Clicking on a backlink helps with search engine optimization

Analysis of the backlink quality and optimization of the backlink profile

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Overview of current and outdated evaluation criteria with tips for reducing harmful and building beneficial backlinks for search engine optimization.

Over the past few years, Google has taken strong action against artificial link building. Today a domain is no longer "strong" because it has built up a large number of backlinks. Instead, it is the quality of the link that counts. But the definition of quality in terms of SEO links has also changed. With this article, we provide you with a checklist with which you can analyze your existing inbound links, as well as our experience of dismantling and tips for generating new links.

Backlink Scoring Criteria

Roughly speaking, links today should have a "raison d'être" that goes beyond link building. You can save yourself inferior web catalogs, link farms and article directories.

In the following you will find a subdivision into beneficial and harmful links, as well as those that will simply not be included in the evaluation.

Valuable backlinks

The following features characterize a strong backlink today:

  • Topic relevance: The majority of your links must come from a thematically related domain. Everything else is unnatural (in abundance). Because why should non-topic domains report about you?
  • Quality content: However, it is not only important to what extent a linking domain is relevant to the topic, but also that the content there is of high quality. This applies in particular to the content in which the link is embedded.
  • Country, language & TLD: Basically, a domain is more likely to be linked in your own country. In particular, the language should be the same. Exceptions are more complex topics for which, for example, few sources are available in the own language, or those pages that are structured internationally. The same applies to country-specific TLDs that they tend to link to your language.
  • authority: Google uses various metrics to measure whether a domain is an authority in the subject area. When you visit a page, you “feel” yourself whether this is the case: Have topics been written competently and professionally? How deep is the topic depth? Private blogs can become authorities here, as can universities. By the way: even a link from an authority that is set to “nofollow” is rated as “valuable” by many SEOs. Although this does not flow directly into the rating, it can indirectly lead Google to trust your own site more.
  • traffic: Links that bring traffic obviously have a "sense" for the visitors that goes beyond pure linking. A link that generates traffic is therefore (in most cases) also valuable for SEO.

Inappropriate links

These criteria can point to a link or a link source that is at best ignored by Google in the evaluation, but can also lead to a penalty in the worst case. The latter is especially the case when a large number of the links have the following properties.

  • Lack of accessibility: The page providing the link must be accessible. Not only for the human visitor, but also for the crawler. Even if Google is now technically advanced, websites in Flash, for example, still cause problems. Of course, it is also of no use if your link is behind a protected member area.
  • Domain indexed: If a domain is not indexed in the search engine, this is an indication of poor quality or a penalty. To test, simply enter “Site: domain.de” in the Google search query, whereby “domain.de” is the website to be checked. If no or very few pages appear, that is a bad sign.
  • Inferior content: Spammy texts that only slightly scratch the surface of a topic were ugly even then - but today it can be dangerous. What Google defines as spam is explained here including some live ratings.
  • Nofollow: With the distinction "nofollow" a link is invalidated for search engines. The labeling can either relate to the link alone as rel = “nofollow”, or through the robots labeling in the metadata, all links that can be found on the page. Browser add-ins such as "sea robots" make this immediately apparent. However, less often it is taken into account in the backlink analysis that the link can also be invalidated in other ways. The URL can be masked with JavaScript, or forwarded via a URL that is blocked for crawlers. Important: All these "devaluations" are not harmful, but belong in a natural link profile - but they will not have a positive ranking effect either. (for more see point "Authority")
  • Link text with money keyword: In the rarest of cases, a link text written by users contains a keyword. Link texts such as “buy cars cheaply” are unnatural and such keywords should therefore only be used very discreetly as text. It can be assumed that link texts can still strengthen rankings. But an accumulation of keyword texts is recognized as artificial and devalued by the Google Penguin update.
  • Link penalty: The domain providing the link must not have received any penalties from penguin updates or manual measures on the part of Google. A backlink from a domain penalized in this way should always be treated with the greatest caution in the analysis, as an accumulation of such links is a clear signal to Google that unnatural link building is being carried out here.
  • Link network: In the past, Google was able to identify several link networks and as a result has penalized numerous participants, sometimes even removing them completely from the index. Networks that have not yet been affected can also be affected in the future - so be careful!
  • Link purchase & link-versus-product: Links from pages that are set for goods, money, backlinks or any other service are to be avoided. The corresponding notice from Google can be found here.
  • Same source for many links: There are many links from the same IP address or an identical IP network. This can be another indication of artificial links being created. But there can of course also be other reasons for this - news items or press releases, for example, are often used on other domains of the same owner.

Outdated metrics

The following metrics are now out of date and no longer have any meaningfulness about the value of a link.

  • PageRank (PR): This has not been updated for the public for years. There were also reports that Google had deliberately sent incorrect data to suspicious domains.
  • Number of backlinks: The pure number of backlinks or the more advanced variant in the form of domain popularity are no longer meaningful, because the quantity says nothing about the quality.

Evaluation of the overall profile

Once the individual links have been rated, you should take a look at the overall profile.

Which ratio of links is harmful depends on the number of existing backlinks and is up to the viewer's common sense. Three foreign domains in the link profile in addition to 500 domain links from one's own country do not pose a risk in themselves. A share of over 25% in a respective area is usually definitely too much.

The competition websites can provide an indication of normal distribution. Please note, however, that this may have invalidated links via the Google Disavow tool - you cannot determine this from the outside.

