Improve Your SEO Campaign – Your Backlinks

Have a healthy backlink profile Checking the backlink profile of a client / potential client should be standard practice right now. We are no longer solely focusing on the number of backlinks that are there, but also on the ratio of positive vs. damaging. Unfortunately, the best way to get this sorted is to use a link removal service (which is lovely if you have the budget for that) or to just tuck in. Set yourself a realistic goal and time frame, because staring at 60,000 backlinks can be a little daunting. As with most other aspects of SEO, analyzing your backlinks is a multi-step process. The first round of separating the wheat from the chaff should probably focus on the most damaging backlinks by removing pretty much anything that looks like this:

You can quickly identify the worst offenders in this category by running a referring domains report on MajesticSEO.com. The next step is to look at your anchor text and determining if there are any red flags. Common problems include:
  • Over-optimized keyword anchor text
  • Irrelevant or misleading anchor text
  • Not enough variation on anchor text on multiple backlinks on the same referring domain
It is important to note that if you submitted the disavow file to Google at the end of the first phase of backlink removal then you will want to continue to add domains to that file and resubmit, rather than creating a whole new empty disavow file. Finally, you want to run a backlink report. On MajesticSEO, this gives you a list of your backlinks (the number you can report on is based on your subscription… if you need more, I would use Google Webmasters Tools for a full report). This will allow you to identify any URLs that you weren’t caught in the first two rounds of backlink clean up that have a low trust flow or are otherwise undesirable. This can be a huge task to undertake and a lot of people will probably be tempted to skip it entirely, but the fact is that a healthy backlink structure is becoming a key to having a successful SEO campaign.

Matt Cutts Announces New Link Reports in Webmaster Tools

On August 8th, Google announced the addition of the Manual Action Tool in Google Webmaster Tools. This week, they have also announced another update to the way in which links are reported. It seems that Google is attempting to supply webmasters with the means to clean up their act—should they need to. Last week, at the SES San Francisco conference, Matt Cutts announced another update to Google Webmaster Tools, which allows Webmasters to see a larger representation of their backlink profile. In concert with updates like Penguin 2.0, that have caused site owners to carefully monitor their link profiles, Google is making an effort to become more transparent in the way in which they report a site’s link data. Prior to this update, users could only download a list of 100,000 backlinks in alphabetical order; now, a more in-depth report is being rolled out to Google Webmaster Tools. Cutts explains that they have made a radical move to the way that they are sampling links. Links are now sampled uniformly, which provides a broader, yet comprehensive, look at those backlink profiles. By reserving 70% of the report for random links, another 20-30% for random TLD’s (top-level domains), or random domain names, and sprinkled with some higher quality links, the report provides a more representative full-picture snapshot of the site’s backlinks.  This is especially beneficial for larger sites that have more than 100,000 backlinks that may not have been visible on the previous alphabetical system. Since these link reports are essentially, “from the horse’s mouth,” the Webmaster link reports may one day be all we need to assess a site’s quality, and not-so-quality, backlinks. With updates expected to Penguin always on the near horizon, the increase in transparency we’re seeing from Google will hopefully lend some much-needed direction to users in terms of their backlink profile clean up and reconsideration requests. Aaryn Kobayashi is an Account Manager at SEOhaus. If you would like to stay up-to-date on all of the latest SEO industry news and tips, you can subscribe to our blog here.

Disavowing One Day at a Time

Disavow. After almost a year, it remains to be the hot topic in the SEO world, and continues to be the subject of many group discussions/headbangings here at SEOhaus. Jori and Brian have shared their thoughts with the blog world along with many other SEO professionals, but questions seem to remain the same: how does it work and more importantly does it really help? There have been many theories and even a few have experimented to see what the disavow tool does, if anything at all. Cyrus Shepard shared his experience on The Moz Blog a few months ago after disavowing all 35,000 of his links stating he did not see a dramatic change in traffic or rankings for two months. A few days later Penguin 2.0 hits and he somewhat retracts his statements, that maybe, it caused some rankings to drop after all. Fast forward to today, and Cyrus is now shaking his head at traffic that now looks like this: While I feel like we all thank Cyrus for being the sacrificial SEO lamb I also feel like I’m not alone in feeling like I am not one step closer to unveiling the mystery that is the disavow tool. Truth be told, what Cyrus did was dramatic and hopefully not common practice for those using it. And when it comes down to it, isn’t this what we would have predicted months ago had we been asked what the outcome would be? We just might have predicted that it would happen a little more quickly than it actually did. So what have we learned? Disavow Lesson #1: don’t disavow all your links at once, it probably won’t pan out too well. So how many links can you disavow? How much is too much? Do you have to submit a reconsideration request to have it be effective or nervously wait for an update to see what effect it will take? A lot of questions still remain. At this point I have done my fair share of disavowing and overall have seen it do more good than harm as well as some general patterns that tend follow a submission. For starters, I have only been targeting the spammiest of spam links and definitely use caution when deciding what to disavow. If I’m absolutely sure that sites are not helping in any way, they are placed on the list. Once the appropriate steps have been taken and the submit button is clicked, the ranking roller coaster begins. Shortly after disavowing rankings seem to go up for a few days and then tend drop. Not severely but one to two pages does not appear to be uncommon, similar to the drops you see when making on page changes to your site. And when you think about it, this correlation makes sense. You are essentially making changes to your site, while not cosmetic, the overall presence of your site has changed. And just like you have to wait for Google to register your on page changes as positive, you will have to wait for your link removal to be seen as a positive as well. The time you have to wait varies with the amount of links you have removed but after a month or so, I’ve been happy with the progression rankings seem to be making. I recently did some disavowing for a new client that got hit by Penguin 2.0 and their link profile needed some serious help. While still fairly earlier in the game, their traffic is a great illustration of what I have been seeing with other clients: At the end of the day, Google just wants to you be responsible for the quality of your site and the disavow tool can be considered a magic eraser of sorts to help you clean up a mess when all other efforts fail. It is not a quick fix and as said many times before, should be used with caution as be overzealous may cause you to lose links you can’t get back. Elisa Houghtelin is one of the Account Managers at SEOhaus. If you would like to stay up-to-date on all of the latest SEO industry news and tips, you can subscribe to our blog here. Thanks for reading the SEOhaus blog!