Not all links were created equal.
If they were, the SEOs of the world wouldn’t be taking time to write blogs like this, we’d be too busy ordering 2,000 overseas links whilst scurrying to complete our 400th directory of the day.
Thankfully it’s not 2009 anymore, and Google is intelligent enough to understand the difference in value between a link from an authoritative news site and those links you only stumble across when it comes to disavow time.
But beyond the obvious contrasts in quality, there are so many subtleties and nuances that can affect the impact of each link you gain to your site, including a few factors you might not have considered. The combined effect of all of this has such a huge influence on your SEO that it’s worth considering the following when working on your link building strategy:
It’s not just who links to you, but who you link out to as well
The focus is always on getting links back to your own site, but the sites you link out to can also have an impact on your performance in the search engines. It’s about showing Google the company you’re keeping; if you’re occasionally linking out to trade bodies and reputable news sources, you’re showing due diligence and responsibility. If you’re always linking out to sites with a low domain authority, trust flow, or with questionable content, your reputation can be tarnished by association. It’s a bit like hanging around with the naughty kids at school – you might not have been guilty, but your friends were so you got detention too.
Where the link is within a page plays a part
Now we’re getting into some of the finer detail. We know that links from different websites hold different value and rightly so. We also know that different pages from that website hold different value, but so too can your position within that page. A link within the body of content in an article for example holds more weight than one in the boilerplate, as can the difference between being the first or only site that’s linked to from that page, versus being the 37th. And that’s part of the reason a directory listing isn’t usually as powerful as, say, an article in an online magazine.
Which page your links point to
In nearly ten years of doing outreach for clients, one thing I always notice, especially with new clients, is that even those with the most impressive link profiles, will often only focus on getting links into the homepage, rather than any key service pages they are looking to push. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take a great link to the home page any day of the week, and it will still help to push those other pages up (plus there’s the argument that it can be difficult to get a journalist or editor to link to more sales-led pages), but you don’t need as many good links at a page level to make a real difference, so for me it’s always a priority.
The ratio of links to sites
Generally speaking it’s better to have 3,000 links from 1,000 sites than 5,000 links from 500 sites. Obviously that depends on the sites themselves, but given the opportunity I’d take a link from a new site over one I’ve worked with several times before. It’s important to always be finding new targets to get links from. There’s also an opinion that your first link from a site is the most important one, so it could be worth bearing this in mind when creating your content.
How recently you acquired your links
Whilst a fantastic link from the BBC or the Guardian for example, will put you in good stead for some time to come, there is something to be said for the ‘freshness’ of a link. When Google is taking into account your link profile when assessing your site, links that are more recent will hold more weight than those you earnt years ago.
In a similar vein, the rate of growth when it comes to link building has an influence over your search positions too. Link Research Tools has a great feature that allows you to compare the velocity with which you’re acquiring links with those of your competitors, so you can see who you’re likely to come up against going forward.
Follow and no follow
An obvious one, but still worth mentioning. A no follow link will have less of a direct impact on your SEO than a follow link, but that’s not a reason to write them off. There’s plenty of thought to suggest they still have a positive impact, plus a link profile that’s too heavily swayed towards follow links could appear spammy.
It could be easy to get carried away with the ins and outs of what makes a good link, but as we know, perfection is the enemy of progress. There’s an element of moderation and common sense to be had, but prioritising links from good quality sites is the most important thing, and keeping in mind factors such as positions and pages should be details to consider where possible.