Link Building: Determining the Value of a Link

link building

Link building is an important part of any SEO campaign. Building links has the effect of sending our websites direct traffic, while at the same time signalling Google that our website is important. The latter leads to increased crawl rate, and optimally increased rankings.

In nutrition, we realize that overall health and fat loss is not a simple measure of calories in minus calories out. Consuming 200 calories worth of fresh fish and vegetables will certainly decrease body fat faster than consuming 200 calories of ice cream.

The same is true in link building. Increasing our page authority entails building quality, relevant links from high authority websites. There is a difference between receiving a link from The New York Times and receiving a link from your college buddy’s blog with 10 followers.

In this article we examine the SEO basics of valuing a prospective link.

Begin with Pagerank

PageRank is Google’s measure of a website’s authority and importance. The scale is from 1 to 10, but is not linear. Moving up from 1 to 2 is much easier than moving up from 6 to 7. Named after Larry Page, Google PageRank is measured internally within Google, but updated very infrequently to the public.

This creates a conundrum for link builders. The ranking we are allowed to see may be vastly different than the internal ranking. This is especially true with websites which are “moving quickly.” They may have been brand new a few months ago, but have built a substantial following since.

Determining how popular or authoritative a website is becomes more art than science. There are a number of data sources we can tap to estimate how important a link might be from a website. For instance traffic estimates from Alexa or Compete can help with sites which have experienced high traffic for at least a couple of months.

In recent years, social media has become important source of data. How many followers does the website have? How much discussion revolves around them? Are people regularly linking to them using social media?

There are third party tools which provide a rough approximation of Google PageRank, but these often seem to me to be akin to the blind man feeling the elephant analogy. The bottom line is it more art than science, and it will take multiple sources to piece together a rough approximation of a website’s authority.

But it needn’t be so difficult. If you have to look hard to determine if a website has high authority, then it likely it does not have it. Obvious high authority should hit you square in the jaw. High authority blogs have a large following, and many times an active commenting community. High authority websites are linked to frequently, and talked about across the web.

Outbound Links

Once you determine how authoritative a webpage is, you should next look at the number of outbound links on the webpage. The amount of link juice a webpage sends is divided among the outbound links. So if there are 3 links on the page, each link will receive 1/3 of the benefit.

This becomes a major issue with lists and directories. A webpage with hundreds of outbound links is probably not worth the effort, no matter how authoritative their domain is.

Matt Cutts discusses this on his YouTube channel below:


I’m not sure how to quantify this with a number, but I am certain that links from an irrelevant webpage will not pass much authority if any. The link to your own webpage should have a relation to the content on the linking page, and optimally to the content of the entire domain.

Domain Trust

Again, this is difficult to quantify. A domain may have many links point toward it, but that doesn’t make the domain trustworthy. If you are Google, do you value a link from a spammy gossip website more than a link from an Ivy League university, even if the gossip website has more inbound links?

I avoid seeking a link from any website with a very spammy look to it, pop up windows, or questionable advertising and content.

Fresh Material

This is especially obvious with blogs. I have received offers to post blogs with websites with decent PageRank values, but ultimately declined because of a lack of fresh material. PageRank is a snap shot in time, and does not offer you information as to whether the velocity is positive or negative. Assume with any website lacking fresh content that the PageRank is stagnant or in decline.

When targeting a blog, or any article rich website, ensure that the articles are updated on a regular basis. Infrequent updates not only sends you a red flag that the website authority is in decline, it also sends a message to Google that the search engine need not crawl the website frequently. Therefor any new link posted may take a while before Google notices it.

Guest Blogging

The actual process of link building is worth several posts of their own. However one of the most effective methods you can use is guest blogging. Guest blogging gives the website a reason to link to you, as it is in exchange for the valuable content that you are providing.

What I really like about guest blogging is that you expose a large audience to your knowledge of a subject, and give them a reason to want to learn more about you. The catch is, you need to be able to write effective articles and express yourself through the written word. If you don’t feel comfortable with this, you can hire writers to produce content for you.


Link building should begin with identifying high authority websites with content which is related to our website. The website should be trustworthy, if you expect the link to have its maximum effectiveness. You should also consider the number of outbound links on the page, as the link juice will be divided among them.

About the Author

Dan Padavona is the lead web designer for Warmpicture Royalty Free Stock Photography. His blog covers the business of photography, and SEO advice for photographers wishing to start their own websites.