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What makes a high quality backlink

It’s important to know what makes a good backlink. Whether you’re shopping around for SEO companies or simply reading the reports from your current SEO service provider. What is a good backlink and how can you tell if it’s good or not? Many SEOs have differences in what they believe to be the exact scale of importance. However, all professionals can agree that you need three major criteria to classify a link as a “high-quality link.” A good backlink should have relevance, be from a credible source, and be natural.

The following is a breakdown of the different factors that count towards what’s considered a good, quality backlink.

  • Relevance
  • Authority 
  • Referral traffic
  • Page position 
  • Followed vs. Nofollowed, USG and Sponsored
  • Anchor text

What makes a good backlink

Relevance is the first attribute to qualify a “good link”

To sum things up quickly, the top backlinks you can acquire for your website are from other websites within your niche. Google looks for credibility in its ranking algorithm. When it sees other sites that are established in your field link to your website it gives your link more power than if it was from a website with an unrelated topic or line of business. 

For example, if you’re a heating and cooling company doing HVAC SEO, acquiring links from authoritative websites about HVAC will have the most impact on your ranking. On the flipside, links from website on carbean food recipes would have minimal to no impact on an HVAC website.

(Feel free to learn why HVAC SEO is hard for business owners)

Great links have ties to the most important aspects of your content

Are you a local business? If so, you will need local backlinks. The best local backlinks are those from other businesses within your niche AND your city.


A link like this represents a legitimate vote of confidence from a credible source. If they share the same city, it ties your website into that city and is worth much more than a link from businesses on the other side of the world. 


Relevance is the best measuring stick for determining what makes a good link. As mentioned above, there are quite a few more technical details that go into how an SEO company evaluates to see how much of an impact each link will make.

Domain authority/page authority to establish trust and credibility 

Different websites and web pages possess different levels of authority. The quantity and quality of the backlinks pointing to a page fuel this authority. When you link from a page that has very high authority, there is a transfer of that power to your page. 

High authority links give you more ability to outrank your competition.

This is the basic concept behind PageRank-Google’s system for calculating the power of a page. It is also their formula for ranking websites that have the most value to users.

What is PageRank?

Google was the first search engine to operate a ranking system based on backlinks. This system, PageRank, was developed by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The concept is that when a page truly has value, people will want to share it with others. How do you share a web page you want people to see? You link to it!

By accumulating quality backlinks from highly relevant websites, a web page gains the power to outrank other pages with fewer links. This is the BASIC concept. Here is one of the earliest models of what PageRank looks like conceptualized:

PageRank visualized to show how links are valued to be high-quality

How do we measure PageRank?

You can’t measure PageRank. Not exactly anyway… SEOs use third-party tools that attempt to mirror Google’s formula for PageRank. These tools assess the “authority of a page” based on the links that the page has acquired. These tools are extremely helpful for assessing the power or PageRank of a page. 

When Google first started, they published the PageRank of a page. You could see what a page was worth in terms of its power as a backlink. 

Google's page rank meter

As with all things that hold power, PageRank was manipulated by spammers to gain ranking (big surprise).

Google stopped publishing PageRank because they believe that all links should be acquired naturally. That is their concept of PageRank operating in its most perfect form. Where links are acquired from other websites without asking-they just find your page and link to it. 

Google decided that publicly displaying PageRank was contributing to the market for buying and selling links. 

Our best guess for calculating PageRank

SEO software companies provide technical assessments of websites. For example, At Austin Bryant Consulting, we use Ahrefs and SEMRush to determine page authority. Moz is another SEO software giant, but Ahrefs is probably our best tool for identifying the most links that point to a website.

It’s well-known that Ahrefs measurement of domain authority, DR or Domain Rating, represents the power behind a website. Individual pages are measured as URL ratings or “UR”.

Here is a snapshot of a popular blog site where you can see the breakdown of information that is made available using the Ahrefs toolbar.

When scouting and vetting potential websites to build links from, start with the extremely relevant websites. Only then should you move to assess the page authority (among other options to follow) to help prioritize your link-building strategy.

Referral traffic

Links are the vehicles in which information and web pages are shared. When you link to a page from a page that has a high volume of traffic, you will naturally receive referral traffic. Referral traffic can be invaluable when it comes from a web page that generates traffic that’s relevant to your keyword topic. 

For example, imagine you’re an accountant starting a business and no one knows you-let alone your website. Along comes a Forbes reporter who does an exclusive interview on you and your practice and how you’ve gone above and beyond for your clients and saved them thousands of dollars in taxes. How valuable is a link from that article to your business?

