How to Identify Site Quality for Link Building
How to assess the “quality” of a site is one of the most misunderstood concepts in SEO.
Get it wrong, and you risk excluding sites that might drive traffic from your reach — or worse, including sites that won’t add any value or could hurt your SEO performance.
On May 26, I hosted a sponsored Search Engine Journal webinar presented by Kevin Rowe, Founder and CEO of PureLinq.
Rowe explained which elements of the website should be evaluated to determine “site quality” for link building.
Here is a recap of the webinar presentation.
Link building runs the gamut, from strategy to analytics and reporting.
One area that is not talked about enough is how to assess potential sites and why it is important.
Google Penguin specifically targeted link schemes so that link builders are aware of the types of links that are risky.
Link Lead Assessment: Key Elements
When reviewing websites for link building, consider the following:
- Contents: Written and visual content for blogs, main site content, etc.
- Administrator : Do they have advertising and what are the policies?
- Link profile: What do the links pointing to the site look like?
- Paternity: Who is responsible for main content and supporting content?
- Reputation: Does the author have a reputation?
- Technical: How do users find and interact with the content/site?
Using this lead assessment framework, the PureLinq team helped a B2C e-commerce client increase their monthly organic traffic by 1,236%.
Should you listen to Google’s advice on links?
Over the years, Google and its representatives have confirmed the negative impact of link schemes on search rankings.
Google offers several tips on the subject:
That said, relying on Google’s advice can cause problems for your link building program.
For example, Google’s guidelines on link schemes are ambiguous.
But Google can’t interpret intent, at least when it comes to links.
For the most part, they don’t know if you went out and got a high-quality natural link for the purpose of improving the reader experience or if your secondary goal is to drive organic rankings.
And then there’s Google’s eternal warning against guest posting for links.
Mueller said Google’s algorithms are now able to capture and devalue guest post links so they don’t help a site rank better.
The problematic part is the links – if you are providing the content/links, then those links should not pass signals and should have the rel-sponsored / rel-nofollow attached. It’s good to see it as a way to reach a wider audience.
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) June 11, 2020
Mueller’s recent statements that links in guest posts should not be followed were met with skepticism by some SEO professionals, who considered them too broad.
Google’s recent statements on guest posts seem very broad (too broad, IMO), and it’s possible this could lead to misapplying, but personally I have no fear writing for others sites and create appropriate links when I write good articles for good reasons /2 #AskMoz
— Dr. Pete Meyers (@dr_pete) June 17, 2020
Strongly disagree with the opinion of this Google representative (https://t.co/5yQzUeRbAg). Oh good? All contributions to a publication that are not from an author employed there must have “nofollowed?” Let’s go.
Most publications ignore it. They trust and approve contributors, otherwise they wouldn’t publish them.
—Rand Fishkin (@randfish) June 15, 2020
On the other hand, Google’s search quality rater guidelines aren’t necessarily meant to guide your link building, but they do give you a good idea of what Google thinks is relevant in terms of content quality.
Google’s Ben Gomes said in a 2018 interview with CNBC that:
“You can see the reviewer guidelines as where we want the search algorithm to go.”
“They don’t tell you How? ‘Or’ What the algorithm ranks the results, but they basically show What the algorithm should do the trick.
All of this just means that SEO professionals shouldn’t just be looking at Google’s position for all the answers.
We have to come up with our own interpretations.
Metrics vs Quality
Identifying metrics and quality can help set you up for link building success.
Aira’s State of Link Building Survey reports on how people measure and report on link building activity.
These metrics include some of the proprietary metrics of top SEO tools, including:
- Moz Domain Authority.
- Ahrefs domain evaluation.
- Moz Page Authority.
- Majestic Trust Flow.
- SEMrush Authority Score.
- Majestic Quotes Stream.
- Verve Link Score.
Reviewing these metrics does not replace your own manual research.
You also need a much deeper analysis of your prospects.
Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines have a section for Overall Page Quality Rating that you can also adopt.
This system can help you cover:
- Content Purpose.
- Depth of content.
- Credible sources.
Due to the lack of comprehensive quality metrics for link building, the PureLinq team developed their own rating system, PureGrade, for how good a site is and how likely it is to positively impact organic rankings.
The score is based on automated fingerprints and manual review of a site’s content.
How to analyze a site: the keys to a good evaluation
Again, when evaluating potential link partners, it is essential to consider the following:
- Link Profile
During the process, be sure to:
- Weight each item: Some aspects of the site are more important than others.
- Build a footprint not just an element: Examine several elements and then decide on the quality of the site.
Here are the main things to consider in your assessment:
- Commercial links: Links to money pages not labeled with nofollow or sponsor.
- Navigation: Is this too general for a blog?
- Keywords no-no: Keywords related to gambling, pornography and payday loans.
- Frequency: Messages are infrequent or old.
- About Us: Links to money pages.
- Admin Pages: Advertising, guest posts.
- information: Phone, address, email
For this component, watch out for websites that directly advertise “dofollow” links in guest posts.
Google claims that they can algorithmically understand these types of link buying patterns.
Avoid these websites at all costs.
- Excessive links: Too many links pointing to the same page.
- Weak authority: Use DA or DR to figure this out.
- Irrelevant links: The links do not make sense for the page.
- Names and signatures: Is the signature set to admin or site name?
- Author page: Is there any missing information about the author?
- Foreigner: Is the author from your target country or not?
For Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages, you need to be much more rigorous in your review.
Find the authors of the website and make sure they are trustworthy.
- Presence: Is the website present on social networks?
- Following: What types of accounts follow the brand?
- Commitment: Are they engaged?
- Indexed: Does the website exist in Google’s index with more than the homepage?
- Geo: What is the objective of the country of the public?
- Page commitment: Does the site contain ads, layout and links within a page?
[Slides] How to Identify Site Quality for Link Building
Check out the SlideShare below.
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All screenshots taken by author, June 2021