20 Factors that Affect the Quality of Your Links

Peter A. Liefer II | Posted: February 12th, 2016 | Updated: July 26th, 2023

20 Factors that Affect the Quality of Your Links

An interesting element of SEO is establishing how search engines determine the value of a link in order to rank it. Note that not every link from a page in a link-based ranking system is regarded as equal. A search engine like Google looks at a number of factors before it decides how much weight each link on a page may pass along.

The Hummingbird, Google’s algorithm or set of rules is what the primary search engine use to rank web pages. The process involves looking into the links that goes to and from a certain page. It is a complicated progression that is fulfilled in a matter of seconds. However, we will not dig into this as this is not our concern at the moment. But just to reiterate some important details that go into the whole process, let me point out some information presented in my previous post. In essence, this system further allows Google’s bot to trace which pages are linked to by others. Elements numbering up to 200 and including Panda, Penguin, Rankbrain, and so on, all contribute to provide internet users with a more satisfying user search experience.

The whole process that results in a listing of all available pages on the web for a search or keyword identified, takes only a matter of seconds. The higher the page rank, the greater probability that a visitor would find a page for the much needed information. It is thus the desire of web owners that their page/s will be on top of other pages in the ranking. The whole system, in the end, encourages website marketers to explore more about SEO wonderland to improve their website’s ranking on search engines.

One of the strategy that has been used is linking. As search engines determine the pages indexed and linked together as it crawls from one page to another, links that are weighted to be coming from “important” will, in effect, carry more weight than links from less important pages. A significant page under this system is one that is linked to by other significant pages, or by a good number of less important pages, or a mixture of the two. In Google’s term, this is a signal that is known as PageRank, one of the 200 elements that go into the Hummingbird algorithm

A Google 2004 patent called, “Ranking documents based on user behavior and/or feature data,” that was invented by Jeffrey A. Dean, Corin Anderson and Alexis Battle, assigned to Google Inc., and filed on June 17, 2014, presents how links are valued as they appear on certain page/s.

“It has been described that ranks are determined for documents based on user behavior data. According to one implementation, the user behavior data is associated with a set of users. According to another implementation, the user behavior data is associated with a subset, or class, of users. In this case, the weights assigned to the links may be tailored to the user class. According to yet another implementation, the user behavior data is associated with a single user. In this case, the weights assigned to the links may be tailored to the user.”

The systems as well as methods consistent with the principles in this invention may provide a reasonable surfer model and highlights that when a surfer accesses a document with a set of links, the surfer may follow some of the links with higher probability than others.

As a professional who is deemed to know the ins and outs of this business, talking to your client about several processes that accompany SEO may help set up things in your favor. They may probably ask questions that you may have asked yourself, for instance, “How does Google (or any other search engine worth noting) determine the value of a website to rank it? This requires a network of great links that link back to the page that you intend to rank high in the major search engines. However, creating a good network of links takes time and research. In the process, you need to always consider to put quality before quantity.

With the countless number of pages available on the web to link to, which would be the most valuable and should be considered to help your site the first, if not a higher ranking ranking? There are several factors that goes into the process of selection of networks.

In a Whiteboard Friday, Rand Fiskin, founder and former CEO of Moz, lists 20 of the link value attributes as follows:

Attributes of the Link Importance (0-5)
Anchor Text 3
PageRank of linking source 1
Relevance 3
Domain Authority 5
Location on page 2
Internal vs External 5
Quality of the page’s other links 4
Editorial integrity 3
User engagement 4
Follow vs NoFollow 5
Source Depth 1
Text vs Image 0
Link Age/Page age 0
Topical authority of source 3
JavaScript vs HTML 2
Spam signals 4
Speed of link acquisition 0
Author authority 2
1st link to target in HTML 1
Prior links from this domain 2


