In a world where inbound links are often crucial in complimenting an on-page SEO effort, determining the value of those links can be equally important. This is especially true if you are making any kind of “investment” in those links whether that involve time, money or both.
Following is a simple checklist of what to look for in a valuable inbound link.
1. Indexed By Google
One of the most important factors to look at when securing a link on any specific web page is whether that page is actually indexed by Google. Common sense would tell you that if the page is not in Google’s index, they are not going to recognize that it is linking to your page. In other words, the link won’t count in their eyes.
While Google PageRank is certainly not everything, a PR 5 is certainly better than a PR 1. And a PR 7 or better has the potential of passing a lot of link juice to the page your linking to. That being said, I would recommend having a good mix of links from different PageRanks as it looks more natural.
Is the site or page relevant to your business model? For example, if I have a site that sells software, I want to obtain links on software related sites. It does not have to necessarily be a competitor but could be a site that reviews various software products or covers news related to software.
4. Identifying Paid Links
Try to avoid links that are clearly identified as paid links. Words such as “Sponsored,” “Advertisements,” “Partners” and the like make it very easy for a search engine such as Google, who by the way does not like paid links, identify them. Once they are identified as “paid links” they may no longer pass any link value.
An easy way for a site to identify a link as sponsored would be to use an image in place of text and then make sure not to give away the details in the image’s alt attribute. That may sound sneaky but remember that Google has pretty much declared war on paid links. So, if you want them to count, make sure the site owner is not making it too easy for Google or any other engine to detect them.
5. Outbound Links
How many other sites is the page linking to? I don’t want to see any more than 10 outbound links including mine on any given page. This is especially true if I’m paying for it. The more outbound links, the more diluted the link value that is passed to each site.
6. Inbound Links
Does the page have any inbound links from other sites? What types of sites are linking to that page and even more importantly, what are they saying (anchor text)?
7. Placement of Link
Search engines, especially Google, have worked hard in the last few years at trying to identify links that are not specifically “editorial” in their context. Therefore it is best to avoid links that are placed in footers, blog rolls and the like that would give of an indicator that it is not “editorial.”
I typically like links that are within the content itself or even above the fold near site navigation. Keep in mind that a properly placed link in addition to passing link juice may also send valuable traffic your way.
8. Is Link ‘NoFollowed’
A link that has the ‘nofollow’ attribute is going to do little as far as passing any link popularity or link juice to your site. That being said, you should not always avoid these types of links as they can drive traffic to your site (Twitter is a great example of this) and even make your link building look more natural in the eyes of search engines.
9. Alexa Rank
While a site’s Alexa Rank should not be taken as an exact science, it can provide a good guess at how popular a site is. Because Alexa gathers its data from those who have installed the Alexa toolbar on their browser, traffic results will not be exact. However it is easy enough to see that a site that has an Alexa Rank in the tens of thousands generates a lot more traffic than one who has an Alexa rank in the tens of millions.
10. Age of Domain
Two facts regarding domains that have been around for awhile – 1.) search engines seem to place more trust in a domain that has been around for some time; 2.) a domain that has some age to it most likely has acquired inbound links itself.
While this is not a complete checklist of what you can look at when evaluating inbound link opportunities, it does consist of some of the most important factors to consider.
Some additional resources: