SEO

What factors and attributes are most important to consider in your link building strategy?

1 month ago

Digital PRs and SEOs are always looking to build new links but, as I’m sure you’re aware, not all links are created equally.

And you know what?

It’s not just about which links have the highest Domain Rating (DR) or Domain Authority (DA). In fact, these are proprietary metrics from Ahrefs and Moz, so don’t actually play a part in Google’s algorithms at all.

As part of the 2022 State of Link Building Report we asked our survey respondents what factors and attributes they thought were most important when it came to their link building strategy.

The results uncovered some clear winners, at least as far as our respondents were concerned.

Let’s take a look…

What factors are most important for determining a link’s topical relevance?

It’s not news to say that topical relevance of a link is key.

A link from a website with a DR of 90+ is all well and good, but if the topic of that site has no connection to the topic of your site, it’s unlikely to carry the same weight.

But this isn’t always black and white.

You have to consider the topic of the domain, website section, page and content that’s linking to you.

Let’s take a look at an example.

You’re link building for a client in the SaaS accounting software space and you’ve gained four new links:

  1. SaaSAccountancy.com
  2. TheGuardian.com
  3. AccountsNews.net
  4. SmallBusinessAdvice.co.uk

Taking into account the domain-level relevance, you’d probably rank the effectiveness of these links as follows:

  1. SaaSAccountancy.com
  2. AccountsNews.net
  3. SmallBusinessAdvice.co.uk
  4. TheGuardian.com

However, according to our survey respondents, domain-level topical relevance is only the second most important factor here. The topic of the page is more important.

What factors do you think are most important when determining whether a link is topically relevant or not?

The topic of the page where the link is placed
The topic of the domain where the link is placed
The topic of the content you've created
The focus of the section within the site where the link is placed e.g. Guardian Travel
The text surrounding the link
The anchor text of the link

With this in mind, to determine the most effective link in terms of topical relevance, we have to look deeper than domain alone.

Looking closer at these four backlinks you see that the pages are:

DomainLink typeLink locationContext
SaaSAccountancy.comBrand link/linksA generic relevant links repository page
AccountsNews.netNon-keyword anchor text/news/press-releases/SaaS-accountancy-announces-new-CTOThe site has published one of your client’s press releases
SmallBusinessAdvice.co.ukBrand link/accountancy/10-best-SaaS-accountancy-platformsThe site included your client in a list of the 10 best SaaS accountancy platforms
TheGuardian.comKeyword-rich anchor text/uk/money/rise-of-SaaS-accountacy-softwareThe site has linked to your client from an article about SaaS accounting software

How does this affect how you consider these four links now?

There’s no right answer, but you could argue that the ordering of the links changes to:

  1. SmallBusinessAdvice.co.uk/accountancy/10-best-SaaS-accountancy-platforms
  2. TheGuardian.com/uk/money/rise-of-SaaS-accountacy-software
  3. AccountsNews.net/news/press-releases/SaaS-accountancy-announces-new-CTO
  4. SaaSAccountancy.com/links

The key takeaway here is to not rule out potential links from domains that don’t appear at first glance to be relevant to your niche, but also to not overvalue links just because the domain is highly relevant.


“Here I would consider both equally, the domain and topic of content. As some spammy websites/domains add content that may fit with my content, but it would hurt my overall quality.”

Heba Said, Senior SEO Specialist & Consultant at Canva

What attributes of a link most positively influence organic search rankings?

Links from sites specifically related to your niche
Links from domains that a site hasn't received links from previously
Links from domain with a high authority (DA/DR or similar)
Links from domains that your competitors have but you don't
Links from sites that your audience frequently visits
Links that send traffic
Links that send traffic that goes on to convert
Links that get clicked on
Brand mentions
Nofollow links

Next, we asked our survey respondents to select up to three link attributes they felt were most important for influencing search rankings.

Unsurprisingly, ‘Links from sites specifically related to your niche’ came out on top, with 72% of respondents choosing this attribute.

Knowing that Google views a link as a vote of confidence, and based on our own experience with link building, it makes intuitive sense that relevance would trump everything else. However, that doesn’t mean that a combination of other factors can’t outstrip this attribute in terms of importance.

For example, you might have just built a new backlink from BeautyTips.com to your beauty product ecommerce site. That sounds super-relevant, but if you already have links from this domain, is it of higher quality than a brand new link from a less relevant—but high DR—domain?

Again, we need to remember that things aren’t black and white.

Our survey respondents ranked new links and high DR links as second (52%) and third (42%) respectively in terms of importance. That suggests that the combination of new and high DR could be preferable to a repeat link from a relevant domain. Not according to Amanda Milligan, Head of Marketing at Stacker, though:

“I don't think that receiving links from domains you haven't been linked from previously is as critical as most think,” says Amanda.

“In my experience, what matters most is the authority and relevance of the links.”

Attributes our respondents viewed as less important? Whether that link sends traffic/gets clicked on and sending converting traffic were lower down, while brand mentions and nofollow links are not perceived to have much value at all, with just 6% and 1% respectively choosing these in their top three.


“I don't think that receiving links from domains you haven't been linked from previously is as critical as most think. In my experience, what matters most is the authority and relevancy of the links. We've seen growth from repeatedly earned links from top news sites because repeated high-quality pickups signal that you're consistently creating great content worthy of top-tier news coverage. Authority trumps all, in my opinion, as long as the content is related to your industry.”

Amanda Milligan, Head Of Marketing at Stacker

The State of Link Building Report is into its third year, and in 2022 is bigger than ever.

We secured the insights of 270 SEOs and Digital PRs across agency and in-house roles, as well as freelancers, and it continues to be the industry’s most comprehensive report on link building.

Want to find out more about what we uncovered with the State of Link Building Report 2022, and put it to work within your link building strategy? Download the report below.

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