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The Importance of Maintaining a Healthy Backlink Profile

admin from Novosadmin in SEO

20th January, 2022

What is a Backlink Profile & Why Would I Need to Audit it?

A backlink profile is simply the collection of websites linking to you. Naturally, over time, you can get more domains linking to your website, making your backlink profile larger. As you may know, a link counts a vote for our website and, put simply, helps us to build up authority and trust in Google, aiding in SEO performance (when done right!). 

Over time, as we get more and more links coming into our website, we may naturally start to pick up links from spam, illegitimate, or irrelevant websites, which is not ideal from an offsite SEO perspective. I.e: many sites can scrape and spam numerous domains with irrelevant and out of context links. Because of cases such as this, it is ideal to therefore audit your backlink profile regularly and flag these toxic domains to be disavowed. You can also take a deeper look into different characteristics of a backlink profile, such as anchor text ratios, types of links, link placement etc. 

Google’s Say on Toxic or Spammy Links

Below I have provided some key instances where Google has commented on certain updates. There are many more algorithm updates you can read into, but these are more to highlight Google’s way of thinking. 

Penguin Algorithm Update & Google’s Recent Comments 

Back in 2016, Google released what most SEO’s referred to as Penguin 4.0 (an iteration to Google’s algorithm update called Penguin). This update sought to devalue and ignore most spammy links, however, many have raised the question of how relevant this update is nowadays. Google stated that the algorithm will seek to devalue or ignore clear spammy links, but, if there is a strong enough pattern of spammy links in a backlink profile, naturally they’ll have to be more conservative with the site when it comes to understanding it’s content and ranking it. 

Evidently, Google recognises that most sites can pick up some form of spammy links over time, and they must ensure all these legitimate sites aren’t unfairly demoted, and this was one of their answers to link spam. 

Ignore Malicious Links

Back in 2019, John Mueller tweeted his thoughts on disavowing malicious links and replied to someone noticing numerous spammy links to ‘ignore them’. Granted, in this case, the person noticing such spammy links had thousands of these recurring and couldn’t keep up with disavowing, however, this raises a great point – should we just ignore spammy links and trust Google’s algorithms? 

In general, I would advise you to always try and disavow any malicious or toxic links and don’t leave it to chance. This way, we can be certain any unwanted links are removed. 

Issues Caused by a Lack of Backlink Analysis

To further highlight the importance of maintaining an optimal backlink profile, I’ve noted some common issues caused by a lack of backlink analysis below:

Rankings held back

As mentioned above, various link-based algorithms such as Penguin seek to ignore spammy/illegitimate links to a degree, however, disavowing successfully can help to improve rankings by removing any association with poor/toxic websites. 

Here is one of many case studies which showcase the impact of successfully disavowing the right links. 

Google penalty

Another possible negative result of not auditing your backlink profile is receiving a Google penalty. You can check for penalties in your Search Console account under ‘manual actions’. There are many different types of Google penalties, such as manual review penalty (typically you would be notified of the issue, and you can then look to resolve it and submit for a review) and a sitewide penalty (this is much more serious, and can result in a drastic drop in rankings and potentially even affect indexation). 

Penalties can be very time consuming to review and get removed, but they can be resolved, as highlighted in this manual penalty case study by Ahrefs. Therefore, it’s better to ensure you avoid these via good upkeep of your backlink profile. 

Over-optimised anchor text

When a website links to you, unless it’s an image or hidden link, it will have an anchor text attached to it. If you want to reinforce relevancy and accurately highlight what you’re linking to, you will want to use some form of target anchor text. Most of the time, we can’t control this, however, in certain cases where we are providing content or being mentioned, we may have a say on the anchor used. You can find examples of different anchor types for guidance here

If not audited frequently, and especially if a site has had previous link building which wasn’t ideal, you can run into issues of over optimisation with anchors. This is where a page is linked to with a seemingly unnatural amount of target anchors. If spotted, however, you can look at ways of removing this issue via disavowing. 

Here is a page from a playground equipment company that is being affected by over optimised anchors from what looks like bad link building practises. Over 20% of the profile is made up of exact match anchors to the school playground equipment page, with a high number of partial target anchors as well. This is a clear case, but often you’ll want to compare your anchor profile to competitors as well for reference. 

examples of anchor texts

 

How to Check your Backlink Profile

Checking your backlink profile is very simple. This can be done both free, and can also be very helpful if you have paid SEO tools such as Ahrefs or Semrush. 

I’ve noted 2 quick ways to check your backlink profile below, for reference:

  • Ahrefs: Upon entering your chosen domain into ‘site explorer’ you can simply click on ‘backlinks’ 
  • Google Search Console: at the bottom of the lift sidebar you can click on ‘links’. From here you can see ‘top linking sites’

Auditing and Disavowing Backlinks

Determining what’s toxic:

Below, I’ve noted some key red flags which you can note when looking at your backlink profile:

  • No organic traffic
  • Write for us/guest post in the menu 
  • Substantially more outgoing links than incoming (of course, don’t apply this to user-focused sites such as directories or forums) 
  • Little to no organic rankings
  • Spammy or off-topic anchors 
  • Indexation – does the site get indexed frequently or have little to no pages indexed?
  • Numerous spammy redirects, pop-ups or adverts 
  • Poorly built site with very thin content 

How to disavow links

Disavowing links is quite simple. After auditing your backlink profile (as touched on above), you will have to copy across any sites you wish to disavow into a .txt file. This file should take on the following format: 

  • Disavowing domains: ‘domain: example.com’ 
  • Pages: ‘’https://www.example.com/example-page/’
  • Comments: you can also make comments in the text file using a hashtag ‘#’

See an example from Google below:

# Two pages to disavow

http://spam.example.com/stuff/comments.html

http://spam.example.com/stuff/paid-links.html

# One domain to disavow

domain:shadyseo.com

Once you’ve created your .txt file, you submit it via Google Search Console’s disavow tool. Here you’ll be able to select your chosen property and upload your file. For more information about disavowing links, see Google’s documentation here. 

Does Disavowing Links Really Do Anything?

Over the years, there have been many marketers who have questioned the impact of submitting disavow files to Google, with some claiming it doesn’t do anything. Ahrefs did a recent experiment whereby they monitored the result of disavowing all links to various pages. They saw a notable decrease after disavowing, and an increase after recovering the links (see the graph taken from their article below). 

result of disavowing backlinks

 

 

The importance of maintaining a healthy backlink profile can sometimes be forgotten, as it’s very easy to shift attention to different SEO elements. However, hopefully, I have highlighted just how important backlink audits can be, and how you can get started.

admin from Novos
Article by admin

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