Not all backlinks are the same. Some are more valuable than others, some are completely useless and some can even be harmful. So how do you recognize them?

We have calculated at least 12 factors that determine the quality of backlinks and their ability to transfer authority and value to other sites, which is referred to as link equity or link juice. You should do this when building a good link profile:

  1. Watch the Google PageRank algorithm work
  2. Search for the highest quality websites
  3. Search for relevant websites
  4. Look for new sources of links
  5. Add links to the main content of the website
  6. Change anchor lyrics
  7. Put anchor texts in context
  8. Instead of nofollow links, choose dofollow
  9. Make sure users click on your links
  10. Continue to link to important pages
  11. Avoid accumulating links
  12. Prefer editorial backlinks

1. Watch the Google PageRank algorithm work

The PageRank algorithm is one of the oldest methods that determine the value of websites and is based on two principles. First, the more links to a website, the more value the page has. Second, the more valuable a page is, the more value it can pass on to other pages.

page rank principles

Principles of Page Rank

Although today the ability of sites to transfer value (link equity) is affected by several factors, the PageRank algorithm still weighs a lot:

gary tweat post

This means that you should prefer links to pages that are targeted by a large number of links from other websites. If you use the SEO SpyGlass application to search for links, pay attention to the data marked as Domain InLink Rank. The larger this number, the more backlinks the domain has, and the more authority and value it can pass to your site:

Domain InLink Rank

2. Look for the best possible websites

In 2012, Penguin was updated to reduce the importance of the PageRank algorithm. Google did not like the fact that SEO experts bought thousands of memorized backlinks to manipulate the ranking of pages in search. Therefore, Google began to focus not only on the quantity but also on the quality of backlinks. The pages in your link profile must only come from quality sites since the update was introduced. Now you can no longer manipulate the algorithm and set up private blog networks (PBNs), add "thin content" that gives users nothing, or share the same content with little changes. The end has been over-optimized anchor texts (visible parts of a hyperlink) and a negative user experience.

Google will respond appropriately to the amount of spam in your backlinks. One possibility is that it won't do anything, but on the other hand, it may suppress or even penalize your site when searching. The downside is that you don't even have to know if your backlinks come from poor quality sources. They appear naturally over time or can even cause negative attacks on SEO. Therefore, we recommend that you regularly check backlinks and remove those that appear to be suspicious.

If you use the SEO SpyGlass application, you will detect malicious backlinks immediately. A new feature inspired by the Penguin update called Penalty Risk has been introduced in the application. Here you can see all links and their spam scores in one place:

Penalty Risk

The score is calculated by combining different data. Domain age, IP and C-block uniqueness, Google indexing, number of links, anchor text optimization, and link placement are considered.

If you find suspicious backlinks, you can add them to a separate folder, then download it and paste it into Google Link Spacing. Google will no longer consider these links when considering your site.

3. Search for relevant websites

Links from thematically similar sites will give you more value than links from irrelevant sites. Which makes sense mainly because Google sees links as recommendations, and recommendations from someone who knows what they're talking about are always more valuable.

If you owned a bike shop, logically, your site would benefit from links to bike reviewers, local bike clubs, or bike suppliers. These links weigh the most. Such a reference to floristry would be almost useless to you.

You can easily find thematically similar websites by looking at the sources from which your competitors are getting links. Links that two or more of your competitors have in common will be useful to you. They are most likely involved in a similar industry to you and your competitors. These sites will also be happy to share your link - since they link to more of your competitors, it means they don't have an exclusive relationship with any of them.

Using SEO SpyGlass, you can find sites as follows: go to Domain Comparison and then Link Intersection and add a few of your competitors. When the tool finishes analyzing their link profiles, you'll see a list of backlink sources that competitors have in common:

relevant websites

4. Look for new sources of links

The number of links in your profile is as important as the number of unique referring domains. There is evidence that websites with a greater variety of link sources rank higher in search results, which also makes sense. Tell me, is it better if several people or one person around you recommend something to you? Probably the first option.

diversity of links

For you, this means that you should not be satisfied with just a few referral partners. It may seem very tempting to continue creating content for the same resource, but don't forget about new opportunities. Some content could be more valuable if added to a new website.

5. Add links to the main content of the website

A model called a "reasonable surfer model" indicates that links are ranked according to their placement on the page. Links placed in the main content or highlighted links with proper anchor text that are placed in the relevant context are likely to be more valuable. After all, why would they be placed like this if they weren't important?

link in points

Conversely, links that are located in the sidebar or footer of a page are perceived as less valuable. These links are usually present on all pages of your site, which means that they are not linked to a specific page. In addition, the user usually does not even look at the side panel or foot.

