When Google was launched in 1998, a “link” was one of the chief factors among all other SEO off-page factors. Later on, many new ranking signals were added to improve search quality. Google also launched many spam fighting updates like Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird, and Pirate. So, what’s most important in SEO today?
Moz has collectively compiled data on search ranking factors based on survey and correlation. If you study each factor and correlation, then you can deduce that “Link Profile” is now more important in SEO. A link profile indicates how well a website is connected throughout the Internet. The concept of link profile is old, but was rarely given attention by webmasters. I’m sure very few people were aware of it. Yet, everyone is well versed with the Google Penguin Update and the consequences of being hit by it.
What should people do to revoke a Penguin penalty? Removing bad links or directly disavowing them before asking for reconsideration is the right answer. Link profile is directly related to the Penguin update and content is related to the Panda update. Remember not to mix link profile with Panda. Dealing with the Panda update is very different from dealing with Penguin.
Websites that always get boosted by Penguin have achieved a well cleaned, natural link profile. Earning quality backlinks is continually an effective practice for seeing improvement in your search engine rankings after any Penguin update is released. You’re probably wondering what makes a good link profile. Neil Patel has written a nice post on link profile and how to make a good one. In this article, he mentioned that a good link profile covers 80 percent of all SEO ranking factors.
How to Clean Up Your Links to Improve Your Link Profile
To perform link evaluation, you’ll need to have a Google webmaster account first. Then, login to it and go to the “Links to your site” tab under the “Search Traffic” section of the left sidebar. Click on “More Links” and download the “Latest links” sheet.
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Now, sort the column in A-Z order so that all links from one domain will come together. I advise that you categorize each column with the following names for easier organization:
- Contact details
- Link Quality
- Link Removal Request Sent date
- Link Status
Before I start explaining things in detail, you must know what type of website you may encounter, what type of links there could be, and the types of anchor texts used to get the link. These are all very basic parts of SEO that you need to know.
Lots of links may come from these sites:
- Article directories
- Free blog submission sites
- Bookmarking sites
- Profile links
- Directory submissions
- Adult websites
- Guest blog networks
- Company websites
- Private blogs
- Social media Sites
- Personal websites
- Business websites
- News websites
Link evaluation involves more than reviewing websites. It’s also about analyzing where the link is presented on the site and what anchor text is used. Generally, the following types of links are seen:
- One-way linking
- Commercial links
- Contextual (article body) links
- Author bio links
- Links from footer/sidebar (sitewide or blogroll)
- Reciprocal (two-way) linking
- Three-way linking
The types of anchor texts that you’ll see being used include:
- Exact match anchors
- Partial or varied keyword anchors
- Commercial anchors
- Diluted (brand + keyword) anchors
- Branded anchors
- Generic anchors
- Naked link anchors
- No anchor tricks
- Image anchors
- LSI anchors
- Long anchors
Once you start checking the individual sites, then you’ll realize most of the websites looks similar, which may confuse you. Use the following parameters to help with assessing the links:
- Domain Authority (Moz)
- Page Authority (Moz)
- Ahrefs URL Rank (Ahrefs)
- Trust Flow (Majestic)
- Citation Flow (Majestic)
- Alexa rank (Alexa)
You can download the Moz toolbar, Alexa rank checker, Ahrefs toolbar, and Majestic SEO plug-ins on your browser. These plug-ins will help you speed up the complete process. If you open up all of these websites to check the data, it’ll take you tons of time. I’ve learned that “time is money”, so don’t waste it.
A good approach is to know which type of site or link you should keep. Therefore, you’ll know when you can just remove the rest of the links from respective sites. Follow these guidelines:
- The website or the content where the link is present should be relevant to your business.
- Links should be on high volume traffic sites. Check the Alexa rank. The lower the Alexa, the more traffic the site has. I prefer less than a million.
- Sites should have a high Domain Authority. Over 25 DA is preferable.
- Sites’ trust flow should be at least 50 percent of the citation flow. A minimum 20 Citation flow is best.
- Anchor text should be branded, diluted, and general and pattern of anchor texts should be natural.
- It’s good if you have a contextual link somewhere in the body.
- Links from author bios are acceptable.
- Links coming from valuable content reigns supreme.
- Account links from well-maintained, real profiles are acceptable.
- Only high authority and trusted directories, like Yelp and Yellowpages should be used.
- The content from where the link is coming from should be original.
- Links to a post with a high number of social shares are good.
- Links presented on trusted sources are excellent.
- The link should come from diverse, yet relevant websites.
- Links from news sites are very authoritative.
- Advertising links should be labelled as “Nofollow.”
- Internal linking should be natural.
- Footer links within the website should be managed.
All of these points must be followed to create a high-quality website link profile that improves your SEO rankings. Just take any website, then carefully evaluate whether each of the points is followed. There are some negative points mentioned below that should be avoided, but the majority will be good and trusted links for your website.
Lastly, you must remove links from the following during the link evaluation process:
- Article directories
- Free blog submission sites
- Fake profile links
- Social bookmarking sites
- Low quality directories
- Low content quality sites
- Untrusted resource pages with little value content
- Exact match anchor texts
- Varied anchor texts with words like affordable, cheap, best, top, etc.
- Commercial anchor texts
- Blogroll or site-wide links in the footer or sidebar
- Money-related keywords
- Duplicated or scrap content sites
- Forum signatures
- Blog comments with fake names
- “Links” pages of the site
- Thin content sites
- Irreverent content
- Irrelevant websites
- Links from sites with mirror IPs
- Guest blog networks meant to only gain links
- Links with low domain authority and very high Alexa
- Pornographic and adult affiliate sites
- Sites that don’t follow Google webmaster guidelines
- Websites using black hat practices
- Content with very poor user interface
All these violate the Google webmaster guidelines. Keep these red flags in mind when you start evaluating the backlinks. To improve the link profile and search engine rankings, remove at least 80 percent of all bad links (bad neighbors) manually or by requesting the site’s webmaster. If you can’t remove the bad links after trying, then disavow them in your Google webmaster account.
Follow this whole process to clean up your website’s links. When you do, I’m sure you’ll never face a manual action unless you violate the guidelines in another way. If your website does become penalized by Google, then you can revoke it using the same link evaluation process. Feel free to let me know in the comments below if I have missed any crucial SEO techniques available for improving link profile.