How to Develop an SEO Link Building Strategy That Delivers the Goods (Link Value)

September 24, 2009 - Written by Gyutae Park  

shall-not-passLinks are king when it comes to SEO. Search engines view links as votes for a site and the higher the quantity and quality of links your site has, the better your chances of ranking for related keywords in the search results (Google, Yahoo, Bing). If you know anything about SEO, you’re probably sitting there saying, “no duh”.

The problem is that not all links count for SEO purposes, and if they do, it’s always in varying degrees. Just because you see blue underlined text in your browser doesn’t mean that Google will pass over the SEO link value to the site being linked to. In fact, some links may be completely invisible to the search engines. In other cases, Google may choose to discount the value of links for whatever reason.

How do you know whether or not a link on a certain page passes SEO value? What are the cases in which links don’t count?

If you’re engaging in any sort of link building or online advertising campaign, these are important questions to ask and get clear answers to. You need to prevent yourself from wasting precious time building worthless links that have no impact and instead understand which links have the greatest effect for your SEO rankings in order to maximize ROI. We’ll go into everything about SEO link value in this post.

Links that count for SEO – 2 requirements of all SEO links

In order for a link to pass SEO link value, there are 2 main conditions that need to be met.

1. The link must be hard coded in HTML. As long as the link uses something like < a href=”” >, it’s fair game. Google has also started to count Javascript links, but HTML is still the ideal. We’ll get more into Javascript later.

2. The page that the link resides on must be indexed in Google. After all, a link can only pass value as long as Google knows about it. You can check whether or not a page is indexed by using the “site:” operator in the Google search box followed by the URL in question. Remember that new pages usually take at least a few days to be crawled and indexed.

Links that DON’T count for SEO, technically speaking

Although the two conditions above are prerequisites for a link to count for SEO, they don’t automatically infer that a link passes value. What do I mean? Below are some technical exceptions that lead to a link NOT counting in the eyes of Google.

1. Nofollow tag
If a link uses the rel=”nofollow” tag, Google ignores the link and does not pass any value (or they say they don’t anyway). This tag is used in the comments section of many blog platforms (to prevent spamming) and is also required by Google on any advertisements or links that are paid for (a hole in Google’s algorithm).

2. Robots nofollow
Similar to the nofollow tag, the meta robots nofollow tag found in the header of a page, leads to all links on that page to be nofollowed. You can easily check for any nofollows on links by using the SEO for Firefox tool.

3. Redirect links
Any time a link goes through an intermediary page to track ad clicks or sales or to put up a disclaimer page, the link will not pass value to the resulting page unless a 301 permanent redirect is used (as opposed to a temporary 302 redirect). You can check for this by using the Check Server Headers Tool.

For example, all banners ads here on Winning the Web go through a OIOPublisher tracking URL (e.g. tracker/go.php?id=36). If you plug that URL into the header checker tool, you’ll see that it uses a 301 redirect to the advertiser site. This link would normally pass value, but in this case I’m using nofollow as well so it doesn’t. ๐Ÿ˜‰

4. Javascript links
Up until recently, Javascript links were invisible to the search engines. Google has now begun crawling Javascript links – but there’s still debate over whether or not links that use the onClick event (to construct the destination URL) passes value. Use HTML links whenever possible. If you were previously using Javascript to hide advertisement links from the search engines, use HTML and nofollow instead.

Symptoms and signs of devalued links

Okay, so say that the links pointing to your site are technically sound and are supposed to pass SEO value. Does that mean they do? Not necessarily. Below are some symptoms and signs that Google has devalued a link.

1. Strangely low PageRank
Although toolbar PageRank isn’t all that reliable of a metric, it can still point to problem areas on a site where links are devalued. For example, if a site sells obvious paid links, Google will often whack its PR and stop the flow of link value from the site.

2. Slow crawl rate, old cache date
I’ve said before that crawl rate is the new PageRank. If Google trusts a page and considers it important, the bots are going to visit and index it often. Check the cache date of the page your links are hosted on by clicking on the Cache link next to the search listing. If it’s over a month old, that’s a sign that the page is not trusted (bad neighborhood, low authority, etc.) and the links don’t pass value as a result.

3. Link location
Furthermore, sitewide links in the footer or sidebar of pages can be devalued because they are often used as advertisements to manipulate the search results. Google loves editorial links within the content of the page and will usually give the most weight to these links. Location matters.

How to check if a link passes SEO value

Is there a way to check whether or not a particular link passes SEO value? Yes, but it’s not always easy.

What you do is you create a link on the target location with anchor text containing a unique modifier. For example, if I was placing a link to Winning the Web from some random location I was testing, I might try adding a link that says “jibberjab internet marketing”, an obscure but somewhat related keyword that’s not found on any of my pages. If after a short while, the Winning the Web page being linked to ranked for that term, I’d know for certain that it was a result of that particular link passing value. Get the idea?

