You hear a lot of about “good links” and “bad links.” But what makes one link better than another? More importantly, which links make the most difference in your site’s rank? This chapter will teach you one of the most important skill’s in SEO: knowing how to spot links that actually work.

How to Quickly Find PR

You probably already know that PageRank isn’t the end all be all of link building. If it was, pages with the highest PR would always rank above pages with lower PR. However, PR is one of the few pieces of information that comes straight from Google. And while people tend to fixate on homepage PR, it’s the page’s PR that really matters. For that reason, you should try to get your links on high PR pages whenever possible.

The fastest way to find a page’s PR is to install a toolbar that shows “toolbar PR”. (Important note: Toolbar PR is only updated every 3-months or so, meaning that the PR you see for new pages is usually inaccurate).

One of the most popular and feature-rich is SEOBook’s SEO Toolbar.

Download SEO Toolbar For Firefox

Register a free account at

Then head over to to download the toolbar:

Once installed, the toolbar automatically displays the PR of the page you’re currently on:

Number of Inbound Links

The sheer number of links pointing at your site is another important ranking factor. While Google has slowly been moving away from a quantity-based algorithm, there’s no doubt that the number of real, legitimate links plays an important role in a link’s ranking power.

You can easily see the number of inbound links pointing to a domain using the SEO Toolbar.

When visiting any page on a site, the toolbar grabs data from Majestic SEO:

To get page-level inbound links, you have to actually visit Majestic SEO and copy and paste the URL:

And you’ll see the number of external links pointing to that specific page.

To get a second opinion, you may also want to use OSE. When you copy and paste an internal page URL into OSE it automatically gives you page level link information.

However, the figure of 185 you see there is actually a combination of external and internal links. While internal links do pass authority and relevancy information to other pages of your site, they’re significantly less important than external links.

To see external links, choose the “only external” from the drop-down menu:

Oddly, this doesn’t change the “total links” value on the top toolbar of the page. However, it does show you the total inbound links here:

97 external links. Not bad!

Important note: Majestic SEO and Ahrefs update their link index more frequently than OSE. Therefore, for newer pages, those two link analysis programs typically show more accurate results.

Referring Domains

One of the best analogies for a backlink that I’ve ever heard is that each link represents a “vote” for your site. However, what if the same voter “votes” for you over and over again? Because there’s diminishing returns from getting links over and over again from the same domain, search engine algorithms tend to place an emphasis on the number of domains linking to a site. When evaluating a potential link opportunity, you also want to consider the number of domains linking to that site (or page). In general, it’s a more accurate sign of authority than total links.

Fortunately, getting that information is a cinch using the SEO Toolbar.

Like with total links, the toolbar displays the number or referring domains using Majestic SEO’s API:

To get page-level referring domain information, simply head over to Majestic and enter the URL of the page that you’re interested in. And you’ll see the number of referring domains:

You can also see the referring domain information that OSE has in their database.

Domain Authority

DA is SEOMoz’s proprietary metric. Although not everyone agrees on the particulars, most people in SEO understand that certain domains pass more authority than others…even if they have the same PR. In general, links from higher DA sites will likely give you more of a boost than links from lower DA sites.

You can check out DA information quickly at OSE:


Trust is one of the most important metrics in link building. Like PR, trust flows through links. And getting links from highly trusted sites is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of becoming a Google update victim. Importantly, according to SEOMoz, sites with lots of trust and authority tend to perform better in Google than low trust sites with authority.

You can see the trust information of a page or website using Majestic SEO. Just enter a root domain into Majestic.

And take a look at their Trust Flow metric:

SEOMoz also measures trust (as MozTrust). Enter a domain into OSE:

And click on the “compare link metrics” tab:

That will display the trust of that particular page:

To see the trust of the domain as an aggregate, scroll down to “Root Domain Metrics” and look for “Domain MozTrust”:

Both of these metrics are calculated by how close a site is to highly trusted “seed sites,” such as .gov and .edu sites. The more links “away” a site is from these seed sites, the less trust it has. To get the highest amount of trust passed onto your site, aim for links from sites that boast .edu and .gov links or get links directly from trusted seed sites.

Contextual Backlinks

Search engines pay a lot of attention to where your link appears on page. In general, links in the footer, sidebar and other peripheral areas of a page are significantly less powerful than those embedded within content.

For example, check out these links tossed in at the bottom of a homepage:

If you blindly focused on the other factors discussed in this chapter, like PR, domain authority and trust, these links would look like ranking powerhouses. However, because they sit at the bottom of a page without any relevant content surrounding them, they’re actually spammy, irrelevant, and obviously paid.

Google prefers links dropped inside of content for the simple reason that they are significantly more natural.

Just look at this post from QuickSprout:

Here I’m linking out to posts that were helpful. Those links are much more powerful than if they were randomly dropped the same links in the footer of QuickSprout.

Here are a few white hat ways to get contextual backlinks:

Guest Posts

Guest posts are amazing. However, most sites that accept guest posts push your link down into an unholy abyss known as an “author bio” area:

While author bio links likely pass some trust and authority onto your site, they’re not nearly as powerful as a contextual link. However, you can usually land contextual links from guest posts by linking to a related piece of content on your site. Just be transparent and not-spammy about it. Trying to sneak your link into a post is a quick way to get it thrown back at you.

Here’s an example of a contextual link in a guest post:

See how this wasn’t forced into the piece? The key is to link to your site the same way you’d link to any other site.

