5 Metrics To Quickly Assess Site Quality When Link Building

As site quality becomes more of a factor in how Google values sites, it’s going to become critical for link builders to be able to figure out what identifies a quality site. However, link builders aren’t miracle workers.

Two years ago, we could make sites rank for just about anything by grabbing up links like crazy. Now, while that can still happen, the stickiness of those rankings just isn’t there. Link quality is more important.

If a site’s quality is determined to be low, a link from that site may not pass the desired link juice to your site for rankings improvements, and it may not rank well enough itself, causing you to lose out on potential traffic. If your own site is of low quality in Google’s eyes, you also won’t rank well, causing decreased visibility and less chances for natural links.

As higher quality sites move up in the rankings, users will become more adept at identifying what makes a quality site, and even if they do actually to happen to find yours on page 10, they still may not consider it an authority worthy of trust. More lost links.

Normally, to evaluate a site to see if it’s a good linking partner, my link builders look at things such as the following:

  • Number of backlinks to home page
  • Number of backlinks to other pages on the site
  • Home page and subpage toolbar PR (yes, I know it’s not a great metric but clients do still love it)
  • Quality of backlinks (are there .edus, are there mostly sitewides and footers, etc)
  • Moz Rank

However, here are the five metrics that I feel are even more important in terms of quickly telling me if a link on a site will be good for traffic and not just a jump in rankings.

Metric #1: Crawl Frequency

Has the site been crawled in the past few days? While I don’t think that crawl frequency can stand alone as a quality indicator, I do think that a higher quality site is crawled more often than once a month. While I am also interested in site update frequency if it’s a blog we’re talking about, I still value crawl date more because as any of us who write know, it’s not always easy to find the time to write.

I wouldn’t want a link from a blog that hadn’t been updated in 2 years, of course, but that’s because I’d not consider it a great source of traffic. Comments on blog posts are something to look at though, as if you’re getting relevant and non-spammy/linkdrop comments on old blog posts, that’s a good sign. It means that there is actual interest.

Where to find it: The cache: command can tell you when Google last crawled the site. If it’s older than 2 weeks, I see that as much less positive than if the last crawl was yesterday.

cache command

Metric #2: Origin Of The Domain

Is the site a dropped domain? Is it a porn site that has become a blog about woodworking? If so, I don’t want it. Not all dropped domains are bad of course but some could be penalized.

If you come across a site that was a dropped domain but is still carrying on in a relevant manner (like if it was previously a finance site, changed hands, has good backlinks, and is still a finance site, albeit under new ownership) then I’d take a link, definitely.

Where to find it: The Wayback Machine (when it works)

wayback machine

Metric #3: Quality Content

While I don’t want to sound like Justice Potter Stewart here, I can’t necessarily define quality but I know it when I see it. A quality site has quality content. It doesn’t have to have a high end digital design, or be running on the latest trendy blogging platform. It doesn’t have to use CSS instead of tables.

It just has to make me trust it. If it’s an e-commerce site, I should feel ok ordering from it. If it’s a blog, I should feel comfortable trusting the information. I don’t want the site to exist just for the purpose of hosting a link, nor do I want to only see scraped content.

Where to find it: Obviously, on the site itself…but most importantly, look around at a couple of subpages and ensure that it’s not just the home page that has quality content.

Is there legitimate contact information on the site somewhere? Does the content provided seem to be accurate? Also, familiarize yourself with how Google defines quality.

Metric #4: Online Sentiment

If you search for the site/brand name, is the first result a negative review? Are there more than 5 negative SERPs on the first page? If it’s a blog, are most of the comments from people who totally disagree with the authors?

Where to find it: do a quick search for the site/brand and just check the first 10 results. Check a blog post’s comments to get a general idea of how well received the content is.

Metric #5: Social Media Presence

Does the site have share buttons on it? Do they have a Twitter and/or Facebook account that’s well utilized to do more than just push links? If so, this makes me think the potential for traffic from my link will be even greater.

Where to find it: Social media share buttons can be found almost anywhere on a site. If it’s a blog, they should be present on each post. If it’s a company site, I wouldn’t expect to find social share buttons necessarily but I would expect to find links over to the site’s social media accounts.

social media share buttons


Finally, it’s obviously worth considering how your own site fares with these quick metrics, as you want your site to be linkable for those times when you don’t feel like asking/begging/ for links. If you’re hoping to gain links, you need to make sure that your site is actually linkworthy.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Building | Link Building: General | Link Week Column


About The Author: owns the link development firm Link Fish Media and is one of the founding members of the SEO Chicks blog.

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  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/mikegracen Mike Gracen

    “Is it a porn site that has become a blog about woodworking?” Hahahaha. Brilliant!

  • Julie Joyce

    @Mike haha! Glad you caught that.

  • JennyLynn

    Love reading your posts, Julie! Link Week Column is by far my favorite here. Thanks!

  • Julie Joyce

    Thank you Jenny Lynn! I really appreciate that.

  • Ian Howells

    Re Metric #1, as far as I’m aware, crawl date still doesn’t equal cache date. (And conversely, cache frequency doesn’t equal crawl frequency.) I have ‘crawl rate tracker’ installed on a one page WordPress site. It gets crawled daily, and Google WMT backs that up in the crawl stats report. But it doesn’t get cached often because the content is 100% static.

    If Google crawls a site every single day for a week and there’s no changes, they still often just keep the cached version from a week ago since nothing is different about the current site.

    Matt said the opposite back in April: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lmZS7TknQc but I still see this happening on a lot of my sites.

  • http://www.linkfishmedia.com Julie Joyce

    Hi Ian,

    I agree with you…it’s just the easiest way for someone to get a good idea of things I think. Excellent point though, and I should have been better at making that same point myself. Thank you!

  • http://www.Geeks.com Michael

    Nice post Julie….

    …another factor I always consider is site architecture.

    That is to say is the site structure one that flows an equitable amount of link juice to said page, where me link lives!

    Having a link on a ‘stranded’ page isn’t really helping out too much, now is it? ;-)

    Thank you for the useful information!


  • chuck_diesel

    Good stuff here, thanks Julie!

  • http://www.linkfishmedia.com Julie Joyce

    Hi Michael..totally agree on site architecture and you’re right, that can be checked pretty quickly to make sure you’re not getting a link on an orphaned page.

    Thanks to you and Chuck for the comments!


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