Let’s try a live example and link to an iPhone blog ( I run using the link iPhonerific. After a few days, try doing a search in Google for iphonerific. If you see that the page ranks anywhere on the first few pages, then you know that this article passes link value. ๐Ÿ™‚

Do you know how to build links that pass SEO value? What are some other considerations that you think are important? Share your stories in the comments section below!

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75 Responses to “How to Develop an SEO Link Building Strategy That Delivers the Goods (Link Value)”

Luca Di Nicola on September 24th, 2009

Great post. Google ranking is a mystery but you’ve pointed out some ways that will help me get better seo value from my linking. I’ve read that inter-linking your blog pages was a good way to get seo juice from google. I like to do some commenting on related posts to get backlinking to my site especially if the blogs are using a dofollow plugin like comment love.

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

Thank Luca, Google rankings doesn’t have to be a mystery. Sure, there are some things that we’ll never know about Google’s secret algorithm, but most things we can figure out their testing.

Interlinking your blog posts using related keywords is a great SEO strategy – especially if it’s within the content.

As for blog commenting, the links likely don’t have much SEO value (even if it’s dofollow). Still, it’s a great way to get in touch with other bloggers and network with them.

Charles - Creative Lab on September 24th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Great info!

I didn’t know sidebar links were singled out for instance. I’m also going to try the cache link trick on a few of my own pages to see if Google likes me ๐Ÿ™‚

My first time here, but not my last!


Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

Thank you Charles – glad the post was useful for you. Sidebar links tend to get less juice compared to a in-text link inside of the content. The Google cache trick is a good way to see how often the search bots come back. The more frequently the better.

Look forward to seeing you here again. Let me know if you have any questions of comments!

Bob Bessette on September 24th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

This is really good information. It should really help me in improving my SEO.


Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

Great, glad I can help Bob.

Chris on September 24th, 2009

Nofollow links still pass value. Its been proven many times if you do some searches for it, or do a simple test yourself.

They don’t seem to pass as much value but are still used in some way in Google’s Algo.

Agent 001 on September 27th, 2009

Ya thats right. Nofollow passes some juice.

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

You’re right, Google says that they don’t use nofollow links (probably to discourage spammers), but tests have shown that nofollow links do pass anchor text for relevancy, at the very least. Don’t think Google uses the links on Wikipedia to determine the authority of sites? Think again.

Seamus on September 24th, 2009

Awesome isn’t it? The way Google have every body panting after them like the little dog in the Warner Bros cartoon going “so whaddya we gonna do now boss? hey you wanna play ball? Hey you wanna? You wanna?”

And big dog Google just trots along silently only pausing every now and then to backhand a little dog and say “Ah shaddap!”

having said that I reckon the best and easiest way to “game” google is just to invest in properly managed Adwords and be done with it. bit I would say that …

Blake @ Props Blog Ideas on September 25th, 2009

That’s kind of funny, but very true that we’re all trying to get a piece of Google. I disagree that using adwords is the only way to go though.

I think writing guest posts for well ranked pages will likely generate solid SEO juice that will help you move up the PR and SERP ladder more quickly.

Sunny on October 4th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Funny! And, I think you’re right on with the best way to “game” google.

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

Haha, great analogy. However, I don’t think simply giving up and going with Adwords is necessarily the best solution. At the end of the day, Google wants its search results to be of high quality so that users will stick with it and click on ads. Build a valuable site and Google will rank it.

Of course you want to build links and optimize as well, but those activities in themselves shouldn’t be the end goal.

Kelvin Lee - SourceSquare SEO Blog on September 24th, 2009

Great post! Linking building is quite time consuming and you should no way waste your time on building links with no value at all!

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

It’s true. SEO is essentially a race between you and your competition. You want to make the best use of your time so that you can get ahead. Building the right links with the biggest impact certainly helps.

Jaan Kanellis on September 25th, 2009

I dont see anywhere in the post above where it explains how to build links rather describes which inks pass value and which dont and how to check that.

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

The post wasn’t meant to be a step-by-step guide on how to build links. It’s never that easy. But knowing which types of links pass the most value, and checking for that will help you to focus your efforts on the activities with the biggest impact. It’s the foundation really and you have to understand that before the “how”.

SEO Doctor on September 25th, 2009

Hi good post, I like the idea of creating a weird anchor text link to test a site, gonna have to try that one. I’ve got a huge list of factors on a hubpage – just search for ‘Optimizing backlinks’.

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

Using gibberish anchor text is a great way to test the search engines and better understand how they’re accounting for links. Definitely try it out.

Ian on September 25th, 2009

I’m only seeing a total of 46 results in Google for “iphonerific” – you may want to pick a more widely used keyword for your test, as any junk link should get a site to show up for such an uncommonly used word.