Let’s take a look at the traffic generated by Forbes. Organically, they generate a whopping 83 million visitors a month! With more than 369 backlinks, they are a monster website.

domain overview showing traffic and backlinks

Let’s take it down a notch and assume you could get a link from one of their articles like this one titled “Do You Need A Financial Advisor or An Accountant?”

statistics on forbes article to show the value of a backlink from forbes

This article was published and updated less than two months ago (from the time we’re publishing this article) and it’s already generating more than 400 visitors a month. This number is more than likely to grow as it continues to gain backlinks. If 400 people a month are reading this article, there’s a good chance they’re looking for an accountant! 

Not only will a link from this page send you traffic, but it will also send you highly qualified leads! The credibility you receive from being linked to Forbes is invaluable. It’s as if they are recommending you as the best accountant in the world (except for the fact they state on all sponsored posts that they don’t endorse the product or service). 

Regardless, you get the point.

A well-placed link can send you referral traffic that can completely change your business.

That’s a huge factor in what makes a good link.

Page position

The position of a link on a page plays a contributing role to its value to your website. The higher up on the page, the more valuable the link. 

Page position logistics

It’s the same concept as ranking highly on a search engine results page. More users will click on the results that are higher up on the page. 


It’s the easiest to access because it’s the most visible. Your chances are the highest of earning a click when it’s first in the line of many links below it. It’s simple logistics. The higher up your link is on a page, the more referral traffic you will receive. 

Followed vs. Nofollowed, UGC and Sponsored

There is a huge difference in the quality of links when we talk about links that have a “rel” tag. Followed links are much more valuable than the alternatives. Here’s a brief visualized summary from

Moz infographic on rel attributes of a backlink

A normal HTML backlink does not have this tag. It is considered a followed link, which means it tells search engines to pass PageRank to the link target. It also allows search engines to discover new pages and allow them to appear on its index. 

A normal HTML link will look like this: <a href=”” >anchor text of link</a>

Nofollowed links tell search engines NOT to pass on PageRank. They are a website’s way of saying I don’t endorse the content from the website on the other side of this link. Historically, they also told search engines not to bother crawling the page. 

A nofollow link will look like this:

<a href=”” rel=”nofollow” >anchor text of link</a>

To better categorize the different types of links that are appearing, Google recently added the following rel attributes to separate the links that websites: UGC and Sponsored. 

UGC stands for User Generated Content. This rel attribute tells search engines the link was generated by users. These are most common in forums and in comment sections where the website owner has no control over the content that’s created. A link with this attribute looks like this: <a href=”” rel=”UGC” >anchor text of link</a>

And finally, the sponsored rel attribute. This is for showing search engines that the link was paid for to advertise your website. This attribute restricts the transfer of PageRank and looks like this: <a href=”” rel=”sponsored” >anchor text of link</a>

How to see the attributes of a link

You can see if a link is marked with a rel attribute by right-clicking on the link. Select “Inspect” and you should see a section appear on your page that shows you the HTML. 

using inspect function to find attributes of a link

In the example above you can see the linked marker with a rel=”noopener” attribute. This is still a followed link. The attribute simply doesn’t allow the browser to instruct the browser to navigate to the target resource without granting the new browsing context access to the document that opened it. 

The bottom line is it’s a followed link but if you want to read more on that click here.

Anchor text

The anchor text of a link is another measure of value. If the text that makes up the link is relevant to the keyword topic of the page, Google gives the link more power because it tells users what the page is about. 

For example, assume you have a tennis club and one of your signature programs is a tennis cardio class called “The Grand Slam 5 Set Challenge”

Let’s say a well-known business periodical publishes a blog post that features your program as an incredible money maker and links to your website with the anchor text “click here”. Is this a good link? 

Yes, of course. It’s a good website sharing information about your product. However, the website lacks domain relevancy because it’s primarily about business. Plus, the anchor text is not sharing any clues to what the content on your page is about.

Now let’s say decides to publish a blog post about how to build the stamina to last 5 sets and links to your page with the anchor text “program to build tennis stamina to last 5 sets”. Is this a good link?

Yes! It’s probably one of the best you could get!

This link adds context to your page, plus it’s from a very relevant website with HUGE credibility. Even if it had less authority, it could still be considered a much better link than the one from a business website because of it’s strong relevance. 

Quick summary of evaluating a quality backlink

  • Look for relevance. There should be a reason your link exists. 
  • Domain authority is also a big plus. This will fuel the power of your link target. 
  • High volumes of traffic are also a very big plus when the website is highly relevant. You will receive targeted referral traffic from relevant websites with high volumes of traffic.
  • Try to link as high on a page as possible. Visibility counts!
  • Followed links are best for transferring ranking ability and PageRank
  • Use relevant anchor text (just don’t overdo it!)

There’s a lot that goes into executing a successful link-building strategy. If you’re doing it on your own keep it simple. Build relevant, reputable and natural links by following the criteria listed in this article. With patience and good decision-making, you can build high-quality links that make a difference to your site.

When you want to leave your link-building to a reliable SEO company, call us or send us a message in the form below. We’ll be happy to answer any questions and show you the opportunities you have waiting to expand the reach of your website.