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How to Build Quality Links: 16 Point Vet List

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In 2024, ferocious link building has become all the rage for would-be online entrepreneurs. But like many things in life, quantity isn’t everything. In fact, sometimes too much quantity is counterproductive.

What’s the point?

Building the wrong backlinks can actually hurt your website’s ranking.

That’s because successful link building isn’t just about the number of backlinks to your site, but also their quality. Backlinks are essentially digital votes of confidence in your website, and as such, they’re not all created equal.Building links from high quality, relevant, authentic websites is one of the best ways to improve your own site’s search engine rankings—and to do this, it is first necessary to differentiate between high-quality and low-quality links. This can seem like a daunting task even to SEO experts—which is why we’ve decided to make your day by writing this article.

The Checklist

Link building is intimidating—but not for us. (And we’re actually not joking.)

Based on our experience building thousands of links for clients, we’ve developed this checklist to help you vet your backlinks and improve their quality.

The Google search algorithm uses a number of factors to assess the quality of your backlinks and the sites from which they originate. In particular, it takes into account the 16 metrics covered below when assessing the quality of your backlinks.

Ideally, you want to find that perfect balance between quantity and quality of backlinks to your site. You can’t just have one or the other—you need both.

This means that, in addition to building lots and lots of backlinks, you’ll need to be familiar wit the most important metrics and how to use them in order to make sure all of your backlinks are top quality.

So let’s get into it.


Backlinks from sites that are relevant to your content are one of the best ways to achieve a high Google ranking—but how do you identify relevance?

The obvious first step, of course, is to make sure the site has content related to your own website. It also helps to check out some of the people mentioned on the site. If they’re experts in the field with a regular social media presence, that’s a huge plus.

A word of caution, though: often you will find sites that deal with your website’s topic and also with a random jumble of other topics. These spammy sites are to be avoided at all costs. Stick with sites that are focused on a single or limited set of topics related to your own.

As a final step, check to see if there are any negative reviews of the website. You can do a Google search for the name of the site along with the keyword “reviews.” Avoid sites with negative reviews even if they are relevant, since you probably don’t want to be associated with them.

Domain Rating

A “blacklist,” as far as we’re concerned, is not as cool as it would be if you were in the CIA. Sorry about that.

For our purposes, it’s simply a list of websites to be avoided. In this case, it’s a list of websites not to use for backlinks.

As we touched on earlier, there are many websites that you should steer clear of when building backlinks. These sites are sometimes called link farms, and they exist only for the purpose of selling backlinks. There are so many of these sites that web developers have created a number of online blacklist search tools that will help you identify them.

Profit Engine has its own internal link database which includes a list of sites to which we will never build links. You can build your own blacklist by using Google Analytics to monitor and filter your website’s backlinks and eliminate the spammy, low-performing ones.

With a little ingenuity, it’s also possible to manually identify spammy sites and link farms. One very simple method is to do a Google search for “guest post websites”—chances are that most results can be automatically added to your blacklist.

Another way to identify backlink spammers is through their email solicitations. If you receive cold emails offering link building deals that seem too good to be true, you can ask for their list of websites and then add them to your blacklist.


Along with relevance, domain authority is another important quality to look for in a link building candidate website. In general, the best backlinks come from highly respected websites that receive a lot of web traffic and can boast a high level of domain authority.

The best way to discover if a website is considered authoritative by Google is to determine its specific Domain Rating (DR), which measures the amount of organic web traffic generated by a website. It’s easy to check on the Domain Rating of specific websites using freely available online SEO tools.

However, you should keep in mind that while DR is important (because it tells you how much search traffic a website generates) it’s not the only metric you should focus on. That’s because Google also ranks individual webpages as opposed to simply full websites.

You should prioritize linking from websites with a high DR, but also continue to build backlinks from websites that simply contain directly relevant content.
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Referring Domains

A referring domain is essentially a bigger picture view of backlinking—it’s an entire external website that links to your site via backlinks. It’s not quite the same thing as a backlink itself, which is, by definition, a singular link.

It’s a good idea to monitor your referring domains, since these domains are what actually determine the quality of the backlinks that come from them and point to your website.

Google checks referring domains for domain authority, relevance, traffic, popularity and overall trust.

Outgoing Links

We’ll resist the impulse to make a joke about how outgoing links are super friendly and sociable, and just give you the boring facts: outgoing links are links to other websites that you place on your own website.

The idea of a website containing inbound and outgoing links has led to the casual term “link juice,” which simply refers to the overall amount of credibility or authority being transferred to and fro across websites via links.

More formally, link juice (also known as link equity) refers to the authority that a website passes on to the pages to which it is backlinked.

There is no formal way to measure link juice, but factors like authority, relevance, domain rating, the location of the link, and the anchor text used all indicate the strength of the link juice being shared. 

In and Out Ratio

Building off of the above section, the ratio of inbound links to outgoing links on a given website is another indication of whether or not it’s an optimal backlinking target.

If a site has many more links going out than coming in, it may mean that the site is focused on selling links—in other words, it could be a link farm. As we’ve seen, backlinks from this type of site do not help your website.

A good rule of thumb is that if the ratio of outgoing links to incoming links is 3:1 or higher, do not get a backlink from that site.