6. Change the anchor texts

In the good old days of SEO, your anchor text must have sounded exactly like your main keywords. So if you want to get a good place in the keyword search for blueberry muffins, all your anchor lyrics should include the words blueberry muffins. That's how it really worked then.

But after the Penguin update, Google began looking for potential signs of unnatural link building. And one of these features was over-optimized anchor text. If hundreds or even thousands of your anchor texts sound exactly the same, there's a good chance you've got the links naturally.

To avoid suspicion, anchor texts should be different. Of course, some of them may contain your brand, others your keywords, but others should be exceptional and natural.

To track the diversity of anchor texts, we've added an Anchor Texts section to SEO SpyGlass. Here you can see which anchor texts are the most popular and you can even find out how diverse they are:

various anchor lyrics

Use different anchor texts

7. Put anchor texts in context

There is evidence from practice and patents that Google rates links and ranks websites based on the text around anchor texts (around the visible parts of hyperlinks). The patent says that Google takes pieces of text from both sides of a link and looks for potential keywords in them. The site will then rank on the results page that appears after searching for these keywords:

content around the anchor

Add content around the anchor text

This way, Google can determine if the link is natural. It compares the keywords found with the area of ​​interest of the page it links to and monitors whether they are related. Spam sites probably don't make the effort to surround links with meaningful text, so Google won't find a match in this case.

Try to write at least a few coherent sentences around the links with keywords related to the page they link to.

8. Choose dofollow instead of nofollow links

In 2005, the nofollow attribute was introduced to combat link spam. Adding it to a link stops the transfer of authority between pages, and the landing page doesn't get any benefits. In essence, it eliminates the efforts of SEO spammers to spread their links across the web.

Most Web 2.0 platforms today add this attribute wherever users are free to add content. These include social networks, blogging sites like Medium and Q&A, websites like Quora, forums like Reddit, and commenting services like Disqus. If you added the link somewhere where you do not need any consent, it will be nofollow.

In addition, when arguing about blog posts, you are often only offered a nofollow link. Sometimes this is a general principle for all guest contributions, but other times it means that your company is not considered reliable and another website is not yet willing to share authority or value (link equity) with you. Always agree on whether the links in your post on the host page will be nofollow or dofollow.

In the SEO SpyGlass application, you can find out which sites usually provide dofollow links:

dofollow vs nofollow

9. Make sure users click on your links

One of Google's search patents describes the relationship between backlinks and traffic. Google analyzes a set of trusted sites and sets a standard for traffic. It will show you how many visitors you should get for each backlink. If there is a big difference between the number of backlinks and the number of visitors, your links will either be ignored or Google will degrade you in search.

It's still just a patent, so Google doesn't necessarily use this technology. But if it uses it, we will advise you on a few simple ways to protect your website. First, if you are writing a post that will be hosted on another site, do not try to overwhelm it with many backlinks. Only enter links that users click on. Second, don't include backlinks to fake or unpopular sites. This way you will have a lot of links but no traffic.

10. Continue to link to important pages

Another Google patent suggests that the quality of some backlinks may deteriorate over time. If the page is usable, it should constantly receive new backlinks. Google will easily check. The number of backlinks is divided by the age of the page, and the larger the share, the better the page rank.

This patent may seem strange, but its consequences are justified. If you want your important sites to stay alive, you need to provide them with new backlinks. You can do this, for example, by embedding a link to that page in new content. You can also update and republish older pages to attract new readers and, if necessary, get new backlinks naturally.

11. Avoid accumulating links

We've already mentioned the reasons why a lot of links on one page won't help you. This reduces the amount of authority passed through each link. Each link becomes less dominant. You will have a large number of links, but the traffic will remain the same. It also contributes to user dissatisfaction. Pages filled with hundreds of links do not appear to be intended for human readers, and Google may begin to suspect you of spam.

12. Place backlinks reasonably

Google evaluates backlinks according to various criteria. One of the main indicators of link quality is its correct placement. This means that the site owner should intend to place a link to a specific page, and preferably with their own will.

Google will be happy to explain which backlinks it considers to be misplaced (not placed by the site's editor). These include ads, user-generated content, directories and bookmarked pages, auto-generated links, sitewide links, and links embedded in web-wide widgets.

At the end

There have been many advances in search, but few are as important as Google's Penguin update and subsequent changes to backlinks. In fact, Google has improved so much in recognizing unnatural links that there is almost no way to "build" them. However, if you follow the tips above, you may be able to do so.