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Selecting the Best Backlink Prospect: Evaluation Framework

| Posted in category Link Building Off Page SEO Search Engine Optimization

There are a sheer number of backlink opportunities available on the Web. And this may bring up a challenge both for professional SEOs and individual webmasters.

To surface the best link targets, one needs to assess SEO value of each potential linking source, check lots of different SEO metrics, and carry out their comparative analysis.

This article will tell you how to streamline the process and evaluate backlink prospects in 3 easy steps.

In the post you will find professional, yet easy-to-implement tips on how to:

  • collect important SEO metrics for potential linking sites;
  • roughly estimate SEO value of link targets;
  • eliminate irrelevant backlink prospects;
  • run comprehensive analysis of most SEO-valuable sources;
  • target the best sites to get links from.

Step 1

Collecting Important SEO Metrics

Say, you have an extensive list of sources where you can potentially acquire links (if you don't have such a list, you may get it the way described here).

The first thing you need to do is to get rough estimates of SEO value each prospect on your list holds.  Websites that are irrelevant to your category, compromised domains and other low-quality prospects should be eliminated from your list.

Check out this article to find out which SEO metrics you should collect in the first place.

And these are the tools that will help you run the initial evaluation of your backlink prospects:

  • Netpeak Checker 
  • LinkAssistant

Netpeak Checker

Alongside with checking various important SEO metrics for a domain (Page PR, Domain PR, Alexa Rank, Dmoz inclusion) the tool lets you fetch data from various paid backlink sources via API. But note that it is possible only if you have a paid account there.

Another useful feature Netpeak Checker has is that the tool can highlight all domains that may be coming from link networks. The tool shows all websites that have similar IP addresses and may potentially be within a link network.

LinkAssistant -

The tool runs a detailed analysis of prospective backlink sources against such SEO criteria as Google PageRank of a domain and a page, Google Popularity, Domain Age, Domain IP, Social Media Popularity and many others.

Also, LinkAssistant allows you to fetch contact details of site owners, manage all your link building correspondence, and verify your backlinks.

When you are done with updating SEO metrics, you may proceed to the next stage – that is, sorting sources that are worth trying to get links from.

Step 2

Rough Estimation of SEO Value and Defining the Best Backlink Sources  

Having the list of updated metrics for each prospect, you can filter out all sites that can bring you little or no SEO value. Among them are:

  • domains that have very high Alexa Rank (>7,000,000 );
  • domains and pages that have very low or zero Google PageRank (by the way, Google has recently updated this parameter);
  • young sites with little content;
  • domains that have similar IP addresses (may be the part of a link network);
  • pages that have too many external links (>20).

Next, depending on the number of prospects to analyze, competition strength, and a type of your link building campaign your further activities will vary.

Say, when doing broken link building, the best way would be to filter out all low-quality prospects and massively send out emails to the remaining websites.

In case you are looking for guest blog opportunities, you will need to closely examine target blogs and write highly personalized emails to their owners.

If you want to combine different ways of link building, here is the best scheme for that:

  1. filter out all websites with bad SEO metrics (see above);
  2. mark all websites you are already getting traffic from;
  3. manually check 15-30% of most SEO-valuable websites (the ones that have the best SEO metrics) and tag them for further in-depth analysis (see the Step 3);
  4. briefly scan the remaining sites on your list and get contact details for backlink outreach;
  5. send out standard backlink outreach emails (but try to make them personal anyway).

Useful tip:   never delete the list of websites that have little or no value for you. Quite possible, when you start to search for new backlink prospects, they will get onto your list again. Having that list will help you get rid of all unworthy backlink prospects in a mouse click.

Step 3

Running In-Depth Analysis of the Most Prospective Backlink Sources  

After you have eliminated bad backlink prospects and sent out the first portion of link outreach emails, dive into a deeper SEO analysis of the most prospective linking websites.

At this stage you will need to check how traffic-productive these sites are, what type of content they provide, how popular they are on social media, etc.

