Why is it important to check backlinks quality? That’s because not all links are the same in terms of link quality.
In the worst-case scenario, bad-quality links can cause drops in your rankings and even penalties from Google.
That’s definitely what you want to avoid at all costs, right?
In this ultimate guide, we’ll go over all the important points that you need to know while checking the quality of backlinks.
What Is the Quality of Backlinks? And Why Is It Important for SEO?
First and foremost, let’s try to understand what we mean when we talk about the quality of backlinks.
Google wants to rank websites that are trustworthy, relevant, and high-quality. So naturally, it uses various ranking factors (that change regularly) to determine whether or not a website is of high quality.
Thus, the quality of backlinks is a combination of various factors that affect your rankings.
Some of the factors include:
- Trustworthiness of the website — Trust Rank
- The relevance and location of the link (links in footers and headers don’t pass as much link juice as contextual links).
- Page and category from which the link is placed.
- The number of other outgoing links on the page.
- The anchor text
- The content that surrounds the anchor text.
All these factors together determine whether or not a backlink is of high quality.
How to Check Backlinks Quality? Tools & Numerical Factors
Now, let’s discuss tools that you can use to check the quality of backlinks. There are many different options out there.
I’ve gone through dozens of tools, and here are the ones that have never failed me when it comes to checking backlinks.
Some of the most prominent ones are Ahrefs, MOZ, Semrush, Majestic, SimilarWeb, and Serpstat.
Let’s discuss each one of them individually starting with Ahrefs.
One of the best things about Ahrefs is that besides giving you massive data on your backlinks, you can also check the backlinks of your competitors with just a few clicks.
This is incredibly valuable since you can find out which links are working for them, where they are getting their editorial links from, etc.
Ahrefs is one of the most widely used tools for checking backlinks. It has an extensive database with websites that are crawled daily by its spider bots.
If you want to use this tool for backlinks analysis only, then the cheapest package will do just fine at $99/month.
Ahrefs not only allows you to check how many backlinks a website has and who is linking to them, but it also provides you with the anchor texts used by its backlinks.
This is an amazing feature that can help you identify which keywords your competitors are targeting through their link building efforts.
Moz is one of the most expensive tools on this list, but you know that it will give you top-notch value for your money.
You can get started with Moz at an introductory price of $99/month by using their free trial offer — and that’s a great way to start off with this tool. Moz is famous for its “MozBar” which you’ll get access to once you log in to your account. This feature allows you to check the links pointing back to any website right from within the SERP.
Apart from checking link quality, Moz also provides other SEO reports that can help you strategize better and achieve higher rankings.
MozPro, which costs $179/month, gives you access to all of the features mentioned above along with their “Keyword Explorer”, “Projects” and “Citation Flow” tools that are used for SEO competitor analysis.
Semrush is another widely used tool that can help you get valuable link quality insights. You can try Semrush by signing up for their 7-day free trial. After that, you’ll have to shell out $119/month if you want to use their features regularly.
Semrush allows you to check the anchor text used for each backlink (along with its quality score) and their source pages.
Semrush also has other tools that can help you check competitor links: “Backlink Audit” and “Bulk Analysis”, and “Link building tool”.
It definitely takes a bit of time to get used to Majestic’s metrics, but once you do it can be very helpful in your link building efforts.
The main reason I like Majestic is that it gives you access to some great tools that help you conduct detailed backlink analysis along with link metrics such as “trust flow” and “citation flow”.
Similar to Semrush, Majestic also provides a detailed list of all backlinks pointing towards a website along with their source pages. In order to check the number of links your competitors have, you’ll have to purchase Majestic’s “Trust Flow” tool which costs $149/month.
SimilarWeb is a widely used “traffic research tool” that gives you insights related to traffic, demographics, and social media analytics. It also provides you with link metrics such as Page Rank, TrustRank, and Citation Flow.
SerpStat is another useful SEO tool that specializes in competitor link research. You can get started with SerpStat by signing up for their free trial and upgrading to the paid version afterward.
Moreover, it also gives you valuable competitor link insights, which are hard to come by in most other SEO tools. You may want to use it to check the backlinks of your competitors that are hidden from Moz, Ahrefs, and Semrush bots.
Moreover, I recommend you use Google Search Console, a completely free tool from Google. It can give you many useful insights into what backlinks Google takes into account when evaluating your website.
What Link Types Are Out There?
Links come in many different forms. In order to rank high, you’ll need a combination of the following link types:
- Natural Backlinks – Links that are naturally created through the online visibility of your website. This is when other content creators find your content interesting and decide to link to it. This is usually the best type of links you can get, but it takes time and effort in order to achieve high levels of online visibility.
- Contextual Backlinks – Links that are placed on pages that are relevant to your website’s topic. Sometimes these come in the form of blog posts.
- Do follow vs. No-follow links – A “do-follow” link is a type of contextual backlink where the hyperlink allows web crawlers to crawl and index your target website in their search results. This means that Google can use data from these links when analyzing how to rank your pages. On the other hand, a “no-follow” link doesn’t allow crawlers to crawl and index your page. Sometimes these are used for good, but it is also common practice to use them for boosting rankings of websites that didn’t achieve high levels of online visibility through natural backlinks.
- Image Backlinks – An image link is like a regular text link, but instead of placing it on a page, you place it on your website’s blog post or article as an image.
- Video Backlinks – Video links are even better than image backlinks because they contain both text and multimedia elements that help them pass more link juice to your page.
- Forum Profile Links – These are links that are placed inside the signature field of your user’s profile in online forums.
- Directories – Some directories require payment to be listed, but others are absolutely free, and these can be valuable because the creator of a directory has already checked out your website and deemed it worthy of being listed.
- Wikipedia Backlinks – Links from the most famous information source on the planet! They can be both do-follow and no-follow links.
How to Use Anchors in Your SEO Strategy
While anchor texts are very important for ranking your web pages on Google, you shouldn’t use your main keywords too many times. Otherwise, you can be hit by the Penguin algorithm.
You need to use a certain ratio of branded anchors, non-branded anchors, exact match keywords, bare link anchors, generic link anchors.
The best thing you can do is to analyze your top 10 competitors and see what anchor texts they use and what ratio they follow. Then follow a similar pattern.
Why Is Relevance So Important in Link Building?
Relevant links are always more effective because they serve as a sign of endorsement to Google and other search engines.
When you want to increase the number of relevant backlinks, start by analyzing your top 10 competitors and seeing what kind and how many backlinks they have.
Relevance is the key when you want Google to recognize your website as an authoritative one.
Low-Quality Links: Beware of Them!
Once you have a list of all your relevant backlinks it’s time to check their quality by looking for certain patterns that indicate low-quality links. Here are some examples of low-quality linking websites:
- Footer and header links
- Links from unrelated websites
- Sites with low domain authority
- Links from spammy directories
- Spam comments on blogs
These are just a few examples of patterns that indicate low-quality links, but there are many more. The main thing you want to look for is whether or not the backlink passes link juice to your site.
Now that you know how to check which links are low-quality let’s talk a bit about what type of backlinks you should be going for.
How Does the Quality of Backlinks Affect Rankings in the SERP?
The quality of links influences rankings in two ways – directly and indirectly (through TrustRank).
The direct way is when Google uses data about links to rank pages (for example, when it analyzes what anchors are used for linking), and the indirect way is when Google looks at links as an indicator of social trustworthiness or authority of a website (the so-called “TrustRank”).