Getting backlinks – links from other websites to your blog – is one of the best ways to improve your search engine ranking. However, not all backlinks are equal. Low-quality backlinks (those from spam sites, harvested sites, or automated sites) might actually lower your ranking. What you want are high-quality backlinks.

What makes a backlink high-quality? Ask ten SEO experts and you’ll get ten different answers. However, most would agree that a high-quality backlink would have at least some of the characteristics discussed in this post. If you can get a backlink that has all of these characteristics, congratulations you’ve just got the perfect backlink.

While quality is important, you shouldn’t spend too much time trying to achieve the perfect backlink. If you can get a backlink to your blog that has a few of these characteristics, then it’s definitely high-quality enough to have in your blog’s link profile.

Twelve Characteristics of High-Quality Backlinks

From a Trusted Source

High-quality backlinks come from high-quality websites. Makes sense, right? What also makes sense is that high-quality websites are trustworthy websites.

To determine a website’s trustworthiness, search engines use a bank of trusted seed sites as controls (the exact list is unknown but potential sites include Wikipedia, CNN, The Huffington Post, etc.), which are not only high quality, but are also difficult to get links from. The fewer the number of links, or hops, a site is away from a seed site, the higher that site’s TrustRank, and the higher the link quality from that site.

In the below diagram, a backlink from Site A is a high-quality backlink because Site A is only one hop away from a seed site and so has high TrustRank. A backlink from Site E is a lower-quality backlink because Site E is five hops from a seed site and so has low TrustRank.

Seed-sites-and-TrustRank - What Are High-Quality Backlinks?

From a Relevant Source

Search engines want to provide users with the most relevant results in their searches. Because backlinks are the primary factor affecting where sites rank in search results, it follows that relevance is a consideration when evaluating backlinks. Backlinks can be relevant on several different levels. Search engines analyze the overall relevance of the linking site, the relevance of the page with the link on it, and the relevance of the content surrounding the link.

In the Content

Backlinks that are in the content are more likely to be editorial. Editorial links are links that are created organically by webmasters and are neither requested nor paid for. These links are the type of links that search engines value highly. Links that are included at the beginning of a post are of greater value because the author of the post considers it to be an important link. A backlink at the beginning of the main content area of a post is considered higher quality than a link lower down the page or in the footer or sidebar for example.

Refer Traffic

This is often overlooked in the pursuit of organic ranking, but the original purpose of linking to a site, before the time search engines started using them as a factor in their algorithms, is to refer interested readers to it. Links are still clicked as often as they were when the internet was first created, and having a backlink in a prime position on a popular webpage makes it high quality because it will bring a continual stream of targeted visitors to your blog, regardless of ranking.

Anchor Text Matches Ranking Keyword

The quality of a backlink increases if the anchor text (the words that form the clickable text of the link) is the same as, or similar to, the keywords you are trying to rank for on your page. However, it looks suspicious to have too many incoming links made up of exactly the same anchor text, so vary the anchor text. For example, if you’re trying to rank for the keyword ‘retirement planning’, as well as getting links with ‘retirement planning’ as the anchor link text, use other variations such as ‘planning for retirement’, ‘plan for retirement’ and ‘retirement preparation.’

From a Page With High PageRank

PageRank is an algorithm used by Google to rank websites in their search engine results. PageRank is the simplest way to assess the quality of a backlink; the higher the PageRank of the page where the link is located, the higher the quality of that link. All webpages start off with a PageRank of 0. PageRank can rise and fall over time, and even though the algorithm is updated constantly, the PageRank that Google displays to the public is only updated every three months. So, the PageRank value you see for a site is only an estimate, and could be out by a couple of points.

One of Only a Few Backlinks on the Page

The link juice flowing through a page that contains a backlink to your site gets shared between all the other links on that page. So, the fewer links there are on a page, the less dilute the link juice and so the greater the quality of the links on the page. There is no hard and fast rule for this, but if your link shares a page with ten or fewer other links there will be no impact on the quality of the backlink.

Surrounded by Backlinks to Authority Websites

Following on from the point above, if your backlink must share a page with other links, better to make them links to authority websites. If a backlink to your site is surrounded by links to high-quality sites, especially ones in your niche, search engines will include your site in the same group as those high-quality sites. Welcome to the cool gang! If your backlink is surrounded by links to low-quality websites, you won’t necessarily be penalized, but those links are not going to improve your page rank.

From a Unique Source

There’s a direct correlation between a website’s rank and the number of root domains (different domains hosted on different IP addresses) linking to that site. It’s much better to have ten links from ten different linking root domains than one hundred links from five different linking root domains. For a new backlink to your blog to be considered high-quality, it should be from a website that hasn’t linked to you previously.


A once widely abused practice, link exchanges involve one blogger posting a link to another site in exchange for a backlink to theirs. To counter this, search engines reduced the value of reciprocal links. However, reciprocal links are still valuable. It’s perhaps inevitable that two bloggers in the same niche will link to each other occasionally and so there is no penalty attached to reciprocal links. But if you’re looking for the highest quality backlinks, they should come from a website that you are not linking to from your own site.


I’d never use paid links myself, but they are popular for a reason: paid links can improve ranking. However, paid backlinks are not high-quality because of the associated risk. Buying backlinks for the purpose of improving the ranking of your website is in contravention of all search engine guidelines. Websites found to be paying for links can be penalized. Using a middleman is not going to help you either. The penalty can be enforced even if the links were acquired through a third-party linking scheme, such as a blog network.

Difficult to Acquire

The easier a backlink is to acquire, the less value it has. If you can acquire a particular backlink in a couple of minutes with a couple of clicks, then many people will have acquired the same link before you. Your competitors could also easily acquire the same backlink if they take the simple step of analyzing your site’s backlink profile. If your competitor acquires the same backlink as you, that backlink means nothing in the SEO contest with that competitor.

If you want to know how many backlinks you have, enter your domain in the widget below. Try entering the domains of some of your favorite websites to see how many backlinks they have!

I hope this post has helped you to understand the characteristics of high-quality backlinks. Now start working on getting backlinks for your blog! If you have any good tactics for generating backlinks, let us know in the comments below.

About The Author

David Borrowdale is the founder and editor of Blog Cogs, a blog about making a living from blogging. Learn more about him here.

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2 Responses

  1. Abhishek Bhatt

    Nice article and by following these points I am getting good and useful traffic on my website.