Backlinks Profiles & SEO Factors: The Role of 7 Key Link Building Metrics


Last week we published the fourth installment of our guide to google ranking factors. Click here to check out The Importance of Page Ranking Factors: How 9 Factors Impact SEO

A strong backlink profile is a crucial element of a site with strong SEO. Quite simply, the more backlinks your pages acquire, the better the odds Google and other search engines will consider your site authoritative.

That doesn’t mean backlink ranking factors are that simple. The following points explain how various factors affect rankings. They’ll help you better understand why not all backlinks are equally beneficial from an SEO perspective.

Page-Level Relevancy

Again, some backlinks are considered more valuable than others. Google is likely to place greater value on a backlink from a relevant page.

This is by no means an arbitrary decision on Google’s part. A common tactic for acquiring backlinks unethically involves coordinating with others to link to to your pages, regardless of whether or not the pages from which they link are relevant to your audience (and to the content on the page).

You can use tools such as those offered by Majestic to check our backlink profile. It will let you know if your backlinks are coming from relevant pages. If yours are not relevant enough, apply the lessons here to improve them.

That’s an important point to remember. For several years, SEO managers relied on Google PageRank to answer essential questions about their backlink profiles. PageRank worked by applying a formula that assigned value to a page based on the frequency and quality of backlinks to it. However, in recent years, Google has not updated PageRank, despite still considering it to be a relevant metric.

SEO managers simply need to use other tools now when a public PageRank is no longer available. Those offered by such companies as Majestic and Moz can answer many of the backlink profile questions SEO marketers used to rely on PageRank to answer.

Linking Domain Authority

Moz developed Domain Authority as a score designed to predict how an entire domain (not merely a page) will rank in SERPs. Scores can range from 0 to 100. Moz uses a wide range of factors to assign a score. In general, however, a domain with a relatively high volume of backlinks will be more likely to have a relatively high domain authority than a website that’s newer and doesn’t have nearly as many backlinks. That’s why Wikipedia is often cited as an example of a domain with a strong authority.

Moz admits that impacting your own domain authority directly isn’t exactly simple or easy. You need to focus instead on improving your SEO strategy in general. Doing so will yield more backlinks. Instead of using your domain authority score as a clear indicator of exactly what you need to change in your SEO strategy, it’s better to use this score as a means of comparing yourself to the competition.

That said, it’s also important (to a degree) that the domains linking back to yours also be regarded by search engines as highly-authoritative. Quantity of links is by no means the only factor influencing this metric. Links need to be from high-quality sources for the most part. Recent Moz research indicates linking domain authority is particularly crucial for ranking high in local search.

However, analysis from eConsultancy reveals domains with very high authority rankings/scores often have backlink profiles consisting of extremely varied sources.

This makes sense. The more authoritative a domain becomes, the more often pages from that domain will rank high in SERPs. As a result, more people will encounter it and link to it. Content that’s authoritative enough will attract links from sources with highly-varied authority scores. Refer to the eConsultancy chart below to better understand these findings:

Again, if a domain’s on-site authority score is between, for example, 11 to 20, 50 percent of its average backlink profile will be from domains that also have an authority score of 11 to 20. However, when the on-site authority score reaches the 91 to 100 range, only 21 percent of its average backlink profile will be from domains within the same range.

Linking Page Authority

Page Authority is another score Moz developed. As the name implies, this score merely refers to the authority of an individual page, rather than that of an entire domain. Like Domain Authority, this score is best used as a measurement against the competition. It’s also difficult to directly impact. Again, your best strategy is to focus on improving your overall SEO.

Page Authority shares one more major similarity with Domain Authority: it tends to benefit when the pages which provide a page with backlinks have relatively high authority scores. This contributes to what’s known as “link equity” or “link juice,” a multifactor metric which essentially involves an authoritative page or domain lending additional authority to a page or domain by linking to it.

Linking Domain Age

This guide has previously pointed out that a review of the top 20 results in SERPs for various keywords indicates it is rare for any results which rank within the top 20 to have a domain age of less than one year.

However, this guide has also pointed out that Google experts maintain the impact of domain age on a website’s rankings typically diminishes over time.

The point to understand is that domain age does have a measurable effect on rankings (and therefore it also likely has an effect on authority scores and similar metrics). Acquiring backlinks from websites with fairly old domains is thus beneficial to your SEO.

Number of Linking Root Domains

A linking root domain is a single domain/URL that is counted as a single link in a website’s backlink profile. For instance, even if a site links back to your site multiple times, from an SEO perspective (when measuring the number of linking root domains), it will only be considered as providing one link.

Again, it’s worth noting that sites which tend to earn high authority scores (and thus tend to rank high in SERPs) will likely attract links from many sources. That means in a typical scenario, the number of linking root domains for a website tends to increase as its overall SEO improves.

