What Are High Authority Backlinks? (+ 6 Ways to Get Them)

Perhaps you’ve searched for something like this:

You want your site to rank better on Google and drive more traffic, and there are plenty of link building services offering you just that.

But some of these sound too good to be true. 100 authority backlinks in less than a week? “Shut up and take my money,” right?

Not so fast. How can you tell if the links you’re getting are really high authority backlinks? What if you hire this service and you end up not only not seeing any positive SEO results, but actually having a negative impact on your site’s rankings?

Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered.

In this article, we’ll go over:

Backlinks are a very important part of any site’s SEO — they’re one of the most important ranking factors. They work like letters of recommendation between sites. Google’s algorithm, PageRank, uses backlinks as a factor to determine how webpages should rank for any search.

In Google’s words:

Link authority is a term used to describe how reputable and trustworthy a site that has added a link to your site is (in Google’s eyes). It’s one of the top factors for determining how much link juice your site is getting from that link. 

Big companies and organizations, universities, and government sites tend to have high SEO authority.

High authority links tend to make very powerful backlinks. It’s like getting a letter of recommendation from a big company’s CEO: It’ll carry more weight than a letter of recommendation from a junior manager in a smaller company.

Link authority can be estimated using several metrics. The most widely used by SEOs are:

  • Domain Authority (DA) / Domain Rating (DR)
  • Page Authority (PA) / URL Rating (UR)

It’s important to note that neither of these are official Google metrics.

Here’s what they mean:

Domain Authority (DA) / Domain Rating (DR) – These are two similar metrics developed by Moz and Ahrefs to estimate authority at the domain level. DA/DR is a scoring system from 0 to 100 that was invented to rate domains by their likelihood of ranking higher on Google (Moz uses DA and Ahrefs uses DR). The higher the DA/DR, the likelier it is for a website to rank on Google. For example, Forbes has a DA of 94, and YouTube has a DA of 100. 

Page Authority (PA) / URL Rating (UR) – PA/UR was also invented to measure the strength of specific pages rather than entire domains on a scale from 0 to 100 (Moz uses PA and Ahrefs uses UR). 

These metrics, especially at the domain level (DA and DR), are used by most SEOs to talk about the authority of a link. But, because they are not officially Google’s, they don’t always tell the full story and can sometimes be deceiving

For example, some websites with high DA/DR scores are low-quality and spammy. They may have obtained a high authority score by manipulating Google’s algorithm through black hat SEO techniques. This is why authority metrics shouldn’t always be taken at face value.

Here’s an example of a site in the business news space:

The site has a DA score of 71 and a DR score of 77 and, on the surface, may seem like an authoritative site.

However, a closer look using Ahrefs reveals some doubtful data to consider. Out of their top 7 pages, 2 are ranking for keywords that are unrelated to business. Also, one of them is closely related to casinos and gambling, which are well-known spammy topics.

This site is probably a link farm — a site that exists solely to sell links to other sites. Because the site’s metrics look good at first glance, some people may fall for it.

Sites like this are the reason why you shouldn’t rely on authority metrics alone to determine whether a link from a site will benefit yours.

Also, while often being good estimators of the quality of a backlink, a high authority score is not the only trait of a high-quality link. 

Authority vs. Quality: How To Tell a Good Link from a Bad One

Although some SEOs use the 2 terms interchangeably, they’re not quite the same (though they’re very closely related).

In general terms, authority is one of the most important components of the overall quality of a link. But there are some other elements that come into play when determining the quality of a link:

  • Topical relevance – This is how well your link ties into the topic of the page (and site) it appears on.
  • Location relevance – Do you have a location-specific business? Are the site or page your link appears on relevant to that geographical location?
  • Organic traffic – Is the site (or page) that your link appears on already driving traffic? Usually, more traffic is better.
  • Link placement – This is how your link is added to another site. Is it a contextual link (meaning it’s surrounded by relevant text within a piece of content), or is it structural (meaning it appears on the footer or sidebar)? Contextual links have higher SEO value.
  • Industry – Sites in very specific or small industries may have a harder time getting a higher authority score. This doesn’t mean they can’t be high-quality sites.

So, while authority metrics can help you evaluate whether a link is good or bad, you’ll need to look at them in combination with these other factors to get the full picture and come to a more realistic conclusion.

Now you may be wondering what you can do to get these authority links.  

These are our top 6 strategies to get backlinks from high authority sites:

Linkable Assets (+ PR)

The most important thing you’ll need to have in order to earn high-quality, authoritative links are linkable assets.

