In the SEO game, most people feel that whoever has the most will win. Up until the end of 2011, this was largely true. Link quantity trumped quality and as a result, many people flooded their sites with low quality, automated, borderline spammy links.

After a slew of search engine algorithm updates and a shift in the overall quality of the web, this is no longer the case. Quality is more important than ever when it comes to link building and acquisition.

The problem many have is determining the value of a link. Many look at the PageRank of the page where the link comes from. Others look at the PageRank of the homepage for the site.
While these may carry some importance, they are not as important as you may think. When assessing the value of a link, you need to look at relevance, link placement, authority (both page level and domain level), and the ability for that link to drive traffic.

Relevance

In the past, this was often determined by looking at the anchor text of the link. If it had the targeted keyword, or a similar word or phrase, it was relevant. It appears this has less importance than the content surrounding the link.

Google has a number of ways to determine what a page is about. The page title and the words on the page likely play a major role in this. If you get a link from a page about credit scores to your page about improving your credit, that is a relevant link, even if the anchor text is something irrelevant like “this” or “right here”.

Keyword targeting and recognition is still tricky, but recent tests indicate that Google is figuring things out fairly well for themselves.

Link Placement

Again, this has to do with the words surrounding a link as well as where a link falls on a page. Is it within the content, clearly given for editorial purposes? Is it in a comment section? Are there ads around the link?

All of these help to determine the value of a link. If you can get someone to mention your content in the middle of their own posts by giving a link, you have scored a jackpot of sorts.

That does not mean that you should be fretting over where a link falls on a page, but just know that this could play a role.

Also, some will want to be on a page with a small number of outbound links. This is a mixed bag of sorts. Showing up on a page like the Adage Power 150 is a great place to be. Showing up on a list of donators that are totally unrelated to one another outside of their contribution to another site is less valuable.

Authority

Of course, if you can get a link from a website that is clearly an authority, any link is going to be valuable. Some SEOs will pass on a link opportunity because the page has a low PageRank or Page Authority. This is a mistake.

If you could get a link from CNN on a new page that was newly created and had little time to acquire a level of authority, you would do it, right? CNN has massive amounts of authority and any link from that website is likely to be very valuable.

Also, when you get links from high authority sources, it helps your own site to gain authority and trust in the search engines. Authority sites do not link to locations that are of a low quality. They won’t risk their reputation on a link to a bad place.

Will It Send Traffic?

A link in a profile, such as a discussion forum or a web 2.0 site, will probably have some value in terms of authority. It will not be very likely to send traffic. While you may not want to pass on these link opportunities, you should not spend much time on them either.

This goes back to the CNN example from above. A link from a featured article on a major website with thousands of daily readers is very likely to send a lot of traffic. You should be making every effort to produce enough quality content that these sites will eventually feature you and send some of their traffic your way.

Conclusion

As you can see, the quality of a link is comprised of a number of factors. The sad truth for many is that they will not put in the effort to get the highest quality links. You want the hard to get links. If a link is easy to get, go ahead and get it, then put your efforts back into getting the best links you can find.

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Understanding The Value Of A Link