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What makes a backlink great? 10+ marketers share their insights








Eric Lituchy, Hunter Digital

At HUNTER Digital, we focus on quality link building. Quality websites with quality content that humans would actually read.

We have no interest in spammy links and work to ensure that quality trumps all other factors. Yes, we look at the common link factors (domain score, page score, etc.) but these metrics are more for us to determine if the effort equals the output. We will spend significantly more time and effort to get a DR70 backlink than a DR20. At HUNTER, we are systematic when it comes to Link Building.

Our 4R’s SEO Methodology is designed to deliver optimal search rankings for our clients. The process looks at keywords/phases by their Reach, Relevance, and Rank to determine where efforts are best spent to make realistic Recommendations (the 4th R). Technical SEO, On-Page optimization and Linking Building are all utilized to drive the best outcome for our clients.

Paul Leary, Are You On Page 1

Search engines like Google use over 200 factors when determining where to rank a piece of content, especially links and the quality of them. The experts seldom reveal what exactly they are factoring. Though many SEO experts believe that links are grouped into 4 categories:


A backlink comes from a website that is also in the same niche as the site it’s pointing to is considered a relevant backlink. Also, a page written about the niche can work in some cases. The words around the link can also give relevance to the actual text in the link itself.


Google will trust a link more if the originating website has links coming into it from authority websites in that niche, making that link even more powerful.


A diverse link profile would consist of links from different domains, and different types of domains. Having a great diverse link profile would mean that you had several link types from different domains.

Also, diversity should be where the link is positioned on a page. (body, footer, sidebar, etc.) Choosing your anchor text is also a part of diversity. A mix of follow and no-follow are also important.


The SEO community argues about this all the time but many follow these metrics when choosing a good website to get a link from:

DA (Moz domain authority)

TF – CF (Majestic trust and citation flow)

DR (Ahrefs domain rating)

These are good metrics to go by with a grain of salt. It takes a little more investigation into a website’s 4 quality categories to get a feel for its worthiness.

Michael Costin, Local Digital

We have a pretty rigorous assessment process we will run link options through before we decide to work with the publisher. Link building statistics really DO matter. 

First and foremost, the site needs to be indexed in Google and be visible for a brand search and have decent metrics in various SEO backlink tools

Second, the site needs to pass a visual inspection. We’ll check that the layout looks good, the articles posted are relevant and written well, ideally we like to see signs of social proof or engagement via comments on the articles and the like. The site should also be relevant for our link target.

Third, we will check the Wayback Machine and assess the history of the domain. Has it been used for spam in the past? Are there any skeletons in the metaphorical closet of the website?

Also, are there any signs this belongs to a poorly built PBN? If so, it’s a pass.

We’ll also try and identify other sites that have been linked from the domain, and any corresponding uplift in keyword visibility or traffic as a result.

If a site passes all of these considerations, then it’s a good option for a link in my book.

Jordan Choo, Kogneta

When evaluating a backlink, I like to look at it from two different perspectives

Quantitatively — This perspective is used the most across the industry and here you are evaluating what the metrics and numbers look like for a potential backlink.

For example, some people look at Moz’s Domain Authority (DA), Ahrefs’ Domain Rating (DR) metric or Majestic’s Trust Flow & Citation Flow. Another area is looking at traffic trends over time by using something such as Ahrefs or SEMRush. What I recommend doing is using a mixture of all of these quantitative signals to determine whether or not a link is worth it or not.

Qualitatively — From this perspective, I am looking at it from a visitor experience perspective and that will typically come down to relevancy. I’ll ask myself how relevant is the anchor text, URL and website overall to the page that is being linked to, my own website and to my ideal visitor.

For example, is the page linking to your website related to your industry? Is the website as a whole that’s linking to you tangentially related? The qualitative evaluation of a link is a bit more difficult because it does take time since you need to review the site manually and make sure that it fits with your site in a relevant way.

Amanda Thomas, Konstruct Digital

We have a joke at Konstruct Digital that the best backlink is the one you actually get. But jokes aside, obviously not all backlinks are created equal and some can be harmful.

Personally, I tend to care less about DA/DR than I do about topic and relevance. I’ve seen <20 DR domains turn in to 30, 40, 50+ DR.

Here’s the order in which I tend to evaluate a backlink:

  1. Relevance: this can be a topic, or location for a local business. Or even both.
  2. Inbound Link Profile: I always like to peak at the inbound link profile of a domain or URL using SEMrush or ahrefs. This provides a good “sniff test” on the actual quality of the site. Lots of crap links might mean an inflated DR that doesn’t correspond with the level of quality.Google might think the site is.
  3. Inbound Traffic: This is another way of assessing #2 above. Taking a look at what the site is currently ranking for using the tools mentioned above can help indicate the level of quality of the site.
  4. Anchor Text: High Relevance + Keyword in anchor can obviously be a big boon. High Relevance + Anchor Keyword + Site/Page Traffic is even better.

