The importance of link quality in SEO cannot be overstated. Before you begin any link building project within SEO, you must be sure you’re pursuing links that will not only have an impact today, but will continue to have a positive impact in the future.
That means understanding what makes a quality link, and why. Let’s take a look at the elements of link analysis, which are:
- Link Type
- Smell Test
Relevance:Relevance should always be the north star of your link building compass. Without relevance, a link will, at best, be sub-par quality and, at worst, negatively impact your SEO efforts, potentially resulting in a manual penalty from Google, or the algorithmic penalty (filter) Penguin.
Of course, relevance isn’t the only factor worth considering, but it’s certainly the first you should examine. And, as with all elements of a link, relevance needs to be analyzed at both the page and domain level.
Link type is the second consideration when analyzing a link. This means both the way the link is formed and the manner in which it’s linking, both of which make a difference in link quality.
First, let’s examine the different ways a link can be formed:
Anchor Text Link: Anchor text is the visible, clickable text of the link. Anchor text links are the most common and best way to increase search ranking for a targeted keyword; although, Penguin will punish over-optimization. The words used as anchor text can include branded, keyword-rich, partial branded, long tail, etc. Variety is extremely important in organic link building.
Authority:Authority is the next metric you’ll need to measure in order to determine link quality. This was overvalued in the past, often being placed above relevance.
In today’s link building world, authority is still an important link metric. However, if the link isn’t relevant, or the link is created in an artificial/poor manner, then authority won’t be enough to move the needle.
Location:The location of the link on the page is the next factor in link analysis. Where the link is located plays a role in how much link equity is passed. Here’s a sliding scale of link placement, from best to worst:
- In content
- Boxed out of content (e.g. author bio box)
Smell Test:SEO is in some ways an art as much as it is a science. When analyzing a link, it’s important to look beyond link metrics. The site as a whole needs at least a quick quality analysis.
One thing I’ve learned from doing thousands of quick site analyses is this: don’t be afraid to listen to your instincts.