Links are still the number one ranking factor Google’s algorithm uses to determine the SERP results. If you want to rank higher you have to build links. It’s been this way since day one and it’s not going to change — at least not anytime soon.
While the fact that links are the number one signal hasn’t changed, the art of link building has. It’s all about strategically acquiring authoritative links. Quality over quantity, so to speak.
The majority of people that try to build links give up before they gain traction and experience results. Why? Because it’s not easy and it takes time. Today, people want results immediately — and with no work involved.
This is also what leads people to try to take shortcuts, and they end up falling for low-quality backlink building services. Private networks of sites with no traffic. Spammed blogs with an article talking about divorce lawyers between blogs about viagra and CBD oil.
This is why I put this link building guide together. This is packed full of information and it is not a teaser or just a taste. Anyone that is armed with this information can secure high-quality authoritative links, and many at no cost aside from the work element.
This is meant to help especially service-based businesses and others. There is so much value and advantage to understanding Search Engine Optimization (SEO), even if you start off building links on your own or in-house and then having the financial means as your business grows to outsource the link building to a reputable agency like Preferred Marketers.
My goal with this comprehensive guide is to create a free resource packed with insane value that would significantly benefit businesses that take action, and I believe this accomplishes that perfectly. Now jump right in and enjoy.
Chapter 1: Build Your Website Foundation BEFORE You Build Links
Design to Reach Your Conversion Goals
Here I’m not just talking about the design, although an attractive layout and visually stimulating design are important. I’m talking specifically about having a website optimized to help you reach all of your conversion goals.
High keyword rankings and traffic volume are great, but it’s worthless if you aren’t converting your website visitors. Most SEO agencies will rely only on ranking reports and Google Analytics data to convince the client they are worth paying each month.
But all of that money spent on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and links is being thrown away because the website they are ranking and sending traffic to isn’t designed properly from a conversion standpoint. It doesn’t matter if you are a major e-commerce brand with 100s of consumer products, a local plumbing company servicing a small community, or an accounting firm. The goal of every website on the planet is to convert traffic.
This is either in the form of a lead, a direct sale, an email address capture, a phone call, an in-person location visit, getting directions, etc. You need to first clearly identify all of your conversion goals and then make sure that your website is fully optimized to help you reach those goals.
The higher the percentage of your traffic that converts, the more effective your SEO will be and the larger of an ROI it will be directly responsible for. Spend time and break down every component of your website, from the copy to the offers. Look at your data and see what path your visitors take on your website.
This is the best way to identify potential roadblocks and problems. Building links and sending traffic to a website that isn’t 100% optimized for conversions is like trying to build a new house in swampland without a foundation. It doesn’t matter how much effort, money, and resources you throw at it — it’s never going to be stable and work.
A website that converts at a high rate is the solid foundation you need before you start investing time and money on SEO. I’m not saying you need to go hire a web design agency and drop R100,000 on a new design. You can use good affordable templates and make minor changes.
Optimized for Speed and Load Time
This is another thing a large percentage of websites completely ignore, and that is the speed and load time of each page. There are two major reasons why you need to make sure that your website speed is optimized, and when I say this I mean every page and not just the homepage.
Google’s Algorithm Uses Speed as a Ranking Signal: Since Google’s main goal is to provide its users with the best possible results it should come as no surprise that speed is a ranking signal. Not only do they want to return the best results from an informational standpoint, but also a UX (user experience) one as well. While many speculate that it might only contribute to 1% of the algorithm, it’s something that you can easily do. If not, laziness is to blame.
Visitors Demand Fast-Loading Websites: Google’s algorithm considers speed because users demand a website loads fast. They aren’t going to wait around for a site to load. If there is a lag or they feel it’s slow they will leave. It’s that simple. How fast should your site load? As fast as possible.
Many clients will tell me that their website speed is perfect, and after a quick look the homepage does indeed load quickly, but their blog pages and inner pages are slow as a pig, which has a negative impact on their rankings.
