What kinds of backlinks does your website have right now?

Do they come from respected blogs, media outlets, and news sites in your field?

Or are they a mishmash of links coming from unknown web directories, sitewide links (i.e., header and footer links), and random websites?

If the answer is the latter, your backlink profile is having a health crisis, so to speak. 

That’s because the quality of your backlinks matters to search engines like Google, not just the quantity (more on the quality vs. quantity debate later). 

Some link-builders falsely assume that the number of backlinks they have matters most, which is why they don’t vet the quality of the links they acquire. 

Unfortunately, this is a mistake. Backlinks coming from low-grade websites won’t improve your ranking power, and they may actually harm it if the websites are deemed to be spam (i.e., fake websites that don’t have real content). 

In that scenario, you could land a manual penalty from Google, which will remove your content from the search results entirely. 

This means if your backlink profile is a random mess, your content won’t rank well, and you’re at high risk of getting nailed with penalties. 

Stay tuned to learn how to build high-quality backlinks that will help your SEO instead of hindering it. 

Understanding Backlinks and Their Importance for SEO 

A backlink is a link on another website that ‘points back’ to yours (which is where the name comes from). 

On search engines (especially Google), backlinks serve as ‘credibility votes’ for the quality and accuracy of your content. 

The idea is that if respected websites link to your web pages, it’s a sign that you produce high-quality content worthy of ranking high in the search results. 

For instance, if Stanford University decides to link to one of your blogs, your content must be extremely accurate, helpful, and insightful – which is why one of their backlinks carries so much weight. 

This is why backlink quality matters so much, as backlinks are essentially the equivalent of job references on a resume. 

If your website has links from major websites like educational institutions, news outlets, and respected websites in your field – your content will rank very high on Google’s results pages. 

On the flip side, if you’ve got a ton of backlinks from less-than-stellar websites that release poor content, it won’t help your SEO and may end up backfiring. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of the most common types of quality backlinks you should target:

  • Editorial backlinks come from online publications such as Forbes or The New York Times. Editorial backlinks don’t have to come from major publications, either, as there are plenty of high-quality niche publications you can target. 
  • Guest post backlinks occur when you write a guest post on another website, typically blogs in your field. Guest posts are mutually beneficial because you get to build a backlink while the site owner gets an original piece of content to post on their site. 
  • Business profile backlinks are when you provide a link to your website on business directories like Yelp and The Yellow Pages. There are also plenty of niche directories that serve the same purpose. 
  • Free-tool backlinks happen whenever another website links to a free tool housed on your site. For example, we have an entire suite of SEO tools on our website that scores of other sites link to all the time. Once again, this is a mutually beneficial process since we accrue backlinks while others get to analyze SEO metrics for free. 

What is a Backlink Profile?

Your backlink profile is a list of all the backlinks that point to your website. To search engines like Google, it’s essentially a snapshot of your website’s popularity and authority online. 

That means your backlink profile needs to be as ‘healthy’ and robust as possible to enjoy the best search rankings. 

Here’s what your backlink profile consists of:

  • Backlink quantity. Your profile contains a complete list of every link pointing to your website, so it’s crucial to know how many links you have in total. 
  • Backlink quality. This refers to the quality and relevance of the websites linking back to yours. Backlinks from high-quality websites carry much more clout than low-quality websites. Ahrefs’ Domain Rating is an accurate measure of a website’s backlink quality, but more on this in a bit. 
  • Anchor text. The clickable text in a link is called anchor text, and the anchor text you use for your backlinks matters to Google. In particular, your anchor text should A) provide context to the linked page and B) not contain too many keywords. 
  • Link diversity. This refers to the variety of referring domains you have providing backlinks to your website. A referring domain is the website providing the backlink. In general, it’s better to have a few backlinks from lots of referring domains than thousands of backlinks from the same domain. According to a study by Backlinko, the number of referring domains linking to a page correlated with higher rankings more than any other factor, which is why they’re so important. 

These are the components of a strong backlink profile, so you’ll want to pay equal attention to them all. 

Factors That Influence Your Backlink Profile

There are certain factors that determine the strength of your backlink profile. 

While quality is definitely one of them, there are several other important factors to consider, so let’s take a look at them all.  

Link quality

The quality of your links is the single most important factor for determining the strength of your backlink profile.  

Coming back to the quantity vs. quality debate, quality beats quantity 9 times out of 10 (the only time to target quantity is when a competitor has more backlinks than you, and even then you want to build average links at minimum). 

Why is that?