Install SEOquake (that's an SEO add-on for Firefox, Chrome and Safari browsers). It will let you see all page and domain metrics at a glance. That is extremely useful, when you need to analyze SEO value of a large number of pages and domains on the whole.

This is how the add-on looks like on Firefox.

The most important SEO parameters we advise you to consider are listed below. You can specify those by clicking on the SEOquake button on the browser toolbar and going to Preferences – Parameters.

Useful tip: when evaluating a website, you need to go beyond the homepage and surf other website pages (category pages, blog, etc.). That will let you get a general impression about quality of website content and assess SEO value of each page.

Here is what each button on the add-on will let you see:

  • Info – the button opens a page, where you can see a brief overview of the main page and domain metrics.
  • PR – the button shows Google PagePank of a page (note, that this metric has recently been updated).
  • # of links data by SEMRush – the next 3 buttons in the row show: 1. # of links that point to a page; 2. # of links that point to a subdomain; 3. # of backlinks to a domain.
  • Alexa Rank – shows a rough estimation of website traffic. Basically, the lower the number you see on this button is, the better a domain is from an SEO perspective. By clicking on the button you will see all domain traffic fluctuations.
  • Social media buttons – show the exact number of Facebook likes, Google +1s, Tweets, etc. That's very important info, as quite often (due to some incorrect usage of URL shorteners and some other reasons) numbers on page social counters may be wrong. If you focus on social media exposure, you want to know maximally accurate stats.
  • Whois – by clicking on the button you will open a page with the general info about a domain. Here you can learn who the owner of a website is, how many other domains have identical IP address, and some other useful info.
  • Robots .txt – the button lets you see whether a page is restricted from indexing by search engines or not.
  • Internal Links – lets you see the total number of internal links located on a page.
  • External links – lets you see the total number of links going from a page.
  • Density – the button lets you see how many times a keyword is found on a page and how prominent it is.
  • Diagnostics button – opens a page with the basic onpage analysis data (title, meta description, meta keywords, heading, images, etc.).

Parameter Creation

SEOquake also lets you create your own parameters. In order to do that, go to PreferencesParameters and hit the New button.

For example, in this way you can calculate a unique Keyword Quantity parameter. This metric will let you see the total number of keywords a website can be found in SERP (according to SEMRush).

Check out this video to learn more about the way this metric is calculated.

To calculate this number for Google.Com, in Preferences-Parameters-New add the code:

[NAME]=SEMrush Keywords .com






And this is the code for Google.Co.Uk:

[NAME]=SEMrush Keywords






To add other parameters of your own, follow the instructions given here.


Additionally, when running an in-depth analysis of a backlink prospect, you need to consider such important SEO factors as:

  • website design on the whole and design of each page in particular (the more unique it is, the better)
  • quantity of ads on each page (getting a link from a page all covered with banners isn't a good idea);
  • last update (important for blogs);
  • language;
  • presence of sidebars called "blogs we like", "useful resources",etc.

Having analyzed all the above mentioned factors, you will see which sites are really worth trying to get links from. Also, knowing all these insights, you will be able to plan your link building strategy in a more thoughtful and efficient way.



Targeting the right sources to get links from can make or break your whole SEO campaign. That's way you need to do your best to analyze the quality of your link prospects and qualify them the right way.

So before you get down to qualifying prospective backlink sources, set some goal and decide:

  • how much traffic and authority is worth your while;
  • what type of link building you are really good or bad at (is that guest posting, or forum contributions, or something else?);
  • what your backlink quality threshold is;
  • what types of sites and pages in your niche are looking out;
  • if there is any type of links that you have too much of;
  • what links will work best for your niche.

After that execute the analysis of your backlink prospects the way this article describes.                                                                          

                                                                                * * * * *

Do you have your own ways of qualifying backlink sources? What are the tricks that helped you maximize your backlink outreach?

Feel free to share your experience and thoughts in the comments.

Photo Credit:jvazqu1234 via Flickr cc.

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