If you want to get found online, you need a strong backlink profile.
The problem? Not all backlinks are created equal.
Links from high-quality, relevant sites are far more valuable than links from random sites in another industry. Links from spam sites can actually hurt your website.
How do you make the most of your backlinks? You need to pay close attention to the factors that impact backlink value.
Here is what you need to know to make the most of backlinks.
What Are Backlinks?
Backlinks are links from an external site to your website. For example, if I link to a source about how to protect your app from security issues, that creates a backlink to that website.
If another site links to your site, you receive a backlink.
For a long time, getting as many backlinks as possible was a core component of SEO. Google viewed backlinks as “votes” and rewarded sites with lots of backlinks with higher rankings.
Eventually, however, businesses began to use black-hat strategies to build backlinks. For example, paying sites to add links, buying links from shady sites, adding comments to other blogs with links to own site, or building networks of sites that are all linked to each other.
Google got wise to these strategies and issued an update that made it much harder to get away with building poor-quality backlinks. It released a number of backlink guidelines that marketers should follow and also released another update targeting spammy links in June of 2021.
How Do Backlinks Affect SEO?
As mentioned above, Google views links as votes. The more sites that “vote” for your site (meaning link to pages on your site), the more valuable and relevant Google assumes your pages and site are.
In fact, backlinks are one of several hundred factors Google considers when deciding where to rank a website in its search results.
Here’s why: A backlink to your website means another site found your content engaging, interesting, or educational. So much so that they decided to share it with their audience. Google assumes that means your content is valuable to users, and is more likely to share your content with searchers.
However, there isn’t much you can do to impact how many links another site puts on its pages. Just keep it in mind when considering which links are most valuable for your website’s SEO.
If many trusted sites link to yours, Google knows your site has great content that users will want to read. As a result, you’re more likely to rank high in the SERPs.
What Makes a Backlink Valuable?
More backlinks isn’t always better.
If you use link schemes or other black or gray hat SEO practices, Google will punish you with lower rankings or even manual action. What makes a backlink more valuable than another?
1. Location and Number of Links on a Page
Did you know that where a link is located on a page can impact backlink value? Sounds weird, right?
Well, Google considers the first link on a page to be the most valuable, which means it gets more of the benefits of having a backlink. In addition, the more links on a page, the less link value each link has.
In practice, this means that if your link is the only backlink on a page, you’ll see more SEO benefits than if your link is at the bottom of a page and is one of twenty other links.
2. Dofollow Vs. Nofollow Backlinks
Dofollow links are your basic backlinks. When the website owners don’t fiddle with the HTML surrounding the link, the link will always be a dofollow.
Dofollow links tell Google the linking website trusts your domain, which can help your rankings.
Nofollow links, on the other hand, look like this in HTML:
Nofollow links tell Google that this link should not pass on value (sometimes called link juice).
In other words, nofollow links still take someone from Website A to Website B, but they won’t help Website B’s rankings.
Why do sites use nofollow links? Because linking to low-quality or low-domain authority websites can hurt the link-hosting website’s rankings. Also, Google doesn’t allow you to pay for links, so some sites use nofollow links on sponsored posts.
Don’t assume nofollow links are a complete waste of time. In fact, they really help generate traffic to your website and increase the visibility of your business despite their unhelpful SEO influence.
3. Domain Authority and Page Authority
DA, or domain authority, is a metric created by Moz that predicts how likely a website is to rank well in the search engines. Scores range from one to 100, with higher numbers meaning the site is more valuable and more trusted.
Page authority is the same metric, but for a specific page on a website.
It isn’t an exact science, and it isn’t a metric Google came up with—Moz did. However, it does use machine learning to get a pretty decent idea of how well a site will rank.
What does this mean for your backlinks? If a site with a higher domain authority or page authority links to your site, Google will assume your site is more trustworthy, too. That’s a good thing!
Think of it like vouching for a friend to get a job. If you are a dedicated worker and recommend someone else, your boss is likely to assume they can be trusted to work hard, too.
TL;DR: Links from high-domain authority pages are more valuable.
You can find the domain authority of sites using Moz’s domain analysis tool.
