January 14

High-Quality Links and Low-Quality Links: What Is the Difference?

Online marketing


Backlinks represent one of the most powerful factors that Google takes into consideration when assigning a page rank to your website. However, as we have told you in other articles, not all types of backlinks are desirable. In this article, we will discuss in detail about high-quality links and low-quality links, as well as of moderate-quality links.

How Does Backlinking Works in Terms of SEO?

Backlinks represent links to your website published on another website. When one site publishes such a link, it means that it believes its readers can benefit from the information included in the respective web page.

For Google, a backlink is a vote for your page. It is like an endorsement: yes, this site has information that we find useful and valuable. The difference between high-quality links and low-quality links is made by who makes this statement, i.e., the page rank and reputation of the site that publishes the backlink.

The Basic Differences between High-Quality Links and Low-Quality Links

Two key factors determine Google to deem a backlink as high quality:

  • Authority
  • Relevance.

Let us look at this scenario. Martha Stewart is a celebrity in the field of interior decorations. Her advice is followed by millions of people who want to make their homes look beautiful and trendy. Thus, her website is an authority in home décor.

If Martha Stewart includes a link on her site to a small business selling handmade tablecloths, napkins and other interior decoration accessories, Google will increase the page rank of the small business website. An authority in the field says that they have useful information.

However, if Martha Stewart adds a link to the web design company that created her site, that is not necessarily considered a high-quality link for that company website. The reason is that Martha Stewart is not an authority in web design, just a happy client that got what she paid for. Thus, her backlink does not have relevance.

What Are High-Quality Links?

Now, let us have an in-depth look at high-quality links. They are the hardest to earn, because they are websites owned and operated by top authorities and thought leaders in your industry:

  • Professional associations
  • Top business/industry leaders
  • Research institutes
  • Big corporations
  • Mainstream media channels
  • Government authorities
  • Regulatory bodies.

They are those who make the rules, create the trends and generally own the biggest market share in your field of activity. They are the experts. So, if they say that you have valuable information on your website, Google will trust them.

An In-Depth Look at Low-Quality Links

The first part of the explanation was easy enough and straightforward. Each business owner knows who the big players in the industry are. They also know that getting a link in a national business magazine is worth more than a quote in the local paper (although the local paper wins more points for local SEO than the national magazine).

However, what exactly are those low-quality links that not only have no value, but can also drag your page rank down? Let us look at them in detail:

1. Article Directories

A website that allows anyone (literally anyone, even a lone blogger publishing fan fiction) post links is definitely low quality. These sites have neither authority, nor relevance. They do not focus on a specific topic. They do not have curated content – in fact, they may be brimming with fake news and misinformation.

2. Social Media Platforms

Although the big social media platforms are striving to weed out hate speech and fake news, they still do not generate high-quality links. By definition, they do not have a specific specialisation – thus no authority.

As for relevance, content shared by users is largely not curated at all. In some cases, posts that go against the terms of service are removed. In others, several users report a post and it gets taken down. However, it is still not enough to win Google’s trust.

3. Harmful Sites

Some sites are created with malicious intent:

  • To imitate the website of a reputable company – online store or internet banking (phishing sites)
  • Sites that contain malicious code attempting to exploit vulnerabilities in the user’s device and infect it with a virus
  • Sites that promote illegal or harmful substances and attitudes (drugs, sexual violence, self-harm).

These sites will randomly post backlinks to other sites with the purpose of giving a sort of legitimacy. In reality, they will negatively impact the page rank of your own site.

4. Discussion Forums

Just like the social media, discussion forums do not generate high-quality links. Even if they are focused on a specific topic (car owners, parenthood, etc.), the content is infrequently curated by moderators.

This means that users may share malicious links, unrelated content and even false information. And, as you already know this, Google does not like this.

However, there is an exception: discussion forums attached to high rank websites. There are usually carefully curated and moderated, and the admins are proactive in removing irrelevant content as well as users who frequently break forum rules.

What About Moderate-Quality Links?

Alright, now we get to an interesting part of the discussion. In backlinking, things are not only black and white. You don’t have to aim for the stars (very reputable websites linking to you) or getting only low-quality backlinks that you have to remove.

Moderate-quality backlinks are the middle ground. These are websites that have a fairly good page rank and link back to your site. One such example is the website of a local blogger who shares interesting and relevant stories and information from their community.

They may link back to you. You should keep this link, because it has relevance in Google’s eyes, even if the website does not have a high authority.

The rule of the thumb in determining moderate-quality links that you should keep is relevance. An irrelevant backlink will be worth to zero, even if it comes from a reputable source (see the hypothetical scenario we presented above).

Final Warning: Do Not Buy Links!

There is one type of links that is definitely of the lowest quality: paid links. It is against Google’s rules to pay for backlinks – this is actually one of the top black hat SEO tactics that can get your site in hot waters.

Aim for high-quality links, keep moderate-quality links and your site will increase its page rank. But always play by Google’s rules. Good luck!

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