What Makes a Good Backlink?

Aaron Haynes
Apr 15
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As Google continues to tweak its algorithm, it’s important for website owners to be aware of how this affects one of the most important ranking factors – backlinks.

Google has been making these algorithmic changes for some time.

Back in 2012, Google released its Penguin update. Penguin was developed to punish low-quality backlinks and even penalize domains that are employing black hat link building strategies.

With this in mind, that leaves us with the question of: what makes a good backlink?

To help you out, here we discuss:

  • Exactly what defines a good backlink in the eyes of Google,
  • what the different elements of a high-quality backlink are,
  • and we’ll even outline the 5 most common misconceptions about high-quality links.

So, What Makes a Good Backlink?

As outlined in Google Search Central (formally Webmasters), a good quality backlink is a link that has come about through organic circumstances, originates from reputable domains, and is contextually and topically relevant.

Conversely, low-quality links are created by spamming websites, appear forced, or are placed with the intention of manipulating search engine algorithms.

So why should you care about building a backlink profile that’s full of quality links?

Well, high-quality backlinks are extremely important for a website’s rankings; backlinks are one of the many metrics Google uses to score websites under its PageRank algorithm.

In fact, Google has mentioned backlinks in its top 3 ranking factors.

This is because backlinks are an extremely strong signal to Google of the importance of a website. Think of backlinks like a vote of confidence from your fellow peers. A signal to Google that the content on your website is credible, compelling, and useful to their visitors.

And why is this important to search engine optimization (SEO)?

Well, the more high-quality backlinks a website has, the higher the likelihood it will rank in the top positions of the search engine results page (SERPs).

Don’t just take our word for it, though.

Take this case study of 11.8 million websites. Here Backlinko shows just how much ranking weight Google puts on backlinks.

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Here you can see that the web pages that secure position 1 on Google’s SERPs have 3.8x more backlinks than positions 2 through 10.

That’s a seriously potent ranking factor – particularly if those backlinks are high quality.

What is a quality backlink?

Generally speaking, quality backlinks are those that originate from authority websites, referred to as referring domains. A well-respected, credible, and reputable referring domain holds the power to boost the content of others when they add an outbound link to a third-party’s website.

This power has been coined link equity or “link juice”.

Link juice is a term used in the SEO world to describe the value passed from one website to another through backlinks. The more high-quality links that a website has, the more “juice” it can pass on to the third-party pages it links out to.

Why is this important?

Ultimately, link juice can help:

  • pass trust and authority to the websites that it links to,
  • build brand awareness, pass on referral traffic, and boost revenue,
  • and improve the search engine rankings of the recipient website’s content.

For these reasons, content marketing and SEO strategies place a lot of focus on building links that originate from high authority websites. And it should be yours too. Obtaining and securing new links leading to your website should be one of your top priorities.

3 Elements of a Quality Backlink

No longer is the number of backlinks the focus of link building strategies. Instead, SEO and digital marketing are now based around the quality of a backlink.

In particular, these 3 elements are most taken notice of by Google’s ranking algorithm:

  1. Natural. Backlinks should be editorially placed. This means a link should appear as a natural part of a website’s content, rather than something that has been artificially inserted for the sake of building links.
  2. Reputable. Ideally, backlinks should come from a website with high authority. The site that’s added the outbound link is credible and reputable in the eyes of Google’s algorithm.
  3. Relevant. The quality of backlinks is also determined by its relevance. Both the content covered on the outbound linking page and the page receiving the inbound link being topically and contextually related.

For further context, let’s break down these 3 core elements in more depth.

1. Natural (does the backlink look natural?)

Backlinks can be either “naturally” or “artificially” created. A naturally occurring backlink is one that is not intentionally created by the webmaster, but instead is earned through the editorial process of providing valuable content and earning the trust of other website owners.

Conversely, a spammy backlink is any link that is obtained through illegitimate or unethical means. Some common tactics used to acquire spammy links include exchanging links with low-quality websites, using black hat link building techniques like keyword stuffing, or employing the services of link farms.

These techniques are used to increase a website’s link popularity and rankings in the SERPs. Sometimes helpful for short-term wins, but definitely not sustainable over the long run.

Why?

Well, Google’s algorithm has become increasingly adept at catching spammy and nefarious link building strategies. Therefore, using black hat tactics can often lead to penalization from Google, which can severely hurt a website’s visibility and organic traffic.

For these reasons, it’s best to stick to white hat link building techniques. Those that are acquired through legitimate means like white hat link exchanges, come about through well-meaning outreach, or are as a result of collaborative efforts like guest blogging.

By taking this approach, you are employing a sustainable and long-term set of tactics that are sure to take your site’s rankings in one one direction – up.

