Backlinks come in many forms. But beyond passing link juice, how do you know which backlinks are actually having the strongest ranking impact for the receiving page’s target keywords?
We measure the value of a backlink by more than just the pagerank of the sending page. In fact, the ideal backlink–the one that will most likely boost your rankings–satisfies 3 critical criteria:
1. The link come from an authoritative site, as measured by the site’s homepage pagerank (and can also be cross-referenced by popular measures such as mozRank). Despite Google’s own damping down the importance of pagerank, it remains the best measure of a site’s authority relative to others in its niche.
2. Contextual relevance of linking and receiving pages. Put more simply, your should seek links from pages whose topics are similar to yours. If this blog post gets a link from a PR 7 site about fly fishing (of course I would never turn that down), it is missing this key element of contextual relevance. I would prefer a backlink from a fellow SEO’s blog post about link-building whose pagerank is 2. Contextual relevance–signaled by the keywords in the title tags, headers and text surrounding the link–matter. Especially when links are in fact inside editorial content (as opposed to navigation menus, footers, or ill-advised Partner linking pages).
3. Last but not least… anchor text. When spiders follow links, the anchor text of the link is a major signal that tells them what the linked-to page is about, and what specific keyword phrase it should rank for.Whenever I get a chance to investigate backlinks form a new site, I’m never surprised to find that the majority of their links come from ‘www.mysite.com.’ Optimizing these links by swapping them with anchor text often is the lowest-hanging fruit at the start of a link-building campaign. Just don’t abuse anchor text with phrases that are longer than 3-5 words, or you’ll risk diluting away the power and effectiveness of the anchor text.
As time goes on, Google and others discount low quality links more heavily. The ones that still matter most for the foreseeable future are those that meet the above 3 characteristics. I would gladly take a handful of 3-for-3 dream links over hundreds of 1-for-3’s or dozens of 2-for-3’s.