A linkable asset is any type of content that provides value to others, making other sites want to add a link to it. Original studies, infographics, free tools, and how-to guides are only a few examples of linkable assets you can build.

Here’s an example of a study carried out by Ahrefs on dead links.

This study has over 4,300 backlinks from 217 different referring domains, including great quality backlinks from sites like Neil Patel, Search Engine Journal, and Fiverr.

Once you have some linkable assets on your site, you can run PR campaigns to pitch them to high authority news outlets and sites within your niche that usually write about similar topics.

Your linkable assets will also be the starting point for the next 2 link building strategies in this article.

Resource Page Link Building

Many high authority sites have pages dedicated to sharing external resources on specific topics with their visitors. 

Universities are a great example of this. Here are a couple of examples of pages from the University of Adelaide and the Evergreen Valley College that gather resources on wellbeing:

If you’re in the mental health niche, these would be great opportunities for you to reach out and pitch an article on stress management tips.

But how do you find these opportunities? There are 2 main ways you can do this:

Way #1: You can use Ahrefs (or a similar SEO tool) to look at the backlinks of articles from sites of a commercial nature (these could be your direct competitors, too) and use filters to search for resource pages.

Useful filters can be the words ‘links’ and ‘resource.’ You may also want to use tld filters like ‘.edu’ and ‘.gov’ to include only universities and government sites. These will most likely be high authority sites that you’ll want a link from.

Similarly, you can use Google search operators to find other resource pages like these. The downsides of this method are that you need to check manually whether the resources pages have external, commercial links (otherwise, they’re very unlikely to link to your site) and that you can’t check the DR score (unless you use Ahrefs’s toolbar to gather instant metrics search results, like in the example below).

Broken Link Building

This strategy focuses on finding broken links (404 and 410 errors, parked domains, links that redirect to a different URL than the original and that no longer serve the same purpose) and offering a linkable asset of your own as a replacement. 

When carried out correctly, broken link building can be one of the most effective ways to win authority backlinks. 

Because you’re helping other sites improve their user experience by alerting them about a broken link and you’re offering a replacement, they’re more open to include your link than if you were reaching out simply pitching your resource.

Once you’ve found a good broken link, you can use Ahrefs to have a look at its backlinks and evaluate high authority opportunities.

For this strategy, it’s especially important to remember that the DR score alone can be misleading. You need to keep your eyes open for any link farms and low-quality or irrelevant sites that may be hiding under a high authority score.

Here’s an example of a broken link on remote work statistics that we found.

It has backlinks from very high authority sites like Adobe, The Balance Money, Qualtrics, and HP. It’s a great opportunity to build links to an article that gathers similar statistics.

However, among the sites that have this broken link, we came across this opportunity:

It’s a site in the Bitcoin space and it has a DR score of 78, which is quite high. But the anchor text for the broken link seems suspicious, since it’s citing a different company name.

Upon opening the article, we can see that it has nothing to do with the remote work statistics article. The link is completely out of context.

This alone should be enough to avoid contacting the site and asking for that link since it’s not contextual at all. But, to further exemplify link authority and link quality, let’s look at their top pages on Ahrefs to find more clues.

First, they have over 6,000 pages but only over 12,000 in traffic. That’s only 2 visits per page, on average. It’s not a great sign for a DR 78 site.

Secondly, they’re ranking for casino keywords, which, once again, are very spammy.

Overall, we’ve got enough red flags to conclude that the site is not very high-quality, even though the DR score would indicate otherwise.

Unlinked Brand Mentions

This method consists of asking for links from pages that have referenced your site, brand, or one of your products in some way but aren’t currently linking to your site

It’s usually a highly effective technique because you don’t need to pitch your product or brand (no need for linkable assets!).

The site you’re asking for a link from is already aware of it (at least enough to have mentioned it in their content), and you’re just asking them to include a hyperlink. This means they probably don’t need to edit the anchor text either, which makes it as easy as it gets for them.

Unlinked brand mention link building can be carried out using Google or Ahrefs (or a combination of both). Executing unlinked brand mention link building smartly can get you very high-quality links. But, just like with broken link building, you need to look out for low-quality sites.

Here’s an example of a good unlinked brand mention opportunity for the company Neighbor in an article about side hustles on NBC Boston’s website.

NBC is a well-known news outlet, and their DR of 78 goes in line with that.

However, let’s take a look at this other opportunity on a “news” site with a similar authority according to Ahrefs (DR 76):

Even though they also mention the company, the content doesn’t seem to be of very high quality. Additionally, the site is full of ads, and though it’s a “news” site, it’s not a well-known company.

