Not all backlinks are created equal.
Some backlinks are going to improve your website’s SEO, give you a site-wide ranking boost, and allow you to drive more organic traffic to your site.
Others will get your website penalized, lose your rankings, or, in the best-case scenario, simply waste your time without any positive impact on your website.
In order to consistently drive quality backlinks to your website, you need to learn how to assess backlink quality and avoid low-quality backlinks.
In this article, we’ll teach you how to do just that! Read on to find out:
- What is a Quality Backlink
- How to Assess Backlink Quality
- Our Backlink Quality Checklist
Let’s dive right in!
What is a Quality Backlink?
A quality backlink is a backlink from a legitimate website that has a positive impact on your website’s SEO.
While there are a lot of factors that determine whether a backlink is qualitative, a short list is as follows:
- The backlink is from a real website with a real audience.
- The website you’re getting a backlink from is not a PBN or a backlink farm.
- The website is in good standing with Google. Some of their pages are ranking, and they haven’t experienced a stark traffic drop or a Google manual penalty.
The more qualitative a backlink is, the more “backlink juice” you’re going to get from it.
Below, we’re going to explain each of the factors that make up a good backlink, but before we do that, let’s talk about what’s NOT a quality backlink.
In 2022, the type of backlinks that don’t work are as follows:
- Web 2.0 backlink. Links from self-publishing platforms such as Reddit, Medium, etc. These backlinks have very little impact on your website.
- Forum backlinks. Most forums have set all outgoing links as no-follow, so they won’t impact your website’s rankings positively.
- Blog commenting backlinks. The same goes for blog commenting. These links are no-follow and have no impact.
- Backlink farms. A backlink farm is a website created for the sole purpose of selling backlinks. At worst, links from such websites hurt your SEO. At best, they have neither a positive nor negative impact.
Not that we’ve made it clear what kind of backlinks you should avoid, let’s dive into the meat of this article:
How to Assess Backlink Quality in 6 Steps
#1. Check Website Quality Metrics
Domain Authority (DA) or Domain Rating (DR) are both third-party SEO metrics that give a top-down analysis of a website’s SEO impact.
Both metrics are measured from 1 to 100, and the higher the website’s DA or DR, the more powerful its backlinks are going to be.
You can check a website’s DR via Ahrefs, as seen below:
Now you might be thinking, what’s a good domain rating to aim for?
- DR 0 to 20 – The website is relatively fresh and its backlinks don’t carry much weight. If you’re just getting started with your website, then it’s OK to pursue such backlinks, but they’re far from optimal.
- DR 20 to 40 – This is the OK range. Backlinks in this range are decent and usually worth getting, but they’re not perfect.
- DR 40 to 60 – Backlinks in this range are great and can definitely boost your website’s rankings.
- DR 60 and Beyond – Anything beyond DR 60 is great, albeit, harder to get. Such backlinks are worth paying a premium for.
While DA and DR are very useful for a top-down analysis, these numbers can be faked by websites that are trying to sell backlinks.
So, to adequately assess backlink quality, you should also consider the factors we’ll discuss below.
#2. Check on the Website’s SEO Standing
Another great way to assess a backlink’s quality is to check how well the website you’re analyzing is performing in terms of SEO.
After all, if they’re driving a lot of traffic, then that means they’re in Google’s good graces and a backlink from them will be very impactful.
So, run your prospect through Ahrefs and see what kind of traffic they’re driving. For example:
As you can see above, the website traffic and organic rankings have been steadily increasing over the past two years and they’re driving decent traffic to the site.
Now, let’s look at a different example:
The above site, as you can see, used to drive a lot of traffic, but ended up completely crashing within a span of a few months.
While their DR is good (54), and they have a ton of backlinks (over 5,000), it’s very clear that they’ve been using some shady SEO techniques and their website got penalized and wiped out.
Now in addition to their rankings, you should also check for what type of keywords they’re ranking for.
Are the keywords related to your niche/business, or are they low-difficulty keywords that are just driving useless traffic?
Let’s assess the example below:
Lots of traffic, right? 21,300 monthly organic traffic AND rankings for 31,200 keywords.
A backlink from this site is bound to be very high quality, right?
Well, not exactly.
If you check the keywords they’re ranking for, you’ll see that it’s all fluff, zero-difficulty keywords that literally anyone could rank for if they just made a post about it:
Meaning, the fact that this website drives a ton of traffic doesn’t mean that its backlinks are going to be valuable.
#3. Make Sure the Backlink is Do-Follow
If you want your backlinks to have a positive impact on your website’s rankings, they should be do-follow as opposed to no-follow or sponsored.