It’s because search engine algorithms have become sophisticated at identifying links coming from spammy websites. Whenever a link from a bogus site is detected, the algorithm will devalue its impact on your search rankings. 

This means that super low-quality backlinks are essentially meaningless and aren’t worth your time. 

If you build backlinks from spam websites that serve no purpose other than to manipulate search rankings, you could receive a manual penalty from Google, which is an SEO nightmare. 

When determining the quality of a link, the two most important factors are its relevance and authority


A backlink won’t be considered quality if it’s not relevant to your content in some way. This is because Google doesn’t want irrelevant links all over the web since they confuse users and provide a poor user experience. 

For example, imagine that you’re browsing a website that sells guitar gear. When reading a blog, you notice a hyperlink and decide to click on it. Instead of taking you somewhere related to guitar gear, you wind up on a travel website asking if you’re ready to book a trip to Paris – causing confusion and/or frustration. 

This is an example of an irrelevant link and why Google doesn’t want them populating the web. 

Backlink relevance can either be topical or contextual. Here’s a quick breakdown of the two:

  1. Topical relevance means the website linking to you covers similar topics and themes. An example would be a guitar gear site linking to a forum for guitarists. 
  2. Contextual relevance means the website isn’t normally relevant to yours, but the backlink is relevant in context. An example would be a guitar gear site linking to a news outlet. Normally, this wouldn’t make sense, but the news page in question is about guitar amps – which makes the link contextually relevant. 


Next, a high-quality backlink has to carry a certain level of authority, which refers to the ranking strength of its domain. 

There are two metrics most widely used to measure a domain’s authority, which are Moz’s Domain Authority (commonly abbreviated as DA) and Ahrefs’ Domain Rating. 

They’re both third-party metrics because Google’s official domain authority metric is kept secret from the public. For years, Google claimed that they didn’t measure domain authority, but thanks to the recent leaks, we now know this isn’t true (their metric is called siteAuthority). 

To only measure the strength of a domain’s backlink profile, use Domain Rating. 

If you want to measure the overall SEO performance/ranking power of a domain, use Domain Authority. 

Both scores are calculated on a scale of 0 – 100, with 100 being the highest score. 

Page Authority matters too: Besides the authority of a domain, each web page also has an authority level (Moz’s Page Authority measures it). For this reason, you should verify that your backlink is not only coming from an authoritative domain but also an authoritative page. It’s entirely possible to acquire a backlink from a low-authority page housed on a high-authority domain – which is why vetting each web page is also necessary. 

Authority score breakdown 

Here’s a guide for analyzing domain authority scores:

  • 60 to 100: Sky-high authority. These websites are industry leaders like Amazon, major brands like Microsoft, and top news outlets like CNN. Earning backlinks from these types of websites will skyrocket your own DA. 

These super authoritative sites are also known as ‘seed’ sites because they’re the domains Google trusts the most. In fact, the authoritativeness of most backlinks is judged by their distance to seed sites. For instance, if you get a backlink from a domain that’s 2 links away from CNN, it’ll carry more clout than a backlink that’s 10 links away. 

  • 40 to 59: Average authority. These sites are reputable and have a decent amount of backlinks. While not as impactful as higher DA sites, these kinds of backlinks are still highly beneficial. They mostly consist of niche websites and brands. 
  • 20 to 39: Low authority. These sites are newer or less established, with fewer backlinks. Links from them have a limited impact on your DA.
  • 0 to 19: Low to moderate authority. While these sites may not be industry leaders, they can still hold value. Assess the site’s content quality, relevance, and audience engagement before deciding whether to write off a backlink opportunity or not. For instance, a website in this range might be an innovative new company that’s about to take off, thus making them valuable link partners in the future.
Pro tip: You can use our free domain authority checker tool to quickly discover if a domain is worth pursuing a backlink from or not. 

Anchor text diversity 

Anchor text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink. It acts as a label for the linked page, and it should provide users with context for the web page they’re about to visit. 

While it may seem unimportant, anchor text actually provides crucial signals to search engines about the relevance of the linked page. 

In the past, SEOs would almost exclusively use target keywords as anchor text in an attempt to further boost their rankings. Google quickly caught onto this and now considers anchor text containing keywords as spam (they’re known as exact-match anchors). 

For this reason, SEOs now use partial-match anchors more often, which are a mix of keywords and other phrases. 

There are also:

  • Generic anchors (like click here or read more) 
  • Naked URLs (no anchor text at all) 
  • Branded anchors (using your brand name) 
  • Natural anchors (using regular words in the post as anchor text) 

Ideally, you should use a healthy mix of all these anchors to achieve a balanced anchor text ratio. 

