4. Link Quality

It is possible to manipulate third party metrics like Ahrefs’ DR or Moz’s DA.

So that’s why you need to analyze the backlink profile of all your opportunities manually.

I like to run the website through Ahrefs and filter their links by “DoFollow.”

I then sort them so that the strongest links with the highest DR are at the top.

In short, you want to see that the site is getting links from high-quality sources.

Use the same criteria from above.

5. Editorial Standards

Why are diamonds valuable?

Because they’re difficult to get. That’s how you need to approach your link building. The harder it is to land a backlink, the more valuable it is.

The opposite is true, as well:

The easier a backlink is to get, the less valuable it is.

Focus on getting links on websites that have high editorial standards.

6. Outbound Link Quality

Websites with strong editorial guidelines will likely only link out to quality resources. You want your link to “live” around other trustworthy outbound links.

Examine every prospective website and ask:

  • How are they linking out?
  • Are the outbound links relevant?
  • Are the outbound links going to respected, trusted sites?
  • Do the outbound links look natural, or do they look like paid links?

7. Indexation

Nothing is more important than making sure you get links on indexed websites. If the site isn’t indexed in Google, then your links will be worthless.

Go to Google and search “site:example.com”.

If they don’t show up, avoid the website.

8. Anchor Text

Anchor text is the words you’ll see in a clickable hyperlink. Most people who are new to SEO don’t realize how impactful anchor text is. That applies to both how you use on your website (through internal links) and how you use it off of your website (backlinks).

In the case of internal links, you should use keyword-rich anchor text. Notice how I used “anchor text” as my anchor to link to my guide about “anchor text”. This is known as exact match anchor text. It’s safe to use with internal links.

However, you need to be super careful when it comes to backlinks. Read the guide above to learn more, but in short: exact match anchor text is a big footprint that you’re building links (which is against Google’s guidelines).

The catch 22 is that keyword-rich anchors work well. That means you need to be careful with how you use your anchor text when you’re link building.

Read this anchor text guide to learn how to use it the right way.

You now know what a squeaky clean link profile looks like.

Now let me show some examples of high-quality backlinks.


5 Examples of High-Quality Backlinks

Before you dive into these examples, remember that creating amazing content is the most scalable way to get high-quality backlinks.

When you create quality content, you are creating ASSETS for your business.

No matter what Google does, it can never take away your content.

You need to approach link building with a long-term mindset.

I use the investing analogy pretty often, but it’s true for SEO.

There is a compound effect of producing and promoting content on a consistent basis.

Keep in mind:

The following tactics are effective without content.

But you will get even better results if you build links to strong content assets.

1. Editorial Backlinks

For a link to be “editorial” you can’t have access to the site and your link must pass the editorial review. Google values editorial backlinks more than any other type of link.

Sadly, getting high-authority backlinks can be challenging.

First, you have to build relationships with bloggers in your industry. Second, you likely need to produce quality content to get natural backlinks.

My agency has acquired thousands of high-quality editorial backlinks at this point. We can get these high authority backlinks because we have built relationships and have the connections.

2. Niche Relevant Guest Posts

Guest posts are effective in two ways.

  • First, if you contribute lots of value, it will build your authority in the space.
  • Second, your guest post can send relevant referral traffic to your website.

Keep in mind that Google frowns upon spammy guest posting. That means you need to focus your efforts on producing a valuable guest post. If you give value, then there is nothing wrong with injecting backlinks to your website.

To get the most out of your guest posts, you need to get contextual links. Contextual links are far more powerful than author byline links.

Here are some search queries to find opportunities:

  • NICHE + “guest post”
  • NICHE + “contribute to”
  • NICHE + “write for us”
  • NICHE + “contributors”
  • NICHE + “guest writer”
  • NICHE + “guest post guidelines”

3. The Merger Technique

The Merger Technique is the process of finding a relevant expired domain and 301 redirecting it to your site.

The concept is simple:

You just acquired a relevant business and want to redirect to your mother company.

The key is for the expired domain to be 100% relevant.

These domains are harder to come by, but it is well worth it when you find one.

4. Resource Pages

This is an oldie, but a goodie.

Although SEO’s have abused this strategy, there are still some diamonds in the rough.

Once you find the pages, it’s best to see if there are any broken links on the page.

Use the Check My Link plugin.

You can use this as leverage when reaching out.

If there are no broken links, then you will need a strong content asset.

Otherwise, you’ll likely get denied.

5. The White Alternative to PBNs

The White Hat Alternative to PBNs is simple:

Instead of buying an expired domain and rebuilding it, you are going to:

  1. find an expired domain
  2. scrape its backlinks
  3. then reach out and let the linkers know they are linking to a dead resource

If the expired domain is relevant, you can ask the linker to replace the dead link with your site.

To improve your success rate, suggest 2-3 quality resources (including yours).

You can also recreate the original content if it’s relevant. This is obvious, but the content must better than the original.

Reach out and let the linker know about the new, revised piece of content.

This strategy requires more time and effort, but you get more link placements.

Quality Backlinks > Quantity

Getting high-quality backlinks is difficult, but that’s what makes them valuable. Focus your effort on getting the best of the best and you’ll get the SEO results you’re looking for.

Needs more advice about backlinks? Check out these resources: