You’ve heard it a thousand times:
“You need to get high-quality backlinks.”
Sounds great, but what exactly is a high-quality backlink?
The term gets thrown around so much, but rarely is the meaning ever defined.
So, in this post, I’ll outline a clear definition you can use to understand exactly what a high-quality backlink is.
The 5 Questions
When evaluating a backlink, you can find out if it’s high-quality by asking yourself the following questions:
- Is the Page Authority greater than 10?
- Is it dofollow?
- Is it inside the main content?
- Is it on a relevant page?
- Is the anchor text relevant?
If the answer to all five is “yes,” it’s a high-quality backlink.
Failing to meet any of these criteria does not automatically make the link low-quality, but it’s not going to help significantly with your rankings unless the answer to all five is “yes.”
This will be clearer after we examine each question, so let’s dive into the analysis now.
#1 Is the Page Authority greater than 10?
One of the most important qualities of a backlink is the Page Authority (PA) of the page it’s on.
Page Authority is scored on a scale of 0-100 and is based on the number of links pointing to the page, both internal and external.
Note: All the top SEO tools (Moz, SEMRush, Ahrefs) have their own metrics for domain and page authority. Any of them will work well for your analysis.
In other words, PA is a measure of how much ranking power a page has.
If your backlink is on a page with a PA of 30, it will send significantly more “link juice” than a page with a PA of 15.
Now that you understand the importance of Page Authority let’s talk about how much is enough.
What is a good PA score?
This is subjective, but I’d say any page with a PA of 10 or more is good. Unlike Domain Authority (DA), it’s uncommon for pages to have high PA scores like 40+.
That said, your link isn’t automatically low-quality if the PA is only 3, it just isn’t that valuable.
But don’t judge a link too fast
If you publish a guest post on a high authority site and immediately look up that page, it’s going to have a PA of 0. This is because the SEO tools need time to calculate and update the metric, which could take days or weeks depending on the tool.
So if you get a link from a new page, hold off on evaluating the PA. Instead, check the PA of similar pages on that site to estimate what the PA of your link’s page will be.
Tip: PA and DA are both scored on a logarithmic scale. This means that a page with a PA of 20 is actually 10x more authoritative than a page with a PA of 10, and a PA 30 page is 100x more authoritative than the PA 10 page.
The answer to this next question has to be “yes” too.
#2 Is it dofollow?
If the link has a
rel attribute containing the
nofollow value then it doesn’t give you any SEO value and can’t be considered a high-quality backlink.
There is technically no such thing as a “dofollow” link, but it’s a practical term for saying, “this link isn’t marked as nofollow.”
What does “nofollow” mean?
Links normally help your site rank higher, but they don’t send any ranking value if they are marked with “nofollow.”
Here’s an example:
<a href="website.com" rel="nofollow">This is a link</a>
As you can see, there is an attribute called
rel, and it contains the
nofollow value. This link won’t help you rank any higher.
Tip: the “rel” attribute stands for “relationship,” i.e., the relationship between the current page and the page the link is pointing to.
Why do nofollow links exist?
Google created the nofollow value in 2005 to combat spam. The idea is that people won’t spam sites with links (like forums) if all the links are worthless for SEO due to the “nofollow” value.
In addition to nofollow, Google also blocks SEO value from links marked with
And to clarify again: there is no “dofollow” value. It’s just a quick way of saying the link doesn’t have any of the above three
How to identify a “nofollow” link
There are three good ways to check if a link is nofollow’ed.
First, if you are doing backlink analysis with a tool like SEMRush, all of the backlinks will be labeled already:
If you need to check a lot of links on a page, you can install a browser extension like NoFollow. It will mark all the nofollow links with a red outline.
Lastly, if you just need to check one link, you can right-click it and choose the Inspect Element option. This will open your browser’s developer tools so you can check the link’s HTML yourself.
Now you know “nofollow” links don’t send link juice, but does this mean you should completely ignore them?
Are nofollow links worthless?
Even though they don’t help with rankings, nofollow links can still be extremely valuable.
For example, let’s say your product gets listed as the #1 recommendation on a popular website. The link is nofollow’ed, but the article sends you loads of new customers.
As you can understand, a link isn’t bad simply because it’s nofollow, and it can still send other types of value outside of SEO. However, if you’re looking to get pure SEO value, try to get links that aren’t marked as nofollow.
This next question is much simpler.
#3 Is it inside the main content?
The best links show up inside the main content of the page.
For example, a link within a blog post is more valuable than a link in the sidebar or footer of a site.
Like question #1, failing to meet this standard doesn’t automatically make the link low-quality, but a footer link is not a high-quality link.
When building links, always aim to get links from within the main content of the page.
Then make sure it meets this next quality too…
Tip: links are also more valuable the higher up they are in the content. For example, a link in the second paragraph will be more valuable than a link in the final paragraph.
#4 Is it on a relevant page?
For a link to be truly valuable, it needs to be on a relevant page.
For instance, if I included a link to an article about bike repairs here, it would meet the first three criteria listed above, but it wouldn’t be relevant.
When a link is irrelevant, that means it’s probably link spam, and it’s unlikely to help rankings much.
On the other hand, the more relevant the page is, the more valuable the link is. For example, a link to SEMRush is relevant in this article, but a link to another page about backlink analysis would be extremely relevant, and thus, more valuable.
In practice, you’ll naturally get backlinks from relevant pages during link building, but when possible, try to get links from pages with your keyword in the title tag.
In conclusion, as long as the page is relevant, you can answer “yes” to this question, but pages targeting the same or similar keywords are even better.
#5 Is the anchor text relevant?
Anchor text is the readable text in a link. For instance, this link’s anchor text is “Try Image Prospector”:
The linked words, or anchor text, give Google a clearer understanding of what the link is pointing to and why the link was included.
Furthermore, if the anchor text contains your keyword or part of it, it will be even more effective for boosting your rankings.
For instance, if you’re trying to rank a page for “best social media apps,” then some examples of good anchor text would be:
- This collection of social apps has new platforms you might like.
- There are now dozens of social media apps to choose from.
Less beneficial examples are:
- If you want to find new social platforms, check out this list.
- You can find more social media apps here.
The first two examples include part of the keyword, while the second two don’t include any of the terms from your keyword.
As long as part of your keyword is in the anchor text, you can answer “yes” to this question.
You won’t always get to control the anchor text for your links, but take advantage whenever you can by using a keyword-rich phrase.
Tip: the one exception to this rule is for branded anchor text. Links that use your brand name are also great even if your brand name doesn’t include any keywords.
How do I get quality backlinks?
In conclusion, a high-quality backlink is:
- On a page with PA greater than 10
- Inside the main content
- On a relevant page
- Using relevant anchor text
If your backlink has all five of those qualities, then you’ve got a high-quality backlink on your hands.
Now the question is, where can you get high-quality backlinks like these?
Look no further!
I’ve got you covered with loads of link building tips and tactics:
- 13 Link Building Outreach Examples [Copy & Paste Templates]
- 6 Fast Ways to Build Links Without Email Outreach
- Link Building Without Content: 9 Tactics Anyone Can Use
- How to Get Weekly Backlinks from HARO
- How to Get Natural Backlinks (Passive Link Building)
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