How to Qualify Link Opportunities

Article by: Matt Polsky

Identifying value-adding links is tough – especially for anyone new to the game.

However, knowing what makes a link valuable is essential if you want to succeed in this business.

I generally write so my interns and new employees have additional resources to turn to, so bear with me if you’re outside the org and this starts off basic.

Why Link Analysis Is So Important

It is absolutely necessary to understand what makes a link valuable. If you don’t get what makes certain links more valuable than others, you’ll fail in prioritization and risk wasting your time and effort while increasing the likelihood of damaging the site you’re working on.

Scary huh?

In reality, one link likely won’t harm a site, but anything excess can – it’s just important to realize the weight of what you’re doing.

Where to Begin?

I like to start simple with a common sense approach before going for the tool belt.

Yes, we can use Ahrefs, Majestic and Moz, but the best link builders can do their job without a toolbar, which is where I like to begin.

The basic common sense checks are:

  • Is the placement relevant to the niche? Relevancy is first and most important factor when searching for link opportunities. Build links as if Google didn’t exist – meaning build links that drive traffic with conversion potential.
  • Is the placement relevant to the brand? Some links can be relevant to the niche, but not to the brand. For example, most brands try to avoid sites in their niche, no matter how authoritative, that promote offensive opinions.
  • Does the site produce quality content? Quality content from the linking site is necessary. Does that site duplicate content across the web? Are works thin with no meat or unique thought? Do works lack editorial integrity? Do they feature more guest posts than they author themselves? If you get a yes on any of those, avoid it.
  • Is there an active community? Community interaction is one of the most important checks you can do. Sites that have an active community via comments or social typically fall in the more authoritative category.
  • Are outbound links followed? Sites like Forbes, Entrepreneur and Inc all nofollow their outbound links. Links with a nofollow tag don’t pass equity, which isn’t an immediate turn-off, but can seriously hamper direct value.
  • Would any link we get be in-content? I typically recommend avoiding sidebar/footer links. They don’t pass equity and have more of a negative effect than anything.
  • Do they promote a positive user experience? I generally check the number of ads above the fold, the ratio of ads to content and if the site uses the fun double underline in-text ads. Google is all about user experience and if a user is getting bombarded by ads, then they will most likely take action on that site, if they haven't already. This is easy to look for and you can almost immediately tell if there is an issue.
  • Does the site rank? Seems like a no-brainer, right? You don’t want links from a site that is penalized or doesn’t allow Google to crawl it at all. Do a quick site search ( and see what results come back.

Using common sense is step number 1.

It’s most useful while compiling targets. However, once you have your list, tools can be very helpful to determine authority and trust.

Link Evaluation Tools

There’s a handful of tools out there I use when evaluating link opportunities.

SEO companies build these tools, not Google, and use their own link indexes and algorithms to score sites.

So don’t take it as gospel, use it as a guide.

Moz Link Explorer

Moz’s Link Explorer has two primary metrics: Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA).

PA is a prediction of how well a specific page will rank, while DA is a prediction of how well an entire website will perform.

These scores range from 1-100, using a logarithmic scale. That means it’s much easier for a site’s score to go from 15 to 20 than 60 to 65.

The important thing to realize with PA/DA is that there’s no absolute score.

Use PA/DA as a comparative metric, not a cutoff point – meaning these metrics are different for every niche/group of terms.

You may find that car insurance providers have an average DA in the mid-70s while sites that sell poodle skirts average mid-20s.

Majestic Site Explorer

Like Moz, Majestic has two main metrics I look at: Citation Flow (CF) and Trust Flow (TF).

The difference, and why I like Majestic more, is that their metrics aren’t looking at a page vs domain, but equity passing vs authority passing.

With Majestic, CF is a quantitative measurement of how many equity passing links a site has. Conversely, TF looks at the quality of those placements.

With TF a site that receives links from other trusted sites receives a higher scores, while sites that get linked to from questionable or unsavory sites see much lower scores.

Because TF and CF look at quality and quantity, you can create an additional metric taking the ratio of TF/CF.

Sites that are heavy on the CF side and low on TF are often spammy sites and ones to avoid.

The best sites generally score in the 80% or higher range and are close to that 1/1 ratio; however, as long as the site isn’t dipping below 50% there isn’t a huge cause for concern.

The best thing is that when using these tools, you don’t need to keep a tab open for them, just download the plugins.

Full disclosure here, I don’t use the Mozbar all that often; seems to slow down Chrome for me, so I use the API in a Google Drive spreadsheet.

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