High Authority Backlinks - How To Evaluate The Quality Of A Backlink

Follow our complete guide on how to evaluate the quality and authority of a backlink and learn what to look for and what to avoid at all costs
Account Manager
Published on 
July 25, 2022
Updated on 
September 19, 2023
Posted in 

If you’ve spent some time in the SEO space, you've probably heard of backlinks. They are the backbone of any SEO campaign. But not all backlinks are equally valuable. As a link-building agency, our job is to make those value judgments on behalf of our clients, and we're here to share our expertise.

What Are Backlinks?

A backlink is a link from one website to another. Also known as inbound or external links, Google views them as a vote of confidence from the outbound to the inbound site. Every time you search for queries like "how to lose 20 pounds in one day" or "become a billionaire while taking a nap", Google's algorithm shows you what it considers to be the most credible and authoritative websites on the first page of the SERP.

Google's methods for making these ranking decisions are always changing and provoke a lot of argument from SEOs, but the algorithm continues to get smarter, if not better.

If you want to rank and enjoy business-building organic traffic, a well-rounded SEO strategy that includes high authority backlinks is crucial. Google interprets, among other things, the quantity of relevant inbound links an indicator of your site's trustworthiness, and that trustworthiness is reflected in your SERP position. 

What Makes a Backlink Authoritative

High authority backlinks come from high authority sites. Authority refers to the weight a site carries in Google’s eyes, especially with respect to its editorial processes. The New York Times is an excellent example of an authoritative website.

The NYT is kind of an extreme example given the immense brand recognition it has, but there are plenty of lesser-known, highly credible sites that pass on quality link juice to your site. 

The problem is that we don't have a list of Google's high authority websites because Google doesn't want us to know about the inner workings of its proprietary algorithm. What we do have, however, is a combination of third-party metrics from search engine analytics tools like Ahrefs and MOZ, which apply a battery of tests to URLs across a variety of metrics like organic traffic, traffic relevancy, and backlink profile etc. to make a good guess. 

Google isn't the one providing these metrics, however, so they can be manipulated. This is why you need to look beyond the numbers.

The quality of a site's web design and UX, combined with a detailed vetting of its editorial standards, should be the primary approach when building high authority backlinks.

The bottom line is that the days of building a backlink profile that focuses on quantity over quality are behind us. Modern link building requires a far more discerning approach–one that focuses on high authority backlinks that satisfy Google's ranking algorithm across a range of user experience and credibility criteria. 

Quality For Google Standards


Domain Rating and Domain Authority are similar third-party metrics used to determine the search engine ranking score. They try to mimic how Google evaluates authority.

Domain Rating (DR) of the New York Times

DR is the proprietary ranking coefficient used by SEO analytics tool Ahrefs. DA belongs to MOZ. People prefer one over the other for a variety of reasons, but a lot of SEOs have switched to DR in the last few years because Ahrefs has a more active crawler. Either way, they refer to the same measure: the number of inbound links to a domain. The higher the DA on a scale of 1-100, the more authority a website passes to another via backlinks.

Domain Authority (DA) of the New York Times

All that glitters is not gold, though. DA/DR aren't set in stone. They can change dramatically and quickly. They can also be deceptive. They should be neither the only nor the first metric to rely on when judging link quality. There are more factors to keep in mind.


If analytics tools like Ahrefs and MOZ represent the science behind link building, then relevancy is the art. Determining relevancy requires both intuition and SEO experience. 

If your post is about how to do a handstand, but the inbound links are from political news outlets and penny stock forums, you're doing it wrong. Relevancy is essential when judging backlink quality. The era of quantity over quality ended when Google updated its algorithm in 2012.

A DR 40 site in the relevant niche, on the other hand, is seen as far more credible by Google than a DR 60 site in an irrelevant niche. Relevancy should always be the first metric you look for when searching for high authority backlinks, and you don't need third-party SEO tools to determine it. If it makes sense to you, it will (very likely) make sense to Google. 

Human Engagement

A website's main goal should be to add value for visitors. It can do this by creating well-thought-out and engaging content, providing information on products and services that help people make informed purchasing decisions, or simply by being entertaining.

