What are Quality Backlinks?

Don’t you love obscure technical verbiage?  One of my clients had a company tell her that her site had low PageRank because of a lack of quality “backlinks.”  What non-tech company is going to know what a “backlink” is?  Much less what a “quality” one is?

However, despite the techno-speak, this is a concept that even non-technical site owners should be familiar with, if for no other reason than that you will never rank well on Google without them.  So what are they?

Here’s your quick tutorial on quality backlinks.  The term “backlink” refers to hyperlinks (see, I actually link you up to a definition of hyperlink, and guess what, the link is — you guessed it — a hyperlink) that other websites have made to your website.   Take a look at the two links I posted above in this paragraph.  Both of them link to the Webopedia site.  So in this case, I have created two (well, in view of the fact that the word “Webopedia” is also a link, make that 3) “backlinks” to Webopedia.

So what makes a backlink “quality”?  Measuring that is far from an exact science, primarily because it’s a relative measurement.  But basically, here are the factors:

  • The site that links to yours should carry a Google PageRank number (1-10, with higher being better).  Some experts will say that it should carry a PageRank number of 4 or better, or 3 or better.  However if your site doesn’t have anything yet, take what you can get.
  • The site should be topically relevant to your site.  For example, if your company sells flowers and you have a link from a plumber, it’s not topically relevant.  That doesn’t mean the link is useless, but it does prevent it from being “high quality.”
  • And what really will boost the “quality” of the link is if the “link text” (that’s the part that you can click on) is something that would be a likely keyword phrase.  So if you have the link say “fresh flowers, all hours” it will have more quality.

How Can you Tell Whether Your Site Already Has Backlinks?

There are all sorts of tools that will do this job for you.  My most recent favorite free tool is called “Open Site Explorer,” or OSE.  If you input your website address to OSE you can see all sorts of data about your site, and importantly, you’ll get a pretty good list of other sites that are linking to yours.  Those are your backlinks.

If you want to track down good backlinks for your site, you can use OSE for this as well.  Just find some highly ranked sites in your field and run them through OSE.  You’ll see their backlinks which can provide some great insight for your own link-building efforts.



Input your website address and start exploring.  If you are looking for backlink ideas, run some high-ranking competing (or at least topically relevant) websites through Open Site Explorer and examine their back links.

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