Citation Flow

Citation Flow is one of two Flow Metrics developed by Majestic SEO. The other metric is Trust Flow, which is covered in the next section.

These Flow Metrics measure backlink quality using many of the factors already mentioned. In particular, Citation Flow does not check the quality of specific backlinks. Instead, it ranks a website’s authority based on the number of inbound links leading to it. Using the tools developed by Majestic SEO, Citation Flow is measured on a scale of 0 to 100, with higher scores being ideal.

However, it’s important to note that Citation Flow must be seen in context. A given score may be proportionally very good for a small business website with local clients, whereas that same score could actually be a negative for the website of a huge public organization, like a university.

Used in conjunction with Trust Flow, Citation Flow paints a picture of the overall authority of a website and whether or not it’s a good choice for backlinking.

Trust Flow

Trust Flow, in contrast to Citation Flow, maps the quality of the specific links that point to your site. Majestic SEO uses a variety of factors, including the authority of the websites that provide the links, to make this determination.

Trust Flow and Citation Flow can be checked via service sites, downloadable software and consulting services.

Trust Ratio

Here’s the fun part: it’s when you look at Citation Flow and Trust Flow together that you get a truly accurate indication of a site’s overall quality and authority. That’s where the Trust Ratio (TR) comes in. This is the ratio of the Trust Flow to the Citation Flow, and it gives you crucial information about the trustworthiness of a site that you are considering as a potential link prospect.

When the Trust Flow is higher than Citation Flow—in other words, when the quality of the backlinks to a site exceeds the quantity—it is a good site from which to build a backlink. Consequently, if you use the Trust Ratio to measure your own website, you should aim for a high Trust Ratio.

A key takeaway from the strength of the Trust Ratio is that it’s always a good idea to look at a number of different indicators in conjunction with each other in order to accurately evaluate the potential of a site for link building.


Traffic refers to the number of visitors a website receives, and it’s a basic metric that’s often used to check if a website is even legitimate in the first place.

A site with a significant amount of traffic is certainly using keywords, backlinks, and other SEO techniques that improve its rank in the SERP (search engine page rankings). In general, the higher the traffic, the more high-quality the site.

There are a number of online tools that you can use to measure both organic and paid traffic and to track its progress.

Traffic Trends

Traffic trends are another important guide to the quality of a website. A negative traffic trend will tell you if a site has been hit by any algorithm changes or Google penalties. If you see a decline in traffic due to these or other factors, you should avoid building links from that site.

On the other hand, positive traffic trends are a green light, and you should prioritize building links on these sites, as your links are likely to get more and more hits as time goes by.

Traffic Location

The ahrefs Website Traffic Checker is a phenomenal tool that will show you where a website’s traffic originates. For obvious reasons, if your site is based in the US, UK, or Australia, you’ll want to link mostly to sites that have traffic that originates in these countries.

Anchor Text

This is anchor text. It’s the blue, underlined text that contains an actual backlink. The anchor text used for links on a site can be an important clue to the website’s overall quality.

There are many different types of anchor text. It could be a brand name, a generic line of text like “for more information,” a keyword, or a combination of any of these.

A good anchor text distribution on a page consists of mostly branded anchor text, some generic anchors, and very few keyword anchors. You want to avoid spammy websites that use anchor text that is completely unrelated to the content on that page or the page that is being linked to.

As an example, consider the common search term “free Wi-Fi” or “free Wi-Fi near me.” If you see these keywords used as anchor text on a page about automobiles, it’s probably spam. Such sites are usually heavily penalized by Google and you should definitely avoid building links to or from them.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate

An SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate is a ranking signal for Google and other search engines. An SSL is an unambiguous green light when it comes to link building. You can tell if a site has this certification if you see a small image of a lock next to the URL, or if the URL starts with HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure).

The SSL certificate is essentially a verification of the identity of a website and of a secure, encrypted connection to the browser.

Trigger Words

There are certain “trigger words” that will clue you in right away if you are looking at a spam website. When you see pages with unashamed titles like "Write For Us,” “Guest Posts,” or “Submit an Article,” the site is most likely a link farm and not a good choice for link building.


Indexing is when Google’s crawler, also known as Googlebot, has analyzed a website and placed it in Google’s index. If a site has been indexed by Google, it will automatically rank higher than those that have not been indexed.

Though it’s not a be-all-end-all, indexed sites are generally better link building candidates than those that haven’t been indexed.
Knowing your onions


Maintaining backlinks of the highest quality is one of the most important elements of any SEO strategy. If done the right way, it can pay huge dividends. And on the other hand, low quality backlinks from spammy websites can do serious damage to your site’s ranking.

The above checklist provides some basic guidelines on how to maintain the quality of backlinks leading to and from your website. Using the metrics detailed in this article, you can vet and monitor your backlinks to optimize your site in Google’s rankings.

Now for one final word of unashamed self-promotion: many smaller businesses today don’t have the in-house capacity to vet, monitor and maintain link quality all on their own. This is where Profit Engine can help.

Using high quality methods like guest posting and niche edits, we can make small tweaks to your backlink profile that produce huge results. Further, Profit Engine uses AI Link Protocol to analyze your competitors’ backlinks and use their insights to improve your own website.

If you’re ready to take your SEO to the next level, contact us now to get started!
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