How to Evaluate a Backlink: Poor Links vs Quality Links
As you already know, search engines assign a different weight to each backlink. These values determine the trust that your website could benefit from, in terms of positioning.
Here are some features that help determine the value of a link:
- Popularity: having links from many other websites is a positive sign for search engines.
- Thematic popularity: this refers only to links coming from websites or webpages that deal with similar topics. For example, a bag website will have weightful links from clothing e-commerce websites, but not from a newspaper's website, for example.
- Anchor text: the visible text of the link may contain one or more thematic keywords. Although in the past it has been an abused technique, obtaining backlinks with relevant anchor-text is still very important today. After the Penguin Update, it is recommended to also have backlinks with "click here", "visit the site", "brand-name" in order to have an even more natural profile.
- Link neighborhood: if a website has links toward spam websites and then inserts a link to your website, it will not have a particularly positive impact.
- Social signals: shares on social networks do not have a strong weight like thematic blog links, but they are taken into consideration by the search engines.
- Position: a clearly visible link at the top of the page will have a higher impact than a link in the footer.
- Link velocity: if your new website gets 100 daily backlinks for a week, and then nothing for 6 months, there's something wrong. You should try to constantly insert links, over time.
- Link diversity: having backlinks only from forums or just from blogs is not very natural. You should try to diversify and focus on various typologies, such as directories, newspapers and social networks.
When I talk with my students, I notice that they often do like Rocky.
I'm not actually talking about Stallone's movie, but about my dog, Rocky. I have a 3 year old border collie which, in nature, should work 24 hours a day to gather sheeps. Actually he assists me in SEO activities, he supports me in my work, perhaps more than necessary, and in my spare time I reward him with some outdoor workout.
Figure 9.0 - Rocky ready to play
By nature, Rocky tends to run, be active and play constantly because he's a dog! SEO is the opposite. It takes time, patience and we must not push more than necessary, because otherwise the risk of penalization is just around the corner.
Now, in order to evaluate a backlink or a link building strategy, it is enough to just consider ALL the points mentioned above holistically because, if treated separately, they can be misleading and even incorrect.
For example, having a large link popularity, but from spam sites (with bad link neighborhood) would actually be counterproductive.
Now, I would like to address the delicate subject of metrics or the numerical values that indicate a link's "strength", such as the Trust Flow (TF), Citation Flow (CF), Domain Authority (DA), and many others.
Figure 9.1 - Metrics' examples of some websites
Surely they can help speed up the work, but be careful!
The crawler of these companies, although powerful, will never match Google's power.
I often find websites with Domain Authority (DA) equal to 4/100 simply because the bot had not yet scanned the websites containing important backlinks. In this situation, the DA value is very misleading. By considering it, we would risk making the wrong choices.
In other situations, they are, instead, useful. For example, finding a blog with CitationFlow equal to 42/100, but TrustFlow, only 7/100, it means that there has obviously been an excessive boost and the risk of having spam links is very high.
We remind you that because of the robots.txt file we can also block these companies' crawlers' access, by supplying false and incomplete data, in such a way that we can be underestimated by competitors, who try to study our metrics.
In my opinion, the best solution is to consider various metrics in order to draw a personal conclusion based on experience, because, as we have seen, basing decisions exclusively on these numbers can be misleading.
9.6 Natural Backlinks
We're now stepping into the hot topic of natural links, but let me explain what natural links really are, because, reading the various blogs, it looks to be a philosophy of life instead of just a concept.
A link is said to be natural when it is obtained without direct intervention through the various link building practices performed by the SEO professionals. Basically, it is obtained in a natural or automatic way and this is the reason why these links are the most difficult to obtain (and remove).
Precisely because they are not under our control, these links could even be harmful to us.
Generally, natural links are recognizable because they do not appear on sponsored or paid pages, and they have no tracking parameters (for example, utm).
"In theory", these are the only links taken into consideration by Google within its algorithm and they weight a lot in determining the ranking position of each website.
Figure 9.4 - Examples of natural backlinks to my Italian site
From my experience, I fully agree that getting these links is the most effective way to push a website to the top of the search results, but unfortunately it's not always possible!
I don't love rhetorical speeches, so I would like to explain the concept for you with some practical examples.
How many urban construction blogs exist, at this moment, in Italy? I didn't do any research, but, probably about a five, I guess.
How likely is it that one of these websites notices your article on roof damages after a storm? Probably none. You will be more likely to receive a link from a local newspaper than from them.
On the contrary, if you deal with Social Media Marketing strategies, you should know that there are hundreds of blogs on the subject in Italy. It will not be too difficult to get noticed and to get a link, if your article is really useful.
What I'm trying to say is that, in many niche markets (especially in Italy), there aren't enough websites or enough bloggers that could notice your article and decide to insert a link onto their webpage.
For this reason, in some cases, attracting natural links is certainly possible, in others it can happen by chance, but in others it is extremely difficult and therefore you should be realistic and not even hope for it.
After this brief introduction, I would like to remind you that natural links are not necessarily good. In fact, in many cases, they come from real spam sites, which can damage your website.
In these situations, you can notice it through a manual analysis of your backlinks profile. The full list of backlinks can be found directly within your Google Search Console account.
At this point, you should kindly contact the webmaster of these websites in order to request the removal of the link, but, if it they don't do so, you won't be able to do anything about it, except for the extreme ratio (in the most serious cases) of using the famous Disavow Tool for telling Google not to consider specific backlinks, but we'll discuss that in a specific chapter.
To conclude this chapter I would like to define outreach as the activity of getting in touch with another webmaster or manager of the target website in order to get backlinks.
In addition to guest blogging, I also used the outreach in order to get interesting backlinks, by notifying, for example, the webmaster of having broken links or offering a supplementary resource to his texts, plus other more advanced practices, which I explain to my students on https://www.getseofix.com/get-backlinks
Federico Magni has been a Senior SEO Specialist for about 10 years with 100 sites ranked on Google and today he is the founder of the All in one SEO platform GetSEOfix.com.
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