With Google’s Penguin updates in April 2012 and May 2013 in mind, a good place to start is to look into their link profile; the reason for a drop in traffic can often be found here.
Penguin focuses on links from pages from external sites, looking to penalise or to take away any advantage from sites that have gone for quantity rather than quality when it comes to links.
In an attempt to manipulate search engine results, many sites have added links anywhere and everywhere, on any website such as a directory where they could submit a link. Some also bought links, in some cases hundreds or thousands of links. To counter this, Google released Penguin.
It’s not just unscrupulous site owners and spammers who been affected by the update though. Legitimate businesses (or the SEO agencies they outsourced the work to) may have used link building techniques which are now very much out of favour, leading to what Google classes as unnatural inbound link profiles.
How do you know if this applies to your business?
Google has sent out notifications to some businesses, but if you haven’t been contacted it doesn’t mean you’re in the clear, so reviewing your link profile is still a worthwhile exercise.
The aim of this blog is not to make you an expert on links but to help you find your worst offenders in term of links so that you can have a discussion with whoever looks after your SEO activities, whether that’s in-house or through an agency.
One free tool available to everyone is Google Webmaster Tools. To extract your link profile, follow these steps:
- Go to the Search Traffic menu and click on Links to Your Site
- The screen shows three areas: Who links the most (external sites which link to yours), Your most linked content (the pages those links go to) and How your data is linked (the anchor text used). Anchor text are the words you use in hyperlinks
- Click on More under the Who links the most heading
- Click on the grey box marked Download latest links
- Download the information as a cvs file
Webmaster Tools only gives you a sample of your existing links. Combining their information with that provided by paid services (Moz, Ahrefs or Majestic SEO) gives you a fuller picture.
Assessing which are good links to have and which are not is not an exact science in some ways. Often it takes experience and an expert eye to make this decision, but there are definitely some obvious red flags that anyone can spot.
A free tool that’s very useful is SEOGadget; you can copy and paste your links (up to 200 at a time) and it will let you know which it considers to be safe. This can help you to prioritise which links to investigate first.
One type of bad link I have come across several times are pages where the text covers many unrelated topics, with links to very different businesses. The site will very likely be a link farm, built specifically for link building.
Once the more obvious bad links are identified, the links left will need to be assessed taking into account factors including traffic, PageRank, domain authority, anchor text variance and relevance to your business niche. Following this assessment, the next step is action, whether that’s to ask for the removal of a link or for a change in anchor text for example.
If you’re looking for expert advice and support on building an effective link profile, please contact us on 0161 875 2528.