However, does the relationship also go in the opposite direction? Do pages which earn high numbers of linking root domains also experience boosts in relevant metrics as a result?

The general consensus is that there is a relationship to a degree. Specifically, it’s far more important to earn a high number of links from multiple root domains than it is to earn a higher number of links from a small amount of root domains.

Perhaps someone writes a blog that, for some particular reason, tends to be extremely popular with a few other bloggers who link to it often. The quantity of links they provide is not an indicator that the blog actually offers content that’s valuable to most people interested in the subject. However, if the blog were to attract frequent links from many different sources, a search engine would logically interpret that as a sign that many others consider the blog’s content to be valuable, authoritative, and relevant.

Once more, while you may find it difficult to directly influence this element of your backlink profile, you can improve it indirectly by continuing to provide genuinely valuable content and working on your overall SEO strategy. By focusing on generating useful/entertaining content and taking various other steps to improve your rankings, you’ll boost your odds of earning consistent links from a range of sources.

Contextual Links

Google and other search engines don’t weigh all links from a given page equally. The context of the link is what matters.

Links found on the bottom or periphery of a site aren’t the most valuable from an SEO perspective. Often, such links are essentially paid ads.

It’s more valuable to have contextual links in your backlink profile. A contextual link is simply a link within the body of a page’s content. Ideally, a contextual link (which often features keywords relevant to the subject matter) will bring a user to a page with more information on that particular subject.

There are many reasons search engines value contextual links more highly than others. First, they are more likely to naturally direct users to pages which are genuinely relevant to their interests. This indirectly has an effect on such metrics as that site’s bounce rate. If someone clicks on a contextual link, the odds they’ll end up on a page which keeps their attention and genuinely answers their questions are much greater than if a user were to click a random link on the bottom or periphery of a page.

As with many of these backlink profile elements, the degree to which you can exercise direct, immediate control over the context of your backlinks is somewhat limited. However, there are some steps you can take to directly add more contextual backlinks to your profile.

Basic networking is one of those steps. You can conduct research to find other sites that are likely to have potential reasons to link to yours naturally. For instance, if you were promoting a new restaurant in New York City, you might search for “best restaurants in New York City” to find sites that cover this subject matter:

Explore a few of the results to learn more about them. If you think they might be the types of publications to feature backlinks to your content, email the authors or editors directly. Quickly express your enthusiasm for their site, offer something relatively valuable to them (a suggestion to improve the site, a free guest post, etc.), and let them know if they ever want to pay back the favor, they could consider linking to your site in the future (as long as it is from a relevant page). You could also interview the owners of high authority sites in your subject area. They’ll likely link back to the interview contextually on their sites. While this process can take time, networking is one of the best ways to directly increase the amount of contextual links in your backlink profile.

Positive Link Velocity

Link velocity simply refers to the speed at which a given page or domain acquires backlinks. If a page has a negative link velocity, it means the rate at which it is acquiring backlinks has slowed down.

There are multiple reasons this can happen. Sometimes the owner abandons their link building campaign (or abandons the site altogether, which would essentially have the same effect). In other instances, a piece of content may not be evergreen enough to stay relevant over a long period of time. Additionally, user trends change. A site that was popular may lose its popularity due to new ownership, failure to grow with its target audience, etc. As a result, pages on that site will yield links less often than they once did.

However, it’s also important to realize that a link velocity that’s too positive may have a negative impact on SERP rankings. Although this might surprise you, it actually makes sense when you consider there are many unethical ways to strengthen a backlink profile, such as buying links.

Granted, Google is only likely to penalize high link velocity growth if you’re actually engaging in such tactics. The algorithm will “notice” an unusual link velocity given the age of your domain and the amount of content on your site, and it may penalize you if it’s revealed many of the links you’re generating appear to be spammy. That’s not likely to happen if you’re focusing on ethical, proper link building strategies. Google experts have stated backlinks to your site should come into existence naturally. They will, so long as you focus on natural methods of acquiring them.

You can measure your current link velocity for a given page or your entire domain by keeping track of how many backlinks the page acquires every month, as well as how many total unique root domains link to the content every month. You want link velocity to trend in a positive direction. The trend should also be relatively consistent if you’re acquiring links via natural methods.

That’s essentially how you go about improving link velocity. By applying what you learn in this guide on a consistent basis, you’ll earn quality backlinks at a natural rate.

Remember that when you actually do go about applying the lessons you’ve learned here. Again, many of the elements of your backlink profile are not easy to directly influence. You need to instead take a holistic approach. By taking steps to improve all factors of your backlink profile to the degree you are able, all these elements will improve.


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