When it comes to choosing valuable backlink opportunities, there are a lot of factors to weigh. Many people incorrectly look at vanity metrics like domain authority, domain rating, or even PageRank (gasp!). As it happens, none of these metrics really mean much when it comes to gauging how valuable a website will actually be when it points a link your way. Google is all about relevance and up-to-date information; some of the most valuable metrics when it comes to strong backlinks are:
- Topical Relevance
- Content Publishing Frequency
- Domain Age
Prioritizing these factors in your link building strategy will allow you to generate the most impact and minimize the amount of time spent wasted on useless links.
Topical Relevance'In a world of cheap and easy content, relevance is king.' - Jared Carrizales, Heroic Search Click To Tweet
In a world of cheap and easy content, relevance is king. More and more, practitioners are shifting towards relevance improvement as a link building and overall SEO strategy. When we build links for our clients, we focus on relevance in 3 areas: relevance of the overall domain topic, relevance of the individual page on which our link will appear, and relevance of the surrounding words/paragraphs on which our link will appear (assuming the tactic we’re using can influence this in the first place). These 3 are especially important when you’re correctly diversifying your link building tactics (i.e., not just guest posting!).
We’ve seen massive gains from focusing on relevance instead of vanity metrics, and we would suggest you do so as well. Regardless of algorithm updates, differences in blogging platforms, or technology changes, Google will always want to deliver the best, and most relevant results to their users, so having links in the most relevant places will make your links exponentially more valuable.
Content Publishing Frequency
Pushing content to go live all the time doesn’t inherently make a website better than another; however, assuming that the website that you want to get a link on is publishing good content based on sound keyword research efforts, posting frequency becomes even more important.
For example, you’re not going to have a lot of luck reaching out to someone that hasn’t published a post in several months or even years. Search engines aren’t going to visit the site as often, and they may not be able to publish a new post or be in a position to make changes to one of their posts (in broken link building cases, for example). All of this will change how valuable the prospect is to your website.
Traffic & User Behavior
There’s quite a bit of debate around how traffic impacts search engine rankings. Search engines, like Google, want to provide the best result for the searcher and numerous studies have proven that user behavior metrics like traffic and bounce rate are taken into account when determining a given page’s relevancy. When considering new link-building opportunities, don’t be shy about asking for this kind of information. Reputable sites will be happy to provide you with traffic numbers and other metrics; if they won’t even provide an estimate, it’s certainly a red flag.
While domain age has never been officially confirmed as a Google ranking factor, based on what anecdotal evidence gathered by the industry over the last decade, it’s incredibly likely that the age of a domain has an impact on how easily a site can rank right out of the gate. In our experience, domain age matters for more reasons than simple SEO benefit.
In the case of a link prospect, making sure that the domain has some age behind it matters from the perspective of longevity. A brand new site is much more likely to pack it up after failing to meet whatever business needs were originally trying to be met. A site that is aged has a better chance of being around for the long haul as it has already gone through some of the original bumps and bruises that a new site/business goes through. All of this equates to your link, assuming it gets placed, lasting longer on the site.
Uncovering and implementing link prospecting tactics that matter takes a lot of work and even more practice. When you find link building prospects that meet one or two of these criteria, it could be a prospect worth pursuing. However, when you find a domain that meets all these characteristics in a prospect, pursue it at all costs. It could mean the difference between you or your competitor being in the top spot.