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How to determine the value of a backlink

philipp enders

Philipp Enders

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Backlinks are crucial. But how do you determine their value? Here are some sure methods to evaluate the value of a backlink.

So, you have just earned a good backlink from a website.

And now? Is it really valuable enough to see changes in your authority and rankings?

We have been told over and over again that links are critical to search engine rankings.

But not all links are equal. Some can even do significant damage to your search engine ranking.

There are many factors that determine the actual value of a backlink. Factors that tell you that the link you earned is Class A.

In this article, I will go over some (but not all) of these factors to help you determine the value of your backlinks.

1. unique root domains or backlinks in total?

After earning your latest link, you should first check whether this link is from a unique root domain or not.

A unique root domain means that the link you just received is from a website that did not link to your website before:

And that is very valuable.

Think of each backlink to your site as a referral, and Google looks at your site and decides whether it should buy (or, rather, whether it should rank your site in search results listings).

If Google looks at your website and notices that you have 15 referrals from the same person (i.e. root domain), that is much less convincing than 15 referrals from 15 different people.

In fact, it might be a bit suspicious if your link profile is small but filled with links from the same source. Diversification is the key.

94% of all content online has no backlinks.

So a few backlinks from the same root domain won’t hurt you.

But if it’s the only thing you have to show for backlinks, it’s a sign that you need to become proactive in link building to diversify your profile.

The more relevant unique domains you can get links from, the better.

2. domain rating / domain authority - metric of vanity?

Domain Rating (a term from Ahrefs), Domain Authority (a term from Moz), Authority Score (a term from SEMrush).

Although they are named differently, they are essentially a calculation of the same metric:

An overall score from 0-100 calculated based on several factors, mainly the total number of backlinks, the number of unique backlinks, and the relative authority of each of those backlinks.

In simple words: If the domain rating is high, the website has many great links from many great websites. If the domain rating is low, the website will have fewer links from less unique websites.

Is it a vanity metric?

In a way, yes.

So, does it matter?


Look at any SERP for any contested keyword and tell me it’s not:

Almost everyone who ranks for “international SEO” has a DR of over 75.

Domain valuation is more than just a vanity calculation.

Although not used directly by Google, it is a clear indication of what these tools believe Google trusts: sites with healthy, diverse backlink profiles that create great content.

In other words, authoritative websites that are constantly talked about, trusted, and cited.

Getting a link from a huge website with a domain rating of 75+ can give your own DR and trust signals a massive boost.

From years of experience building links for dozens of clients in all niches, non-spammy links with over 50 in Ahrefs domain rating can have a significant impact on your own authority and trust.

But DA/DR/AS are not the all-important metrics.

Don’t be discouraged if you get a link from a site with a domain rating of 45 instead of a coveted 90.

You will be pleasantly surprised how powerful a DA47 website can be.

Strong enough to overtake a site like if the content is good enough.

3. spam ratings: How high is too high?

Spam Score, coined by, represents “the percentage of sites with similar characteristics that have been penalized or banned by Google.”

Spam scores and link building are often discussed, and it’s pretty common to hear that high spam scores mean your site will soon be penalized.

Unfortunately, this is not very accurate.

Straight from the mouth of Moz:

Well established links, even with a higher spam score, can still bring value and authority to your site.

While it is obviously bad to have an entire link profile of extremely spammy sites, it is not bad to have some sites with high spam scores.

The guidelines set by SEMRush are:

1-45 = Low

46-59 = Medium

60-100 = High

In general, you almost always have a mix of these scores.

For link optimization purposes, your link profile should tend toward mostly low, somewhat medium, and only a few high.

High spam scores do not immediately mean that you should perform a devaluation. Instead, take each case individually.

Ask yourself a few questions when looking at a link with a higher spam score:

  • Is this website legitimate? Or is it a shady PBN that links spam?
  • Is the piece of content in which I am mentioned any good? Or is it cluttered with exact match anchors from hundreds of sites?
  • Is the anchor text contextually relevant, or is it a big directory of random links?

