One Backlink To Rule Them All: Determining The Value Of Backlinking

It’s pretty well established that backlinking is one of the most fundamental parts of your SEO. Getting boosted up those Google rankings can be determined by so many moving variables, some with minor significance and some with pretty major significance. Backlinking definitely ends up on the major end of that scale. It’s not to say it’s the holy grail, but it’s not far off.  

More prominent and reliable backlinks go to show Google that you know what you claim to know. Trust is everything and backlinks essentially prove that trust. However, not all backlinks are created equally. Some of them are invaluable to your SEO, and some of them are pretty valueless. Finding out where to try and source your backlinks from can be a difficult task, so here’s a look at what the key factors are in determining the value of a backlink. 

Domain Strength and Relevance

One of the most obvious variables is the strength and relevance of a website. A website that itself has a tonne (or hopefully several) of credibility is going to be far more valuable. If you’re a personal injury law firm in New York, the NY Times might be quite a strong starter, but old “Joe Bloggs” Blog probably isn’t quite cut from the same cloth. Both can be valuable, but I’m sure you’ll recognise there’s one that’s a cut above.

Domain Relevance

Domain strength isn’t always the be all and end all though. Domain relevance plays a key part too. Being immediately contradictory, the NY Times obviously isn’t solely focused on New York based personal injury firms, and it can immediately lose some of its value (though not all). Meanwhile, Mr. Joe Bloggs might be a legal expert, who writes about personal injury law every day, and is referring to you in his latest post. A much more relevant domain for your backlink.

Factoring in a domain’s strength and relevance is majorly important to Google’s algorithm. Both are important to determine the value of your backlink.

Anchor Text Embedding

A link can be attached to a site in several formats, either with words, or with a URL. Anchor text essentially means the words that are hyperlinked with your URL attached, and as such, relevant anchor text is far superior to a plain URL. 

Here’s a look at a few examples to see which is the most beneficial.

  1. Checkout their B2B Digital Marketing Agency here:
  2. Checkout their B2B Digital Marketing Agency here:
  3. Checkout their B2B Digital Marketing Agency:

The 3rd option clearly has the most relevant keywords for the desired website embedded as a backlink, and thus would be the most preferable anchor text option.

The location of an embedded link is also critical. Backlinks in a headline or main copy are far more valuable than say a footer or sidebar. Editorial authority comes from the copy, whilst google will only index that copy/header to evaluate SEO. Links in sidebars and footers can sometimes be advertising or sponsorships and as such don’t generate much authority. 

Subject and Location

Links from local sources can prove very useful if you’re trying to rank your page or site for location specific traffic, or with a location specific keyword. If the Leicester Mercury, a regional online newspaper, posts links for your Leicester based law firm, Google will index your location far more favourably, than if you were a law firm in Newcastle, for example.


Your digital location is also key too! Google will check the IP address of where each backlink was established. Essentially having multiple sites, with a web of backlinking between each other, all established from the same location, will severely hinder your SEO. Backlinks need to come from varying IP sources.

Similarly to location, subject matter is hugely important. A backlink from the international journal of mental health law would be a very relevant backlink for a law firm that specialises in mental health. Google will analyse the subject matter of the domain from which someone has linked to your site, comparing keywords for relevance.  

Recency Bias

If someone creates a backlink from their content to you, it will always be there, (barring some crafty editing). However, Google does have a recency bias, meaning backlinks from newer content are worth more than older links. 

Similarly to the recency bias, Google has a sort of ‘first-timer’ bias too. If you receive a backlink from a site that has already linked to you in the past, it will be worth slightly less than it would if it was a first time link. That’s not to say it’s worthless, multiple links from one domain are still a valuable commodity to have. Just in terms of SEO though, it’s better to pursue links from multiple new domains, than chasing for several from the same domain. 

Recency Bias

NoFollow Links

Nofollow links were initially built into Google’s algorithm to prevent spammy sites from ranking highly. A nofollow link is cosmetically no different to any other link, it still takes you to the same page. For Google however, nofollow links essentially don’t exist, search engines are told to ignore them. As such you get very limited SEO benefits from whatever backlink has them built in. 

Quite a lot of major sites will use nofollow links to prevent spam. Social media, forums and blog comments, news sites, press releases, widgets etc. Paid adverts are also generally nofollow links. Of course SEO is not the only benefit from backlinking, you might get hundreds of leads generated via traffic from a single link. They can still have significant benefits, just not from an SEO perspective.

Final Thoughts

Backlinking is a major player in the SEO game, and unfortunately it is one of the only things that isn’t about your on-page SEO, or in your control. Different backlinks have varying levels of authority depending on where they came from and what they reference. The anchor text and location of your links is crucially important. Domain strength, domain and subject relevance, location specific links, and recency bias will all come into play to determine the effectiveness of your backlinks! Focus on quality over quantity. Quality matters!

If you have any more questions about backlinking or your SEO strategy, please contact us here for a free consultation!

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