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Mark Gadala-Maria

How to Qualify a Link Target Using SEMrush

Mark Gadala-Maria
How to Qualify a Link Target Using SEMrush

If there is one consistent in this world, it's change. And in this changing world of SEO and link building, we have seen a lot of rise and falls. Like the rise of content marketing to build quality links, and the fall of traditionally used metrics like PageRank.

Quantifying link targets used to be easy! Simply check the PageRank of the target, and rate the value of the link on their PageRank. This is no longer the case. In fact, PageRank is an all but dead metric at this point with Google updating their public PageRank data at an almost non-existent pace.

Many SEOs have now turned to Domain/Page Authority as a general metric for analyzing a link target. While a valid part of the process, it still doesn’t tell the full story. The problem is you simply can’t gauge your link value based on Domain/Page Authority alone. Domain Trust is, in many cases, a bigger deciding factor in how much that link is actually going to positively impact your rankings, and that is something we cannot attain from DA alone.

I have seen many instances in which a link with a lower PA/DA does wonders on a site’s rankings, whereas a link of higher PA/DA did little to nothing. Why? Because Google didn’t care about the site's Domain Authority or PageRank. What they cared about was the relevancy and Domain Trust that link was conveying for that particular vertical.

So the question becomes, how can we gauge how much Google trusts this domain/link? This is where SEMrush comes into play. 

In full honesty, I don’t believe there is a better tool out there at the moment for measuring this metric. Here at Lucid, our method is simple. A quick breakdown:

1. How many searches are there for the site name and related queries?

This is a huge factor in determining Domain Trust. How much search volume is there for the actual name of the website? Let’s take a look at the Interior Design industry. Specifically a blog named Design Sponge, a huge name in the industry.


There are over 49,000 people doing branded searches for their blog. They are also ranking fifth for the word “design.” That is HUGE when it comes to Domain Trust.

If you manage to get a link from this site and are attempting to rank for something in the design industry, chances are you’re going to get a very nice boost from Google for your properly optimized pages.

2. How much do they rank for, and have they continued to rank?

Although Design Sponge is the crème de la crème of Interior Design blogs, there are hundreds of quality targets to sort through. Let’s take a look at a few more.

Design Spotter is another big name in the industry (at least they were in 2010, you’ll see what I mean below), sporting a very nice DA of 60 and a PageRank of 5. Certainly a valid link target by most standards, until we take a peek at their SEMrush profile:


There are a few red flags here. The biggest is that they have all but dropped from receiving Google traffic since 2010. This indicates their site has lost a huge amount of readership, or they have lost favor in Google’s eyes. Either way, it's a pretty big indication that we should take our outreach efforts elsewhere.

Another red flag is how many positions they are currently ranking for. Twenty-four is not a high number for a site that is dedicated to releasing content on a regular basis. Lastly, they have zero branded searches. Definitely time to move to another link target.

Now let’s take a look at another site. Grass Roots Modern has a DA of 43 with a PageRank of 4. Many would say this is a lower value link target than Design Spotter for this reason alone. Here’s why it’s not:


1. They have branded searches!

2. The first Penguin algo update in 2012 actually gave them a bump in traffic. This is a great sign for Google’s trust value of the site.

3. More positions ranking in Google.

For these reasons alone, I would value this link target much more than Design Spotter, regardless of PageRank, Domain Authority or Page Authority.

In short, by using SEMrush we can begin to look at the bigger picture of Domain Trust and look beyond the tired old metrics of PageRank and Domain Authority. It’s time to start looking at link valuations in a whole new light.

Author bio

Mark Gadala-Maria is the founder of Lucid, a Miami-based web development and marketing firm that focuses on affordable and professional web solutions.  You can follow him on Google+.

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