SEO: What is the value of a backlink?

Rebecca Herworth, Head of Outreach at Glass Digital, explains the impact of high-quality links
Rebecca Herworth
A stock image of a jigsaw puzzle, one piece says Backlinks

External links are one of the most important parts of a successful SEO campaign — but acquiring these links can be a time-consuming process and, depending on your methods, expensive. Whether you’re investing a lot of energy into your link-building campaign, sending out products for review, or paying for backlinks outright, it’s understandable that you want to know whether you’re getting the best value for money.

Here, we’ll take you through a few of the key aspects of link building to consider, including what affects the value of a backlink and whether it’s ever OK to buy links for SEO.

How do DA and DR contribute to the value of a backlink?

Backlinks are essential for SEO, as search engines see organic links from a variety of sites to yours as an indicator that your site is authoritative. However, backlinks from some websites are more valuable than others, and one of the contributing factors when determining this value is how authoritative the linking website, or domain, is.

You will usually see this referred to as domain authority (DA), or domain rating (DR) with a score out of 100. These are third-party scores, so they aren’t totally accurate, but they’re useful guidelines when determining the quality of a website, how much traffic it receives, and so on. For example, a popular site that search engines consider to be well-known, established, and trustworthy will have a significantly higher DA or DR. Backlinks from a site like this will have a significant effect on your SEO, but that means they are more difficult (and expensive) to achieve.

However, it’s important to note that DA and DR aren’t the only factors when it comes to backlink value. The relevancy of the domain to the topic at hand, for example, may be even more important in many cases. What’s more, how you achieve your backlinks and at what rate can affect their quality, and low-quality backlinks can have the opposite of the desired effect. This is why spending money on software that produces backlinks automatically is never recommended — you should always aim for organic, relevant backlinks from top publications within your industry.

Is paying for backlinks ever advisable?

If a search engine believes money changed hands to achieve a backlink, it won't count towards your SEO and can even lead to a drop in rankings. The methods and algorithms being used to detect paid links are becoming more sophisticated all the time, so if you are tempted to pay for a high volume of backlinks, it’s unlikely that you’ll get away with it. A white-hat approach — achieving backlinks organically — may be slower and more time-consuming, but it’s much more cost-effective as there’s hardly any risk of incurring a penalty.

Penalties can also happen if search engines believe that a link has been arranged purely to pass link value from one site to another — for example, if the content is unnatural or ‘spammy’. This is why creating high-quality content is so important, as it must have value for the search engine to approve of the link. Meaningful links not only boost site authority by passing PageRank, but also improve brand image and drive relevant traffic. You will also receive more backlinks naturally with a high-quality approach, as people want to link to useful content from reliable sources. So, you’ll definitely want to allocate your budget towards quality content production, rather than spending it on paid links.

If you find yourself with a spammy backlink that you suspect is affecting your SEO in a negative way, you can use Google’s Disavow Links tool to instruct the search engine to ignore it.

What tools and metrics are ideal for measuring backlinks?

Many free and paid tools exist to track and measure backlinks, so it’s important you carefully assess each option to ensure you find the right one for your exact needs and get the best value for money. At Glass Digital, we use Ahrefs and Moz to monitor our backlinks as these are the tools that work best for us and have the features we need to measure them effectively — however, they’re not free.

In addition to counting the number of backlinks achieved, we also measure the quality of the link. This involves taking into consideration whether the link is a deep link or a homepage link, whether the link is do-follow, whether it’s within original content or syndicated (original is better, but syndicated links do still pass value), and the quality of the anchor text used (such as whether the text is an exact match, partial match, company name, or URL).

The tools we use allow us to do this effectively, so while you may have to pay for the backlink checking tools you want, the value they can bring to a link-building campaign makes the expense worthwhile. A cost-effective approach is to outsource your backlinking and other SEO work to an agency, as this allows you to get the benefits of expensive industry tools plus the expertise of professionals, leaving you more time to work on your brand.

There’s more than one way to build links, but if you’re looking for value for money, the tips in this guide can help. Remember that by thinking carefully about where to spend your budget, you can create a custom campaign that strengthens your business and builds authority.

Written by
Rebecca Herworth
Written by
January 23, 2023