There are two big reasons why you should evaluate your link prospects before deciding which sites to target:
- First, in today's post-Penguin world, not all links are helpful. Google specifically looks for a natural backlink profile, and it punishes sites that get too many links from the wrong kinds of sites.
- Second, link building requires time and resources. Carefully choosing who you target for links will give you the best link-building return on investment.
A link from a high-quality site will give you a bigger return, but it will also often require a bigger investment to get that link. To maximize your link-building ROI, you need to consider both the quality of the site you are targeting and the likelihood that you will be successful in getting the link.
Links from high-quality sites carry more weight with the search engine algorithms. It is difficult to determine exactly how much weight Google will give to links from a particular site, but there are factors you can use to compare the apparent value of each site.
- PageRank. Multiple free tools will tell you a website's PageRank, usually on a standard 10-point scale.
- Relevance. Sites that have authority in your particular industry or field are more valuable.
- Content quality. Well-written, original content is a big plus. Pages with spammy or automatically-generated content could actually hurt your cause if they link to your site.
- Domain age. Sites that have been around longer are more valuable.
- Recent activity. Conversely, an old domain that has not been updated regularly is unlikely to carry much weight.
- Cache date. This tells you when the site was last crawled by Google. An older date indicates that the search engine does not pay much attention to the site.
Some of the highest-quality sites can be the hardest to get a link from. So, you need to consider your odds of success and not spend your time on lost causes. You can get an idea of how approachable a site is by looking for:
- Outgoing links to other sites. If they have few outgoing links (or none at all), or if their links all go to the same few sites (or type of site), they may have a policy that would rule out any links to your company.
- Ease of contact. Do they invite inquiries? Do they provide a highly visible way to contact a real person, or do they just have a general phone number and generic email hidden away on the contact page?
- Guest blogs, interviews or reviews. If they engage with outsiders by having guest bloggers, interviewing experts or reviewing products, you know that they are both approachable and have content that would naturally link back to outside sites.
Some high-quality sites may be worth approaching even if your odds of obtaining a link are very low, and some low-importance sites could be worthwhile if they quickly and easily result in a link. But by evaluating both elements, you can best decide how to allocate your link-building efforts.
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