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How Google Determines the Quality of a Link

Jun 4, 2018
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When it comes to growing your visibility in the search engines, content alone is not enough. Earning and building backlinks is key to success in organic search. While this is a critical part of SEO, many ignore it or hope it will happen naturally. But if you are serious about getting the rankings you deserve, you need quailty links. The question now is, how can you determine what a quailty link is?  

Links are one of the core components of Google Algorithm. If you want your website to rank in search, you need backlinks for quality sites. Google has a few things it looks for when determining the quality of a link. In this video, I'll walk you through the process of how Google determines the quailty of a link. 

Link Building Guide

Video Transcript:

Hey, thanks so much for watching. If this is your first time watching, maybe you've been watching awhile and haven't yet subscribed, we would love to have you join our community. The goal of this show is simple. It's to help give you tools, tips, and tricks to get the most out of your digital marketing activities. Today we're gonna be talking about links, and links are very important when it comes to organic visibility. It's still one of the top things Google's looking at when it's looking to your site to see how trustworthy, how authoritative your site is, and whether or not you deserve a higher spot in the coveted 10 blue links, which is obviously not just 10 blue links, we've got the knowledge graph and a whole bunch of other stuff now, but still links are playing a huge role in that, and they're not going away anytime soon.

How does Google determine how valuable link is? We know that they've made massive updates over the last few years and really attacked people who were not using links properly. There's a lot of people going out and buying bulk links, sites that didn't really make sense, they weren't contextual, are trying to get their rankings up, but it was just a lot of junk. This was part of what we call black hat SEO or SEO spam. While you can do this short periods of time, Google does catch you and it's going to destroy your domain, destroy your credibility. Now, this scared a lot of people away from building our link acquisition or building relationships that could lead to a link, because they thought that they might get penalized by Google. The reason is, is Google wants you to have good links. They want you to have contextual links, links that make sense pointing to your site.

They don't mean you shouldn't have links at all or that it shouldn't go out and to acquire links, or you should just wait back. There's a lot of business that wait back, and just hope that links will happen. Well, a lot of times that doesn't happen, and that's why your content doesn't get visibility, is because it doesn't have enough weight behind it. When we're prospecting links or we're building links or we're even doing internal links, there's a lot of things that we've got to think about before we get into the process, and we've got to understand how Google is going to see these links, and how they might be perceived from an authority point of view or a trust point of view.

The first thing is anchor text. Now, there was a huge push a couple of years ago to naturalize your anchor text, so instead of putting an anchor text here, they would just put like "click more". All anchor text is, it's the stuff that gets clicked on inside of a link. There was this push, like because people were overusing keywords, like they used to be, "Always put a keyword in your anchor text," so if I wanted to rank for SEO, I have 20 links, 20,000 links that all had "SEO" in the anchor text. Well, Google is like, "Okay, we need to use anchor text because it gives us value, but there's a lot of people who are using it unnaturally, so we need to find a way to penalize that," and they have, and they do penalize is that if you overuse anchor text, but it doesn't mean they ignore anchor text completely.

What they are looking for is a more natural patterns, so they want your brand to be linked. They want your services or the terms that you're targeting to be linked. Yeah, they want natural links, they want a URL, like naked URL links and that sort of thing. We actually have a cool tool for this, I'm going to put a link in there and just give a shout out, because I think it's great, so a tool called Linkio. They look at your back links and they make suggestions on how you should really structure your links. The reason why is because if you don't plan, you might just fall into a pattern of either not caring about what's in your anchor text or using too much of a good thing. Too much of a good thing is is a bad thing, so that's why you really need to think about it, because anchor texts plays a role.

When Google looks at it, they're saying, "Okay, this anchor text says 'SEO Strategy', and this link is going to a blog post that's about how to build an SEO strategy. That's a good link, we should probably push this up." They're also going to look at the site that it's on, so if it's on a site for marketing advice, Google would say, "Great link." If it's on a site for used car sales, they would say, "This is kind of spammy, this is not a good link." Again, you've got to kind of weigh a lot of other things, and which we're going to get into, but you still want to pay attention to your anchor text and make sure that you are using keywords where appropriate, brand names were appropriate. Sometimes you just need to have a "click more", "read more", that sort of thing as well, but don't think the anchor text doesn't matter, because it does and it plays a big role.

