What Makes the Best Backlink?

Nov 15, 2011   //   by Ana | Traffic Generation Cafe   //   link building, SEO Blog  //  49 Comments

best link building tipsLink building is an essential part of any successful SEO campaign; there’s no arguing about that. In order to rank for any given keyword, we need backlinks – and lots of them.

However, not all links are created equal.

The reason it’s important to know how valuable your links are is very simple: the higher the quality, the fewer links you need to get ranked.

The following 10 qualities are the ones I always look for in a perfect link.

#1. High PR of the domain

High PR can be equated to more domain authority in the eyes of Google. The more authority a site has, the higher quality the links coming from that domain will be.

My ideal homepage PR is 4+.

Of course, it’s a whole lot better to have a link on an inner page that has high PR of its own.

#2. Keyword-Rich Anchor Text

Google uses anchor text pointing to a page to determine what that page is about.

If I start building links to this post with “Ana Hoffman” as anchor text (like a lot of blog commentators would do), then Google might find that this post is more relevant to that keyword than to such keywords as “link building” or “backlinks“.

It’s best if you try to rank each page of your site for one specific keyword or variations of it, but of course, this is not a must – just works better that way.

Also, try to have at least 70-80% of exact match anchor text. The other 20-30% could be naked URLs, long-tail variations of the keyword, or even a few “click here” links.

#3. Long-term Link

This is the kind of link that won’t be removed in a few days.

Forum links are one such example. You create a new profile, sprinkle it with some links, place some comments on a few threads just to learn a week later that the forum moderators decided to remove all your links.

Here’s a better way to create forum profiles (thanks to Gerald for teaching me this link building trick): create your profiles without any links in them, wait for a week or two for the moderators to check it out, and THEN go back and add your links.

The chances of them sticking are much higher this way.

#4. Page is Indexed by Google

It only makes sense to add your links to pages that Google already knows about, right?

However, there are plenty of times when it’ll be up to you to make sure that the page your links are added to is indexed, like in article marketing for instance.

I strongly suggest that you keep track of all the URLs where your new content is placed and make sure all those pages are indexed by pinging them, linking to them in a few comments – just to name a couple of ways of doing it.

#5. Link Building Consistency

This is where most sites get in trouble.

The webmasters fail to maintain link velocity, i.e. to build links on a regular basis.

So what happens is a few hundred or even thousand of links come in within a span of a couple of days and then… nothing.

Very obvious one way link building pattern that can land you in Google sandbox.

#6. No Bad-Neighborhood Links

I would never add a link to a page that already has links to sites like porn, pharmaceuticals, etc. – you don’t want your site to be associated with bad neighborhood sites in any way.

#7. Active Sites

An active site with fresh content posted frequently, with lots of signs of reader engagement, like comments, social media shares, etc. is much more likely to be crawled often, which means your links will be quickly discovered and indexed.

The following 3 qualities might raise some eyebrows; let’s talk about it in comments if you disagree.

#8. Not Sidebar/Footer Links

It sounds like a great deal to be listed by another site in their blogroll.

However, aside from branding and potential traffic generation, those links might not be worth as much, since it’s not that difficult to obtain them.

#9. Relevancy is Overrated

There’s a lot of talks about getting links from niche-specific sites only.

I haven’t seen any conclusive testing that’s been done on that.

On the other hand, I’ve heard of plenty of link builders who ranked their sites on page 1 with nothing but “irrelevant” links.

#10. Authority Outbound Links

Yet another debatable point.

However, I, among many other SEO’s, believe that it helps to have your links on a page that links out to authority sites relevant to the topic in hand.

Here’s a good example of this train of thought:

And yet another one:

Marketing Takeaway

And there you have it.

Boxing gloves on?

Comment to show me that you’re alive!

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Comment Policy

  • Michael Rurup Andersen

    Hi Ana,

    Thanks for the valuable insights and for sharing the knowledge.

    Besides the above mentioned factors do you look at AC-rank, SEOmoz factors or any similar metrics? to determinate if a link is valueable? and why?

    Best regards

    • Ana

      Yes, I am a big fan of SEOMoz metrics, Michael, simply because PR can be such an unreliable factor as far as freshness is concerned.

      I usually look for page with SEOMoz PA 30 and above.

  • Nik

    Hi Ana,

    Glad you call out point 9 as I can’t see any evidence either. I might need to look more at the PR of the homepage but at least the quality of my links is balanced, he he

    I look forward to the answer on Michaels question. I have been comparing my competition more and more using Moz data but not seeing much impact yet.


    • Ana

      Glad you agree, Nik.

      I don’t mind being proved wrong, but so far there’s a lot of talk about it, but no evidence that relevance plays a role in link value.

      I did answer Michael’s question, by the way.

  • Gerald Weber

    I agree with the above commentators regarding relevancy.

    Sure it’s nice to have like icing on the cake, but anchor text trumps relevancy any day.