Focusing on creating quality content with search intent and user experience in mind creates engagement, drives traffic, increases conversions, and leads to a website's success. These are all necessary components of a high-authority website. They are the kinds of things to look out for when evaluating link quality. 

Fluff content stuffed with keywords or content written by AI doesn't add much for humans. With respect to the former, keyword stuffing hasn't impressed Google for well over a decade. When it comes to AI content, by all accounts, AI is on borrowed time.

How To Land High Authority Backlinks

Now that you know how to assess high authority backlinks, you can try the following tactics to build them.

Have Linkable Assets

A linkable asset is a thoughtful, cleverly-executed piece of content that others will want to link to. Blog posts, guides, infographics, surveys, etc. can be linkable assets. They allow you to join the conversation in your niche and make your presence known.

When you've built good quality content, you can reach out to editors and webmasters in relevant niches and ask them if they'd add your link to their existing content. You need to add value to their site, so your content must be high-quality, or you will be ignored.

Here's what Google says about content and link building:

Google's Guidelines for Content and Link Building

At, we take a content-first approach to link analysis. We know, through experience, that reaching out to editors from high authority websites with quality content will result in more high authority backlinks. 


HARO stands for help a reporter out. It is a service put out by Cision, a New York-based newswire and PR company that connects journalists and writers with expert opinion in a variety of fields. 

Homepage of Cision HARO

Sources with the relevant expertise who subscribe to the email then respond to these queries. If a source's pitch is used by the journalist or writer in their article, the attribution often includes a link back to the source's website and social media profiles.

HARO is one of the best ways to build high authority backlinks because the HARO platform gives you access to writers and websites that would otherwise be very difficult to contact. For this reason, it is one of the most popular ways to build high authority backlinks, although it is definitely not the easiest.

An experienced HARO team is needed to effectively respond to these queries, as reporters usually get hundreds of pitches per post. Everything from pitch timing, subject line, writing quality, structure, and pitch length determines your success rate.

Digital PR Outreach

Similar to traditional PR, digital PR serves to promote your business, in this case, your website, by getting you featured on high authority, high DR websites–places like,, etc.

To do this, you need to create original data-driven content that will be attractive to the journalists, marketers and influencers that represent and work for big, trend-setting sites and publications. If successful, this type of content can garner high authority backlinks from the most credible sites on the web, as content goes viral and amplifies your reach, increasing backlinks, traffic, brand awareness, and visibility.

Staying on top of trending issues and stories is important in order to seize opportunities and create the kind of unique content around hot topics that has real viral potential. Following the trends on sites like Reddit, Twitter and conversations on industry forums and social media pages are best practices. 

Once you've curated your content, you need to get it in front of your target audience. You can do the outreach yourself or hire a digital PR company to help you.

Let Us Build High-Quality Backlinks For You

We've been building high authority backlinks at scale successfully for years. Our team consists of dedicated outreach specialists, HARO writers, specialized content creators, and link-building strategists that ensure our link-building services are customized to your needs.

We take a quality-first approach to creating real value and long-lasting relationships with our clients and partners. Book a call with us to find out how we can help you get more traffic to your website.

To Sum Up

Third-party metrics can only carry so much weight when evaluating high authority backlinks—quality and relevance matter in link building, and determining both are quite involved processes. Ultimately, the objective is to build links that Google will view as adding to your visitors' user experience.

Why Trust Us On SEO

Eric Carrell & Sebastian Schaffer have been working in SEO for over a decade, building their own projects - understanding and testing SEO strategy, along with building hundreds of white hat links per month for our projects. They take their learnings and experience and apply them to the strategy that drives our link building strategy for our clients.

Eric & Seb have always believed in quality over quantity, doing things the right way so we future proof our client’s websites against future Google updates and the evolving industry of search.

While Seb handles the company strategy around culture, processes and structure, Eric is constantly working to improve our service offering, customer experience, and following the industry in parallel with Google’s Quality Guidelines so that we are always one step ahead of our competition and aligned with what Google wants to see for your site to rank higher.

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