Future Proof Link Building 101: Identifying Safe Link Prospects

Todays’s post come from one of our favorite customers, Lexi Mills. Lexi has six years experience in online marketing and communications and spent 2 and a half years at an International SEO Agency becoming an SEO PR specialist. She now heads up digital for Dynamo PR.

Most of us are not in the business of building up large numbers of useless links. We know that natural links from reliable sources are the best links on the Internet. Still, when we started working on a new project we wanted to be particularly sure that any links built through our PR SEO and social work for Bathrooms.com and the inspiration blog would stay valuable and relevant, irrespective of any future Google algorithm updates.

During the course of this work, we came up with the following criteria to help them (and hopefully you) build a link profile that would be as future-update-proof as possible.  

 The Data-Driven Criteria

 data criteria

First and foremost, you want to make selections that are as rational – and based on hard data – as you can. These are the things we look at, but there are other tools and criteria other people use.

Domain Authority and Page Authority for WordPress and Blogspot

When deciding whether or not a site is worth your time and effort, you want to know how Google will see it. If Google thinks it’s a reliable, authoritative site, then you know it’s almost certainly worth seeing how you can work with them. If Google thinks it’s shady, you know you should pass.

But determining how Google values a site is not simple, unless you have the right tools. One of the most popular site evaluation tools is Open Site Explorer. Scanning the link profiles of the site you are examining, the metrics we look at most often are: Domain Authority and Page Authority. You can use these to get a rough idea of how much Google will value both the domain and the specific pages on that domain. You can then decide if that site is good natural fit for your link profile.

The Inbound Link Profile

The great thing about tools like Open Site Explorer is that they allow you see the ratio of root domains to total inbound links. A site that has a large number of linking root domains (that is, individual websites) usually ranks higher and is valued more by Google than sites that just have a large number of links. If we see that a site has a disproportionate amount of links to linking root domains we normally stay clear of them.

Social Metrics

We always look to see what sort of social presence and shares the target sites have, are people actually reading them? Much of our time is spent on bigger media type sites where these metrics are high, however if we are doing a campaign where we want to engage niche sectors we expect these to be lower but still want to see some activity on social channels, before we declare them safe.

The Subjective Criteria

Judge Subjective Criteria

There is more to deciding whether or not a site is good for you to target than just looking at numbers, however. These criteria are largely based on a visual assessment and gut feeling and experience.

A Content Review

Take a look at what the site’s blog has in it. Make sure the content relevant to both what they claim to be about and to your interests. Look at the quality of the posts and how often they post. You want them to be of a consistently good quality, with some fairly recent posts.

Then look at the nature of the posts. You can usually tell quite quickly if they accept guest posts or other kinds of content from outside sources. You can also tell when that is all they do in terms of content.

Finally, scan the comments. You want them to be ‘real’, with few obviously spammy comments. This will immediately tell you if real people are engaged with the blog or if it is just a content farm that only spambots visit.

An Author Review

Once you have reviewed the kind of posts and comments the site has, check out the authors. In a normal blog – even a corporate one – you will expect to find certain kinds of authors. You will expect to find employees or site owners blogging often, and you would also expect to see some regular contributors, people who, although not directly associated with the company, organization or website, still post from time to time. Finally, you’d expect some guest posts by people writing on behalf of a different organization.

Run an eye over the author biographies, too. That will give you some insight into who the people running the site are, so you can get an idea of their motivations, their interests and their authenticity. You can use some of these insights when you reach out to them later as well.

Sometimes you will have to click through to each post to see the author bios, this is more common with bigger media type sites like The Next Women, as such your outreach approach should be more formal. However corporate and more personal blogs tend to have a place where you can see all the authors in one place like we have here, in this instance I like to look at the make up of the team and check out their personal twitter feeds to make sure these are consistent with the blog.

A Link Review

Finally, look at how the site handles their outbound links specifically look at how the links will look to Google. They should be natural links, pointing to relevant pages that deliver value to the reader. Avoid sites with unnatural or overly commercial anchor text distributions.  

(Photo Credit: Data, Judge)

1 comment

  • A great post with some very strong functional content. I’ve got 30 years of “old school” business to business networking experience but like many of my generation never really embraced social media.

    The race to catch up is complicated by the shifting sands of Google’s quest for quality SERP’s. More often then not the low hanging fruit that appears attractive only causes backlash as Google constantly revises it’s criteria.

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