Most homepages are fairly light on the content and resources. We will often notice that the inner pages, and more specifically the blog pages, are using more resources, server calls, and scripts because of plugins images, ads and etc. Take the time to ensure that every single page is fast and optimized.
It may take some time to get this done if your website is large, but once you have it under control it’s easy to maintain. Simply ensure each new post or page on your site passes the major testing tools. I suggest using the Ubersuggest Site Audit tool for testing your website and pages speed.
Some sites can also benefit from using a CDN (content delivery network). With these, you get what you pay for. In my experience, the free ones are more trouble than they are worth. If you have a large website that is generating revenue, invest in a quality CDN and watch your speed improve. Some plugins can automatically handle the conversion for you. The load time improvement is incredible.
Tracking and Analytics to Measure, Analyze, and Optimize Results
Building links and going all-in on SEO without a plan to measure, analyze, and optimize results is like going to a gunfight with a knife. You might make a little progress at first and even stay alive for a bit, but you will eventually get squashed, and fairly quickly.
Here are some things to implement on your website from the very beginning. Having this set up before building links and working on rankings will help you achieve your desired results easier.
Google Analytics: This is standard, and there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t have this installed. Things like how many people are visiting your website, how much time they are spending, what pages they are visiting from where, and etc.
Ubersuggest: Track target SEO keywords and their position on Google and audit the entire site to look for issues and potential areas for improvements.
Google Search Console: This is a big one. There is so much data available for free that many miss out on because they don’t want to connect their website. Learn more about Google Search Console below.
Google Search Console for Performance, Crawling and Indexing
Many website owners avoid Google Search Console for two reasons:
- They are overwhelmed by it
- They think connecting to a Google service is risky
First, Google’s Search Console isn’t as confusing as it may appear. It’s quite simple to get your website connected. Second, Google isn’t spying on your website. They don’t need you to be connected to Google Search Console to sniff out blackhat links. Their AI has advanced so much — if they want to penalize your rankings they have ways to do so without you being connected to or using any Google products or services.
If you are a beginner this resource is a great first step to learn what Google Search Console is and how to get started using it. Once you have Google Search Console installed this resource provides a great overview of common uses and how you should monitor it on a weekly and monthly basis. Finally, you are going to want to make sure you have your sitemaps submitted with both your pages and posts (if you are running WordPress). If you are running WordPress, the Rank Math SEO plugin will create your sitemaps for you.
Every platform has a different way to create a sitemap, although a majority will follow this format:
A simple Google search along the lines of “Shopify + sitemap” (just replace Shopify with your platform) will turn up details on how to build it or locate it.
If you have an old website with a lot of content you will want to submit your sitemaps so Google can learn your website’s structure and begin to crawl your page. This is how it discovers what your pages are about (by reading the titles, headings, content, etc.) and determines when and where it appears in its organic search results.
You can also help move this process along faster by submitting each URL for indexing, which I will touch on below. You will also want to do this each time you publish a new page or post.
How and When to Submit URLs [New and Recrawl]
When you log in to Google Search Console you will see a search bar at the very top with this inside it:
● Inspect any URL in “yourdomain.com”
When you enter in a URL from your website it will retrieve data from Google’s index and let you know whether or not the URL is on Google and able to be found via search, as well as if it passes the mobile usability test. You can also see when the URL was last crawled.
There are two instances when you should submit your URLs through Google Search Console.
After Publishing a New Page or Post
Anytime you publish a new main page or a blog post on your website you should head over to Google Search Console and submit the URL. It’s going to say that it’s not found:
You will want to then click the “REQUEST INDEXING” option, which will tell Google that it needs to crawl the URL. The sooner this happens, the sooner your new content will be indexed and discoverable.
It’s possible that your page will get indexed without doing this, but you might wait weeks or even months, especially if it’s a new website. Massive websites like Forbes have their content indexed within minutes of being published because Google is constantly crawling it and the search engine knows what websites publish large amounts of content.
Some of these media sites publish thousands of web pages daily, so the spiders are constantly monitoring these sitemaps to instantly crawl and index fresh content for their users to find.