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

Actually, the competition should be very weak when you’re testing for anchor text link value. That way, you can immediately see whether or not the link in question is passing value. For example, you can already see that is ranking #1 for “iphonerific” simply from that one link along (since the link text doesn’t appear anywhere on the actual site).

What does this prove? The link is passing value!

Blue Word Maker on September 25th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

The nofollow tag on a link simply prevents “juice” or PageRank from flowing to a particular page. The link certainly still “counts.” At the end of the day, the properties of building links change depending on vertical and competition in that vertical. A lot can be learned by sizing up your competition, covering all of their same tracks, and doing just a little bit extra than your competition.

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

Nofollow links do still count – in fact, spammers use them in mass quantities (comment links) to move up in the rankings. It’s not a good idea to focus your link building efforts on nofollow link though. They’re nofollow for a reason.

Jaxrolo on September 25th, 2009

Links are very important and unfortunately this is one of my weak areas. I am going to start concentrating on building good quality backlinks to my sites!

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

Right on. SEO is the lifeline of small sites strapped for cash. You can’t afford not to build links!

Patrick Carroll on September 25th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

I think that nofollow still holds a lot of value as well. Great article though!

Suzanne Vara on September 25th, 2009

Great article and explanation into link building. I agree with Patrick and Chris on the nofollow still holding value.

BuzzStream for Link Building on September 25th, 2009

Another issue is that you want to make sure that the page where YOU see a link isn’t delivering something different to Googlebot (cloaking/ip delivery). Someone would really have to go out of their way to deny you link juice this way, but it could happen.

Btw, BuzzStream’s backlink checker monitors your links to alert you to undesirable changes. We have import templates available for Yahoo Site Explorer and Linkscape.

Jeremy Bencken
Co-founder, BuzzStream

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

Pretty cool. A good way of checking to see what Google sees in terms of links is to look at the text-only version of the cache.

Jason on September 26th, 2009

You can control how often search engines revisit and re-index your website with the Revisit meta tag.


Matt on September 29th, 2009

Placing a revisit meta tag in the code doesn’t mean the search engines have to listen. Try testing it out if you have any sites with this tag.

The best way to get an engine to crawl your pages frequently is to provide quality, unique, and relevant content that is useful to end users. Optimized and valued inbound links – which are detailed in the blog post – also help the engines find a page easier, which can also improve crawl rate.

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

I agree. I’m not too familiar with the “revisit” tag nor do I use it. It’s likely similar to an XML sitemap on a per page basis. Search engines use this as a guideline but don’t follow.

Get lots of quality links and the search bots will naturally visit more often.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Kerie Hinchliffe on September 27th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Thanks for the info on Link building. Some excellent ideas that I will start to implement in my own blog

Kerie ;-D

Kris Malena on September 28th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Wow that was a lot of information. Good but overwhelming for the moment

Johnny on October 2nd, 2009

Great info.

You basically mentioned the main things when it comes to SEO. Apart from backlinks, on page SEO also plays a very important role.

And remember, SEO takes a bit of time. You must always be patient when it comes to IM ๐Ÿ˜‰


Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

SEO isn’t a project, it’s a process. Yes, it takes a lot of time – building links and optimizing never ends. Hope you are all in it for the long run. ๐Ÿ™‚

Jason on October 3rd, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Very informative article.

It’s challenging that we constantly have to rely on each other’s experimentation and advice to figure out Big G’s SEO formula.

But at the same time, it always brings us together for a good discussion yeah? Love it.


Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

Thanks Jason. That’s what I love about the SEO and Internet marketing communities. We’re all in it together and work together to figure things out. I can’t imagine what it’d be like it we all had to go at it alone.

Suzanne Franco on October 4th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Hey Gyutae ~ Awesome post! You know how I love details ๐Ÿ˜‰ I really liked the how to check if it’s passing part … good idea. I’ve retweeted so others can benefit from this awesome info. *SmiLes* Suzanne

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

Thanks Suzanne! Glad you found the post useful. Now it’s time to actually put it into practice and build those links. Good luck!

Chantel Ryan on October 4th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

This is essential information to the next level in SEO an will assist my efforts…Thank you for the information

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

Hey no problem. SEO isn’t rocket science. In the end, it boils down to two things – content and links. Get a lot of both (high quality) and you should be golden.

Kat Young on October 4th, 2009

I thought if I used the “no follow” on many of my links that the ones without it would get ranked higher.Who knows how the bots are thinking. I bet they don’t know either.

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

The other links used to get more link value, yes. But Google recently changed it so that if you’re using nofollow, that value is wasted. Here’s a recap on the change: ougher-for-niche-sites/11068/

Robert White on October 8th, 2009

Nice post!

