By Andrew Dennis
26 Jun 2014

5 Questions to Ensure Link Quality Before Building a Link

Link Building     SEO Strategy

Ensuring Link Quality

Building links ain’t easy.

At least, building good links that make sense and actually have a positive influence on your company and website ain’t easy.

Anyone can build links just for the sake of building links – but it takes hard work and no shortage of link building gumption to build the links you actually want.

Even Matt Cutts acknowledges the difficulty of building truly valuable links:

“It’s certainly possible to do white hat link building. Usually, it’s called being excellent. Right…take Search Engine Land, you broke off from your old site, you started fresh. And yet, now…Search Engine Land is known as one of the most authoritative places to go on the web. You didn’t cheat, you didn’t take shortcuts – you went right up the middle and you earned it, with sweat. That’s the best way to do white-hat link building in my experience – sweat, plus creativity helps a lot.” – Matt Cutts

A big reason that link building is so hard is that determining the value of any given link can be quite difficult. To simplify things and make the process of link evaluation a little easier, here are five questions you should ask yourself to ensure link quality before building a link.

1. Is this link relevant?

The first question you need to ask yourself to ensure link quality is whether or not the link you are about to build is relevant.

Relevancy in link building is typically pretty cut and dry – you should know it when you see it. If you are going to build a link on a site/page, you should be able to easily describe how that site/page is relevant to your business/website.

In terms of link building, relevancy needs to be considered in a few different ways:

  • Domain to domain
  • Domain to page
  • Page to page
  • Link to page

First off, you need to consider domain to domain relevancy. The focus of the site you are building a link on should be directly (or at least closely) related to the focus of your own site. Although, domain to domain relevance can be loose at times as long as other relevancy factors line up.

Another aspect of relevancy you should think about is domain to page. Relevancy here needs to be a bit tighter as your domain needs to be at the very least somewhat relevant to the linking page’s content.

Page to page relevancy should at least be as close as domain to page relevancy. If the link points to a homepage, the relevance should be similar to domain relevance (as a homepage is a representation of the domain) and if you are deeplinking to a specific page, it should be even more relevant than the homepage.

Link to page relevancy, or the contextual relevancy of the link to the page it is on, is the most important aspect in terms of relevancy. There is no point in ever building a link that doesn’t make sense within the context of the page it’s on.

One of the main reasons you should be concerned with relevancy is that it’s important to Google. Backlink relevancy is important to Google because it helps them return better search results. Also, if you have a number of irrelevant links in your backlink profile, Google could see this as a sign of manipulation and potentially levy a penalty.

In order to build real links that Google wants to value, you need to build relevant links. Real links are an editorial vote, and a vote of confidence that come from another human being. A real person working on a useful site isn’t going to create an irrelevant link.

However, regardless of Google, the relevancy of your links should always be a primary consideration. Sites that are relevant to your company/site are places where you want your business to show up (i.e. have a link on) – these are the sites that your buyer personas are visiting. Link building can often be utilized as a form of promotion, and this only reinforces the importance of relevancy.

2. Is this link useful?

The second question you should ask yourself to certify link quality is whether or not the link will be useful to readers/users.

Along with relevancy, Google is also pretty big on improving user experience. If the link you are building will help the reader/user and make their overall experience better – chances are Google wouldn’t be inclined to penalize that type of link.

When considering whether or not a link will be useful to a user there are a few different aspect to think about. Here some examples of how a link would be useful:

  • Reference links – links that point to further information, expand upon a topic, or provide more depth
  • Citation links – links intended to cite a source of information, explain where information comes from, or provide due credit
  • Trusted links – links that are used to demonstrate trust, a partnership, or generally show support
  • Navigational links – links that are intended to help users better navigate a page, a website, or the internet in general
  • Promotional links - links that promote an event, group, or organization that would be of interest to users

The bottom line when it comes to determining if a link would be beneficial to users or not is – would people actually want to click on this link? If someone were to click on your link and arrive at your page – would they be pleased they did? If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then the link would indeed be useful.

3. Does this link provide SEO value?

Another question you should ask yourself when determining link quality is if the link will provide you with SEO value.

Although it may seem obvious, it is necessary to ask this question with every link you build. While SEO implications may not always be your primary concern in link building, they should still be a consideration nonetheless.

Depending on the specific goals of your link building campaign, there are a few different factors to consider:

  • Will this link contribute to improved visibility (rankings)
  • Will this link drive referral traffic
  • Will this link contribute to a diversified link portfolio

Accounting for how a link will affect your SEO seems obvious, but it can be easy to lose sight of where each individual link fits in with your overall project. To ensure the quality of a link, you must consider how it will contribute to the overarching SEO goals of your campaign.

4. Does this link provide marketing value, outside of SEO?

Along with asking yourself what kind of SEO value the link will provide, you also need to contemplate the marketing value it will provide outside of SEO.

Link building can help improve rankings within search results, but it can also offer benefits beyond SEO.

There are also some major branding opportunities within link building. Increasing brand awareness should always be a goal with any marketing strategy you employ – and this goes for link building as well. By building links around the web, not only will it increase visibility (brand awareness) within search, but it can also get your brand/website in front of new audiences via a link.

Along with increasing brand awareness, link building can also help grow brand authority. After all, consistently showing up in the top results for queries related to your business is really the highest display of authority you can exhibit online.

When trying to ensure the value of a link, take time to also consider how it will help meet marketing goals outside of SEO metrics.

5. Would you be proud of this link?

Finally, the last question you should ask yourself to ensure link quality is if you would be proud of the link you are about to build.

Is this a link you would proudly show Google and other search engines without fear of penalty? Typically, if you built the link through shady tactics or tricks that you aren’t proud of, you are building a link that could potentially get you penalized.

On the other hand, if you would be proud to show this link to anyone and everyone because you used the aforementioned “sweat, plus creativity” (from Matt Cutts’ quote) – this is likely a quality link that will help your business in numerous ways (many of which are listed in this article).

This is a question you should ask yourself with every link, because you shouldn’t ever build a link you’re not proud of.


Determining the value of any given link can seem difficult and sometimes convoluted. However, by asking yourself five basic questions you can simplify the process of link evaluation and ensure link quality before you build a link. To recap, here those five questions:

  1. Is this link relevant?
  2. Is this link useful to users?
  3. Does this link provide SEO value?
  4. Does this link provide marketing value, outside of SEO?
  5. Would you be proud of this link?
Andrew Dennis

Andrew Dennis is a Content Marketing Manager at Shopify. Andrew is an alumnus of the University of Idaho and consequently a lifelong Vandals fan. You can connect with Andrew on Twitter or LinkedIn.