71 Technical Factors For Backlink Analysis (From 30 Link Building Experts) – Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of our 3-part group interview series on backlink profile analysis. Part 1 covered backlink analysis for link building campaign design. Part 2 covers the more technical aspects of analysis, and what elements that link building experts look at to gauge the overall strength of a backlink profile. 14 URL factors in backlink […]

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Welcome to part 2 of our 3-part group interview series on backlink profile analysis. Part 1 covered backlink analysis for link building campaign design. Part 2 covers the more technical aspects of analysis, and what elements that link building experts look at to gauge the overall strength of a backlink profile.

14 URL factors in backlink profile analysis

The URLs of linking pages can tell you a great deal about a given site’s backlink profile. The URLs themselves can shed some light too when evaluating the quality of a given link prospect. Some of the link builders interviewed didn’t place value in URL analysis when investigating backlink profiles. Some did. Often, this comes down to differences in style and process.

  1. TLD (if .govs or .edus have been linking it can indicate high-trust, high-value content)
  2. Target keywords in the URL
  3. Target keywords in the hostname
  4. Number of URL parameters
  5. Depth of the page on the site (as measured by /’s)
  6. Iterations of ? and other extraneous characters
  7. Excessive hyphens in a URL can indicate over-SEO’d content
  8. URLS on blogspot or wordpress
  9. Avoid https:// and ftp://
  10. “links4free,” “getfreelinks,” etc…
  11. The words “review” or “advertorial” (can indicate paid posts)
  12. The linked-to site mentioned by name in the URL (can indicate a paid review)
  13. Words that indicate content types (ie: “blog,” “news,” “forum,” etc…)
  14. Excessive amounts of links.html and links.php indicates a weak profile

Key comments on URL factors

“Anything that indicates a news and information site is high on my list.”
-Ken McGaffin, of WordTracker

“I’ll look for footprints that can help me find more link sources similar to that one.”
Gab Goldenberg, SEO ROI

“It is not something I spend time on. It is nice if their URL has keywords in it, but the link is valuable with or without that being the case. Other factors matter much, much more.”
Eric Enge, Stone Temple Consulting

“When reviewing URLs, one strict but useful criteria is to scrutinize any website that uses hyphens in conjunction with keyword phrases in their domain name. A little SEO knowledge can sometimes be like a sharp stick in the hands of a child. Hyphenated domain names can be an indicator that a webmaster is running around with a sharp stick.”
-Roger Montti, aka MartiniBuster

“I’m looking for the presence of target keywords in file paths and names and at TLDs. I’m also looking to see if there’s an opportunity to purchase a similar domain name (in the case of exact match), with an alternate TLD.”
-Ken Lyons, of Wordstream

“Even an ugly URL can get indexed, but you want to make sure that it’s the canonical URL for that page and that your link didn’t wind up on some duplicate page. It’s also preferable when the URL structure is clean and uses descriptive phrases.”
-Jennifer Van Iderstyne of Search Slingshot

“To me, if a page is quality (i.e. relevant, has PR, dofollow, ranks well etc), then I don’t really care what the URL is.”
-Melanie Nathan, Canadian SEO

“It’s more of what I DON’T look at. A URL itself can be an amazing source of signals, but more often, I look at URLs as a means to steer away from the junk.”
Eric Ward, EricWard.com

“If you see a lot of gardening-resources-7 or links.html near the top of their backlinks you know their profile is pretty weak.”
Aaron Wall, of SEOBook

“I look for things like keywords in the URL (more is good), URL parameters (fewer is good), and the depth of the directory (fewer slashes is good).”
-Jeremy Bencken, of WebSimple

29 on-page factors in backlink profile analysis

When investigating backlink profiles, it’s vital to look at the pages that contain (or will contain) the link. Link builders consistently cited on-page analysis as a crucial element of backlink profile analysis.

  1. Link embedded within relevant content that discusses link target
  2. Title, headers, and content to see if the theme of the page is on topic
  3. Text surrounding the link
  4. Does the link appear paid or given freely, by editorial choice?
  5. Does the page rank for its title?
  6. Spam content in comments
  7. The anchor text of the link
  8. Page linked from other external websites
  9. Proximity of the page to the root location
  10. How well the page is linked to from within the website
  11. The URL being Linked To (home page or deep)
  12. Location of the link (on the page)
  13. Number of outbound links on the page
  14. Page Content (topic and amount)
  15. Page back links
  16. Page cache date
  17. Pagerank
  18. Quality of outbound links
  19. Logical, appealing page layout
  20. Page is bot-readable
  21. Title and HX tags present?
  22. Content buried under CSS and javascript?
  23. Important page on the site vs. a “throw-away” blog post
  24. Can you add directly to the discussion
  25. Excessive advertising
  26. Intent
  27. Excessive links from link directories or blogrolls
  28. Excessive links from links.php pages
  29. Duplicate links on the same page (what is the first link’s anchor text?)

