With Google’s increased focus on linkspam with the Penguin release, a periodic review and pruning of your site’s backlinks is now a must do.
Your backlink profile may hold unpleasant surprises. All too often, web site owners have no clue what kind of links a past SEO company may have built for them. I’ve found gaming sites and even porn lurking in the backlink profile of a website whose owner would be horrified to be associated with. Even if you never have outsourced to a link building service or used link building software – that link building that you did 5 years ago, that seemed fine at the time, might be a problem waiting to happen – even if you haven’t had a problem with Penguin yet.
WPMU.org lost 80% of its traffic in one day due to the Penguin update. Keyword stuffing? Nope. Link Schemes, no. In fact WPMU.org has done no formal linkbuilding .. well except adding a credit link in the free WordPress themes it distributes. Turns out that was the problem. Sometimes those free themes were used to build spammy sites, and Google penalized them for that.
Whether you think WPMU.org was unfairly penalized or not, keep in mind that a few bad links likely won’t hurt you. It’s the many bad backlinks that you need to worry about. Your backlink profile needs to have a diverse set of backlinks (whether they are follow or nofollow) from a variety of sources. One “tell” of an unnatural backlink profile is a preponderance of exact link anchor text. What? I can just hear you saying, but I thought keyword rich anchor text was good! It is, however when sites link to you naturally (ie. without being asked), they usually link to your domain name, keyword rich links are not that common. Or if they do use a keyword it is not “perfect”. A backlink profile with “perfect link anchor text” is a sign that the links had been “built” and not naturally given.
One common paid linking practice was to contact bloggers and have them put your link in their “blogroll” section. Some even labeled the section as “sponsored”. Followed sitewide links in the blogroll section and in the footer section are another classic tell of link building outside Google’s guidelines.
Looking through a backlink profile of many sites you start developing an eye on what is a spammy site and what is a quality site. The most obvious examples are the articles with gibberish with a link embedded in the middle, however the key question to ask is “does this site add value – if I was a searcher and landed here would I learn anything of value?” John Doherty suggests looking at domain authority distribution to see whether your backlink profile has too many low quality spammy sites.
It used to be that Yahoo Site Explorer was a great way to get a list of your site’s backlinks. No longer. However there are three tools that you can use instead.
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Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.