Top 20 SEO link metrics that influence a link’s quality

January 13, 2016 - 8  min reading time - by Emma Labrador
Home > SEO Thoughts > Top 20 SEO link metrics that influence a link’s quality

Based on Rand Fishin’ last Whiteboard Friday, this article is a summary of link metrics and what makes the value of a link. Rand has listed the metrics you should analyze when developing your link building outreach strategy. Because some of them used to matter back in the days but have lost weight nowadays, his list is based on a 0 to 5 score to categorize your priorities.

We ordered this list from the most important to the less important one.

1# Follow VS no-follow

NoFollow and DoFollow still matter for an effective link building strategy. While nofollow and follow links are correlated, a dofollow will still have a higher impact on your rankings. You can use the MozBar to detect whether or not a link is a dofollow.
To know more about the nofollow attribute, you can still read our previous article on the subject.

2# Domain authority

Domain authority refers here to how important is the site you are prospecting from a content and relevance perspective. Google values qualitative websites. A good way to calculate domain authority is to use the Moz’s domain authority tool.
DA is in the top 3 of what you should first analyze when it comes to link building and link metrics. You should look for websites with the highest domain authority, while considering your own one. By this, you still need to be conscious that a top domain authority website probably won’t link to you if you just started your business. Link prospection should not be only thought in terms of ranking improvements but also in terms of people. Those links aim to be clicked, to engage with a wider audience so they need to be truly qualitative and targeted.

3# Internal versus external

No need to talk that long about this link SEO metric but a link from an external website will for sure have a better impact on your rankings.

4# Quality of the page’s other links

The quality of their own link building is important. You don’t want to be associated with a website linking to cheap websites with shady links. While there is no perfect tool to do this on a page-by-page basis, you could use the Moz’s Spam Score to do so. The best option remain to eyeball the website by your own. If the site is linking to relevant sources and has qualitative associations, then go for it!

5# Spam signals

Spam signals is not as important as the previous one but still. Google will lower sites based on lots of spammy links. The Moz’ Spam Score is perfect to identify those links. But your own perception can be enough. You can easily see if a website is suspicious or not.

6# User engagement

User engagement is a link metric that has gained a lot of power. If a website is visited a lot, get a low bounce rate and a good time on site, Google will consider that site as qualitative. You can use your Google Analytics to check those metrics. You can then see if a specific link is sending you a lot of traffic and if this traffic is relevant or not. Of course, you will be able to see that after its acquisition. But to have a better idea before to get the link, you can look at factors like social engagement and its ranking. Those signs are pretty good to determine if a link is going to brought you engagement or not.

7# Anchor text

Anchor texts are still important. While an anchor text does have a better impact than an exact match anchor text does, a link is still relevant whether or not you get the anchor text you were looking for. So if the opportunity to get a link appears but you can’t control the anchor text, then don’t think too long, get the link!
There are tools to check anchor text such as Ahrefs or Majestic and to analyze anchor text’s distribution of a specific page.

8# Relevance

Relevance is obviously important but only worths a 3 to 5 according to Rand Fishkin. While there are no tools to exactly tell you if a site is relevant or not, your own perception is enough to determine if a website evolves in the same field as you. But links can also be qualitative without being in your exact industry. A company could get a backlink from a .gov website and still be qualitative. Also, an equal size website located in the same geographical area but with not the same thematic could also be efficient. So relevance is a thing but you should not just focus on it. Plus, an heterogen link profile will look much more natural to Google.

9# Editorial integrity

Google is working with machine learning and deep learning technologies to analyze content and see how people regards this content. So while judging the editorial integrity of a website can be tough, keep in mind that Google will probably even more consider this for its next updates.

10# Topical authority of a source

This refers to the authority of a website not from an overall domain authority perspective but from how authoritative this website is in its field. Linking to websites that rank in the top 10 position of your area is a great thing while this same website could globally be less authoritative. While this link metric is relatively important, it is still a good indication of authority in Google’s eyes. You can use SEMrush to analyze keywords a site rank for and how it performs and how you should position yourself.

11# Location on page

Location on a page is not really a thing that matter. But it’s still in position 11 because if that link is located in the footer, in the sidebar or in the ad area, it is likely to be regarded by Google as an advertising link. Plus, if that link is a dofollow and ends to really be an ad link, then you could get into trouble. So the position of a link does not matter except in the situations mentioned above.

12# Prior links from this domain

A few years ago, link diversity was highly important and getting a lot of domain diversity and link diversity was a good strategy. Today, it is more about link quality and getting a few links from authorities and influencers is so much more efficient! Moreover, when you get linked by these websites, you are developing your credibility.
The only thing to worry about with link diversity is that if you only get links from same level websites, you are not going to improve your rankings that much.

13# Author authority

Author authority is not a true link metric anymore. But it can still be valuable in terms of influence. If you get mentioned or linked by an authority or an influencer, then you will gain in visibility and credibility.
You can check author authority via Google+ or via your own judgment.

14# JavaScript vs HTML

JavaScript does not influence a link value but some forms of it stop bots to crawl your pages. But Rand Fishkin says that

‘you can look at Google’s cached snapshot for any given URL to see whether the links are getting picked up or if it’s post loading JavaScript and they are crawling and indexing it. Try to go for stuff that isn’t too fancy. I wouldn’t urge you to get too complex with your AJAX and all that kind of stuff.’

15# PageRank

PageRank is dead so it should not worry you that much. You can use the Inrank to calculate your internal page popularity which is way more efficient than relying on a metric that has not been updated.

[Ebook] How your internal linking scheme affects Inrank

Follow Chris Green’s experiments to understand how your internal linking scheme affects your pages’ relative importance using Inrank.

PageRank does not matter because you could get a link from a recent page, a page not yet published or going to be published – and so with a low PageRank – but with a high domain authority or overall good relevance.

16# Source depth

When Google’s crawlers were not as strong as today, pages far away from the homepage were less likely to be crawled as often as higher pages. Nowadays, this does not matter that much anymore as Google crawls everything. Except you have pages at depth 16 and more, they should all be crawled on a regular basis.

17# First link to target in HTML

If you have two links on a same page pointing to you, Google will only consider the first one to pass the anchor text and ranking signals. But this does not matter as the second link will still pass user engagement, clicks, traffic, visibility, etc. And you still get two links.

18# Text versus image

There is no difference between a raw text link and an image link. There is no power distinction between those two types of links. If you can pass link juice through alt tag or through a classic anchor text, go for it.

19# Link age and page age

With Wayback Machine you can easily know how old is a page or a link.

‘But the whole old, crusty links thing doesn’t look like it has good correlation or good connection to rankings today. In fact, the opposite is true. We’ve seen where new pages pop up that have links on them and those will actually outperform old crusty links.’

[Case Study] Optimize links to improve pages with the greatest ROI

Over a period of two years, RegionsJob tackled the challenge of improving its ROI by fine-tuning the internal linking structure of its website in order to create an efficient architecture. This strategy concentrated on SEO actions that supported the website’s goals. Based on KPIs for page profitability, RegionsJob implemented modifications that would create a website with a better user conversion rate.

20# Speed of link acquisition

If you are doing White Hat SEO, you don’t need to worry about speed acquisition because it will take time to get qualitative links. Majestic helps you analyze links growth over time and you can easily conclude if websites are using Black Hat techniques to build their link profile.

To see the full Whiteboard Friday’ video, it is just here.

Emma Labrador See all their articles
Emma was the Head of Communication & Marketing at Oncrawl for over seven years. She contributed articles about SEO and search engine updates.
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