If Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) were a house, then backlinks are the pillars that hold it up. Backlinks as the spine of SEO, contribute the most to rankings. It requires dedication of time and effort to acquire excellent backlinks.
Even seasoned SEO professionals are often troubled by maintaining control of backlinks. They regularly have to question where a backlink has gone, and why it is not influencing ranking as much as they originally hoped. Despite its relevance, many marketers overlook this very important SEO task.
There are good tools to do backlink monitoring, but we should first understand the crucial nature of backlink monitoring to SEO strategy. We also need to be aware of how to remain ahead in our backlink monitoring.
Google Penguin Penalty
The Google Penguin penalty is worth mentioning because the algorithm fights webspam through detection of link spam. A site’s backlink profile, the complete list of links from external sites, should contain as many natural-looking links as possible. You should not make any attempt at search ranking manipulation, and Penguin has a special focus on this. Marketers and other SEO professionals need to employ transparent link-building techniques.
The Penguin algorithm no longer gives penalties, according to Google. Instead it just devalues spammy links, in the words of the company’s Gary Illyes “Either way, a site pays for hosting non-transparent links because in practice, algorithmic penalties still exist”.
Who then is responsible for a website’s link profile? Your link profile is your absolute responsibility. Owning a large percentage of poor backlinks is a low trust signal. Sites hit with a Penguin penalty must actively and deliberately take steps to recover.
A site involved in link merchandising or link trading, negotiating link exchanges, engaging in unnatural linking, or being involved in link farms, should expect penalties if discovered. A sudden drop in organic search traffic could be due to a link penalty. In order to avoid any issues with Penguin, you will need to ensure regular monitoring and cleaning up of backlinks.
Links and Google Penalties
Websites work to avoid Google penalties and retain SEO visibility. Search engines use various signals including link integrity and website hosting. Algorithm updates or manual action cause penalties. A search engine penalty can diminish or wipe out search traffic. This is often expensive and hard to recover as penalties have a negative impact on organic rankings.
Each new algorithm update finds Google tightening standards and penalising websites operating outside search guidelines. A penalised website will expectedly slip in rankings and revenues, and everyone should take actions that minimise contributions to SEO penalties. Links are central to these efforts.
Links with SEO value should be as natural as possible. Include a nofollow attribute to any paid links (such as ads). The nofollow value is included in a page’s HTML structure as the value of any link’s rel attribute, when search engines are not expected to use the link to influence ranking of the link’s target.
To illustrate, let’s say that a major media website published content with your link a few years ago. If they revamp their site along with their web hosting with a reputable hosting company like https://www.openhost.co.nz/web-hosting, in terms of design and development, they could remove your link without consulting you.
Monitoring and Purging Unwanted Links
We have established the necessity of monitoring the full list of links that land on your site from other sites. It is part of any excellent SEO game plan. Locating backlinks to your site, make a thorough assessment and remove bad ones from your link profile.
The Google Penguin algorithm analyses each site’s link profile, checking for any suspicious inbound links. Depending on the number of such inbound links, the site’s rankings can take a hit that can impact traffic and revenues.
To recover from a Penguin penalty and protect your site’s reputation, it is important to monitor backlinks regularly to keep your link profile clean. This will involve:
- Monitoring backlinks to a site
- Evaluating the site’s link profile
- Removing backlinks by link pruning
- Using Google’s Disavow tool
The necessary step before link pruning is to find all the backlinks for your site. The inventory of current backlinks can be a found using a variety of backlink checker tools to monitor backlinks and locate webpages linking to the site. All the linking page URLs should be in one column of a spreadsheet.
A great place to start gathering link data is the Google Search Console. Under Search Traffic Menu, select Links to Your Site. The downside to using this tool is that the link profile is neither complete nor up-to-date. A more robust, fresher list for the link audit can be obtained from data processed from several link-tracking sources – Moz’s Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs, and SEOToolSet’s Link Analysis tool being excellent examples.
Evaluate the links
After compiling a site’s link profile, it becomes important to assess the quality of each link to determine if it needs to be removed. Backlink evaluation is tedious as most links will require that you click to examine the web page the link lives on. You definitely want to avoid low-quality and spam sites.
It is possible to create a custom scoring system to judge link value. Google’s PageRank algorithm is also a measurement of quality that you can use. More advanced scoring systems use Majestic SEO’s ranking scores, Trust Flow and Citation Flow. Our earlier spreadsheet should include columns to keep track of the link information, contact information for the website owner and correspondence records.
Remove non-organic links
To determine which links should be removed, create a template of an email to send to website owners to request link removal. This email would explain with specifics, who you are and your objectives as well as links, so site owner can process link removal.
A tracking system within your spreadsheet should record dates of pruning requests and follow ups. Regularly verify if links have been removed and send second and third requests, where necessary. All this documentation will be necessary should you have occasion to correspond with Google.
To prune links, the website owner or webmaster will either purge the unwanted link from their site, or add rel=”nofollow” to the link tag so the search engines would ignore it.
This is a last resort in the event that link removal effects are ignored or rejected. A disavowal request to Google effectively says all previous efforts have failed, and the links should be disregarded.
A backlink disavowal request Is great for when you have repeatedly failed at getting a website to drop your links. The spreadsheet from above with vital details and correspondence records provides proof to the search engines of your prior efforts in the hopes of averting a Google Penguin penalty. Disavowals should be done in a selective manner and with the utmost care.
Backlink monitoring is an important part of any SEO strategy. The steps mentioned above can be adapted for any website with relative ease. A commitment to backlink monitoring will spare any website owner the Google Penguin penalties and serve to enhance the site’s reputation, organic traffic, and revenue.