Here’s what either of those means:
A no-follow tag (<a rel=”nofollow”>) tells Google not to transfer any PageRank to the website linked. Meaning, such a backlink carries no juice and won’t have any impact on your website.
A sponsored tag, on the other hand, tells Google that the backlink placed was sponsored by you, and as such, it should not carry PageRank.
This means these types of backlinks won’t have much impact on your site, even if they’re placed on a very high-quality website.
So, when negotiating a backlink placement with a website, make it very clear that you’re looking to get a do-follow, non-sponsored backlink placement.
If you’re purchasing the backlink, make sure to make it clear from the get-go that the backlink should not be no-follow or sponsored.
#4. Check if the Website is in a Relevant Niche
Google can, from context, understand whether a backlink is natural or not.
If, for example, you get a backlink about automobiles from a website that primarily publishes content on parenting, then the link will, of course, stand out.
As such, you should aim to get backlinks from websites that are in the same niche as you, or a niche that is adjacent.
The same niche would be if we got a backlink to our SEO blog from another website that also talks about SEO.
Niche adjacent, on the other hand, would be if we got a backlink to our SEO blog from a website about any of the following topics:
- Digital Marketing
- Business Management
#5. Analyze the Website’s Trust Factors
Another important step in assessing backlink quality is making sure that the website is legitimate.
Meaning, it’s a real website, run by real people, with an actual audience.
If their “about us” page looks like this, for example:
Then it’s pretty clear that there’s something off about the website.
Here are several ways you can check a website’s trustworthiness:
- Start with their about us page. Is it, at a glance, clear that there’s an actual person/team behind the picture?
- Check their social media profiles. Do they regularly post content on social media?
- Check their LinkedIn employee list. Do they have people officially working for the company?
- Check what kind of content they’re publishing. Do they have a clear niche or are they posting about completely random topics?
#6. Avoid Backlink Farms
Finally, you should also make sure that the website you’re getting a backlink from is not a link farm.
A backlink farm, in a nutshell, is a website that’s specifically created for the sole purpose of selling backlinks.
Such websites might seem to be high quality at a glance:
- They publish content on a regular basis
- They have a very high domain rating
- They have very strong rankings on Google, driving 5-6 digit traffic
While this might seem like a great backlink prospect, they’re actually a backlink farm. Their numbers are inflated, making them seem like a better backlink provider than they actually are:
- Their domain rating is artificially inflated.
- The content they’re publishing is low-effort.
- They’re ranking for keywords that are very easy to rank for and drive low-quality traffic.
So, how can you detect whether a website is a backlink farm?
There are several things you can look at:
- Do they cover a dozen plus unrelated topics? If so, they’re doing this to sell as many backlinks as possible to as many clients in as many niches as possible.
- Do they have a detailed “about us” page that explains what their blog is about? Most backlink farms have 1-3 sentences tops.
- Is the blog content on the website high-quality? I.e. is it something that real people would read?
Our Backlink Quality Checklist
Need a quick checklist to evaluate backlink quality on the go?
We’ve got you covered! See our backlink quality checklist below:
● Is the page you’re getting a backlink from topically related to your page?
● Is the DA in your target range?
● Does the website rank well on Google? If a website ranks well on dozens of keywords, it’s a sign that the website is in Google’s good graces.
● Does the page you’re getting a link from have its own backlinks? If it does, some parts of that backlink juice will transfer over to you.
● Is the website a backlink farm? If they publish about 15+ different, unrelated topics, then chances are that the site is a link farm and should be avoided.
● Is the website global or local? If you’re looking to rank globally, a local backlink won’t have as much impact.
● Is the backlink do-follow? As the name implies, “no-follow” links don’t carry link juice and aren’t worth pursuing.
● Does the website owner mark links as “sponsored?” Such links count for less. You want to pursue links without the sponsored tag.
Backlink Quality FAQ
Do you still have some questions on what makes for a quality backlink? See our answers below!
#1. How to check the quality of a backlink?
To check the quality of a backlink, check if the website ranks well on Google, if its domain rating is high, and if it’s in the same (or similar) niche as you are.
#2. What is the value of a backlink?
Backlinks have a very significant impact on your website’s rankings. The more high-quality backlinks you get, the faster and better your website will rank on Google.
#3. What makes a good backlink?
A good backlink is from a website that has a high domain rating, lots of backlinks, high-quality content and is in a niche related to yours.
#4. Can I rank without backlinks?
Sometimes, yes, it IS possible to rank without backlinks. Check out our article to learn more on how that works.