To wrap up this section, let’s recap:

What are natural links in SEO?

  • Natural links are those that are placed organically, as a result of organic occurrences like other website owners finding your content valuable and linking to it naturally from their own websites.
  • While you can’t always control whether other websites will link to your content, there are a number of things you can do to increase the chances that they will.
  • These include creating high-quality content that is worth linking to, participating in online communities and discussion forums, adding links to directories, creating press releases, and promoting your content on social media.

What is a natural link profile?

  • Google defines a natural link profile as “a collection of links to a website that are not the result of paid advertising or other forms of manipulative link building.”
  • In other words, a website’s natural link profile is made up of links from websites that have chosen to link to the site organically, without any coercion.

How do you make natural backlinks?

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  • There are a number of ways bloggers and website owners can encourage opportunities for obtaining backlinks.
  • For a touch of insight into what your fellow SEO strategists are predominantly using to bolster their backlink profiles, (see survey that uSERP conducted)
  • Thanks to research, you can see the white hat SEO strategies that the respondents employed to acquire backlinks. All legitimate examples of tactics that you can use in your own link building strategy.

2. Reputable (is the referring domain reputable?)

Another important aspect of the types of links that will help boost your SEO is the standing a referring domain holds with Google.

In other words, a backlink that comes from a website with high domain authority (DA), a metric used by both Moz and Semrush, or high domain rating (DR), a metric developed by Ahrefs, is just the type of link you want linking out to your website.

Why is this important to the context of SEO?

The referring domain’s reputation and credibility is important because it is a reflection of the quality of a backlink. If the referring domain has a high reputation and credibility, then it is likely that the backlinks from that domain are also high quality.

And as you can see here, domain rating is correlated with search engine positioning – the higher a site’s DR, the higher the possibility the site will rank on the SERPs.

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Taking this example into account, you can see just how important building backlinks from high-quality sites are to your website.

If you can secure a backlink profile full of incoming links from high DR sites, you’ll soon find yourself climbing the SERP ladder just like the sites that link to your content.

Okay, let’s wrap this section up with a couple of quick clarifications:

How do you get reputable backlinks?

  • One of the most effective ways to get reputable backlinks is to create high-quality content that is relevant to your target audience.
  • When other websites see a piece of content that is valuable and useful, it will incentivize them to add external links on their site that link out to your own website.
  • To achieve this, you can contribute to respected publications and forums, become a source for journalists, create informative written copy, publish infographics, or produce engaging video-based media.
  • You can also promote your content on social media and through other online channels to increase its visibility.
  • By employing these tactics, you will soon build a strong backlink profile that is sure to help improve your website’s rankings on the SERPs.

What are authentic backlinks?

  • Whether it be dofollow or nofollow links, an authentic backlink is one that is earned through organic means – that is, it has not been created through coercion or artificial means.
  • Instead, it results from genuine engagement and interaction with the site or content being linked to.
  • Guest posts, organic link exchanges, and links received from platforms like HARO are all good examples of ways to acquire authentic, rank-boosting backlinks.

3. Relevant (how relevant is the link source?)

Backlink relevancy is the determination of how relevant a backlink is to the overall content on a page.

This is ascertained by analyzing factors such as the topic of the page, the anchor text of the backlink, and the relevance of the backlink’s source website.

Relevancy is important for two reasons:

  1. It helps Google determine that content that is topically relevant is likely to have come through organic means.
  2. Google and other search engines believe that content based on similar topics is more likely to be of relevance to its users.

In short, the more relevant a backlink is, the more likely your referring domain’s audience is going to find it of value, and the greater chance they’ll click through to your content.

And who knows, perhaps they’ll even stick around to read, purchase, and make use of your website.

To sum up this section:

How do you get relevant backlinks?

  • There are a variety of ways to get relevant backlinks, but the most common is by creating content that is relevant to your target audience.
  • You can then submit this content to popular websites and online publications that are related to your industry or niche.
  • Taking part in in-person events and conferences is another way to get the name of your online business out there.
  • This will also help to build strong, long-lasting relationships with other domain owners that you can collaborate with to build out your backlink profile.

Do backlinks have to be relevant?

  • In general, it is advisable to prioritize obtaining links that are relevant to the topic of your website, as this will help to improve the user experience and ensure that visitors stay longer on your site.
  • Additionally, search engines factor in the relevance of backlinks when ranking websites, so including relevant links can help to improve your site’s visibility and ranking.
  • In the same breath, though, not all backlinks have to be super relevant to your niche.
  • As long as they aren’t forced, spammy, or considered manipulative in nature, irrelevant, high-quality backlinks certainly won’t hurt your SEO standings.
  • In fact, they’ll help – just not quite as much as a relevant backlink.