Web 2.0 Properties

Web 2.0 properties are a mainstay of the black hat community. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a little Web 2.0 action in your link profile. You just have to create a web 2.0 property that provides value.

To do that, fill up your web 2.0 site as if it was an actual website. A good example to copy is

As you can see, this isn’t a typical spammy Blogspot blog. It has fairly informative content and is a bit bulkier than most web 2.0 sites, with a handful of long articles.

And it has a nice contextual, followed link to the owner’s money site:


Forums are an underrated link building strategy as they get your link on a site that’s closely related to yours. And because forums are teeming with active members, your link can get you some serious traffic as well. This isn’t to be confused with forum profiles, which are a spammy black hat tactic that doesn’t work.

First, find a forum that’s closely related to your niche. For this example we’re going to assume you’re in the internet marketing niche.

You can easily find niche-related forums by using these search strings in Google:

  • “forum” + “keyword”
  • allintitle:forum + keyword

In my search for this example I came across a forum called Take a quick look to determine whether or not it’s a real, active forum that’s not spammed to death.

Based on the number of replies and views, this looks like a real forum that I can get a solid link from.

Then, check if the links are direct and nofollow (some forums make all outbound links redirects and/or nofollow them, which makes them essentially worthless).

First, hover your cursor over an outbound link:

And look to see if it shows an outside URL on the bottom left hand corner of your browser.

Finally, hit the “nofollow” button on your SEO Toolbar and see if outbound links turn red. If they do, they’re nofollow.

Still blue. Lookin’ good!

Your final step is to post an informative and value-packed post to the forum. Before you start a new thread, try to build up a few posts by commenting on open threads.

When you’re ready, start a new thread:

And post something useful to the forum.

Make sure to subtly imbed your link somewhere inside of your post:

Once posted, you’ll have a traffic-generating contextual link.

Outbound Links

There’s only so much PR to go around. Pages bleed PR through every link, leaving less link juice for you. In a perfect world, your link would be the only link on the page. In reality, you usually have to share at least some of the page’s PR with a few other links.

You can easily check the number of OBLs using a cool tool from SEOChat.

First, check out the tool at this URL:

Then, enter the URL that your link appears on. Make sure to choose “both types” as internal links also suck PR from a page:

And hit “Show Links”:

Then you’ll see the number of total internal and external links:

Add ‘em up and you’ve got the total number of links you’re competing with. In general you want less than 100 outbound links. Any more than that significantly dilutes PR.

Domain Age

Domain age is a controversial metric. But because so many people in SEO believe in it, I’d be remiss to leave it out. Many people think that Google tends to prefer older sites — and therefore gives links coming from those sites more value — because they’re more trusted. The theory is that spammy sites tend not to last very long, so longevity is one way Google determines a site’s legitimacy. However, others believe the domain age debate is simply a classic case of correlation vs. causation: older sites simply have more time to accumulate links.

We can all agree that links from older sites can’t hurt you and might help you. So it’s something to at least take a look at.

There are two ways to determine a site’s age: domain registration date and the Google index.

To see the date of domain registration, head over to This tool checks the domain age and does the math for you:

First, enter the domain name of the site you want to check (make sure not to put in the URL, either with http:// or www). Click submit:

It will show you the date the domain was first registered and its age:

The problem with this technique is that some people register a domain and let it sit around for a while before posting any content. And unless the site’s has content, it won’t get indexed in Google. From a search engine standpoint, that means it doesn’t exist.

You can check the approximate date that the site was actually up and running (as an approximate indicator of when Google indexed it), using the Wayback Machine.

Just head over to and enter the URL that you want to see:

And hit “Take Me Back”. At the top of the screen you’ll see when the Wayback Machine first archived the site.

Keep in mind that poorly linked to obscure sites may not get indexed by the Wayback Machine.


You already know that the content of a linking site’s theme and the content of a page give Google clues to what your site is about. However, what about a page that covers 10 different topics? As pages tend to jump around from topic to topic, Google once used anchor text as a more precise relevancy signal. However, due to widespread abuse, they’ve largely moved away from anchor text and towards co-citations. Co-citations refer to the text in the immediate area surrounding your link. Google zeroes in on this content as a relevancy signal so it’s important to take advantage of it when building links.

Here are a few easy ways to do it:

Author Bios

When you publish a guest post or post an article in an article directory try to drop your target keyword near your branded anchor text link, like this:

This will send the message to Google that your brand is about the keywords you want to rank for.

Business and Blog Profiles

Business and blog profiles are a golden opportunity to drop a co-citation. Unfortunately, most people write a bland, boastful description of their business. To get some co-citation action with your business profile links, consider dropping a few of your target keywords somewhere around your live link.

For example, Technorati is a fantastic PR8 site that allows you to create a profile (with a dofollow backlink!).

First, create an account:

Then, fill in your personal information and confirm your email. Once signed in, go to your account page and scroll down to where it says “My claimed blogs”.

Enter your site’s homepage URL and hit “claim”:

Under the “Site Description”, describe your site, making sure to drop in one or two of your target keywords:

Once you confirm your site’s ownership you’ll have a live link in your profile complemented by co-citations:

Blog Comments

Sure, blog comments aren’t the most effective link building strategy on planet Earth. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take give your links a bit of co-citation love when you drop one.

When writing a comment on a moderated blog, try to use your target keyword somewhere in the comment: