When inbound links occur naturally, you don’t look to see if the site linking to you is a good linking partner. They just link in, and eventually, you look if you need to.
Most websites don’t “just” accrue links on their own if they are focused on ranking; they use some sort of link-building tactic to attract them. Link-building companies like mine offer these services and start all projects with a look and evaluation of the sites we’ll be contacting for links. Good link partners are key to a good linking campaign.
In this article, I’ll home in on how we initially determine if a site will make a good linking partner.
Checklist of questions
Here are the questions and criteria we use to rate a website as we prospect for link-building partners. Use them as a checklist as you begin your linking campaign.
1. Is the site indexed in Google?
To me, the ultimate sign of something wrong with a web page is the lack of its appearance in Google. If the web page you’re looking for doesn’t show up in Google? Not a good sign, and I’d probably avoid the site overall. If you’re using any other search engine, following links or coming to a site from a social network, it is critical you go back to Google and check for the web page. If it’s not indexed, there’s no need to go any further.
2. Is there contact information on the site?
I don’t need to see where a blogger lives, of course, but if there’s no way to contact the webmaster on the site? I wouldn’t consider them as a link partner. They obviously don’t want to be contacted. Even having just a form on the site raises a flag for me. Look for an email address, telephone number and social media accounts that show the site has an active webmaster behind it.
3. Is the writing any good?
You don’t have to be a brilliant writer, but it’s not good to find terribly written content on a site. If you want your link to get clicked on, the writing has to be good and engaging, or it’s never going to happen.
4. What does the traffic look like?
You want to see it steady or increasing. You want the majority of the traffic to come from the site’s geographic target area. You do not want to see big traffic crashes or traffic coming from known link farms and communities.
5. Does the site openly sell links?
You would be surprised at the number of sites that sell links, even sites you’d never think are in the selling game. I always check to see if they are offering a paid link program publicly on their site, and if they are, we avoid it.
6. Are there any site hacks?
I always do a site search for various terms like Viagra and Cialis (the two most popular ones I’ve seen.) For example, the Pharma hack injects pharmacy-related terms into a site’s code, and the damage may not always be visible on the site itself, although it will appear in the search results.
7. Does the site have a lot of content related to gambling, payday loans, drugs and/or porn?
Unless you are building links for a site in one of those industries, I’d say avoid these types of sites unless it really and truly makes sense to get a link from them.
8. Does the site rank for its brand?
There are cases where this might not happen and everything is fine, but generally speaking, you want the site to rank for its brand name and (at least) somewhere in the top five. If it’s a very unique name, and you don’t see it on page one, something is definitely wrong.
9. Is this the original source or duplicate content?
It is always best to find the original source of a story and try and get a link there instead of on a small news publication or blog hosting the original article. They might not have permission to host the original article, so it’s best to find the source and work to place a link there.
10. Does the site look like it was made to sell or host links?
If the site is hosting articles pulled from an article directory or very short content loaded with a lot of keyword-heavy anchor text, it is probably not a good partner site. Run the content you find through a plagiarism checker, and if article directory content is returned? Avoid the site.
11. Does the site readily identify links?
This is a huge issue for visually impaired users, and it can also be a red flag. Why make the link look like regular text and not a link? When this happens, it’s usually to hide the fact that they’re selling links.
12. Has the owner ever emailed you trying to offer you a link?
I always check through my emails and our Do Not Contact database to make sure they haven’t been pursuing us.
13. Is every other post written by a Guest Author or Guest Expert?
The “guest” bit can be a little misleading, as a lot of guest posts are actually paid posts. Just as you don’t want to put your link on a site with tons of paid links, I wouldn’t want to put a link on a site with tons of guest posts.
14. Are people engaging with the site through social media?
I’m not saying they have to have a billion Instagram followers, but more engagement usually leads to more clicks on your links. Conversely, look to see if the site is interacting on the social networks. This is a sign the site is being promoted and wants to increase its traffic and prominence in an industry.
15. Last thing… does it look like your link would be a natural fit for the content AND get clicked on?
In the end, this is what really matters. There is no reason to add content or links to a site selling baby strollers if you are a site promoting call center software. The two industries don’t click from a people or engine bot standpoint.
My checklist should help get you started; it is a basic list, but you can modify it to meet your needs and industry.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.