Hello. Today, I’m going to talk a little bit about backlink analysis and the bad links that you need to look for when you’re doing it. So obviously, if you’ve had an unnatural link warning in Webmaster Tools, or perhaps you haven’t, perhaps your rankings have suffered or your organic traffic has suffered since the Penguin update, or anything that makes you think that you’ve got some dodgy links on your site, then you’ll need to be doing some comprehensive backlink analysis.
So once you’ve got exports of all the links that you’re going to analyse from as many different tools as possible, like Majestic SEO, Google Webmaster Tools, Open Site Explorer, there’s many more that you can use as well. Most of them are free, or you can have free versions of them. Once you’ve got all the links that you want to look through, it’s time to go through them all, looking for these sorts of things.
Now this list isn’t conclusive, but this is some of the main types of dodgy links that I see when I’m doing backlink analysis.
So the top one I would say is one of the most important. For me, site-wide links [are] the biggest problem because not only are they very unnatural, especially if [they] follow site-wide links. If they’re no followed, that’s not so much of a problem. Sometimes site-wide links are essentially like footers or sidebars to help you get from one site to another. But if they’re followed, they look very unnatural to Google because it looks like an attempt to manipulate rankings by having lots of links coming from all sorts of pages on one site.
Not only that, it means that every time that site adds a new page, there’s a new link as well because it’s templated. It’s in every page of that site. So your link charts can look like they’re going up and up and up when, actually, you’re not building any new links. You’ve just got this one or sample site-wide links that are making it look like you’re getting new links regularly. So if you’ve got site-wide links, particularly if you’ve got an unnatural link warning and you’re trying to get a successful reconsideration request put through, get rid of them, and, of course, disavow them if you can’t.
The next one on this list, again, is quite common if you’ve done SEO in the past. This is low quality directories, particularly irrelevant directories, link directories or SEO friendly directories, that sort of thing. If you’ve got links coming from these sorts of pages that just literally look like lists and lists of links in different categories, get rid of them. Disavow them if you can’t get them removed or if there’s a charge to get it removed. But make sure that they’re not left untouched. You need to either disavow them or get them removed.
Obviously, with directories, if they’re relevant, strong directories, either niche directories or perhaps local directories or industry directories, and they’re strong, then they’re fine as long as you make sure you’re aware that they’re there and perhaps, keep an eye on them in the future in case the directory isn’t strong in the future. But this is specifically for low quality ones that aren’t specific and are just there for link value.
So next on the list, links from de-indexed sites. Now this is important because if a site has been de-indexed from Google, there’s a good chance that there’s a reason for it. Perhaps they’ve received a penalty. And if you’ve got links coming from that site to your site, then there’s every chance Google is going to see that and think there’s something unnatural going on there.
So basically, what I do for this is I install a couple of Google Chrome plug-ins that you can just add on to your Chrome profile that tell you how many pages that Google have got indexed for that site. You can also type into Google “site:” followed by the domain name to see how many pages come up. If it says no pages are there, then Google hasn’t got any pages indexed. If the site is not indexed in Google and you’ve got links coming from it, again, I’d get them removed and definitely disavow them.
Next up, we’ve got paid links, advertorials, etc. This includes sponsored links from sponsored posts, obviously advertorials with followed links, anything that you’ve paid for [the link] to be there. That also includes things like blogger reviews. So if you’ve sent a free product to someone to review for a link, that’s an incentive. That’s like paying them, perhaps not with money, but with an incentive like a free product to review. Those links must be no followed. If they’re not, Google will see that as an attempt to manipulate rankings, as an attempt to get a link for money, and you could get a penalty or it could be the cause of your penalty.
So contact these sites. Make sure they’re no followed. And if the site is also low quality, irrelevant or spammy, get it removed altogether. But if it’s a good one; it brings in referral traffic, or any of those sorts of things, just get it no followed, and that’s absolutely fine.
So the next one: irrelevant links or links from irrelevant sites. Again, if the site isn’t relevant to a niche, it doesn’t need to be completely in your specific industry. But if it’s not relevant at all from a completely different type of website or perhaps the link is stuffed in a piece of content that’s not at all relevant to what your link is all about, then get those removed as well. They’re not doing you any value at all. You need to get them removed. Get them disavowed. Make sure you contact the sites and do everything you can to get them taken down.
The next one is forum and blog comments. Now obviously, you can’t help what people are talking about out there. If they’re mentioning your brand, then that’s absolutely fine. What I mean here is unnatural ones that have been done by someone in your organization, that are irrelevant links that have just been chucked in to forum or blog comments to just try and get a link back to your site.
If you’ve been doing that or anyone has been doing that, try to get these removed by logging in to those profiles and obviously removing the comments, closing the profiles down, or just removing the links from them, and then that will solve that problem. As I say, any natural forum or blog comment links should be absolutely fine. Just be aware that they’re there.
The last two are an unnatural number of links from one domain or an unnatural number of referring domains from one IP address. You can use a couple of reports in Majestic SEO to get this information. You can get the referring domains report, which will help you with this one here, and referring IP report, which will help you with the bottom one. Now that basically will tell you how many different domains are coming from the same IP or how many different links are coming from the same domain.
If there’s an unnatural amount in either of those two categories, then you need to look at why. It could indicate a site-wide link. Or if there’re multiple domains from one IP, it could be a link network, or they’re all owned by the same person, which again if they’re followed in particular, that looks very unnatural to Google. So just keep an eye out for that. Make sure that you get them removed or disavowed or no followed if it’s appropriate to keep the links.
Overall with these types of links, just be aware that this isn’t everything that you’re likely to see. These are some of the most common ones I see and some that you should really look out for when you’re doing your analysis. But on the whole, if it looks unnatural, if the website looks low quality or spammy, then get rid of it.
If it looks like it could be a strong link, make sure you’re aware of the site. Check that it’s indexed and check that it’s relevant. If it looks like a strong link, then leave it. But it might be that if you’ve had a manual penalty, later down the line, you need to have a closer look at that and say, “Well, actually, perhaps did we pay for this at some point? Is there another reason that this could be holding us back?”
But that’s just a quick overview of some of the sorts of links that you should be looking for. If you want to find out more about Koozai, then please check out the links at the end of the video for the social profiles. My name is Emma North, and thank you for watching.
Thanks for a great video, Emma. Very clear concise rundown of signals to look for, while carrying out a backlink post mortem.
I’ve had to do an increasing number of these sort of analyses over the past few months, and I totally agree with every point made in this video.
In one client’s case, it was a virulent combination of all the signals you discussed. I’ll send them a link to this video, to help them understand why they’ve been penalized.
Any videos or posts related to penalty recovery action steps? That would be a great resource.
Thanks again. Great video.
Thanks Emma. I’ve had a look-in on the article, and it’s extremely useful. I’m also discovering some additional content here on Koozai, which are I quite like. Your free whitepaper on Backlink Analysis and Removal is definitely a must read. Thanks.
Sign up now and get our free monthly email. It’s filled with our favourite pieces of the news from the industry, SEO, PPC, Social Media and more. And, don’t forget - it’s free, so why haven’t you signed up already?