Other factors to look at:

  • Is the link “no follow”? This wouldn’t turn me off out-of-the-gate as it can still be a search indicator, but if the metrics above were weak I may not consider.
  • How many other outbound links are on the page? Lots of outbound links can dilute the quality of your link.

Happy link building!

Nick Beske, Point Click Pro

Backlinks serve many purposes. First and foremost they are a means of increasing your website or page’s ability to rank well in search engines but that is a very short-sighted way of viewing link building. In addition to transferring some link equity to your site, they can also help serve other business purposes.

They can increase brand awareness by getting your name in front of new people. They can help you stand out as an authority on a subject and enhance your credibility. They can drive traffic to your site and generate new fans and future business. From a technical standpoint, you want links from established sites with strong backlink profiles of their own.

On pages with topically relevant, high-quality content that won’t be easy for competitors to replicate. But consider the branding and marketing benefits to your business too. A great backlink is one that ticks all of these boxes.

Charlie Morley, Movement SEO

When evaluating what makes a great link, I always start and finish with topic relevance.

Above all other metrics, this is the one aspect of a link that will ultimately decide whether I proceed and reach out to a particular website, or choose to pass on the opportunity.

Of course, metrics such as organic traffic and domain rating are important, but for these metrics, I am often more flexible.

For example, If I really like the content being produced by an external site and the topical relevance is an exact match for what I’m looking for then I would still reach out to the site even if it didn’t have quite the level of traffic, or didn’t meet the domain rating criteria I was initially targeting.

Nowadays, its quite easy to purchase links on generic blogs that have been created purely to sell links. By prioritizing relevance, you can avoid these types of sites and focus on the opportunities within your niche or sector that will offer long term value.

Tom De Spiegelaere, Mango Matter Media

There are so many layers to a decent backlink. Personally I prioritise the following 5 factors: Topical relevance of the content, topical relevance of the domain, topical relevance of the anchor, domain traffic, and domain authority.

Let’s start with topical relevance, you can look at this from a domain level, page level, and anchor level.

So if we’d be targeting gaming keyboards, the ideal situation would be where the link was placed on a domain about gaming, in an article about gaming keyboards, using an in-content link with an anchor that either has gaming, keyboards, or both in the anchor itself… without it looking like an exact match of course.

Next is domain traffic, this is a must these days imho. Also, what countries is the traffic coming from (if the biggest % is coming from India or Africa, and you’re targeting the US… not ideal). If you’re using ahrefs, check what keywords are pulling the most traffic, are those keywords related to your target site?

As for domain authority, use ahrefs or semrush, go through its link profile, does it look legit? natural? Can you notice any dodgy anchors?

While the above factors are the ones we prioritise when looking at potential links, other factors include the site design itself (is it an actual company, do they have a decent about page, address, contact details, etc) and outbound links (do they regularly sell links? Is it noticeable?).

So yeah, it’s quite a process 🙂

Curt Storring, Floor 500

My favorite thing to look at when it comes to acquiring quality backlinks is how much traffic the site I’m getting a link on actually gets from Google.

While there are some great, high authority links that don’t get a ton of traffic, simply because of what the page is targeting, it is a very clear signal that Google thinks the site is high quality if they’re getting a lot of organic traffic.

It also helps you make sure the site hasn’t become a link farm, or hasn’t been penalized. If, for example, you can get a link placed on a high DR website, but that website gets almost no traffic from Google, then I’ll almost always pass. It’s especially important to check the history of organic traffic to the site, using Ahrefs, because you can clearly see if the site has tanked.

Daniel Christensen, Morningdove

I think about backlinks more with people in mind than search engines, even though it may seem like a contradiction because professionally I do SEO. Backlinks are obviously crucial, but in some cases, they do more harm than good. The core of my theory of what makes a backlink good comes down to one word: relevance. If the linking page has very little or no relevance to yours, it’s probably better not to have it (even if it has fairly good third-party metrics). This may fly in the face of those “every link is a good link” people, but personally I’d rather have an extremely relevant link with low metrics than one with no relevance and high metrics. We’ve all seen (especially in local) companies that on the outside don’t show a lot of authority, but are ranking high for “big boy” terms. Relevance! If you can get a link from a site in your same industry or geographic area, that link will give you the highest value.

Bio: Shaurya Jain is a marketer and a writer. He loves content marketing more than French Fries (yeah he is that serious about it). You can check out his website at

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