Link building signals and metrics

What makes a high quality link? Signals and metrics to look out for when analysing good link opportunities.

You are reading: Link building signals and metrics

Link building can be a long and arduous task, so wasting time profiling potential link opportunities is best avoided. Here are a few signals and metrics I review when considering potential link targets:


As a metric, PageRank is considered a little retro but it’s still one of the primary search engine metrics. To check a Page’s PR I would recommend using the Firefox SEO toolbar. Whilst it is important, there are other things to consider and you wouldn’t make a decision based solely on a website PR.

Domain Authority

DA (Domain Authority) is another metric that I would take into consideration. DA is a strength score that predicts the likelihood of a domain ranking in search engines. To check the Domain Authority and Page Authority I would recommend the SEO Moz Toolbar.

Page Authority

Page authority is like DA but looks at the strength of a single page. I tend to look at the PA of the homepage of a site. Bare in mind that Page Authority is built up over time so if a website has a PR of 65 that doesn’t necessarily mean that your guest content on a fresh web page will automatically gain a score of 65.


Another quick metric to consider is the age of a site. Search engines give a little bit more value to websites that have been around for a long time.

# of linking domains

Many SEOs recommend avoiding websites that have too many outbound links on a single page. This is based on the belief that too many links tend to spread out the amount of juice per link. A 2009 guideline set by Matt Cutts suggests that a page should have a “reasonable number of links” (essentially fewer than 100).

Google Webmaster John Mu more recently suggested that the 100 link limit, has effectively been removed, stating that if “sufficiently authoritative, Google is going to be interested in the pages that are being recommended by that page.” I would avoid pages with a lot of links, especially if the links look unnatural.

Human Input

Its not all about numbers and metrics. After all, websites are made for and run by real people.

I start by looking at the ‘about page’. Does the website display profiles of people who run the site? And also, in the ‘contact’ section, do they display real contact information or just a form? I find that if a website or blog is willing to give direct contact details they are often more likely to get back to you.

Also, check the date of the last published piece of content. If you notice that the last publication was a number of months ago there is a good chance that the site has been neglected by the owner and not worth reaching out to for link opportunities.


Is there a lot of social interaction on the site including genuine blog comments and/or retweets and other social shares/ social media followers? Social engagement indicates that the website attracts relevant traffic that is likely to pick up your content.


Finding a website or blog with high search engine metrics, web traffic and social engagement is all well and good but it will be less valuable in Google’s eyes if the website linking to you is about an  irrelevant subject. It’s important to find contextual relevance (ie. sites/audiences that are related to the content of the site you are building links for). Let’s say you are a bike shop in London, I wouldn’t recommend posting guest content on a blog about sushi restaurants in Tokyo. Firstly placing your links and content on relevant websites is good from a business perspective as it can drive good quality traffic but also research suggests that Google prefers link portfolios that are rich in good quality links from more relevant sources.

Points about the link

There is evidence to suggest that links in the upper body of the content tend to hold more weight with the search engines. Placing links in the head/start of content makes sure that your link is given priority. The reason for this is because Google spiders crawl code from top to bottom and the body of content.

Anchor Text

Post Panda/ Penguin, Google has further addressed the need for a varied link profile. The idea is to keep it as natural as possible, so you certainly don’t want your links to look like they have been built by spam bots. I would suggest varying your anchor text. Many people make the mistake of using the same anchor text again and again, which can sometimes look a little spammy. I would recommend that you diversify your link portfolio with a mixture of ‘head terms’, long tail terms as well as brand key terms.

Over and out fellow link ninjas…

Latest from the blog