  1. An anchor text is a visible, clickable text in a hyperlink. It is often blue and underlined. Fishkin reasons for giving this attribute a rating of 3 on a scale of 0-5, 5 being the most important, that while an anchor text moves the thread further than an exact match anchor text does, still it is considered valuable regardless of whether you get the anchor text.
  2. Other than the PageRank score, domain authority as well as the overall importance of the site and of the other pages on the site, relevance, etc. should be given a greater concern, hence the rating of 1 on Fishkin’s list.
  3. As the relevance of the page to be linked to, it was rated 3 in the list. Unrelated fields may broad sources of information, may actually provide related information on the same topics.
  4. There’s a number of reasons why anyone would link to domains that have authority over certain topics. Domain authority is treated as one of the best predictors of how a link will perform. Pages or sites that perceived as authority sites have a greater probability that a link to that page/s will be seen by people, be clicked, be engaged upon, or have similar amplifying effects. Hence a rating of 5 for this attribute.
  5. Location on page of links provides obvious reason of a links value. This feature is given a rating of 2.
  6. Generally, a link not from within your site (external link) will give yield a greater number of page views than having links within your site (internal link). A rating of 5 goes to internal vs external link as another feature in determining the value of a link.
  7. Quality of the page’s other links will warn you whether it would benefit you at all if you would link to that page. If the links on the page are properly curated, then you won’t have any problem linking with it.
  8. Editorial Integrity. Considering how people have regarded the site you intend to link to matters. Analysis of the content of the page is therefore vital.
  9. User Engagement. Finding out how relatively engaged a page is—whether there are discussions within the page, links on that page are being clicked, or, in essence, the page would be sending your link more traffic, would hint you whether it would be an advantage to link to it.
  10. Follow versus no-follow. By default, all the hyperlinks are dofollow. A Nofollow link, on the other hand, is an HTML attribute value that is used to instruct search engine bots that a hyperlink should not affect the link target’s ranking in the search engine’s index. Setting a nofollow link at the bottom of the page has least impact. When a nofollow link is placed at the top of the page, however, it carries some impact.
  11. Source depth. Search engines like Google calculates the depth of information, and the further down from the homepage, normally barely matters. Hence a rating of 1.
  12. Text vs. Image. Does not matter much according to Rand, hence a rating of 0.
  13. Link Age/Page age. Contrary to general opinion, the more recent information or pages are, the greater chance it will find itself on the higher page of the search result. Thus, linking to them instead of an older page on the same topic, would create a provide a greater chance for your link to get a higher ranking from search engines.
  14. Topical authority of a source. This pertains to the authority of the website you intend to link to about the topic that is being discussed on your page. If running a search would indicate that the page is on the top 10, then you would want to link to it.
  15. JavaScript vs HTML. Looking up a Google’s cached snapshot for any given website to see whether the links are getting picked up or if it’s post loading JavaScript and are being crawled and indexed, would give you an idea whether it would benefit your site to link to that page or not.
  16. Spam signals. Spammy are always penalized by Google. If a site looks suspicious, then you wouldn’t want to link to that, would you?
  17. Speed of link acquisition. Another attribute that search engines such as Google consider in determining the value of a link is the frequency of the page in receiving backlinks to it. Over time, you will see a network of good links to your site.
  18. Author authority. Linking to a site who is an authority on the subject your website is focused on, then there’s a great chance your link will also get more exposure from the linked site.
  19. First link to target in HTML. If there are a couple of links that you link to in the page of another site or within your site, Rand says that, “The first link is the one that passes anchor text and ranking signals and all that, and they sort of ignore the second one.” Nonetheless, using this method does not matter much with search engines’ ranking system, he adds.
  20. Prior links from this domain. These days, the link quality matters so much more. Getting a lot of good links from a small set of high-authority domains. However, high-influence domains are just as good, if not better than getting a high degree of links from a number of different domains.

Identified here are fundamental features that search engines use to analyze a site’s value. There’s more. But if you can perfect these 20 attributes, you’re good to go.