    Of course you still want the anchor text links to come from authoritative sites whenever possible and stay out of bad neighborhoods as Ana mentioned.

    I’m also a believer in linking out to other authoritative sites.

  • Sudha says:

    Hi Ana,

    Thanks for sharing.. I’m working on these backlink stuffs for past 4 months. And i’m happy to say that it works 🙂 As I have started to write and submit articles on various websites and directories, It is quite interesting when I found a new backlinks appear to my websites. Really its a slow and long term process to be carried out but finally we come up in huge traffic and lead generation.

  • Paul Lopez says:

    “Relevancy is Overrated”. Somewhat I agree with this point, but not totally because relevancy is still important in terms of sales conversion ratio. It doesn’t matter how many backlinks website have if they actually not able to convert in any sales leads. However, I agree that we can link to any kind of page we want to.

    • Ana

      We are talking about apples and oranges here, Paul.

      I never said your CONTENT shouldn’t be relevant to the searches you are trying to rank for.

      Just your links that will get your CONTENT on top of Google.

  • Ann Smarty

    Hey Ana, when it comes to one link, I tend to agree on all points. When it comes to link building in general: I’d add “diversity” as a huge factor. Don’t let your link building tactics be easy to figure: go diverse when it comes to keywords, placements and types.

  • Lesa says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now and have only just started a link building campaign by following your advice. Although I’ve only been at it a bit over a week, I’ve seen my traffic pick up dramatically. What I love about your advice — and why I recommend you — is that you aren’t afraid of the work that it takes to do great SEO. Sure, there are lots of “get links quick” methods out there, but real solid, long-term traffic comes from understanding what the search engines want and then giving it to them.

    Thanks for another great article. I’ll be putting it in my “Ana’s advice for link building” folder.

    • Ana

      Well, thank you so much, Lesa – what a compliment!

      I think SEO is well-worth its salt both financially and time-wise; the kind of long-term traffic it generates is priceless.

      However, long-term is the key.

      I am not interested in implementing some questionable techniques to rank my blog quickly, just to see it plummet in a few days. Slow and steady wins the race!

  • Ray says:

    Number 6 no bad neighborhoods can be a tough one. I mean some are fairly obvious, but others not so. If you link to a site or page today that is not a bad neighborhood who is to say later down the road it won’t change its content and lean towards one. I doubt most people check their older links. If you have a site that has been around for years something you linked to 3 years ago may not even be the same site anymore or exist for that matter. I’ve seen this a few times. I am just kind of up in the air with the whole bad neighborhood thing.

    • Ana

      Here’s a free tool I use to help me stay on top of my links, Ray:

      It’s not perfect, but it certainly does a good job sorting through links and alerting me to anything suspicious.

    • Gerald Weber

      I think most “Bad Neighborhoods” are pretty straightforward and easy to see.

      Things like:

      • Porn
      • Viagra
      • Gambling

      As far as not knowing about sites that you have linked out to in the past. As a website/business owner I myself and pretty in tune with who I am linked to. However I really think it’s rare or at least not very common occurrence where a once “trusted” site changed it’s theme over to porn or online pharacuticals.

      • Ray says:

        Thanks for the input Gerald. I am mostly concerned about links a commenter leaves. I don’t link to any of the bad neighborhood sites myself. It is just the comment links that I wonder about sometimes. Usually they are not a problem, but every now and then I get one that I am not certain about. Normally I wouldn’t be too concerned, but I have opted to allow dofollow links at least for the time being. A couple examples are things about movies, software, and forex. I wasn’t sure if they were legit or not.

  • Sean says:

    You are the best! I have been getting tweets from you for some time, and for the life of me cannot recall where I first learned about you.

    Glad I did, however.

    Great tips, very helpful!

    Thank you for your excellent tweets! (Such as the one that directed me to this article.)


  • Barry

    Great information, Ana! I’m new to the blogging world, and the SEO side of things has my head spinning. Holy cow, is there a lot to learn out there!

    That being said, I totally agree with the “slow and steady wins the race” mentality. So, I have work ahead of me to get this stuff figured out, but figure it out I will.

    Thank you for all the great information you put out! I just recently found you, and then followed you on Twitter. I’ve already picked a bunch of nuggets of wisdom from you in just the last couple of days. Your willingness to help those of us new to this arena is very, very much appreciated!


  • Marbella says:

    Hi Ana,
    A very good list, I also check if the links are dofollow or not.

  • Caleb

    In reference to 9 and 10, I recently purchased AutoTrafficBuddy which can automatically create tons of blogs on independent ip addresses that contain certain word counted snippets of your posts then backlinks and pings original source which is your blog for as long and as soon as you publish..

    And although many of the members swear it has greatly improved their rankings, I thought that it may end up causing my site to get sandboxed so I got a refund..but NOW wonder if I should have at least waited 45 days to see some results :confused:

    What do you think on this?

    • Ana

      I don’t think your question is really relevant to #10, Caleb, which is linking OUT from YOUR blog.

