Links back to your site (or backlinks as they are commonly called) are a critical determining factor for the amount of traffic you will receive. But not all links carry the same weight – some are definitely more valuable, and thus more desirable than others. As is often the case, the most valuable links are also often the most difficult to procure…but that doesn’t mean the lesser types do not have their part to play.
What makes one link better than another?
There are several factors to consider when comparing the relative value of different links:
- Positioning. Where a link appears on the page has a direct bearing on how likely it is to be clicked – that’s why the best place to put ads on your site is “above the fold” (ie visible without having to scroll down). Links that are inline with the main content are also more likely to be clicked, because they are an integral part of what is being communicated to the reader, and the eye is drawn along by the flow of text. Conversely, links that are in the sidebar (particularly lower down), footer, or way down the comments section will receive fewer clicks simply because they are less visible.
- Authority. The more popular a site is with humans and search engines alike, the more weight it lends to its links. So, all else being equal, a link from a site with good PageRank and high traffic is much better than one from a new, low-traffic one.
- Follow or nofollow? Normal (follow) links are a vote of confidence from one site to another in the eyes of search engines (well, Google anyway, the only one that really seems to matter these days), and result in some of the linking site’s PageRank being bestowed onto the target site, with a resultant boost to the target’s standing in the eyes of the search engine. Nofollow links do not have this characteristic, and for that reason are vastly inferior to the former kind.
- Longevity. This relates to how long a link survives. Normal inline links generally last indefinitely (as long as the site does, anyway), but there are other kinds which have shorter lifespans. I’m thinking particularly of things like paid-for links, and Top Commentator ones.
Which kind of links are the best?
By this definition, the best kind of links are inline, above the fold, and from an authoritative site. No surprises there, but the reason they are the best is because they tick all the boxes I’ve just mentioned. By the same token, links from comments low down the page are probably some of the least effective ones you can have because they are generally ignored by search engines, and most human readers don’t get that far.
This situation changes a bit if the blog you’re commenting on uses dofollow links though, because then at least you’re getting some SEO benefits from the link, even if not actual traffic. And this could be further improved if the site you’re commenting on has good PageRank. See my article on strategic commenting for more on this.
As I mentioned earlier, the best kind of links are also the hardest to get – because they’re out of your control. The way to get them is to network effectively, and in the meantime focus on getting those that are within your control – social bookmarking, blog carnivals, and commenting relentlessly, particularly on dofollow and Top Commentator blogs.