Key thoughts regarding on-page factors

“On page criteria is integral to the backlink analysis process. Outbound links are critical. It’s important to do a double backlink analysis. Analyze the backlinks of the sites your link candidate is linking to. This will help determine exactly what kind of link clique you are going to be associated with. Building a link clique independent from established link cliques is a way of combatting the established 800 pound gorillas that are entrenched in the top three. When you study the backlink of established sites you will generally see a relevancy pattern. Poaching from their backlinks only makes you a part of their sphere of influence. In my way of doing things, I aim to establish my own, and it has worked in overtaking websites that are a part of multi-million dollar networks for important two word keyword phrases. On page criteria is a key part of this process.

The ideal web page, in terms of on page factors, is a web page that has zero SEO fingerprints. Zero.”

-Roger Montti

“In general, I prefer to see a fairly decent pagerank (1-3 depending on how far down the page is in the site architecture) with a good amount of both external and internal links (can’t stress this point enough). Obviously relevancy is a must, but a more telling signs of a pages’ authority is its cache date; within one week is great, 1-2 weeks is average, 2-3 weeks is just OK, and anything 3+ weeks isn’t very powerful.”
-Paul Teitelman, of Search Engine People

“The page must be closely geared towards my client’s target term or I don’t even bother. I want prospects where I don’t have to convince them to link; they just do it because it’s a logical fit. ”
-Melanie Nathan

“A neat tool for quickly analyzing the value of getting a link once you’re on a page is Foxy Rank
-Tom Demers, of WordStream

“Is the link in the middle of content on the middle of the page, if not, take that into account. What other links are around it? Where do all the external links point out to on the page as a whole, are they relevant destinations to your site? Was this link added to the page after the fact or did it show up when the page was created?”
-Brian Chappell, of Adapt Marketing

28 on-site or sitewide factors in backlink profile analysis

When analyzing a potential link prospect (or a key competitor) there are a number of sitewide inbound link factors to analyze.

  1. Site type distribution of inbound linking sites (Blog, Directory, Social Media, Press Release, Website, ETC)
  2. Domain age
  3. Toolbar PageRank (both domain and linking page)
  4. MozRank
  5. Recency of the latest post or other newest content
  6. Estimated traffic
  7. Presence of social network widgets
  8. Unique linking IPs
  9. Unique IP blocks
  10. Does the site rank for its domain name?
  11. Does the site rank for its target terms?
  12. Which pages of the site are getting the most links (helps to determine what has worked as link bait)
  13. Unique link distribution (Unique IP Adresses, Unique IP Blocks)
  14. PageRank distribution across site
  15. Link Type Distribution (No-follow, Do-follow, Missing, Broken)
  16. Reciprocal links
  17. Number of indexed pages (gauges how SEO friendly their site architecture is)
  18. Link accumulation speed
  19. RSS subscribers
  20. Human comments
  21. Does the site have a logical structure and hierarchy?
  22. Is it easy for a human and bot to navigate?
  23. Hosting Location Distribution
  24. The sites’ relevance to and focus on subject matter
  25. Site using KWD rich internal anchor text
  26. The total link count.
  27. Does the site come up for country-specific searches in Google
  28. Anchor text distribution

Key insights regarding on-site factors

“I look for evidence of human activity. I’ll want to see who writes the content and how dedicated to the task they are. I’ll also look at evidence of audience participation – do people leaves comments on articles for example. Once I’ve established in my head that it’s a quality site, I’ll look for opportunities such as ‘write for us’, ‘submit an article’, ‘editorial guidelines’, etc. I’ll also look for partnership opportunities with sites I’m really taken with.”
-Ken McGaffin

“We look at the website’s linking profile and overall strength of backlinks. Specifically, we look at deep links within a website we’re trying to acquire a link from for our client. If the homepage is very strong and the site has no deep links, then the value is typically lessened. The structure of the website and how strongly focused it is to the client’s business is the next best indicator for us. Is it easily spidered and indexed by Google. A quick way to see this would be to type in “site:widgetsite.com,” then look at not only the pages indexed, but also pay attention to the diversity of the title tags, descriptions, and URLs being indexed in Google. Stronger websites nearly always have a wider and more clear diversity while previewing the indexed pages from the website.”
-Brian Gilley, of Social SEO

“A lot of the link stuff is recursive. So when you look at an individual page or site that someone is getting a link from sometimes you can also see where that site is getting links from and come up with new link building ideas based on that.”
-Aaron Wall

Further reading:

Here is a complete list of our contributing link building experts. Thank you to all the contributors for their time and gracious contribution of hard-earned experience.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Garrett French
Garrett French is the founder and chief link strategist of Citation Labs, a link building agency and campaign incubator. He’s also the founder of ZipSprout - Citation Labs’s sister agency focused on local marketing. He’s developed multiple link building tools, including the Link Prospector and the Broken Link Finder. He also co-wrote The Ultimate Guide to Link Building with Link Moses himself, Eric Ward. Garrett and his team lead monthly webinars on enterprise content strategy and promotion from the Citation Labs Blog.

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