A fundamental tenet of SEO is building a strong backlink profile. SEOor Search engines treat backlinks like votes for your site, so the more links that you have, the better your site should rank.
But not all links are created equal. While some links have more or less value than others, some can actually hurt your rankings. So there are three main factors you should consider when evaluating the value of a link.
1. Anchor Text
The anchor text of a link is that text that comprises the links. Anchor text can range from “click here” to your brand name to your actual URL.
If you’re trying to rank on a certain keyword, say “business software”, then you’ll have to get links that include the terms “business software”. However, you also have to be careful to create an “organic linkscape” – i.e. one that doesn’t look suspiciously manmade.
If a search engine suspects your linkscape of being unnatural, it might penalize your site for trying to game its search results. For this reason, it’s important to not build links with only one set of anchor text. Rather, for every keyword you’re trying to rank on, you should have a blend of:
targeted anchor text (e.g. “business software),
medium- & long- tail anchor text (e.g “business software solutions”, “business software for SMBs”, etc…)
branded anchor text (e.g. “brand name,” “business software by brand name,” etc…)
and non-targeted anchor text, such as your URL and “click here”
If you have a strong linkscape that includes a good balance of targeted and non-targeted anchor text, you should be able to rank well on your desired terms.
2. Linking Site
Just as not all links are equal, neither are all sites. A link boosts your rankings because it passes some of the site’s link-juice over to yours. Consequently, you want to examine several elements before asking for a link from a site.
First, what is the site’s PageRank? Google PageRank isn’t a perfect metric for evaluating a site, but it’s a good place to start. The higher a site’s PageRank, the more you can presume that Google trusts it and any vote (link) it casts towards you site.
Second, you should look at the site’s backlink profile. The more juice a site has coming into it, the more it’s going to have to pass on. For instance, if two sites have the same PageRank, but one has many more times the backlinks, it’s going to have more juice to pass on to your site with each vote (link) it throws your way.
Finally, you want to examine how “leaky” it is. Since each outbound link passes juice, the more outbound links there are on a site, the less juice there is to go around. There’s a lot less pressure behind a link from a “leaky” site.
Content is king, and context is key. The more relevant a site is to your targeted term, the more valuable a link from it.
Relevancy is gauged through content and rankings. So a good way to find powerful, relevant sites is by looking at who ranks in the top 50 results for similar terms (e.g. “business software reviews,” etc.).
Such sites are not only teeming with relevant content. Their pages are also ranking on them, meaning that a link from them would have that much more juice to pass.
Being at the top of Google is not an internationally universal thing. Every country has its own version of Google, and even if you go to Google.com from another country, your search results are being personalized for your location.
So if you’re trying to rank in a given country, you need to get links from sites that Google deems relevant to that country. There are two main things that Google looks at to determine whether a website is relevant to a specific country:
Top Level Domain (TLD): There are two kinds of TLDs: general TLDs and country code TLDs (ccTLDs). General TLDs are better for ranking internationally, and ccTLDs are better for ranking within a specific country.
IP Address: Every web server has an IP address, and that IP indicates what country that server is in. So a site will rank better in a specific country if it is hosted in that country.
So when it comes to passing juice from one site to another, Google also looks at the TLD and IP address the backlinking site. For example, a backlink from a .co.uk site that’s hosted in the UK will be more effective in increasing your rankings in the UK than a link from a .com or a .co.uk that’s hosted outside the US of some other country.
When you’re evaluating a link, then, you need to determine what your goals are. If you are trying to rank locally, then the IP address and TLD of the linking site will be more important to you.
Link Building Strategy
Beyond these, there are factors such as: What constitutes a good balance of anchor text? How much is a link worth? How many hours should invest in getting any particular link?
The reality is that this will vary from industry to industry. And when devise your SEOstrategy, you’ll have to choose between doing it in-house or going with an agency.
If you decide to take your SEO in-house, you’ll need three things. First, you’ll need a head/senior SEO to manage your SEO department. Second, your head/senior SEO will need to be familiar with your industry and your competitors. Finally, you’ll need several junior SEOs who can work under your head/senior SEO, follow their direction, and take care of the more menial tasks (like linkbuilding).
If you go with an SEO agency, you’ll want two things out of them. First, you’ll want to know whether they have any experience in your industry. After all, the advantage of working with an SEO agency is that there are no training costs involved — they’re already experts. But if they have no experience in your industry, a good chunk of your agency fees is going to go towards getting them familiar with your industry, and you’re not going to see as much of a return as soon as you should.