Sam Rose - Head of Content

Sam Alexandra Rose

19th October 2020

How to Evaluate an SEO Link Building Opportunity

Link building is an important part of SEO and it’s quite different from other types of SEO strategy you may implement. Link building relies on content as much as any other SEO work because if you’re going to get a link back to a page on your website, the content on that page needs to be worth linking to! But link building also requires a lot of outreach and persistence, and a little critical thinking. After all, you don’t want any old website to provide you with links – not all backlinks are created equal, and while some could be very beneficial to you, others might not be worth the effort and could even harm your SEO.

We’ve put together a few tips for assessing whether you should pursue a link building opportunity. In this case, we’re assuming that you’ve already done your research. Perhaps you have reviewed your competitors’ links in Moz to see which websites link back to them and whether you could ask for links there, too. Or you’ve found some websites you’d like to write guest articles for, or that mention your company name without linking to your website. These are all great ways of finding link building opportunities, and should give you a list of potential sites to approach. But now that you have a list, you need to evaluate them in more detail to ensure they are good opportunities and that it’s worthwhile requesting a link. We’re assuming all of the sites you’ve gathered are relevant to your business, which should be your first concern. Read on to find out what else you should be asking when evaluating an SEO link building opportunity.

What is the Website’s Domain Authority Score?

Domain Authority, or DA, is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz. It indicates how well a website will perform on search engine results pages (SERPs) and ranges from one to 100, with higher scores suggesting better rankings. DA does not affect rankings – it is Moz’s way of explaining how well a website may rank compared to others. It’s a good indicator of how well your website may be performing compared to your competitors, or how valuable a backlink from another website could be for you.

DA is based on your website’s link profile, which is made up of several elements including:

  • Spam score
  • Total linking domains
  • External and internal links
  • Dofollow and nofollow links

Moz can also tell you about Page Authority (PA) which offers similar information about an individual page, but we’re only concerned with DA right now.

When considering a link building opportunity based on a website’s DA, you need to first know what your own DA is. Once you have that information, you can compare your DA with theirs. In order for the potential link to be valuable to you, it should come from a website whose DA is higher than yours. A lower DA would indicate that the link may not have a positive effect on your SEO, while a high DA could be very beneficial. However, if the DA is extremely high (think 70 compared to your 30, for example), you may not have much luck approaching them as these websites are likely to be huge companies such as newspapers or multi-national businesses. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try if you have something great to offer them, but if it’s between a website with a huge DA and one that’s five or ten points higher than your own, you may have better luck with the latter, and it could still provide you with SEO benefits.

It’s important to note that having a link back to your site from a website with a high DA doesn’t necessarily mean that your rankings will drastically improve. We all know that Google’s algorithms are something of a mystery, and this advice comes with a caveat that there are no guarantees of improving SEO through gaining links from high DA websites. However, there is much more to SEO than rankings, such as website visitor numbers, conversions and revenue - all of which could be provided by an increased number of quality backlinks.

What is the Website’s Spam Score?

In Moz, a website’s spam score represents the percentage of sites with similar features that have been found to be penalised or banned by Google. This doesn’t mean that the site is definitely spammy, but you should use this as an indicator to do some further investigation. A spam score of just a few percent is fine, but if this number looks high, take a look at the site in more depth and try to find out why that may be. An example of a red herring is that some online directories have higher spam scores because there are so many links on the website and not much actual content. This doesn’t mean the directories are spam. Conversely, if a website has very little content and lots of irrelevant or unrelated links, this could indeed be spammy and you may be best steering clear of it, especially if the spam score is high. This would mean that similar sites have previously been penalised by Google, and if the website linked back to your site, this could harm your SEO rather than help it.

Is the Website Regularly Updated?

Google loves fresh, longform content and sites that are regularly updated. Does this describe the website you’re considering approaching? Does their homepage feature content that changes regularly? If they have a blog or post news articles, when was the last one published? Does the content look current or is there still mention of stepping into summer even though it’s October? Not only does Google love new content, but so do users. Even if this kind of thing didn’t have an effect on SEO, it’s not a great reflection on your website to be associated with a site that’s never updated. Plus, if they haven’t updated their website in a long time, how likely is it that they will update it for the sake of adding your link?

Along similar lines, you could take a look at the company’s social media pages and see if they are regularly updated. This isn’t necessarily useful for SEO, but it could give you an indication of how likely they would be to post on social media about an article you may write for them, for example – and that’s more visibility for your brand, and more potential visitors and sales.

Are Their Existing Links Dofollow or Nofollow?

The distinction between dofollow (or follow) links and nofollow links is an important one. Nofollow links have a “nofollow” tag added to them which tells search engines not to “count” the link when determining rankings. If one website links to another but it adds a nofollow tag, it’s essentially telling Google “we’re linking to this site but we don’t want you to take that as an endorsement”. In other words, nofollow links have zero link juice and won’t affect your rankings in any way. Google will still know the link is there, but it won’t influence how Google ranks you. Follow links, on the other hand, have no such tag attributed to them and if Google spots them, they could help you to rank better. That’s why having lots of high quality, follow links can be so effective, and it’s why we do link building to begin with.

But hang on one second – we’ve explained that nofollow links get no link juice, suggesting they are fairly useless. That’s not necessarily true – a link is still a link after all, and they can still be found by users and clicked on, leading to more site visits and maybe even more conversions. So while they may not help with your rankings, if they are on a page that gets lots of visits, this could translate to more visibility and brand awareness for you.

All that being said, you do really want dofollow rather than nofollow links. On the website you’re considering, take a look at examples of links similar to the one you would like. If you would like to write a guest article for them, look at the links within other guest posts, or the author bios for those guest posts, and use View Source to see if the links to the author’s websites have nofollow tags or not. If they don’t, it’s a fair assumption that yours would be the same and this could be a good website to pursue.

How Big is the Website’s Audience?

It’s nice to know how much traffic your prospect gets, so you can gauge how much visibility your link might receive – especially if you’re comparing a few websites. You can find out this information using tools such as SEMRush, which will tell you the website’s number of visitors per month.

Would a Page With a Link Be Indexed By Google?

Not all pages on the web are indexed, so another quick check to make would be to see if the page containing your link is likely to be indexed. For example, if you would like a link in a directory, you could look at another business’s page in the directory and see if it appears on SERPs. If it does, that’s a good indicator that yours would, too.

Measure and Monitor the Effects of Your New Links

When you do decide to go ahead with asking for a link – and you’re successful – it’s time to measure that success. You can do this by monitoring your DA in the months to come. It’s very difficult to attribute SEO improvements to specific new links or other changes, but over time you may see a trend of your hard work paying off. Of course, one link is probably not going to be life-changing, so you’re unlikely to see a trend of improvement just from one or two new links. It’s important to find as many good link building opportunities as you can, be persistent, and always be creating valuable content you can use towards all of your SEO efforts.

You could also take a look at your referral traffic in Google Analytics to see if your new links are bringing more visitors to your site. What those visitors do when they reach your site could also indicate how relevant this audience is, and whether you should pursue more links on similar sites. For example, how long are they staying on the site for, how many pages are they looking at, what is the bounce rate, and are they making contact, completing micro-conversions, or buying your product or service?

As mentioned earlier, there is no guarantee that any link will improve your rankings or bring the masses to your website. But when you put a good link building strategy in place and use a critical eye to determine which opportunities you should go for, you’re improving your chances of getting valuable links and reaching your SEO goals.

If you would like help with any aspect of your SEO, get in touch with SilverDisc.

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