Link Building Basics: Vetting link prospects

Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of my Biznology series on link building basics.

So far in this series we have learned how to lay the foundation for an effective link building campaign through niche analysis and site audits, and in the last post we learned some proven techniques for finding link opportunities.

Using the methods discussed in the last post we are able to compile a large list of potential link opportunities. However, this does not mean we are done with the link prospecting portion of our campaign.

Once you have amassed a sufficient number of potential link opportunities, it becomes time to start vetting those link prospects until you are left with only the best and most relevant sites.

The “Smell Test”

When it comes to analyzing and vetting link prospects, there are some main factors to consider.

At Page One Power we refer to this analysis as the “smell test” because using this test will help you to separate the quality prospects from those that stink. Running the smell test on link prospects is imperative save you time by preventing you from pursuing links that won’t provide much value or are even potentially toxic.

The key aspects to consider during the smell test are as follows:

  • Relevance
  • Authority
  • Audience engagement
  • Traffic
  • Link neighborhood


It’s no coincidence that relevancy appears first on this list – it is the single most important aspect of the smell test. While relevancy may seem like a rather straightforward concept, it is a concept that many people struggle with and there are multiple layers to consider. These various layers of relevance include:

  • Domain to domain
  • Domain to page
  • Page to page
  • Link to page

For more information on these various levels of relevance, check out this post.

Considering all of these different types of relevance is important during the smell test.


Another attribute you should consider when vetting your possible link prospects is authority.

Authority should be an important consideration in your smell test, because authority is an important consideration in Google’s search rankings. Unfortunately, there is no real way of knowing exactly how Google determines authority, but there are ways of making an educated guess.

One of the most viable ways to judge a site in regards to how Google may view its authority is to utilize the MozBar tool from Moz. MozBar will provide you with a ranking from 1 (lowest authority) to 100 (highest authority) that is based off of a system designed to emulate how Google would view a site.

While MozBar ratings are by no means exact, they are widely accepted to be fairly representative of how Google rates authority.

Audience Engagement

Audience engagement is another factor you should look at when analyzing your link prospects.

Engagement is especially important if you are building links through content, because you want people to engage with your content and share it. You want to find sites with active and engaged communities where your links/content will actually be found and interacted with.

If there is little to no engagement on a site, it will be very difficult to connect with people through your content and links.


Traffic should be another consideration during your smell test.

Similar to audience engagement, traffic is important because you want to know that people are actually visiting the site you are considering targeting for a link. The higher the traffic on the site, the higher the chances are that someone will come across your link and find your site.

While measuring traffic precisely can be very difficult without Google Analytics access, there are a few helpful tools out there that can give a pretty good idea of the traffic on a given site.

One such tool is SEMrush, which can give you the search engine traffic of a domain. This data should be enough to help you make an educated decision regarding traffic during the smell test.

Link Neighborhood

The link neighborhood in which a website resides should also be a concern during a smell test as well.

If you are considering pursuing a link from a website you should certainly be aware of what other websites your target site is linking to. The group of sites a given site is linking out to is referred to as a link neighborhood.

The reason a site’s link neighborhood is important is because a sketchy link neighborhood can reflect poorly on all the sites involved, and if you wouldn’t want a link from a site that is part of an unsavory link neighborhood.

In order to examine your link prospects’ various link neighborhoods simply take a look at their backlink report (as you did for the competitor analysis portion of your previous niche analysis).


Analyzing and vetting your link prospects is important as it will save you time in the long run and leave you with the optimum link opportunities. To ensure that you are targeting only the best of the best, run the smell test on all of your prospects.

To recap, here are the main factors you should consider during your smell test:

  • Relevance
  • Authority
  • Audience engagement
  • Traffic
  • Link neighborhood

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