As a result of all your hard work, other websites are starting to link to your site. That’s great news, and a crucial component of your SEO strategy.
But with that said, some links are more valuable than others.
How can you tell the difference between a good link or a bad link? Unlike other areas of your website, there is no one specific metric used to answer that question.
That’s what inspired me to write this guide. I’ll show you the factors that you need to take into consideration when evaluating a link to determine if it will help you rank higher in Google.
In addition to evaluating existing links, this information will also be useful when deciding if it’s worth contacting a website to try and get a link for something like an unlinked brand mention or resource page.
Evaluating links is arguably the most important skill for your overall link building strategy.
By understanding the potential power of a link, you’ll be able to target sites that will give you the largest impact in terms of rankings and website traffic.
Is this website relevant to my brand?
This needs to be the first question you should ask yourself. It’s a common misconception that all links are good links that will automatically boost your ranking. That’s simply not the case.
Google’s algorithm is so powerful that it can determine the relevancy between two websites. If you’re getting too many links from irrelevant sites, it could potentially hurt your ranking.
For example, let’s say you’re selling SaaS in the B2B space. If you get a link on a website geared toward first time pet owners, it’s not relevant to your brand.
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely times when links from irrelevant sites can help you. Maybe your brand got mentioned in a news publication or something like that.
But with all of this in mind, I tend to err on the side of caution. In my personal experience, relevancy is one of the most important factors to consider.
So how do you evaluate the relevance of a certain website to your own?
Sometimes it’s not always so straightforward. You can’t always tell what a website is about just by the name. For example, let’s say you’re in the content marketing space and you get a link on Quick Sprout.
By the name alone, you won’t know if the site is relevant.
Fortunately, you can do some scrolling around and figure out pretty quickly what websites are all about. I usually head straight to the blog and check out the latest posts.
Obviously, you and I both know that we are relevant to the content marketing space here at Quick Sprout.
But if someone had never been on our site before and they navigated to our blog to evaluate their link’s potential, they’d be able to figure things out pretty quickly.
The most recent blog post is about content marketing. As you can see from the sidebar, there are plenty of other related topics and guides as well.
So it’s a safe bet to assume that a link from Quick Sprout would be great for your content marketing brand.
However, sometimes it’s not always as obvious. Let’s take a look at a site like IMPACT as an example. Their blog covers a wide range of topics. So if you look at the latest posts, you may be unsure if the site is relevant. You need to continue browsing around to see if hey have a categories menu or something similar to this:
Initially, the featured post that you see is about website design.
So as a content marketer, you can see that the topic is kind of on the fringe of your brand, but you’re still not quite sure. But once you navigate to the sidebar menu, you’ll see categories like:
- Inbound marketing
- Content creation
- Video marketing
- Web design
By taking the extra time to browse around, it gives you a much better understanding of what the website is all about. Now you know that a link from this site is 100% relevant to your brand.
Now it’s time to look for its domain authority.
I’ll use Quick Sprout as an example to show you. All I did was run the home page URL through the domain authority checker from Small SEO Tools.
There are tons of other tools online for checking domain authority. But for our purposes today, this free resource gets the job done just fine.
Alternatively, you can use paid services like Moz. Moz will actually give you 10 free inquiries per month just for creating a profile. So if you’re not planning to do this often, it’s worth checking them out as well.
Based on these results, Quick Sprout has a domain authority of 71, which is very good.
Domain authority and page authority are usually listed side by side, regardless of the tool or software that you’re using. But when it comes to evaluating a link’s ranking potential, page authority isn’t as relevant. Page authority would only matter if your link was on the site’s homepage, which I’m assuming it won’t be.
Domain authority, on the other hand, is consistent throughout all pages.
Another way to determine authority that’s a little bit more robust and accurate than page rank is the number of referring domains a website has.
To get this number, head over to Majestic and create a free account.
It will take you less than 30 seconds to sign up. All they ask for is your name, email address, and password. They give you the option to add your company website, but that’s not required.
Here’s what the report looks like when I evaluate Quick Sprout for referring domains.
The more referring domains a website has, the better it is for your link building strategy.
You don’t need to pay as much attention to the external backlinks. That’s because Google doesn’t consider links that come from the same site over and over again as valuable.
Here’s an example. Let’s pretend Quick Sprout was referenced and linked in every single blog post on another website. For simplicity sake, we’ll say the site has 1,000 blogs. Although this tool from Majestic will count that as 1,000 external backlinks, Google doesn’t see it the same way. Google will just count it as maybe 1 or 2 votes from a ranking and authority point of view.
If you really want to dig deeper, you can upgrade your Majestic membership or subscribe to Ahrefs to see the top external backlinks of a site you’re evaluating.
This will give you a better idea to see if the backlinks of the site in question are coming from other authoritative sites.
If the answer is yes, then the link ranking potential will definitely be higher for you. But if you see lots of backlinks coming from spammed blog comments or things like that, you’d know that the site isn’t as legitimately authoritative in Google’s eyes as it may seem from the initial Majestic metrics. That’s the benefit of viewing the detailed external link profile of a website.
Majestic has another cool metric that you can access for free as well. It’s called the trust flow score, and it’s based on a 0-100 scale. Here’s an example of where to find it that on a report.
In this case, the trust flow score is a 29. Although this might seem low, it’s actually pretty good.
When it comes to trust flow, anything over 10 is considered OK for evaluating a link’s ranking potential.
Trust flow is based on all of the known trusted sites on the web. When highly trusted websites link to other sites, they pass on some of that trust. This application is similar to page rank. The idea here is that a trusted site won’t link out to a malicious, spam, or untrustworthy site.
So if you’re getting links from highly trusted sites, that trust will pass on to your website and help your ranking.
You should also review the educational ref backlinks and governmental ref links in the Majestic report.
For the most part, spammy sites won’t have backlinks from .edu or .gov websites. But if a site that you’re evaluating has educational and governmental ref backlinks, it’s safe to say that the domain is trustworthy.
There are also plenty of tools on the web for determining a site’s domain age.
Personally, I like to use Scamadviser because it also gives me more information on the trustworthiness of a site. Here’s a glimpse of what the Scamadviser report looks like for Quick Sprout.
Quick Sprout has a 100% trust score.
This is different from the trust flow metric that we looked at earlier. The primary usage of this resource is to find fraudulent online stores and scams.
But you can also find the domain age if you continue to scroll through the report.
Truth be told, not everyone thinks that domain age makes a difference when you’re evaluating a link’s ranking potential, but I think it’s very important.
That’s because older websites are typically more authoritative. They already have established domains.
It’s in your best interest to find older domains whenever possible while you’re building backlinks.
I’d say at a minimum, the domain should be 5 years old. But 10-15 years would be much more ideal.
If a brand new website is linking to you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the link isn’t powerful or will hurt you. But in my experience, older domains tend to pass on more trust and authority compared to new sites.
So that’s how you approach evaluating a link profile for ranking potential. There are five main factors for you to take into consideration.
- Domain authority metrics
- Referring domains
- Domain age
Use this guide as a reference for how to research all of these elements. This will make it much easier for you to evaluate links and build domain authority.