The second thing is relevance, so how relevant is this link? In my example before, I kind of talked about that, where if you've got a marketing site linking to an SEO blog about marketing strategies, that makes sense. They're in connected or related territory, but if you had it from a marketing blog that was pointing out to a used car shop, it wouldn't make a lot of sense because they're not really connected. Google is looking for context, are these in related fields, are the themes kind of similar? Maybe if you own, you know let's deal with car dealership, you want a used car dealership, and you link to a carwash place down the street, that could actually make some sense, because you say, "Hey, when you buy a car, we'll wash it for free at this," you know because it's related, there's themes there, cars and used cars, or an auto magazine or something like that, where they're not quite the same thing, but they're in the same field and industry.

These are the things that you want to look for when you're building links, you know hotels, you can link out to restaurants, to public golf courses, to other attractions around you, again, because it's in the hospitality field, so starting to kind of think more thematically when you're building links and looking for things. That's what Google's doing too, and they're saying, "Is this trustworthy? Does this make sense?" Be wary of somebody who's coming to you saying, "Hey, we're going to give you 1,000 links, and they're all going to be on these really high domain sites." Well, that could be good, but if those sites actually don't make sense for your niche and they don't make sense for your industry, it could actually have the reverse effect. Instead of actually helping you, it's going to hurt you.

The other thing Google is doing is they're looking at authority, so what's the authority of these pages that are linking to me? The way the web works, this is like a big web, so you have this authoritative site here that's passing links out here, and each one of these sites is carrying some of that authority because they're close to this main authoritative site and they work in little hubs. This one here where it's closely connected, actually going to have a lot more authority because of the way that it's connected together. Now, authoritative would mean like, you know let's say I wanted to grow my authority in SEO, I would go out and build relationships inside that SEO influencer sphere to try to acquire links or build relationships or build connections with those sites, so that their authority and their knowledge would then be passed to me, and it's like, "Hey, this guy knows a little bit about what he's talking about," because they spend time building up the authority and credibility on their site.

Links are one way to pass that around. Now again, it's all about relevance. These all work together and they're not in silos, like so when Google is looking at authority, they're also looking authority and relevance. I could have somebody really authoritative and an unknown field linked to me, it's not going to carry as much weight or really good weight unless I had somebody like in my field, in my industry, in my theme that's linking to me. The last thing is trust, now this isn't the exact way that Google does it, but I got this example from The Art of SEO, a really great book if you really want to understand how it works, but it's a good concept to understand possibly how Google's looking at trust. As you know, there's a lot of stuff on the internet, and there's a lot of crap on the internet, a lot of spam on the internet, and Google knows where that spam is and they know what that spam is.

The way they could give a trust grade to a site would be how far are you from that spam. You know, if you're hovering around that spam, it's kind of like who you hang out with, you get associated with. If your site's over here and you've got some spam links and you're a little bit closer to the spam, your site is going to have lower trust as a site that's a lot further away. This site's four clicks away from the spam, this site's one click away, when you're in those tight relationships with bad sites, you're going to have a lower trust score. That's kind of something that Google's looking for too when they're looking at the value of these links. When you're building, have these things in the back of your mind when you're saying, "Okay, I need to get some links to my site, is this site going to allow me to optimize my anchor text? Is this site relevant? Does this site have authority, and is it trustworthy?"

If any of these things are red flags, you probably don't want that link on your site, because you want to build authority and credibility on your site. This should give you a little bit better understanding of how Google is going to determine link quality, and help you make sure that you're targeting sites that are going to help promote your brand, and give you value where it matters most. If you've got any questions, again, please comment below. We would love to have you join our community. If you want to hit subscribe, and until next time, happy marketing.

Link Building Guide

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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