It’s easy to tell if an outbound link is spammy. And the superficial level of spam scores can’t always tell you what you need to know.

4. organic traffic: does it matter?

When trying to determine the value of a backlink you just acquired, organic traffic is a good metric to examine.

Depending on which source you use (Ahrefs, SEMrush, SimilarWeb, etc.), you can find a whole range of organic traffic estimates.

Why? They are estimates of clicks and not data directly from Google Analytics.

With a tool like SEMRush, it is quite easy to determine if a website is getting good organic traffic:

And to confirm, you can simply click on the keywords report to see what they rank for.

If the keywords have high volume and rank high on the first page, they are likely to have great organic traffic each month.

Generally, you want to acquire backlinks from sites with consistent, high rates of organic traffic.

Anything over 1,000 organic traffic is a good starting point. And obviously anything higher is even better.

The more relevant the organic traffic (keyword: relevant) is, the better.

Look at the site’s keyword profile to see what they rank for and if traffic is likely to stay.

Organic traffic to a page you are linked to will not directly improve your keyword rankings.

But it will certainly drive organic referral traffic to your site, and that’s a huge potential for indirect ranking boosts through new links, shares and engagement.

5. anchor text: Is exact match harmful?

One of the biggest issues I see in link building revolves around anchor texts.

Half of the people want exact matches in anchor texts to improve keyword rankings.

The other half wants to have “natural” anchor texts to avoid Google penalties.

So, who’s right?

Both are right. Link building is rarely either one or the other. It is rarely about getting all DR90 links, but rather about having a balance.

If you exaggerate something on one spectrum or the other, it’s not natural.

If you are a tiny website with a blog post that acquires 100 links with an exact match anchor text, something is fishy.

On the contrary, if you acquired 100 links from a study you created and the anchor texts vary from image citations, statistics citations, article citations, exact matches and more, that’s fantastic.

This is a sign that these links were acquired and built in a natural way and not through artificial methods that manipulate the system.

When it comes to a natural looking link profile, you should aim for both exact matches in anchor texts and more “natural” anchor texts such as image quotes, citations, homepage links and more.

6. competitor analysis: create a backlink gap

Backlinks that you get that your competitors don’t have are extremely valuable for several reasons:

You increase trust and authority only in your niche, instead of a multitude of competitors benefiting from it.
You generate more direct referral traffic than your competitors.
Each additional link you receive increases authority and sets you apart from your competitors.

Every time you acquire a link, you throw your domain into a link interest report:

This will show you who is linking to you and not your competition or vice versa.

If the root domain links to you and not to your competitors, the value of the link is higher (considering all factors).

If it also links to your competition, that’s still a big win. Why? You have closed the backlink gap that your competitor had against you.

With every link you acquire and every outreach email you send, you are striving to create a larger backlink gap that will improve your domain authority over your competitors.

7. the context is crucial

All of the above factors are important.

But the “context of the mention” is crucial.

By context of mention, I simply mean: evaluate all the factors around your link to see if the context is relevant and effective.

In other words…

  • How well written is the article that mentioned you?
    Is it a 500-word article that will never appear in the rankings? Or is it an ultimate 5,000-word guide that will topple huge companies in the SERPs?
  • Was the topic you were mentioned in directly related to your backlink? Or was the keyword anchor cluttered and out of place?
  • Were you linked among 150 other people, or in a select group of a few other outbound links?
  • Was the content shared on a social network, leading to direct engagement and referral links?

I could go on like this endlessly.

Context is critical. If you get mentions on low-quality articles from low-quality websites with low-quality context, it’s far less valuable.

Take a close look at the article that mentioned your brand or linked to your website. If the article is great, relevant to the topic and interesting, you have acquired a great link.


When you acquire a new backlink, the first thing you should do is check its value.

Assess unique root domains, domain rating, spam ratings, organic traffic, anchor text and mention context.

While there are more factors, these are some of the most important.

Almost all links are valuable to your overall profile, but some are more valuable than others.

We form long-term partnerships.

Over 90% of tikitaka customers continue their partnership with us in year 2 of their campaign.

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