Backlinks matter to SEO. Despite the rapid changes in the organic search landscape, that fact remains true. Backlinks are like signatures in your yearbook. When coming from the right source, they serve as a vote for your site that says, “this content is valid and relevant to what’s being talked about on this other site here.” Quality backlinks serve as validity and relevancy signals to search engines. Low-quality backlinks can actually signal the opposite. That’s why it’s important to not only pay attention to how many backlinks you have, but also what kind.
What makes a quality backlink? The answer is not always cut and dry. There are a few elements that factor into the quality assessment of a link coming back to your site.
1. Referring Site Quality – Although this sounds like authority, I’m referring to something different here. This factor is less quantitative, more qualitative. In simple terms, what does your gut say? Does the linking site look like a quality site with unique and valuable content? Is the content consistent and updated regularly. Sometimes a quick gut check is enough before you even need to delve into the specifics below.
2. Page Relevance – The link should make sense in the context of the page it is on and the two pages should be relevant to one another. Lack of relevance can signal spam and actually count against you. Bonus points if the domains, or sites as a whole, are relevant to one another.
3. Link Type – There are many different types of links, but I’m going to focus on a few basics to look for. Anchor text links (a linked word or phrase within text) are one of the more common and effective ways to optimize and increase rankings for a keyword. Image links are also effective, but only if the image is optimized with the alt attribute. Links that are tagged as “nofollow” do not pass link equity and will not help SEO efforts, but they also don’t count against you. It’s also good to watch out for links that redirect to a site. Direct is always best.
4. Domain and Page Authority – The authority of the domain and page the link is coming from doesn’t matter as much as it used to, but it still factors into the quality of a link. There are tools out there to check both domain and page authority, but you can also look at how much traffic the domain is getting. A blog post with comments and engagement can also be seen as authoritative.
5. Location – Where the link appears on the page is also a factor to consider. Within content is best. Links in sections boxed away from the main content also count, but not as much. Side bar links are next on the scale. Links in the footer have the least value.
These are 5 basic elements to think about when evaluating backlinks to your site. It’s important to remember that many low-quality links are easy to sniff out before you even have to check all of the other factors. Focus on gaining natural, high quality links and you will be on your way to link building success. When you’re working with quality, a little can go a long way.