A closer look at the website reveals the following:

It seems like the website thrives on user-generated content, which is usually related to spam and should be avoided.


This strategy relies on platforms like HARO (Help A Reporter Out), Help a B2B Writer, and Featured.com, which connect writers and reporters with reputable sources.

Some of these platforms, like HARO, are free, while others, like Featured, offer a free plan and monthly fees for premium plans.

They all work similarly: writers ask questions about topics they want to write articles on, and anyone who is knowledgeable enough about those topics to solve their questions can pitch answers. Writers select the answers they like most and usually add a link to the sources’ websites or LinkedIn when they publish their articles in return. The goal is to offer valuable, non-generic insight.

It’s a great way to earn high quality links, especially if your website is new. This strategy doesn’t require you to build out linkable assets either — you only need your expertise on topics related to your industry.

But how can you ensure that the links you earn from this strategy are authority links? HARO queries usually indicate the media outlet the reporter who’s asking the question is writing for. Big names like NBC News, USA Today, and Healthline usually come up.

Featured.com also includes the name of the site or media outlet your answer could get published on.

Their Pro plan shows the DR score for each site too, so you can have an idea of how authoritative each of them is before you start pitching your answers.

Guest Posting

Writing high-quality articles for other sites can be a great way to build authority links to your site.

In order to find guest posting opportunities, you can use a Google search that combines relevant keywords in your industry and phrases like “guest post” or “write for us”.


You can also use Ahrefs to look at your competitor’s backlinks to identify sites they’ve written guest posts for and pitch a unique article idea to those same sites.

Relevant sites in your niche that don’t openly mention guest posting opportunities could also be open to you writing an insightful and unique article for them. It might be worth reaching out to some of them and pitching your ideas to them.

Here’s an example of a high-quality authority link from a guest post on Formstack. 

Guest posting guidelines vary from site to site, and you’ll need to follow them carefully if you want to be selected. And, like the other strategies, you’ll need to look through the results carefully to avoid reaching out to seemingly authoritative sites that are actually low quality. 

Some warning signs you should be looking for are:

  • A very obvious “Write For Us” or “Submit Guest Post” button in the navigation menu.
  • Sites that charge a fee for submitting a guest post.
  • Sites that post content about any topic but don’t really have a particular niche. These usually look like news sites, but they’re not a well-known media outlet.

Here’s an example of a site that has an obvious “Write for Us” button and doesn’t have a specific niche:

When in doubt, use Ahrefs to check other articles a site has posted and look at the quality of the content.

You can also look for strange linking patterns and find out where the traffic they’ve garnered is coming from. Do they have several relevant pages ranking? Or is the traffic coming from articles on spammy topics?

Here’s an example of a “news” website that has a significant amount of organic traffic and a high DR, according to Ahrefs.

However, their top pages are unrelated to international news.

When it comes to building a strong backlink profile that can boost your site’s SEO rankings – quality (more than quantity) should be your goal.

Some link building services and freelancers can offer to build tons of high DA/DR backlinks for a low price in a short amount of time.

But the truth is building high-quality, authority links is not that simple.

By using the white hat link building techniques I’ve laid out in this article, and being wary of low-quality sites hiding under high authority metrics, you can earn (real) authority links that can tell Google that your site is trustworthy and should rank higher in their queries. And you can do it consistently, especially if you use more than one approach and have good prospecting, analysis, and outreach systems in place.

If you don’t know where to start, what techniques might work best for you, or if you want our help to start earning high authority links, feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation using our contact page.

Frequently Asked Questions About Authority Backlinks

What is a good/bad authority score for backlinks?

Generally speaking, a domain with a DR score above 50 is considered to be a high authority domain.

However, remember that metrics can be deceiving, and a DR of 80+ may not guarantee that a site has high authority. Likewise, sites with a DR score below 50 can still be worth reaching out to if they’re high-quality sites.

What is an example of a high authority backlink?

A high authority, high quality backlink is a link that’s placed on a site with a high authority score (high DA or DR) and is also relevant (topically or locally) to the page it’s on.

A clear example of this is the following link to Spark Recognition, a company that uses AI in manufacturing to reduce waste, in an article from Forbes about AI and Environmental Sustainability.


About the author

Aaron Anderson is a 9-year SEO veteran, who has been a full-time link builder for the last 4 years. He cares a lot about delivering quality work to clients, and prides himself on being a trusted voice in an industry that is challenging for clients to navigate.

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