Other factors influencing your backlink profile 

Besides authority, anchor text, and relevance, these factors also influence the strength of your backlink profile:

  • Link placement: Where the link appears on the referring page also matters. Links within the main content of a page are usually more valuable than those in sidebars or footers.
  • Dofollow vs. Nofollow links: Dofollow and nofollow are HTML tags that signal to search engines whether to count a backlink toward a site’s rankings or to ignore it. Dofollow links are the most powerful, but a natural mix of both is ideal.
  • Link velocity:  The rate at which you acquire new backlinks is important. A sudden spike in backlinks can raise red flags for search engines. Acquiring a ton of backlinks at once is a sign that you either A) bought backlinks or B) are engaging in another type of manipulative tactic, like using a private blog network. Steady, organic backlink growth is the way to go. (If you do buy links, parse them out over time to make them appear natural).
  • Social signals: While not direct backlinks, shares and mentions on social media can indirectly influence your link profile by increasing visibility and potentially attracting backlinks. It also shows Google that you actively promote your website, which is good for your SEO.
Summary: What does a good backlink profile look like? 

    So far, we’ve learned that:

  1. High-quality links must be relevant and authoritative. 
  2. A healthy backlink profile features backlinks from a diverse array of sources (and domains).
  3. You should do your best to avoid low-authority links due to their diminished impact on your rankings. 

What Makes a Bad Backlink Profile?

Since you’re familiar with what a good backlink profile looks like, it’s time to learn what to avoid. 

A bad backlink profile won’t do your search rankings any favors and may cause your content to get removed from the SERPs (search engine results pages) entirely. Here’s a look at the top factors to avoid when building your backlink profile. 

Links acquired through “black hat” tactics

Black-hat SEO refers to engaging in tactics that actively violate search engine guidelines. These are techniques that aim to manipulate search rankings instead of genuinely providing value to audiences. 

Here’s a peek at some of the most common black-hat link-building tactics:

  • Buying bulk packages of spammy links 
  • Using private blog networks (an interconnected series of junk websites that exist solely to link out to other websites) 
  • Using link farms (an interconnected series of junk websites that only link to one another) 

Google has become quite adept at identifying black-hat tactics, so it’s best to avoid them whenever possible. 

Linking from irrelevant sites

As stated previously, irrelevant links provide a poor user experience. This is why irrelevant links won’t help your SEO, so it’s not worth pursuing them. 

Stick to targeting backlinks from websites that hold either topical or contextual relevance to yours. 

Spammy or low-quality links

It’s crucial to remember that backlinks serve as credibility votes (or job references) for your content, and not every vote is counted equally. 

If this were a job interview, you’d want to have references from respected, professional contacts. In the SEO world, low-quality backlinks from spammy websites are the equivalent of using a job reference from an unemployed class clown. 

That’s why it’s not worth trying to build a large quantity of low-quality backlinks. 

Toxic backlinks

When does a backlink stop being low-quality and start becoming toxic?

This is a fiercely debated question among digital marketers and SEOs. 

The answer is that a backlink becomes toxic after the domain receives manual penalties from search engines for violating guidelines. Since they’ve already accrued penalties, getting links from them can damage your link profile, too. 

It’s important to disavow any toxic backlinks that cause you to receive penalties, but the process is complicated and easy to mess up. 

Your best route is to avoid toxic backlinks entirely to save yourself the hassle of putting together a disavow file. 

How to Analyze Your Backlink Profile 

Now that you know what a strong backlink profile looks like, how can you see if your profile stacks up?

Here are a few methods for analyzing/auditing your own backlink profile. 

Step 1: Use backlink analysis tools 

While it’s difficult to obtain a fully comprehensive look at your backlink profile, several tools can help you identify and collect a significant portion of data on your backlinks. Popular options include:

Key point: Keep in mind that due to the sheer scale of the web – with Google crawling millions of websites daily – these tools have limitations and may not be able to find every single backlink pointing to your website. However, they provide valuable insights into your overall link profile by helping you identify patterns, trends, and areas for improvement.

Step 2: Enter your domain

The good news is that using these tools is remarkably easy. All you have to do is enter your domain into the search bar, and you’ll be off to the races. 

Here’s an example using our free backlink checker tool. 