      I’ve never tried AutoTrafficBuddy, but generally speaking, auto blogs are not a good way to build links. All they do is scrape your content and either they scrape too little to get it indexed or too much and it’ll be considered duplicate content and won’t get indexed once again.

      Personally, I wouldn’t use this technique. There are plenty other automated options that build much better quality links.

      • Caleb

        Yea and what you state was one of my reasons for getting a refund as I would rather the links pointing back to me to come from sites that are more active.

        I referenced 10 because ATB did cause your blog to link OUT to those same auto blogs creating a sort of web effect but again those blogs aren’t exactly active, they are mainly for triggering multiple link bouncing effects..

        Now that I think back on it, it was almost as if I was spamming myself?!

  • Hi Ana,

    As a couple other people have mentioned in the comments, I agree that relevancy is over-rated. Rarely do I pay much attention to making sure the sites I get links from are relevant to my topic. If I can find relevant sites, then great, but I’m not going to spend hours trying to find niche specific stuff. What truly seems most important is the anchor text you use and the optimization of the page you’re pointing that anchor text to.

    Another thing I think is over-rated is DO FOLLOW. I know people who spend tons of time searching out ONLY DO FOLLOW links. I’ve never paid any attention to this and seem to rank just fine. Do follow links may have some advantages and they probably do, but I don’t think they are as important as some people make them out to be.

    And so the controversy in the SEO world continues… 🙂

    • Ana

      I definitely agree with your point on do/nofollow issue, Derek.

      Of course, given a choice between the two, I’ll take dofollow link any time. However, getting nofollow links are certainly considered to be a part of natural link building, which is exactly what Google wants to see.

  • Jon

    When I read SEO guides like this I find myself thinking, “great, this sounds easy!”, but as well intentioned as it may be, how do we get good links? Apart from guest blogging and begging, what methods allow you to spread your net and not look too narrow focused in link building? Can too much guest blogging be a bad thing?

    • Ana

      Link building is definitely an art, Jon.

      There’s quality of links, like guest posting, link baiting, etc. – the ones that take the most effort, yet are the most valuable ones as well.

      No, you can never get enough of those to rank for decent keywords; although theoretically, if you publish a guest post per day, maybe…

      Then there’s quantity of links: article submissions, blog networks, commenting, etc. They aren’t considered high quality links on their own, but in numbers, they are definitely more that able to push you up in SERPs.

      Ideally, the more you have of both, the better.

      Start slowly and then build up.

  • […] only thing that site has on me is age; my blog looks a lot stronger for all other indicators like link building, on-page optimization, […]

  • Jon Cooper

    Great post Ana (like always :))

    If there’s anything I couldn’t stress enough on this list, it’s that the page needs to be crawled often! This is for two reasons: If it’s not crawled you get absolutely NO credit for the link, because Google hasn’t seen it yet! The second is that one of the best indicators of link strength is how often a page is crawled, because Google would only want to crawl the pages that people go to, are linked to, are shared, etc. (makes sense, doesn’t it?).

  • Ling says:

    I know it’s old but I’d like to know some more opinions. Does type of domain count? Like if you have a backlink from a PR 4 .com and one form a PR 4 .edu. Which is better?
    Some say they’re the same, some say they aren’t.

  • Yes, i am agree with you and i have got a very good and informative moral from this read. And it is true and universal as you mentioned all links are not created equal.


  • Charlie

    Finally a backlink article written to inform and (not solely!) there as link bait – thanks!

  • So the actual steps to take are:
    1) Guest blogging and posting links there
    2) Submitting articles to content sites and including links
    3) Commenting on “do follow” blogs
    4) Signing up for directories
    … am I missing anything? What else would you suggest?

  • How about Alexa rating? Does this pay an important role for SEO?

  • i like your blog ana but i want to know the best method to make good backlinks . and how to index those backlinks

  • AL

    I really enjoyed your post and you made me realize something special about blogging. However SEO is great and does pays off in the long run, but you can find yourself in trouble using these slow tactics juggling several clients. What’s your opinion on SEO tactics, and managing several clients? old slow tactics, or new tactics such as,” edu finders, blog comment software, directory software” you know, fast stuff! 🙂 Thanks

  • seo utah says:

    I agree with you completely wtith your article. WELL SAID

  • Bob says:

    Seems like I always see people trying to build links and spam up forums only to have them deleted shortly thereafter, much like you said. Seems like adding links in signatures and whatnot in a forum you ACTUALLY participate in on a regular basis is a considerably better idea.

  • Hi Ana,
    Thanks for the great article. I’ve been struggling with SEO for a while, lots of things to learn, and put into practice. Your 10 points make lots of sense, I hope to see some improves of my own over the next few weeks.
    Thanks again

  • etem says:

    bilemiyorum bu seolar bana oldukça karışık gelmeye başladı

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  • Jamy Hoster

    Now the quality will stay in market and the bad quality will be kicked out every thing as new updates are blessing.