What to do after the assessment

After you've created a “black list” of malicious links, the real work begins. All website operators must be contacted with a polite request to remove the link or add the "nofollow" attribute. With the first method, if there has not yet been a penalty, it is best to send an alternative section of text directly. That makes it easier for the other side. The less work there is, the more likely it is that the operator will make the change.

Step-by-step approach

Incidentally, the links should not be deleted all at once. It is often not possible to say whether a certain link or a link pattern contributed to the current penalty at all, insofar as there is a penalty at all. If a list has a high percentage of potentially harmful links, it is advisable to proceed in stages. Of course, this only applies if the drop in traffic or profit is not economically threatening.

First, remove the definitely harmful links, and only in one or more later steps those links where there could be a harmful influence. Between these stages, you should submit a reconsideration request via the webmaster tools for domains that have been penalized manually.

In the case of domains whose backlink profile is only tidied up preventively, however, particular attention must be paid to an even dismantling, so that new, natural-looking links are added. Because a sudden loss of links is a signal for Google to take a closer look at the domain that has not (yet) been penalized. A few tips for building new links are given later in this post.

Experience with response rates when removing links

Our experience has shown that unexpectedly many website operators react to the request emails if they are addressed personally and specific instructions are given. Expressed in concrete figures, the response rate for editorial content (product tests, article swaps, guest contributions, advertorials, etc.) is around 60%, of which more than 50% showed themselves to be very cooperative. Of course, the rate fluctuates depending on the situation:

  • How long has it been since the link was set?
  • Which of the above-mentioned page types are you talking about?
  • What is the overall theme of the pages?

These factors play a major role in whether a response occurs. In the case of link catalog links that were set several years ago, for example, the success rate is significantly lower. A few webmasters demanded payment of an expense allowance - understandable when hundreds of different requests about link removal come within a very short time.

Tips on the disavow tool

If contact with the website operator is not possible and the link is clearly harmful, the disavow tool should be used. The following information will help you with the handling:

  1. Use the domain label instead of a specific URL. Often the links are on other URLs, especially with WordPress (tags, categories, etc.).
  2. It takes time for Google to devalue disawoved links - namely until the crawlers visit the URL in question again. This can sometimes be a long time with inferior pages.
  3. The list in the Disavow tool should not be forgotten and should be supplemented if necessary. Simply click through to the URL list in the tool. This can then be viewed and modified there.
  4. Banal, but experienced often enough: "Disavowed" does not mean that a link disappears from the link profile! The links are of course still recorded in all backlink tools - after all, they are still there. Employees involved in the future must always be made aware of the disavow list in order to avoid repeating the procedure.

Effort of the link removal

The link dismantling is associated with approximately the effort that the establishment already involved. Ideally, however, you should act more proactively than reactively: The regular analysis of the link profile is part of modern link management. If potentially harmful links are removed in good time, a website is also better protected against negative SEO attacks, in which competitors deliberately set harmful links to other websites. A phenomenon that unfortunately occurs more and more frequently.

According to our observations, websites that were penalized were able to regain their strength a little after the link was disconnected. In order to reach the old level, or to be even better in the Google search results, time, patience and further optimization work are required. Because old ranking successes were often due to the links, which are harmful nowadays.

It should be noted that Google itself points out that the penguin algorithm now automatically recognizes and devalues ​​artificial and inferior links. However, Google's statements are mostly only applicable to the general public - in individual cases it may be that these mechanisms do not work or do not work as intended. In this respect, the clear recommendation from our side to maintain control through our own analyzes and dismantling.

10 Link Building Tips from Matt Cutts / Google

On March 4th, 2010 Matt Cutts answered by video which effective ways there are to generate organic links - apart from good content. These are summarized:

  1. Controversy helps: However, you shouldn't let it become the rule, otherwise your attention will drop again (and you will make yourself too unpopular).
  2. Actively participate in communities: So don't spread blog spam, but work actively and productively in the community. Example: Answering questions about a certain knowledge / expert area in order to further help other community members.
  3. Newsletter Use as an online marketing tool to give potential readers of blogs / websites an overview of what can be found in the online offer.
  4. Social media: Facebook, Twitter and Co.
  5. Lectures Hold at conferences: listeners blog and tweet about the lecture and link to the slides published later.
  6. Publish lists: “50 link building tips” or “100 trendy web designs” or something similar. People find this useful because they are presented with a thematically specific selection in a nutshell.
  7. Bloglead and establish yourself as an expert on a specific topic.
  8. OnePublish a service or productthat others find useful. So extensions for browsers, apps or SEO tools for special tasks (e.g. for long-tail keyword research).
  9. Videos publish: Exciting, informative, nice to listen to with interesting content.
  10. ThePage and url structure should be linkable. This means that all relevant content should be accessible via external links.

In summary: Good link building uses relevant and content-related topics that are relevant to the target group, which are current and as novel as possible, are helpful for the local market, have a certain dynamic, have valence, offer opportunities for identification and, ideally, are still curious or entertaining.

Such content is rarely created quickly. In particular, blogs, regular newsletters or social media appearances require regular expansion and maintenance.

Importance for backlink building and SEO

Backlink construction has become very complex due to the developments. Often other channels such as PR or social media are included in today's link building, if it is still actively carried out at all.

Because of the effort, many website operators have moved away from link building and towards the on-page area. In particular, the creation of content under the term "content marketing" has recently been very popular. We are curious to see whether link building will attract more attention again in the future.

What else you can do to optimize your website under SEO aspects, we have listed in a list of 10 practical SEO tips for you.

Get in touch with us, we will be happy to advise you.
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