Once you are all caught up and all of your web pages are indexed it’s very easy to stay on top of this, even if you are publishing new content daily. Once a new post is live run the URL through Google’s Search Console and help it get indexed quickly.
After Adding or Updating Content
If you enhance or add to older content, updating it and making it fresh, you will also want to request that Google crawls the content again. Many websites often go back and update content to make it fresh.
This is very common, especially with blogs that have click-bait titles like, “Best X of 2022” or other topics relevant to the current month or year. When you update the title, meta description, and page content, you are going to want Google to recrawl it as quickly as possible so your changes are picked up by Google’s search algorithm.
Sometimes a website will go back and add to older content that was created years ago to make it more appealing, turning previously thin content into long-form posts optimized for search. Again, it just takes a few seconds to request Google crawls the URL again.
How to Identify New Keywords You Can Optimize and Rank Higher For
If you click on the “Performance” tab within Google Search Console it will show you all of the search terms that are causing your website to appear in the organic results.
If you click on the “Impressions” column you can sort these results based on the number of impressions they receive. Here is an example:
This is a keyword that has received 4,930 impressions and just 1 click. Why? Because on average the website was shown in position #57. Imagine if it was ranking on page one? Not only would the impressions increase, but so would the clicks.
This is the best way to find new keywords to target. Sometimes pages will rank for certain valuable terms without you even trying, and when you are able to find a nice starting point like this you can quickly push those keywords to the top with minimal link building.
You can also then plug in the keyword into Ubersuggest and look to see what pages are ranking on top, take that information, and further enhance and strengthen your page.
When you are starting with a page that is already receiving some organic love from Google without any optimization, it makes moving it up higher in the SERPs much easier.
Adding more content and getting a handful of quality links will typically move the needle considerably.
I see so many people relying on data from third-party tools and they use that to determine what keywords to optimize for, but fail to realize that all of that data is an educated guess. The data from Search Console is direct from Google — the search engine you are trying to rank on.
Don’t you think optimizing for keywords that Google is saying you are already receiving organic impressions is a smart play? This isn’t third-party data that “might” be accurate. It’s direct from Google, saying, “Hey, if you want to get more traffic here are some keywords you will be able to rank for quite easily and with little effort and expense.”
Map Out Your Link Building & Content Strategy Using Search Console Data
This is a brand new website a client launched with a couple of dozen long-form blog posts:
Without doing any link building, this new blog published content for about 3.5 months, and over that time they received 111,000 impressions in the search results, with the average position being around the 45 spots — the middle of page five.
Using this data we can now map out their entire link building and content strategy. Sorting your data via total impressions will show you:
- What pages to build links for in order to move up in the results, attracting more impressions and clicks
- Knowing what terms to explore further in terms of long-tail and alternate variations
This truly couldn’t be easier. There are many keyword tools and the data they spit out is estimated. When you look at your Google Search Console data you know it’s 100% accurate.
If it tells you that a keyword received 6,000 impressions and 20 clicks, that is exactly what happened. Google is pulling back the curtain to tell you exactly what happened. There is no guessing.
This is the only source of 100% accurate SEO-related data that you can get, and guess what? It’s free. It’s not $99 or $129 a month. It’s free. And it’s the most helpful data available to you.
Prioritize Google Search Console data over everything — and watch your results improve.
Chapter 2: Interlinking
“I don’t know how to do link outreach and I don’t have money to buy links. So how can I build links?”
This is a question I have heard multiple times over the years and I always ask the person if they have WordPress admin access (or access to whichever platform their website is built on), and when they tell me they do I tell them that they can start building links right now.
Link building on your own website is something so easy to do that it’s almost always overlooked. Do you have service pages? Product pages? Category pages? There are endless ways to interlink pages within your own site and use fairly aggressive anchor text in doing so, while not appearing to be overly spammy.
That said, the simplest strategy for interlinking pages and posts within your own website is with your blog posts.
Furthermore, publishing content regularly on your blog is the smartest SEO strategy you can invest your time and money into. It not only helps you with interlinking but also attracts organic traffic and backlinks over time.
