January 27, 2015 in Tips by

So you’ve heard you need to do “link building” to help your website. Well, not all links are equally valuable. Apply this flow chart to a link (or a potential link you might attempt to receive) from a webpage and you will see how this link might help your website.


Factors on the Page Itself

The value of the link first depends on the page on which the link appears.

Is the Webpage Publicly Viewable

  • How can you tell?
    • View the webpage in question after logging-out of the website or in another browser that is not logged into the website.
  • What difference does this make?
    • Search engine spiders typically cannot view a webpage from the perspective of someone who has logged-in to a website. Therefore they will only credit websites with links according to pages for visitors who are not logged-in. All of the following criteria that will help us decide a link’s value are assuming you are not logged-in to the website.

Can the search engine spider read the page?

  • How can you tell?
    • You’ll have to view the source of the webpage that has the link. Look at how the HTML for the link is rendered- your link might be in the part rendered statically or in the section of the webpage rendered dynamically. You can also enter “cache: thewebsite.com/thispage.html” into Google and then select, “Text-only version” of the page to see how much of this page is rendered dynamically.
  • What difference does this make?
    • Although the search engines are getting better at reading JavaScript (and, consequently, AJAX) than they once did, just because they can read it, doesn’t mean they will- or credit your website for this link.
  • Example:
    • Many social networking sites are using AJAX to put their content on their web pages- including Google Plus and Twitter.

How many links come to this page?

  • How can you tell?
    • Independent web crawlers can tell you how many links are directing to this page on third-party websites (Majestic or Open Site Explorer).
  • What difference does this make?
    • If there are no links to this page (even links from internal navigation on the website) then the search engines typically won’t be able to find it, to give your website credit for the link. Of course, if there are links to this webpage, the more links the more this link could help your SEO efforts.

Factors Regarding the Link

Once we understand the page that has the link, we can next decide how the link can help us.

Does the link follow a redirect?

  • How you can tell?
    • Hover over the link with your mouse. Your browser will tell you where this link will end up- usually near the bottom of your web browser. If the browser shows you anything besides the expected URL, it goes through a redirect.
  • Example:
    • User-provided profile links from LinkedIn

What kind of redirect does the link follow?

  • How you can tell?
    • Copy the redirected URL into a tool that checks header codes and redirects (such as on tools.SEObook.com or seoconsultants.com). The tool should tell you the redirect code that is being used to direct you to a new place. The URL might actually follow multiple redirects before it ends on its destination page.
  • What difference does this make?
    • If, at any point before it lands on the last page, the URL goes through a 302 redirect, Google will not credit to the destination website for this link. A 302 redirect tells Google that the redirect is temporary so Google will not pass authority through this link.
  • Example:
    • Links from your LinkedIn Profile follow a 302 redirect before ending on your supplied website.

Is the link followable?

  • How can you tell?
    • You can check the code manually for the rel=”nofollow” parameter in the link or a meta robots tag set to “nofollow”. Some web browser toolbars (Quirk Search Status, SEMQuake or SEOMoz) will also show you if a link is followable or not.
  • What difference does this make?
    • This is an anti-spam convention adopted by the search engines a few years ago. A webmaster can direct Google that they are not vouching for the webpage on the other end of this link. Most SEO professionals believe that Google can follow a “nofollow” link, but the link will not pass authority to the destination webpage.
  • Example:
    • By default blog comments on WordPress websites have the rel=”nofollow” parameter set.

Potential Link Value to Web Users

Although this link probably won’t help increase your search engine ranking, that doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Links like this can help people find your website and interact with you, buy your products or generate a lead. The value of these links largely are based upon the amount of traffic to the website on which it is found and where on the website this link appears- the more visits to the website and the more predominant the link on the webpage the more visits this can drive to your website.

Potential SEO Link Value

This link could help increase your website’s authority and increase your search engine rankings as a result. Even if all these factors are true, and the link can benefit your SEO efforts, not all links like this are equally valuable. Other factors such as the authority of the web page on which it is found and the anchor text that forms the clickable link can make this link even more valuable.

Visitors vs. SEO- a false-dichotomy

The BEST links to a website are valuable to visitors as well as search engines. Although technically a link with SEO value can help increase your ranking even if a human never uses it to find your website, the best links generate visitors too. The best link building strategy attempts to build links for humans that also help your SEO efforts.

Search Engine Journal
This infographic was featured in a post on Search Engine Journal.

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