Links (also called backlinks) are still at the heart of every website’s rankings. They can reflect either positively or negatively on the site and its pages, establishing authority and credibility of the site and the information it provides. The consequences of having low quality links pointing at your site can include a loss of rankings due to algorithmic filtering/dampening, manual actions imposed by search engines and a loss of credibility with users.
Every site-owner should be aware of where their site’s inbound links are coming from, what pages they’re directed at and what anchor text is being used. Depending upon the number of links (and more importantly, the number of linking domains), auditing your website’s link profile can be a formidable task.
There are a number of tools that profess to “analyze” a site’s inbound links and rate them for quality. Typically, the first stage of this process is accomplished by one of two methods:
- Compare inbound links with a pre-existing list of domains that are deemed as low quality;
- Screen domain names and/or anchor text for terms which are deemed to flag low quality sites.
Unfortunately, since there are around 350 new websites created each minute, many of which are created for the sole purpose of manipulating search results, a pre-existing list of domains is obsolete before its figurative ink has dried. Granted, some terms which are notoriously spammy will continue to be so for a long time, but the reality is that no tool can offer a reliable, objective determination of whether a link may be beneficial or harmful. Only a human can do that, and manual audits take time.
Streamlining the Process
After harvesting as comprehensible a list as possible of the links pointing at a site, the first thing we do is flag any obvious spammy domains. An e-commerce site selling children’s clothing certainly won’t gain much by having links from a site that peddles certain “enhancing” pharmaceuticals. Typically, this will dramatically reduce the number of domains to be reviewed in detail. Then the real work starts.
We visit each domain to see if the site seems to be a fit, in terms of quality and relevance. If so, we look at other factors, such as whether the link is a site-wide link, does it make sense in the context in which it occurs and is the anchor text appropriate, both for the context of the originating page and that of the destination page. Those that don’t make sense are culled. Often, we’ll find links we consider to be otherwise beneficial, but should be reduced from a site-wide link to a single occurrence, or perhaps need a different anchor text. Those, we flag for corrective action.
When we’ve personally examined each domain or link, we prepare a spreadsheet, categorizing all the links as those that should be eliminated, modified, redirected or left as-is. We prepare our report, referencing each tab of the spreadsheet, complete with our recommendations for corrective action. As always, we make ourselves available for discussion and clarification, as well as assistance in implementing corrective action, if desired.