Take this approach from day one, and as you are creating content interlink with other relevant content on your website. If you already have blog content, audit it, go through it all looking for opportunities to link within your own website.
This is great for your SEO and as you build your website’s authority over time it helps to evenly distribute that authority throughout. This helps raise all of your pages and posts in Google’s organic search results.
Once you fully understand the power of interlinking you can then start to get very creative with ways to create very powerful and authoritative resources on your website that you can then leverage to push up other pages and posts on your site in the SERPs.
One of the best examples of this I have seen in a while is Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest tool. It’s quickly become one of the most popular keyword research tools and SEO strategy tools out there. There is a free version so it’s something that everyone can use to some degree.
He acquired the tool and placed it on his own website’s domain, redirecting the previous ubersuggest.com domain as well. Why? Because he knew he could leverage it and drastically increase his authority with it. It currently sits on https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/ and as of this writing the DA is 88 and the PA is 67, with just under 172,000 inbound links.
Read that again. Just under 172,000 inbound links. To that one URL. That is amazing. There are a few pages on his site that receive a massive benefit from this: the blog, as well as his consulting and training pages.
Now, acquiring Ubersuggest cost Neil Patel $120,000 so it was a hefty investment that not every business is capable of dropping, and understandably so. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t create something as equally epic. That tool fits perfectly with his audience. The trick is to do the same.
You can also create an interactive resource on your website. For example, TaxTim.com has a tax calculator:
This is something that organically also attracts links from other websites passively. It’s a resource that is very helpful and is put together very nicely.
Think about what your audience is going to see as something of value. Not necessarily your visitors specifically, but rather your broader audience. Remember, this is a link-building tool to increase the authority of your site. If you can come up with a resource that acts as a link-building magnet as well as a lead generation magnet, that is even better.
Link Out to Authority Sites and Resources
Every page on your website should link out to a website reference point that has authority in the eyes of Google. This could be a Wikipedia page, a news article from a major media outlet, or a case study.
Again, it will depend on your website. A local dentist might link out to resources on SADA’s website. A law firm might link to an article from the attorneys.co.za website. Here is an example from a law firm blog article:
They linked out to Kelley Blue Book Values, which is the top authority when it comes to car values in the United States. Do they have to link to that resource in order for their article to make sense? No, of course not. The potential law firm client could read that article without the link, but linking out to other websites is part of a healthy SEO strategy.
I talk to many website owners that don’t link out because they fear passing link juice to other websites. I can promise you that not linking out and only interlinking will raise a red flag. It’s not natural.
Remember, it’s important to make your link profile, both inbound and outbound, as natural-looking as possible. If someone had a website and was blogging without having any SEO knowledge would they link out to other articles and resources? Yes, they would. It’s a natural thing to do.
If you are really worried about losing a little link juice look at the biggest websites in the world. They link out to several resources in every article, across thousands of articles. If anything, not linking out will actually hurt you.
Referencing authority sites that Google already trusts is a great way to get them to associate your website in the same category. While not instant, over time it’s going to help if you not only acquire links from authority sites but also link out to them from your content.
One thing I will advise you against is linking to other websites that you are competing with, as I have seen some clients link to competitors and even affiliate sites in some instances that were selling their products or services.
Use common sense here. In the example above, the law firm article links to Kelly Blue Book, an automotive pricing resource. They aren’t competing with them for their target keyword or for any keyword for that matter.
It’s an authority website that was highly relevant to that particular article. Don’t misinterpret authority sites with niche-relevant websites. Make sure the article or resource you are linking to is relevant to the particular page you are linking from. That’s what is important. Passing a little authority to the Kelly Blue Book site isn’t harming that law firm, but if they were linking to an automotive article on a competing law firm’s blog it would be a different story.
Chapter 3: Low Hanging Fruit
Directory Link Building
I’m going to say something that may leave people scratching their heads. Directory links, even what most would consider “low quality” can help your SEO. Why? Because a website isn’t going to naturally have a squeaky clean link profile, filled up with only authority links. It just doesn’t happen that way. It is not NATURAL.
