Backlink Quality – How to Determine Good Backlinks

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Backlink Quality Checklist

Have you ever heard of backlink quality? In the old days, a backlink was a backlink. No matter where it came from, it would boost your content’s rank in search engines.

But things are different now.

For backlinks to increase search engine rank, they have to be good. This means backlinks come from a source with relative authority. Not only that, but the referring site’s content has to be relevant to yours.

So how can we tell the difference between what’s quality and what’s not? Keep reading.

Backlinks 101 – The Basics

Let’s start off with a backlinks refresher.

A backlink is a link from a referring site to your content.

When it comes to SEO, backlinks are the bee’s knees. To help content leap-frog search engine ranks, we can go out and get these backlinks. We call this link building in the off-page SEO world.

Link building the white-hat way is tough, though. It requires time and effort – you have to create valuable content and pitch your content to sites eager to link back to you.

I’ve summed up link building in a nutshell. The actual process is hard work and time-consuming. Because building backlinks are no easy task, this makes backlink quality all the more important.

Backlink Quality – How to Determine Quality

If you’re putting effort into link building, set your sights on the cream of the crop. Here are a few factors to determine backlink quality.


Does your page content align well with referrer’s content? That’s the essence of relevancy when it comes to backlinks.

Here’s an example:

You’re a CRM software company – Acme CRM.

A site like CIO is writing a blog on “Top CRM Software”, and they include Acme in the post with a backlink to your site.

Let’s break this down in relevance terms:

  1. CIO focuses on biz-tech news and analysis for IT professionals. Content for business professionals in tech.
  2. They’re writing a post on “Top CRM Software” and want to refer visitors reading their content to your site.
  3. Your products are designed specifically for business professionals. One’s who are tech-savvy.

The backlink is from a publication writing for business pros in IT. The content also talks about CRM software, which Acme develops.

From a relevancy perspective, the CIO backlink is strong. To add a little gas to the fire, let’s get into another backlink quality factor – authority.


Authority refers to a site’s power based on:

  • Age
  • Size
  • Popularity

Let’s stick with the Acme CRM example from before. The backlink from CIO is not only relevant to your content, but it’s from a source with authority.

CIO has been around since mid 90’s. That’s a check on the age factor for page authority.

The publication also has around 13K backlinks to their site and boasts an Alexa global rank less than 9K.

With this data, we can ballpark that CIO is an authoritative site.

Because this source has strong authority relative to other sites, search engines give this backlink more weight. This means a backlink from CIO does a better job of boosting SEO rank relative to less authoritative sites.

Relevancy and authority are the two driving forces behind backlink quality. Now that you know what backs a good backlink, I’ll show you how to check and understand backlinks.

Determining Good and Bad Backlinks

You can check in on your backlinks using Google Webmaster and Google Analytics.

Google Webmaster Links to Your Site

Google Webmaster lets you check all the backlinks to your content.

Backlink Quality Google Webmaster Links Site Walkthrough

“Links to Your Site” data shows you:

  • The number of backlinks to your site.
  • What sites link to you.
  • The most linked-to pages on your site.
  • The anchor text used to link to your site.

Webmaster data gives you the who, what, and where of backlinks to your site. You can see where your backlinks come from and investigate to find out if these sources check-off relevancy and authority factors.

Now comes the how. Take a look at Google Analytics data to see how backlink visitors interact with your site.

Google Analytics Referral Data

Google Analytics referral data shows you how visitors interact with your content from backlinks.

Backlink Quality Google Analytics Referral Data Walkthrough


Acquisition data shows you how traffic volumes that come from backlinks.


For each referring backlink, check to see which sites bring in the highest number of new users. These are going to be sites with higher authority. Higher authority means high traffic on the referrer’s site, which spills over to your content.


Then take a look at behavior data.

Backlink Quality Google Analytics Behaviour Data

What we’re looking for are backlinks that give low bounce and high session durations. These metrics indicate quality visitors are coming to our site. Sources with relevant content give us the kind of data we’re looking for.

Backlink Quality Home Run

To hit a backlink home run, we want to see:

  • High new user traffic
  • Low bounce rates
  • High pages per session
  • High session duration

Building Better Links

Now that we know what backlink quality is and how to spot it, use this knowledge to build better links.

Link building is no simple task. It takes time and effort to building quality backlinks, so make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.