Good Link, Bad Link. How to Identify the Two

Link building is a key aspect to any SEO campaign. When done correctly link building can help to boost your rankings, when done badly it can have a drastic impact on your website’s search engine performance. Like most of SEO, it’s an art and a science, today we are going to look at how to identify good links, bad links and identify quality backlink targets.


But first let’s take a step back in time …


The Pre – Penguin Days

Before Google Penguin was unleashed, links could be built in a vast number of easy ways. I started my SEO career in early 2011 almost a year before the Google Penguin update was enforced on the 24th April 2012. Links were obtained through forum commenting, blog post commenting, directory submissions, article directory submissions and purchasing links on PBNs through sellers on Digitalpoint. We had a separate laptop setup armed with recaptcha credits purposely to build links using article spinning and submission tool (wow what a {throwback|blast from the past|flashback}) as well as an automated directory link builder.


Needless to say when the Google Penguin update hit, our link building methods changed dramatically. A mass clean up operation then began to clean up the spammy, unnatural links we had built and disavow files for the links we couldn’t remove, all followed by a very sincere, apologetic reconsideration request to Google. I firmly believe that this changed SEO as we know it, I feel it helped to transform the SEO from the nerdy, quiet persona to a new more front facing position, building relationships with bloggers and other media outlets to gain quality links and results for clients.

Anyway, enough nostalgia.


What You Should Look Out For When Link Building

SEO’s have so many tools at their disposal, for link building it’s key that we don’t just use one preferred metric but a number of metrics for weighing up if the website we are looking at is a good choice for gaining a link from. Below is a number of metrics we can use:


  • Domain Authority – Moz’s metric which helps determine ranking power
  • Trust Flow –  Majestic’s quality indicator
  • Citation Flow – Majestic’s link power indicator
  • SEMrush Visibility – Provides search visibility for a given domain


You can set your own parameters for each metric, for domain authority I would look at DA20 as a baseline, a trust flow and citation flow of 15 and SEMrush visibility of 200 as a minimum. It’s key to look at SEMrush visibility for a potential link target, a website which looks great overall with a good DA score may have no search visibility which would indicate SEO issues, a website you don’t want to link from! Checking that links within current content isn’t nofollowed is another key part in deciding to pursue a link, a follow link will pass on full SEO benefits back to your website or client’s website.


What Else Makes a Good Link?

Links that are in context with the content, keyword stuffing is another route down Google Penalty Lane. Varying your anchor text is key to making your backlink profile more natural also, below are the different types of anchor text styles you can use:


  • Money keywords – These are keywords that exactly match the keyword you are trying to rank for, an example of this would be ‘SEO’. These are risky anchor texts to use and should be used sparingly
  • Compound keywords – Compound keywords are usually a mix of a brand keyword and money keyword, an example of this would be ‘Embryo Digital SEO’. This carries some risk similar to money keywords.
  • Brand keywords – Exactly what it says on the tin, your/or your client’s brand name. For us this would be ‘Embryo Digital’. Brand keywords aren’t risky unlike money or compound keywords.
  • Organic keywords – Organic keywords use general text as the anchor, some examples are ‘find out more’, ‘here’ and ‘this website’.
  • Naked keywords – This is when the anchor text is just the web address of the website.


It is recommended to use more brand, organic and naked keywords more often with a lower number of money and compound keywords due to the risk those types of keywords hold.


So What Makes a Bad Link?

Now that we’ve outlined what makes a good link and the aspects to look out for. It’s quite easy to distinguish what would be a bad link. These are:


  • A link from a website with no search visibility – This indicates that the website isn’t indexed in search results. This could be due to a penalty or other SEO issue.
  • A link from a website that links to gambling, pharma, porn – These are classed as bad neighbourhoods to link from (unless you run a gambling, pharma or porn site) and can have a negative impact on search performance.
  • Linking from irrelevant content – Similar to the above, your link must come from a page that is relevant to yours, failure to do this will again have a negative impact on search performance.



Ensure your link is as high up as possible in the content, links carry more power here than further down the page or in the footer of a website.


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