Understanding link building and identifying link building opportunities is only half the battle when it comes to implementing an effective link building strategy. What really separates a great link building campaign from a not-so-great campaign is your ability to determine what is a “good” link building opportunity and what is not. To help with this, we’ve boiled the complicated link qualification process down into a simple eight item checklist:
Use common sense! Ask yourself:
1. Is the placement relevant to the niche?
This is arguably the most important factor to consider when searching for backlink opportunities. You want to build links as if Google doesn’t exist, i.e., links that will actually drive convertible traffic to your site. If nobody ever clicks on your backlinks it’s a pretty good indication to Google that your website is either A) not relevant or B) not authoritative, which is not at all what you want when your end goal is to improve search engine visibility.
2. Is the placement relevant to the brand?
Some sites may be relevant to your niche, but not to your brand. For instance, most brands tend to avoid links from sites in their niche that promote controversial or offensive opinions, no matter how authoritative said websites may be.
3. Does the site produce quality content?
You can usually figure this out based purely on your initial impression as you click around the site, but in order to make the process a little less subjective I like to use the following list of questions from the former head of search at Google, Amit Singhal, as a guide:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
- Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
- Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
- Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
These are just a few of the questions Singhal recommends asking yourself when determining site quality, for the full list check out his post on the Google Webmaster Blog.
4. Is there an active community?
This is another very important factor to consider when evaluating backlink opportunities, as websites with an involved community are typically deemed to be more authoritative by Google than sites without one. An easy way to assess this is by looking at comments and social shares and asking yourself if they seem legitimate versus unnatural or spammy.
5. Are outbound links followed?
As I mentioned in the precious section, backlinks marked with the rel=”nofollow,” rel=”ugc,” or rel=”sponsored” html tags do not pass link equity from page to page. This doesn’t immediately disqualify these opportunities, but in most cases these backlinks are probably not worth the investment.
6. Would any link we get be in-content?
You typically want to avoid sidebar/footer links. They tend to not pass much link equity—if any at all—and they can even have a negative effect on your link profile.
7. Do they promote a positive user experience?
Look at the number of ads above the fold, the ratio of ads to content, and if the site uses in-text ads. Advertising isn’t the only thing to consider here, but it is one component that is easy to look for. Use your own user experiences as a guide; you should be able to immediately tell if there are any UX issues from your first pass through a site.
8. Is the site indexed?
You don’t want backlinks from a website that is penalized or doesn’t allow Googlebot to crawl it at all. A quick way to check this is by doing site search (site:exampledomain.com) and seeing what results come back. If nothing comes up, the site is not being indexed.
So, there you have it, a quick and easy checklist you can use to determine the relative quality of your link building opportunities!