How do we evaluate link opportunities?

A question we frequently get asked is how we evaluate link opportunities. Whilst we don’t reveal our precise system for scoring and sifting prospective link partners, in this post I will explain the general principle behind our system to give you an idea of how we operate.

The way we operate and our strategy depends very much upon the client’s objectives. Some clients are looking for us to deliver high-volumes of guest posts each and every month and as a result they are happy to accept a slightly lower (but still rigorously vetted) standard of link partner whereas other clients are looking for low volumes of highly targeted, highly authoritative websites – we are happy to accommodate both.

We analyse a link partner based on three areas:

  • Link Strength
  • The relevance of the site
  • The quality of a site

Link Strength

This is where we look at the metrics of a prospective link, assessing how powerful that link is. We look at metrics such as domain mozRank, domain authority and ACrank amongst other things.

What?! We don’t sort based on PageRank?! No, not really. Whilst we do look at PageRank, it is only one metric for us. We find that talking in terms of PageRank tends to attract the wrong kinds of clients to our service. We like working with clients that understand how we operate, what goes into guest posting and what’s important in a link building campaign.

We also look at other link quality metrics that are likely to impact on the equity of that link now and into the future. For example, we calculate the diversity of the target site’s link profile and we also analyse how trusted that website is by Google by checking how well indexed the website is relative to the number of pages the site actually has – a site with for example only 10% of pages indexed likely has technical issues or is not trusted by Google.

Website Relevance

Some would argue that there is no such thing as a relevant link but it is our ethos that every link should make sense from a user’s perspective, that might sound like we are preaching to all the grey-hatters out there but we ensure relevance for several reasons:

  1. Visitors – a relevant link has potential to deliver real visitors who may convert into customers, readers or potentially may even link or tweet about the site. We’ve seen clients who get several hundred to several thousand visitors from one guest post – that’s just as important as the “ranking benefits” that a link has.
  2. Google proof – as Eric Ward always says, build links like Google didn’t exist. We aim for relevant links because if you removed Google from the equation, this link would still be useful. These are the kinds of links that will stand you in good stead whatever update they roll out.
  3. More useful to the client – we like to do good stuff for our clients and the final reason we focus on relevant links is that it allows them to get more out of their link building budget if they get extra visitors or it opens up new opportunities for them for example a media mention of their product or service or a long term relationship with the blogger to go back to with future news and updates.

What is a relevant link? Well that’s entirely your judgement to make because quite a lot of links make sense; complimenting industries, media sites, industry blogs and any other website where you can connect the two intersecting industries – think an online marketing agency guest posting on an flooring industry blog for example. With a little bit of creativity, there are an abundance of possibilities.

Website Quality

We perform a manual human inspection of every single website we guest post on and we look at/assess the following factors:

  • Ratio of ads to content
  • Quality of content on the website
  • Ratio of guest posts to other posts
  • Type of guest posts they’ve accepted in the past
  • Do they have a social media presence?
  • Are they selling dodgy links in the sidebar or footer?
  • Amongst other things

Link Evaluation Survey 2012

David Klein from Orange Line recently conducted a survey on how the SEO community assesses the value of a link, here’s the results (recently published over at SEOgadget):

Link Evaluation Survey 2012 infographicBy Orange Line SEO