Or, you can use Ubersuggest to run a backlink analysis on your site, and we’ll share all the domain authority and page authority metrics in one place.
4. Relevant Sites and Pages
Relevancy matters when it comes to recommendations. Let’s say you wanted to buy a new snowblower. You look around the internet and find two articles that review the top snow blowers—one is from a hardware store, and the other is from a food blogger.
Which one would you trust? You’re likely wondering what a food blogger really knows about snow blowers, right? The hardware store, on the other hand, probably sells snowblowers and talks about them to customers on a regular basis. There is a good chance they know what they’re talking about.
Google also considers relevancy when deciding how valuable a backlink is. For example, a link from a digital marketing publication or a publisher like Forbes to my site is worth more than a link from a plumber.
In general, links from irrelevant sites won’t hurt your website (unless they are spam sites!), but links from other industry websites do carry more value.
5. Quality of Other Links on the Website
It’s not just the domain authority that impacts backlink value. The quality of every other backlink on the referring domain can impact the value of a link too.
It doesn’t sound fair, does it? You can’t control what someone else does on their site. While that is true, there is a reason for this.
Let’s pretend that you receive a backlink from a website with high domain authority. Your ranking goes up, traffic is pouring in, and you feel like the SEO pro you are.
Then one day, the website that gave you that precious backlink becomes a spam site. They publish low-quality content and link to a bunch of spam sites.
It’s no longer a high-quality site in Google’s eyes, which means that link has lost its value. In other words, pages that link to spam websites devalue all other links that they host.
It’s important to evaluate the websites you get backlinks from. That will help you avoid harmful URL relationships. Make sure they are trustworthy and do their own link evaluating when choosing which links to include so that your website won’t be at risk.
Also, never buy links from websites. Even sites that seem legitimate will likely get caught by Google at some point, and your site may suffer the consequences.
6. Anchor Text
Anchor text is the text that is highlighted and often underlined that you click on to follow a link, like this.
If the site that links to your website uses anchor text that is closely related to the content on that page, Google will assume the link is more useful to users and, therefore, assigns it more value. As a result, Google made anchor text a ranking factor.
Let’s look at an example from Yoast’s website. I’ve highlighted the anchor text:
The anchor text for internal links goes to a page about, as you might expect, internal links. Because the anchor text uses the keyword the linked page targets, that link is more valuable than if they used anchor text like “click here.”
Pro tip: This applies to internal links, too. Make sure to use relevant anchor text when linking to other pages on your own website.
Frequently Asked Questions About Backlink Value
How do I identify valuable backlinks?
Backlinks that come from high-quality, relevant sites are the most valuable. Look for the following links and pay attention to other sites they link to. All of these factors impact backlink value.
What's the easiest way to get valuable backlinks?
The easiest way to build backlinks is to create highly-valuable content that other sites will want to link to. This is often called link attracting, versus link building. Other strategies include looking for broken links on sites and asking them to replace them with yours, guest posting, creating infographics, and creating new data.
What types of backlinks are valuable?
The most valuable backlinks are dofollow links from trusted sites related to your industry with high domain authority.
How much are backlinks worth?
You can’t put a dollar amount on backlinks. However, a solid backlink profile can improve your search engine ranking, drive traffic, and increase your revenue. In that sense, they are priceless.
What is the difference between backlinks and internal links?
Backlinks are links from other websites that point to your site. Internal links are links that point from one page on your site to another. Both have SEO value, but backlinks are usually harder to get and, therefore, considered more valuable.
What do I do if I have a bunch of low-quality backlinks pointing to my site?
In most cases, Google can spot poor-quality backlinks and will ignore them. If you think they are impacting your site (or if you get a manual penalty), you can use Google’s Disavow tool to tell them to ignore those links.
Backlink Value Conclusion
Backlinks are a cornerstone of SEO. However, not all backlinks deliver the same value. Links that are higher on a page or from pages with a higher DA will help your website rank better in Google’s search results.
You can use this information to build higher-quality backlinks. Get it right, and your site can see a flood of traffic and conversions.
Do you consider backlink value when building links? Why or why not?
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