A valuable link has Relevant Authority Transfer or RAT. This means it should convey authority on a particular subject to the website it is linking to. When searching for the right links, you can assess the value of a link by using the following checklist.
R = Relevance
Search engines like Google are all about relevance to a subject or keyword. Not only within the code of your webpage, but also in every aspect that is related to that page, including links to it. A link has relevance to a keyword by different factors on the page doing the linking. When looking for the right links, look for the following factors.
- Link text
The actual highlighted text included in the link says the most about the page it is linking to, therefore relevant link text is very important. When an image is used in the link, the alt tag of the image is seen as link text. Incorporating your actual search term is best, just make it look natural.
- Surrounding text
Text closest to a link tells much about the topic of the link. Search engines look at surrounding text and text in the same block-type element for relevance. Incorporating words that are often used along side your search term is best.
- Surrounding links
Links near each other or in the same menu should have the same topic. If a link is listed between totally irrelevant links it will loose some of its own relevance.
- Page text and links
The entire link page (the page doing the linking) should be as relevant as possible. Therefore you should select the page you want to be linked from carefully. Also check if the link page has many irrelevant links on it. Do an internal site search for your search term to find out which page is already the most relevant (a Google query like: “search term site:thisdomain.com”).
- Links to the link page
Just as links to you should be relevant, this is equally important for links to pages linking to you. Are internal and external links to it all on the same topic?
- Domain relevance
The entire domain of the page that is linking to you should be as relevant as possible, both in links to it as in the text on it. The domain should be an authority on your subject (more on authority later).
- Most relevant landing page
The page on your own website that is being linked to should be your best page on the subject. If you can use the relevant links for multiple search terms and pages on your site, link to them as directly as possible from your landing page.
A = Authority
The authority factor in search engine algorithms is used to see if a source can be trusted. Although this can’t be detected with any certainty, the sense of authority is enough for most search engines. There are many aspects that indicate trust and authority, but in links it means the following.
- Relevant authority
There is topic based authority and more general authority. The authorities you want your link from should be as relevant as possible. The best indicator of relevant authority is that the site scores itself on your search term.
- Authority means time
Search engines assess most authority aspects based on time. If an old site has held a specific topic for quite some time, has older links to it and is still acquiring new links; it has more authority than a new site with only new links to it. First index dates in archive.org give some indication of age.
- Site and page authority
Site authority is more important than page authority. An old site with a new page can still convey its overall authority. But older pages that recieve many internal links are the best pages to have your link from.
- Other outbound links
Other outbound links from the same site or page can reduce the authority of the website. For example: if it obviously sells links, has links to places like gambling or links out to linkfarms it loses some of its authority. The scrutiny of the webmaster makes sure authority is kept.
- Age of your link
Older links give more authority. When the link to you ripens, it will be worth more. But when you want to rank for something newsworthy, newer links from within newer content are worth at least as much.
T = Transfer
All I mentioned before is useless when the link doesn’t convey linkpoints. The link needs te be seen as a link by search engines, be directed at the right URL and share linkpoints with little other links. There are many points to check, but I will list the most important ones below.
- Is the page indexed?
The website you get your link from might be a real authority on a subject, but when the page your link is on isn’t in the Google index they can’t see the link.
- Normal <a href links
More and more websites started using rel=”nofollow” in their links. Or they place nofollow in their robots metatag. This means they don’t want to convey any linklove to the page they are linking to. Tools like The SEO toolbar for firefox show all nofollow links as red square, so you don’t have to look at the code to notice them.
- Link URL
Is the link directly to the URL you would like to rank with?
Some sites link to an outbound link checker within their website. This URL then redirects to your page. Depending on the type of redirect, you get no linklove at all.
If the link is to another page within your website, how are the linkpoints tranfered to the page that should rank? Direct is always better! And mind that most search engines see http://www.yourdomain.com, http://www.yourdomain.com/index.php and http://www.yourdomain.com/index.php?referer=othersite all as different URLs even if the content is exactly the same. Direct all links (internally and externally) to exactly the same URL.
- Other links
Linklove is devided by the total of links on the page. If there are 500 other links you get far less love than when you have the only link.
- Link placement
The best links are from within the text that changes on each page (the normal content). High up in the code is better than way down. And footer links recieve less love than links in the main menu. This is more a case of conveying authority, but the effect is the same.
The RAT-checklist tells you how much effort you should make to get a certain link. If the link passes all checkpoints it is bound to be worth something. Relevant authority transferers have much more effect on your ranking than non-relevant, non-authoritive transferers. And with non-transferers the link is worth only the visitors it brings.
Depending on the industry you are in you can set amounts for each point in the checklist and calculate how much you should be willing to spend in time or money to get the link.