For this example, we entered our own domain. Here’s what comes up:

As you can see, we get a breakdown of our backlinks that includes:

  1. Our total number of backlinks and referring domains 
  2. Referring IPs 
  3. Whether each link is nofollow or dofollow
  4. Each backlink’s authority score 

Step 3: Assess the results 

Once you’ve chosen your preferred backlink analysis tool, dive into your link profile with these steps:

Mention the key metrics someone needs to look at when analyzing their backlink profile:

  • Check the total number of backlinks and referring domains. This will give you a high-level view of your website’s popularity.
  • Consult a website’s DA and DR scores. The higher this number is, the more valuable the link is. 
  • Analyze your anchor text distribution. A natural profile will have a mix of branded, generic (e.g., “click here”), and keyword-rich anchor text.
  • Root out toxic backlinks. Look for links from suspicious sources, irrelevant directories, or sites known for selling links. 
  • Compare your backlink profile with competitors. Which reputable domains are linking to your competitors but not to you? These are potential outreach targets. You can also analyze the types of content or link-building tactics your competitors are finding success with. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

How to Improve Your Backlink Profile: Proven Strategies 

If you want to build a healthy backlink profile, you need to know the most effective strategies for building high-quality backlinks. 

There’s no shortage of techniques out there, but they’re not all equally effective. 

Here’s a look at the link-building strategies we’ve found the most success with after 14+ years of working with clients. 

Create and share high-quality content

The best way to build backlinks is to create outstanding content that naturally attracts shares. This tactic is so effective because you’ll build backlinks without having to do any outreach, which is time-consuming and complicated. 

The content types that generate the most natural backlinks include:

  • Long-form blog posts. Comprehensive tutorials, how-tos, guides, and thought leadership pieces will attract links from other influencers in your field. 
  • Original research and data. Bloggers are constantly on the hunt for new research and studies to cite, so conducting surveys and studies is a surefire way to generate lots of backlinks. 
  • Visual content. Infographics and videos generate 650% more engagement than static content that contains only text. 
Pro Tip: Promote your content through social media, email marketing, and other channels to expand its reach and encourage others to link to it.

Take part in guest blogging

Guest blogging entails writing articles for other websites in your industry. While guest posting involves quite a bit of outreach, it enables you to:

  • Reach new audiences: Other websites in your field are likely to have audiences different from yours, exposing your content to new groups of prospects.
  • Build relationships: Guest posting allows you to connect with other industry leaders and influencers who may be interested in linking to your content in the future.
  • Earn backlinks: Most guest blogging opportunities allow you to include a link back to your website in your author bio or within the article itself. 
Pro tip: Once again, quality trumps quantity when guest blogging. Choose websites that are relevant to your niche and have a good reputation before hitting the keyboard to write a post. 

Use the Skyscraper Technique

Backlinko’s Brian Dean coined this technique many years ago, but it’s still just as effective as it was during its inception. 

It involves finding relevant content in your niche that’s already accrued high-quality backlinks. Next, you create something 10x better by providing updated information, adding new insights, or creating something more visually appealing/concise. 

After that, it’s outreach time. Reach out to the websites that linked to the original post and show off your much better, updated version. 

Politely ask if they’d consider linking to your piece instead. If it truly is 10x better, the site owner will likely choose to link to your content over the original. 

Embrace digital PR 

Public relations professionals have been playing the link-building game for decades now. Before the internet, PR firms sought to build brand awareness by getting their clients featured in print publications, which is similar to conducting outreach to build links. 

Digital PR involves connecting with journalists, bloggers, and influencers in your industry to build powerful backlinks through guest posting and distributing press releases. 

Connecting with a PR firm can work wonders for your online visibility, as they’ll create campaigns to generate buzz and media attention for your brand – which will lead to lots of valuable backlink opportunities. 

HARO (now a part of Connectively) is another backlink goldmine. It stands for Help-a-Reporter-Out, and it’s a platform that connects journalists with subject matter experts to feature in their stories. Signing up will gain access to HARO’s daily emails (there are 3 a day) that contain queries from journalists. 

Responding to these queries can get you featured in a story, and you can request that the journalist add a backlink to one of your web pages. The competition is intense on HARO, so try to respond to queries as soon as you receive the daily emails. 

Start Building High-Quality Backlinks Today 

To recap, backlinks are an extremely important ranking factor for search engines like Google. They serve as credibility votes for the quality of your content, which is why you need backlinks coming from trusted websites. 

You should use tools to audit your current backlink profile to ensure its health. Once that’s done, you can move on to generating high-quality backlinks through guest posting, creating outstanding content, the skyscraper method, and digital PR. 

Do you not have time to build a robust backlink profile?

Don’t wait to check out our Link Outreach services. Our experts will build high-quality backlinks for you so that you can focus on more important things. 

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