Also, in order to succeed with SEO, you sometimes need to think like a regular person, and not an SEO or someone that understands search engine optimization.
If someone owns a business and joins a forum or group that allows them to put a link in their profile they are going to do it. They are also going to do it without checking the Domain Authority, whether or not the link is do-follow or not, or what the Spam Score is on the domain. Why not? Because the normal person doesn’t think like that.
If they see a field to enter a website they are going to do it, in hopes that someone sees it, and clicks on it. That is why natural link profiles have these types of links in them. If Bob owns an auto parts website and joins a baseball forum they are going to put their website link in their bio naturally, without thinking about SEO.
Social Media Profiles
Make a list of all the social media platforms you will eventually use, create a company profile and link your website.
Client, Vendor and Non-Profit Partner Links
This type of link building can score you very good links — ones you cannot even buy, but it requires a little relationship building and effort. If you are lazy, skip over this, but if you are creative and willing to put in a little effort this is a great way to add links to your profile that your competitors can’t duplicate simply by opening up their wallet.
The first step is to identify any and every possible client, supplier and/or vendor, service provider, etc. that your business works with. This can be anything from a manufacturer, a company that provides shipping supplies to your business, the company you buy cleaning supplies from, or the marketing agency you pay to do your PPC or SEO.
A local restaurant will have a local produce supplier, a beverage distributor they buy from. A mom and pop retail store will have several companies they buy from.
If you are stuck on this the easiest way to figure out everyone you do business with is to open your bank statement online and audit the past three months. Who did you pay? Who paid you? Make a list and then go to each website and determine whether or not pursuing a link is worth the time and effort.
You will want to note the following:
- The overall estimated traffic of the website
- The overall authority of the website
- Whether or not there is an opportunity for a link placement (ex: do they have a testimonial section, do they link out to other websites, a guest blogging opportunity)
- Do they assign the no-follow tag to outbound links (because this strategy takes effort I’d only suggest doing this for do-follow link placement opportunities)
If a potential target passes the first test add it to your prospecting list. Once you go through all of your possible opportunities and have your final list of targets you need to put yourself in their shoes to determine what kind of pitch they are going to be most responsive to.
A lot of how you approach this is going to have to do with your relationship with the company and their size.
For example, we helped a local restaurant secure links from a half dozen vendors in a matter of days simply by asking. They were very small companies and the restaurant owner knew the people in charge at these vendors on a first-name basis.
All it took was a simple ask: “Hey, if I wrote a testimonial for you to put on your website would you link back to our restaurant? It would help us greatly!”
They agreed, we wrote up very nice testimonials that were live within a week and this client received a half dozen do-follow links that ranged from DA 22 to DA 58. Not bad at all. Again, that personal connection was already established so the “ask” could be very direct and to the point.
If you have strong personal relationships with owners, managers, reps, etc. your ask and approach can be direct. It saves time and gets results.
If you don’t have contacts you will have to find the right person at the company. LinkedIn could be great for this. Look for their content marketing person or business relationship director. Heck, I’ve even had success contacting the CEO directly many times.
When you email these people you need to make them feel like your testimonial or review will help them convert more traffic on their website. You want to keep the email short and direct to the point while making it impossible for them not to reply.
Score High Authority Podcast Links Without Starting a Podcast
Podcasts are a great way to build an audience and awareness for your business, but most people don’t have the time to record and produce a podcast. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the link building opportunities that come with having a podcast. You will want to set up an account with Anchor.FM, a top podcast platform and distribution network. It’s free. It’s easy.
You will want to come up with a podcast title that is relevant to your niche. Also, make sure the name isn’t being used already. Just search iTunes or Spotify first. Once you have a great name you will want to write a podcast description.
Make this as believable as possible. A nice paragraph explaining what you will be talking about is sufficient. Then you will need to come up with your podcast cover art. Make this in a free tool like Canva. Select the best category for your podcast and include your website URL.