What are irrelevant links?

  • Irrelevant backlinks are links to websites that are not related to the website’s content.
  • These links can be from other websites in the same industry, or from completely unrelated websites.
  • As we’ve just mentioned, irrelevant backlinks aren’t necessarily bad.
  • Although some have the potential to hurt a website’s search engine ranking, if they are determined by search engines to be low quality or forced.

5 Common Mistakes (with Good Backlinks)

When it comes to what makes a “good backlink”, there are some serious misconceptions that get tossed around which can hurt your SEO efforts.

To help you negotiate these, here are the 5 most common mistakes some webmasters make when building out their backlink profiles.

1. Top-level domain names

A top-level domain (TLD) name is the last component of a website’s address and is often associated with a country code (e.g., .uk for the United Kingdom), a generic category (e.g., .com for commercial entities), or a specific organization (.edu for educational institutions).

As these components were among the original TLDs available to domain owners, there remains a perception that somehow they are of a higher quality compared to other TLDs.

For instance, TLDs like .co, .shop, .xyz, or .blog, have recently come about.

And although some web users will perceive the original .com entities as more reputable, Google and other search engines see them just the same as the original TLDs.

In fact, as long as websites with the new style of TLDs follow SEO best practices, there is no reason to discredit them or even disavow them if such a website happens to add an outbound link to your website.

These links can accrue just as much domain authority as the next website, and could boost your rankings if Google views them as a credible source.

2. Domain relevance

We’ve just touched on this a little, but let’s tease it out a little more.

Although relevant backlinks are most desirable, that isn’t to say a domain that is irrelevant to your niche won’t be at all beneficial.

In fact, if the site is authoritative and held in high regard by Google, it will still work to boost your website’s domain authority.

Take Medium.com as an example.

Medium is a website that allows anybody who wishes to write articles, create blogs, and share ideas.

So, as you can imagine, a wide array of topics are covered on their website.

And while their website may not necessarily be super relevant to the content covered on your own site, acquiring a link from Medium would be a huge help to your standings with search engines.

3. Site design

While a website’s design may matter from a human perspective, it certainly doesn’t matter from Google’s.

Some digital marketers may view backlinks from low-quality designed websites as spammy and hurtful to their rankings, but this isn’t necessarily true.

Just like with TLDs, as long as the website that is linking out to your site is following the guidelines outlined by Google Search Central, there’s no reason a link from an aesthetically displeasing website can’t help your overall SEO efforts.

4. Promotional content

Online promotional content is any type of content, such as a blog post, video, or image, that is used to promote a product or service.

This content can be used to drive traffic to a website or to increase online sales.

And while promotional content isn’t always helpful to its audience, Google won’t necessarily mind if a promotional web page links to one of your own webpages.

As long as the website that contains the promotional content is high-authority, Google will still place value on this type of backlink.

5. Good links from high DA sites (hear us out on this one)

Okay, just to really throw you, we’re going to backpedal on what we’ve told you about high DA sites for just a moment.

Don’t get us wrong, by far, backlinks from high-authority sites are definitely what is going to bring your website the most amount of success. Although, if you’re a small to medium-sized website, particularly one operating in a competitive niche, scoring backlinks can be extremely tough.

Never fear.

We’re here to tell you that low DA sites can also add value to your backlink profile – just not as fast as a backlink from a high DA site would.

As long as the website isn’t spammy, isn’t employing any black hat or nefarious tactics, and is a genuine website just like yourself, then a backlink from a low DA site can most certainly help your rankings.

They just won’t hold the same weight as a more authoritative source would.

So before you go disavowing every small website that links to you, just be sure to understand that some small guys can be helpful to your SEO efforts.

You never know, that little guy may one day grow into a complete juggernaut.

Exactly the type of backlink you’re on the hunt for.

Summary

What makes a good backlink is one that is high-quality, contextual, and relevant to the topic of your own content and overall website niche.

By producing high-quality content, following SEO best practices, and employing the white hat link building tactics outlined by Google’s Search Central, there’s no doubt you’ll slowly start bringing in valuable, rank-boosting backlinks.

Although, if you’d like to speed this process up. Why not check out our link building services?

Here at Loganix, we bring our clients high-authority backlinks that are relevant to their niche, editorial and organic in nature, and sure to take your content marketing and SEO efforts to the next level.

Written by Aaron Haynes on April 15, 2022

CEO and partner at Loganix, I believe in taking what you do best and sharing it with the world in the most transparent and powerful way possible. If I am not running the business, I am neck deep in client SEO.