Number of Links
When link building, you will obviously want to keep track of how many links you have built. You will also want to check into how your website compares to your competitors’ sites to see how far (or how far ahead!) you have gotten. As we’ve discussed in previous chapters and seen in surveys, the raw number of links pointing to your website is a strong ranking signal. However, you do need to remember that the quality is equally, if not more important than the number. As a metric, number of links can be useful to us in two main ways:1. Measuring progress / success of a link building campaign2. For running comparisons between your website and competitors’ sitesBoth of these uses still need to factor in quality of links in order to be helpful to us. When we compare our number of links to a competitor’s number, it can sometimes show gaps that may explain ranking differences. If you’re trying to rank for the keyword “wooden tables” and the websites on the first page of results all have over 1,000 linking domains, that gives you a solid sense for the competitiveness of that niche and the kind of attention you need to earn in order to rank among those results.
Linking Root Domains
Not to be confused with the raw number of links, linking root domains is an even more powerful ranking signal to Google. When we say linking root domains, we mean the number of distinct domains that link to us, not the raw number of links.For example, if CNN linked to you from five different news stories, that would be counted as five links, but only one linking root domain, since all five links came from cnn.com.If the BBC linked to you from one news story, that would be one link and one linking root domain.Linking Root DomainsThe number of linking root domains is a stronger signal than the raw number of links because it is a better indication of the true popularity of a website. If we go back to how Google think of links as “votes,” then in this sense each website has only one vote to give you. No matter how many times they link to you, they still only count as one vote, which prevents the digital equivalent of “stuffing the ballot box.”Multiple links from the same domain can be the result of a number of things. Linking from multiple content pages is one way, but the most common ways are by what we call sitewide links. A sitewide link is a link that is placed in some kind of templated element of the website, such as the header, footer, or sidebar. The most common example is a “blogroll” link, as a blogroll is generally on every page of the website.In general, these types of links are not as valuable as in-content links from just a few pages. Sitewide links can sometimes be spammy, paid for, and not editorially given in the sense that Google would like. In fact, Moz published a case study of a site that was heavily penalized by Google for incorporating sitewide links on its clients’ pages. Therefore, you should treat them with caution, only get them from high-quality websites, and don’t be too aggressive with your anchor text.
Relevance of the Linking Page
There has always been some debate as to whether relevance is a strong signal used by Google to calculate the value of a link. Logic tells us that it should be, because it is natural for relevant websites to link to each other. However, what if you get a link from the homepage of the BBC to your website about coffee? You wouldn’t reject it just because the BBC website isn’t about coffee.If we look beyond link building for a moment though, you still want to bring targeted traffic to your website so that you can try to convert visitors into customers. For this reason alone, you should be trying to place links on websites where potential customers may visit. This means that the value of the link goes far beyond SEO and can become a source of direct income.As discussed in the anchor text section above, there are some indications that Google is moving away from anchor text as a strong signal and, instead, could be using analysis of an entire page to attribute relevance to the link. If this proves to be the case, then getting links from relevant pages could become a strong ranking signal.Right now, best practice should be to focus on quality to make sure you’re being passed link equity and on relevance in the sense that you want to attract the right kind of traffic.
Position of Links on the Page
Imagine you live in Seattle and you have a blog about coffee. You’re going to share a link with your readers to the website of a local coffee shop that serves the most amazing fresh coffee ever. Where would you place this link on the page?If you really wanted your readers to see it, you’d position it somewhere obvious. Probably in the main body of the page, probably near the top of the page, and probably within some content that explains how amazing the coffee shop is.You probably wouldn’t place the link in the footer, right? Many users may not scroll down the page that far, and even if they do, they wouldn’t expect to find useful links in that section.Google is able to work out the position of a link on a page, and from this could choose to value it differently. If the link is in the footer of a page, then Google could reduce the value of that link because they assume it isn’t a great link for users (otherwise, it wouldn’t be hidden away in the footer).Google can also use the position of links on a page in aggregate. For example, they could see if 50% of all the links pointing to your website are in some kind of footer. This could indicate low-quality link building, and Google may decide to take a closer look.Position of Links on the PageAnother example could be if Google finds that 50% of the links pointing to your website are from sidebars. Again, on its own, this may be legitimate, but it could also be a signal to Google that you’re buying links. Many link brokers will place links in the sidebar of pages as opposed to within the content.Because of this ability, you should make sure that you are getting links from websites which are happy to link from within content wherever possible. There is nothing wrong with the odd sidebar link, but too many of them does not signal a good link profile.