In order for Anchor to distribute your podcast, you need to have a trailer uploaded. Don’t worry, this is simple. The easiest way to do this is to download the Anchor app on your phone and login and record your trailer. The instructions are simple. Once you have that done you can submit it for distribution and you can monitor what networks pick it up.
In your Anchor dashboard, you will see your distribution results, and you can also access your RSS feed, which you can then submit to other channels and players if you want.
Let’s look at the links you can easily score via this distribution channel without doing anything:
- https://anchor.fm/ DA 80
- https://www.pocketcasts.com/ DA 68
- https://www.stitcher.com/ DA 84
- https://tunein.com/ DA 89
- https://castro.fm/ DA 47
- https://player.fm/ DA 86
Those are just without trying. Then you can also submit your podcast RSS feed to other players and distribution channels, as well as podcast directories.
For the amount of effort it takes to get this set up, the return in terms of link value is massive.
Chapter 4: How to Identify “Good” Links for Maximum SEO Gains
Understanding What Makes a Link Relevant & Desirable
There are many things to consider when evaluating relevance. Many people will just look at some vanity third-party metrics and declare a link relevant, but it doesn’t work that way. If I was building links for a local pizza restaurant I’d rather three links from popular food review blogs than a single link from Forbes.
First, the three food review blogs are more relevant, as they relate to food, and second, the chances of those links being do-follow are much greater. A local pizza restaurant has no business being mentioned, let alone linked to by Forbes unless they did something extraordinary that warranted large-scale national media attention.
Also, Google has devalued links from large media sites because of how easily they are acquired (as long as you have deep pockets), so again, the relevancy of a link comes into play now more than ever. Here are some of the things to look at in order to determine if a link opportunity is relevant beyond just the niche of the website. These factors contribute to their desirability.
Anchor Text: Some link opportunities will provide a more lenient opportunity when it comes to anchor text. What is your goal? Are you looking for brand name anchors? Very specific keyword anchors? Generic “here” or “more info” anchor text?
If your goal is just to increase your website’s authority then anchor text is irrelevant, but if you are targeting specific inner pages and want exact-match anchors to push your SEO to the limit, then your options are going to be much more limited.
Referral Traffic: Many people don’t consider referral traffic as a benefit of SEO, and those that think this way miss out. Again, I’m going to reference Forbes and use a local pizza restaurant as an example. If they land a link on Forbes the odds of someone local to them seeing it, clicking on it, and then going in to order a pizza is slim to none.
But, if they scored a handful of links from local media outlets (local news stations, local food blogs, etc.) they not only get the link value but if those links are contextual in real content, local traffic will see it and possibly click-through, some of which could possibly turn into customers, making those links much more desirable.
As you can see, more factors need to be looked at and evaluated than just “DA” and third-party metrics — a topic I’m about to dive into next.
The TRUTH About Moz’s Domain Authority (DA)
The way SEO specialists talk about Moz’s Domain Authority (DA) metric you would think that it replaced Google’s PR (Page Rank) metric. Well, it did in terms of how it is referenced, but honestly, it has nothing to do with PR, let alone Google for that matter.
DA is a magical third-party metric that has zero influence on Google, the search results, or anything at all. It’s essentially a bullshit number designed to get more people to use Moz’s paid SaaS toolset.
It’s best used as an initial gauge, but beyond that, you need to let common sense take over and do a bit of peaking around. I mentioned several things to look at above in the previous section. Following those tips will prevent you from being blinded by shiny object syndrome.
Many people see “DA 80” and immediately think they are acquiring a great link that will benefit their SEO when in reality it got that Domain Authority rating with a bunch of expired redirects, making the link worthless.
DA is very easy to manipulate and inflate. I could buy some expired domains, throw up some blogs, and build a “DA 60+ network” of blogs using nothing but Fiverr gigs. Don’t believe me? Go to Fiverr.com and search “increase da” and look at what pops up. There are a countless number of gigs promising to increase a website’s DA — and very quickly. Take a look and see for yourself:
There are two types of people that will buy these gigs and put their websites into the hands of these clowns:
Naive Noobs: Sadly many noobs will fall for this, and I can honestly see why. I have personally contacted several of these sellers and they all claim to do “white hat Google safe techniques” which is complete bullshit.