Don’t forget – that when assuming “link value” you must consider age and number of outbound links as well. It doesn’t matter how often a page is crawled if that page has 700 other outbound links on it – I wouldn’t imagine it to be extremely helpful. Also new sites don’t pass authority like old ones.

PR is helpful! Use PR to look at inner pages with few external links to them. If a site is passing authority to its own pages that have low external links into them – then you can assume it can passes authority to external sites – but if its a PR5 site and its inner pages are PR0 or Not ranked – then I would suspect that the site does not pass authority.

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

Great points, those are all very important factors to consider. Link value tends to get very complicated – and I’m sure Google takes every little detail into consideration. Thanks for sharing.

Robert White on October 8th, 2009
Sports Picks on October 8th, 2009

Interesting never thought of the location of the link being in editorial or as a footer made a difference. Thanks for the info.

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

Like in everything else, location matters. It only makes sense for Google to change the value of a link based on where people will see it most.

Lav on October 8th, 2009

Great article with lots of useful information! I am definitely going to be trying the cache trick. In my experience, the nofollow links do make a difference, although they are definitely less valuable.

Thanks for the great article!

Dave on October 11th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Nice post but can’t really agree on your Link location argument. I still see a lot of sites taking top rankings because they’re using footerlinks as their mainway of building links.

Especially seo, marketing and webdesign companies…

“SEO by xxxx” , “Webdesign by xxx” , and so on..

Google may say their devaluating these but up to now i didn’t really see that.


Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

Hey Dave,
Google’s not perfect – and they do the opposite of what they say a lot of times. So I wouldn’t be surprised if those footer links are still passing a lot of value.

However, it’s only a matter of time before Google figures it out. And it’s also likely that those pages are ranking high because they have a large quantity of those types of links (even though the quality of the links has been downgraded).

website designer toronto on October 14th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

If you are regular real commentator, commenting on particular fixed websites, than there is chance that you get back link from google, which is so difficult.

one way link builder on October 14th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

More and more people chasing purer and purer links that nobody quite knows the exact “success” formula for. Google has turned everyone into lemmings.

Ali Qayyum on October 15th, 2009

Awesome tips, love this.. you did the best for every blogger.

Free Internet Marketing Gift on October 16th, 2009

Hey Mate, I’ve read a couple of posts on your blog and I love your style. I am going to subscribe to your RSS feed ๐Ÿ™‚

Jenny on October 20th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Link building is a must. And finding good information like this one is always useful.

Thanks a bunch,

Branden - the gift basket specialist on October 22nd, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

I have been working for a year and I only have 98 links. I still do not know what I am doing wrong. There has got to be a faster way to move up. I knew what you said but still do not know how to get lots of good links. I will follow this posting and others until it sinks in. Thanks for the posting.

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

Link building is slow process for sure, but there are still ways you can accelerate things. For example, try using social media – popular stories tend to receive a lot of indirect links. You can also run a promotion, create widgets, or even buy some links.

Kris Malena on October 22nd, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Great post. I’ve heard no follow links count as backlinks but not for page ranking.


I didn’t know that Google started to count javascripts.

Great article.

Donny Gamble on October 27th, 2009

Obtaining high page rank authority links is a lot harder than it used to be. Google has definitely changed its criteria several times so that it can elevate the use of link farms and other websites that don’t offer value or update their site on a regular basis

Gyutae Park on November 12th, 2009

You’re right, link building is a lot harder than it used to be. Back in the day, directory submissions are pretty much all you needed to obtain high rankings. Today, that sort of easy manipulation just doesn’t work anymore. You’re better off creating a killer site that will obtain links naturally.

Chris Peterson on November 25th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Hi Gyutae Park,
Thanks for tips; I am not fully agreed with your post. In that point of nofollow tag that you said that Google ignores the link, according to me Google doesn’t ignore. I gonna going to give example. Site A listed in B, B is given nofollow tag on A, In that case page rank for B will not flow to Page Rank B. But still Google will crawled and also help in ranking and also help in ranking

Seo Company Pakistan on January 11th, 2010 Subscribed to comments via email

Thanks for the info, this can be used for new and better ways to build links and increase my online rank.

Jaap on January 25th, 2010 Subscribed to comments via email

thanks this is a nice blog,

Richard on January 25th, 2010 Subscribed to comments via email

thanks for you info, i will do your tips

pravakar on February 6th, 2010

Yuur article is very simple but most useful. what ever you are saying it’s useful.

Seo on June 1st, 2010 Subscribed to comments via email

Thanks for the list! Itโ€™s great that you point things like a byline; where I might have blown past creating a correct byline on a busy day, youโ€™re suggestion helps put itโ€™s importance in perspective. Any comments for appreciated Thanks again for nice tips…

Alan Rodrigues on June 18th, 2010

Very good post…. congratulations!

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