Link Metrics – What Makes a Good Backlink in 2019?

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1,000,000 generic forum and comment links.

Kidding.

Obviously.

But it’s one of the most important parts of SEO, and yet so many people look for the wrong things when choosing a link source.

Below are the main areas you should focus on in 2019, but before that, a word of warning:

Don’t Take a Metric in Isolation

Just because a website has a really good link pointing to it, or it has a crazy amount of traffic, doesn’t mean it’s a great link source.

You have to look holistically at a website, not taking a single good metric in isolation, to ensure you don’t miss any red flags.

Example bad website:

  • Ahrefs DR 59
  • 1,000 referring domains
  • 2,000 indexed pages
  • 3,000 external links
  • 100 in organic traffic

The lines in red highlight where it started to go down hill, this is probably not a website you want a link from.

The Metrics To Watch

Here I will outline the metrics to look for, and then below that I’ll explain how I use them to check a website.

Ahrefs Domain Rating – For Link Quality

There are a lot of link tools out there, but the DR metric from Ahrefs has been the best indicator of good links from what I’ve seen over the past few years.

The higher the better, but anything over a DR of 25 is usually a sign that is has some fairly good links to it.

To calculate this, you can take it from Ahrefs.com site explorer directly, or alternatively use the SEO Tools for Excel tool to bring it in using the connectors.

Referring Do Follow Domains – For Power Passed

Dofollow links “pass pagerank” as the old patent goes, so it’s a sign of how much power the domain actually holds to then give out to other websites.

Again this can be taken directly from Ahrefs or brought in using the SEO Tools for Excel Connector called Ahrefs.RefDomainsbyMetricType.

External Linking Domains

The number of external linking domains on the website is how much power it’s passing out to the rest of the web. This can be accessed in the Linked Domains section of Ahrefs, or alternatively you can crawl the website with Screaming Frog, export external links, and trim to domain level + remove duplicate domains in Scrapebox.

Number of Indexed Pages

This is the number of pages it has indexed in Google search. This can be done using SEO Tools for Excel, with the Google Search connector.

Monthly Organic Traffic

This is how much traffic it is receiving every month from Google. This can be taken from the Ahrefs main dashboard, or using SEMrush.

How Can We Use These Metrics?

We can use these metrics to answer the following questions:

  1. Does the domain have quality links?
  2. Does the domain generate reasonable traffic for the amount of pages it has indexed?
  3. Does the domain have a reasonable number of links for the amount of pages it has indexed?
  4. Does the domain link to other websites reasonably or excessive compared to the number of pages?
  5. How does the value of linking domains compare to the number of external links on the site?

Those questions can be expressed using the following metrics:

1. Link Quality = DR

This is a rough indicator, but it is fine to use at the start of the process. We should be looking at domains with at least a DR of 20 in most cases.

2. Traffic / Pages

The ratio of traffic to pages, can simply be calculated by taking the Traffic per month cell, and dividing it by the number of indexed pages.

The idea situation is that the site has lots of traffic for a small amount of pages, as this shows how useful Google thinks the pages of the site are. We’re looking for a value greater than 1.

3. Links / Pages

This can be created by dividing the number of links by the number of indexed pages. We want to have as many links as possible going to a small amount of pages to maximise the potential power on the site. Look for a value greater than 0.5.

4. Pages / External Links

This shows us the amount of external links per indexed page, calculated by dividing the number of indexed pages by the number of external referring domains.

We don’t want the site to have too may external links, as this could be an indicator of a link scheme, so we’re looking for a value of 1 or greater ideally.

5. Linking Domains / External Links

This gives us a ratio of inbound vs outbound links, calculated by dividing the linking domains by the number of external links.

Here we’re looking for more inbound links than external, and so a value of at least 1 or greater is preferred.

What Makes A Good Metric?

Some of the above metrics will be wildly different from niche to niche, and will often depend on the type of site you are looking at.

If it’s a news site for example, then it will probably have a massively disproportionate amount of indexed pages to the number of referring domains it has. This is because they churn out so much content on a daily basis.

EG bbc.co.uk

Referring Domains: 1.1 Million

Indexed pages: 11.9 Million

Domains / Pages: 0.093277311

However it will have a good value for traffic per page, because it’s such an authority.

At the end of the day these are metrics to make informed decisions from, based on what you know about the domain as a whole, and should be used to give you more information to make your decision from.

Page Level and Domain Level Relevancy – Nice to Have

The page you are getting a link from should almost always be in the broad niche of your target page, and in an ideal situation be specifically on the topic of your linking page.

If you can get links from niche relevant domains then they are always preferred. They are more likely to offer longevity of value, and should pass domain relevancy signals to your website. You can also be slightly more relaxed with metric requirements for niche relevant domains.

Tier 2 – Links to Links

The final metric worth mentioning is the links pointing to your linking pages.

If someone publishes an article that mentions and links to your brand, but that page received no links, social shares, or traffic, would that article count as much as one that received those things?

You should aim to promote content where you’re linked from in as many places as possible, in order to generate clicks, social shares, and inbound links from other websites.

This will in turn make your links more powerful.

Conclusions and Questions

These metrics should improve the way you look at potential link targets, and stand you in good stead for the coming years.

How do you measure your links for value? Let me know in the comments.

If you have any questions about link building, comment or email me at [email protected]

Matt Jackson

Digital marketer, specialising in e-commerce SEO, including audits and strategy. Director of JP Digital Enterprises.

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