Then they continue to press until you bite or tell them to piss off. I’ll let you guess what I did. Anyway, they use automation to build spammy links. This enables them to provide a report, which they claim is responsible for the increase. But, what they really do is point a bunch of expired domains at your site. This boots the DA, and the customer is happy…until it drops.
They remove the redirects and point them at the next victim. They rinse and repeat until their account gets shut down. Then they just flip it to a new one. These scumbags are crooks, often operating dozens of gigs under different names.
From what I have seen, if you fall victim to this you can recover, but it takes a disavow report and being very proactive. They burn a lot of unsuspecting noobs this way. It’s a shame that Fiverr allows pure crap.
PBN Owners: Then we have those that run networks. They know the DA will eventually drop when the redirects are removed, so they continue to buy these gigs to maintain their inflated numbers. They don’t care about burning a site into the ground. If that happens they move the blog and its full content to another domain.
I’ve been in the SEO game for a decent amount of time now and I’ve seen it all, including “news” websites that move to new domains on the regular. I’ve fallen down some rabbit holes while doing research and the level of redirects and layers you can uncover for some of these network sites is insane.
So, is Moz’s DA a trusted metric? When used correctly, it can help. But, to make decisions based on it without doing some digging is reckless.
Ahrefs Domain Rank + Majestic Trust Flow & Citation Flow Explained
Just like Moz, Ahrefs is a third-party company that makes its money by selling subscriptions to its SaaS product. Again, zero influence on Google’s results. It’s speculation and guessing, but a lot of people tend to prefer Ahrefs Domain Rank (DR) over Moz’s Domain Authority (DA).
The data seems a little more in-depth, and you can also use TF (Trust Flow) and CF (Citation Flow) to determine how good a domain is. But, just like with DA, all of Ahrefs metrics can be easily gamed as well through Fiverr gigs.
A quick search of “increase dr” will return an endless amount of gigs to inflate Domain Rank (DR):
When you look at these gigs and you see how many reviews there are you get a sense of two things:
- A lot of people use these services, making it very important that you know what to look for underneath the numbers to determine whether or not a domain is worth it in terms of link value.
- Many people are clueless about SEO. Just read the comments. “Wow, amazing. Thanks. My DR and DA are now so high!” These people are looking just at the number a third-party is kicking back — not at the actual SEO performance of the gigs. It’s very sad.
You can search for “increase tf” as well and be presented with gigs that promise fast boosting of that metric as well:
One great feature of Ahrefs backlink checking tool is its Referring Domains data. Here is an example of Frobes.com:
They have almost 1.1 Million referring domains linking to them. That is both massive and what you call a natural link profile. Are some low quality? Of course. Are some the best links in the world? Yes. It’s a mix, and it’s what Google loves.
Now, here is a report from a blog I know is part of a network:
As you see, the DR (Domain Rating) is very high — 75. Also, they have 228,000 links. Looks great, right? Wrong. They only have 464 referring domains. This website is pure spam and its metrics are inflated. It’s a worthless link. But they sell guest posts for $500 and they sell a lot of them.
They publish more than a dozen posts a day, all of which are paid. So this pile of steamy sh#t blog is making $6,000 a day selling sponsored posts on a “high DA site” with do-follow links, but the posts aren’t worth more than a $5 Fiverr gig.
So, just because some SEO specialists prefer Ahrefs metrics over Moz that doesn’t mean they cannot be gamed and inflated as well. You’re going to be falsely misled if you rely just on the number alone. You have to be willing to dive into the domain and take a look behind the curtain to see what is really going on.
It can seem to be a pain at first, but once you know what to look for you will quickly differentiate between winners and losers with very little effort.
No-Follow vs. Do-Follow
The no-follow vs. do-follow debate has been going on forever, and while do-follow links are more desirable as they pass authority and “juice,” you cannot simply ignore no-follow links. Google constantly adapts and some of the most powerful links are no-follow. An example is Wikipedia (they follow internal links but any link to an external website received the no-follow attribute).
When link prospecting the easiest way to see if certain links are do-follow or no-follow is to install the Moz toolbar. It’s a free Chrome browser extension that can be installed here. Sign up for a free Moz account and you can easily see the metrics of any website you are browsing and also quickly highlight all no-follow or do-follow links. Here is an example of the tool being used in a NY Post article. As you can see the contextual link within the content is do-follow:
With most of the website links that are considered “highly desirable” these days being no-follow, it’s kind of changed the approach. Google definitely values them, but from an SEO standpoint you need to consider the following:
- You need a diverse natural link profile. Having 99% do-follow links just isn’t believable, under any circumstance. Links from social media profiles, most business directories, blog comments, forum links, etc. are all no-follow, and they have always been no-follow. A natural profile includes no-follow links, and some of them hold more weight. It really comes down to how difficult it is to get the link and/or the requirements to get said link.
- Is there the potential for referral traffic? Forum links are a great example. Sure, a link on a forum might not give you do-follow juice, but if it’s a high traffic forum with an audience interested in your product or service, it’s a good link. SEO value might be very minimal, but it’s going to get you more traffic, repeat visitors, more organic searches with click-throughs, etc. From a business standpoint, this kind of link with high referral traffic benefits is highly valuable in terms of generating business.
Now, instead of just having to worry about sites using the no-follow attribute, we have to worry about two new tags, which I’m going to address separately below.
Last year Google announced the UGC (User Generated Content) attribute, as a tag that could be used to identify links on a website that are placed by the users/visitors, rather than the actual website itself.
It’s an attempt to devalue links that anyone can drop simply by registering an account. You can quickly inspect a link and see what attributes if any, a link has. Google made it very clear that publications and sites didn’t have to make changes, go back and assign the UGC tag to links, or even use it in the future.
Basically, it’s available to use if anyone wants to. Thankfully I haven’t seen any large sites begin to use it. I honestly thought Forbes, Entrepreneur, and all the big boys with contributors would tag all of their links as ‘UGC,’ but that hasn’t happened.
Google has already devalued those links to a degree. I wouldn’t worry too much about this, as the whole point of no-follow being introduced back in 2005 was to give websites (mostly blogs and forums) a way to notate links that its users were responsible for. This is just another attribute to use that accomplishes the same thing.
I don’t see this being a popular attribute moving forward. The default WordPress editor now allows you to assign the no-follow tag and the sponsored tag to links, but not the UGC tag, further proof that it’s not being used nor anyone is paying attention to it. This one was a flop.
The “sponsored” attribute was announced at the same time as the “UGC” attribute. This one is being used more frequently, especially by bloggers, and it’s now a standard link option within the default WordPress editor.
I don’t recommend purchasing links but any time you are looking for guest post opportunities make sure to look at recently published content. Inspect the links and look for “rel=sponsored” in the HTML code. I would highly suggest not paying for links that get tagged with this.
They are essentially telling Google that you paid for the link, which at this point is worthless. If it comes down to getting a link on a blog with the sponsored tag or not getting a link at all I’d pass. Find another opportunity that won’t blatantly tell Google you paid for the link.
High Traffic Domains > Third Party Unicorn Metrics
I’m going to quickly touch base on what metric holds more weight than most third-party metrics, and that is website traffic. A website with a lot of organic traffic is a good sign that it’s real, therefore making obtaining a link from the site more beneficial, both in link value and referral traffic potential.
While you will never know true traffic numbers unless you have access to their Google Analytics account, there are some traffic estimation tools you can use that will give you a decent overview. The two I’d suggest you use are Ubersuggest and Ahrefs. From there common sense and logical thinking have to come into play.
Remember, SEO is a long-term play. Websites with a lot of traffic are going to increase in authority, as more websites link to them in the future. Over time that link you secure becomes more valuable as it passes more authority and juice to your site.
I sincerely thank you for taking the time to read and digest this information. I spent a lot of time on this, extracting the information and knowledge I have accumulated over the years. I hope you can leverage this information and I wish you great success in the future.