Conducting a link profile audit is an important part of any SEO project.
Regular link profile reviews can help you identify negative SEO link attack attempts, evaluate penalties, and remove broken links before they affect your website's ranking.
Preventive measures are always better than reactive measures.
As if that weren't enough, Google's recent updates show that they can impose penalties even on sites that haven't (at least) created links in the past five years.
Ongoing link profile audits are critical to keep your website healthy and to ensure that bad links don't get bad enough to cause problems later.
Some in the industry call it link correction.
Think of it as risk mitigation, or rather a link between risk management.
By the way, what is negative SEO?
Negative SEO is an attempt by a competitor to create bad links back to your website in order to artificially inflate their link profile.
The bottom line is that Google thinks you are creating these links, and therefore algorithmically downgrades your website.
I have seen several successful negative SEO link attacks and I have no doubt that they exist.
Everything was going well on these websites until they were attacked by a noticeable increase in incoming spam links.
For this reason, regular link profile reviews are vital to maintaining a healthy link profile and ensuring that your bad backlinks don't get bad enough to bite you.
Let's take a look at the applications we need to check the link profile.
I like to use various applications as data sources for checking link profiles. The more data sources you have, the more precise your link risk management tasks will be.
If you have access, I strongly recommend using at least five sources.
These five sources include (but you can always use more):
- Google Search Console
- Raven tools
- Moz Link Explorer
Link Detox by Christoph Cemper is a program with which you can compile, save, organize and process your link profile data.
These programs provide a great treasure trove of data that we can then use to further our link profile testing efforts.
Let's start with the collection of our link data.
Starting with the data sources
First, identify the three most important sources of links that you have access to. As a rule, Google Search Console, SEMrush and Majestic are good sources at first.
Then compile them into a single report and run them through Link Detox. Don't forget to download and import your Disavow file.
This way, your links that are not already recommended will be ignored and Link Detox will not count them during the check.
In addition, Link Detox automatically deduplicates all duplicate entries, so you don't have to identify duplicate problems.
Go through Link Detox and train the tool's AI to learn more about your link profile by tuning links up and down.
It's also a good idea to visit the websites and find out what Link Detox sees as spam, not spam.
This upvoting / downvoting process allows you to train the tool to include or exclude links when it reprocesses your report.
It is also a good idea to classify your link anchor text when prompted. This significantly increases the accuracy of your Link Detox test reports.
The more you train the tool's AI, the better you can identify both the bad and the good links in your link profile.
There are several things to consider when investigating problems with your link profile.
This is all my opinion and may not necessarily apply to your website. However, I have found that these elements are of crucial importance and, depending on the implementation, can have a positive or negative impact on your link profile.
As usual, anything that is used excessively can be interpreted as spam.
What to check
1. Positive connection speed
This refers to how much your link profile expands and how quickly it expands.
A link profile that grows too quickly can trigger a red flag for Google, since this can be seen as a tact for manipulating links.
2. Negative connection speed
Too many links are removed at the same time.
3. Contextual links
Links that are strategically placed in content that have context on the actual page.
Bonus points if this content is natural, doesn't sound spammy and contains significant meat.
Context links are good, but these too can be manipulated – and you should watch out for excessive context links.
4. "Sponsored links" or other words around the link
Links that are obviously paid for or otherwise sponsored.
5. Links from "Hub" pages
Links that come from top resources on the topic.
6. Links from authority pages
These are links from major government websites in a niche.
It's a good thing to have a lot of links from websites with great authority, and that shouldn't speak against you.
7. Natural link profile
With a natural link profile, most link techniques are kept to a minimum and the distribution of the link anchor text is more natural, which is in no way based on significantly large quantities of an anchor text type.
In other words, it looks like a lot of people from many different niches (or within the same niche) are linked to the site and not one person who links again and again.
8. Mutual links
Basically "Link to me and I will link to you" for the purpose of networking. This is a type of linking scheme that Google bans in the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
9. User generated content links
Basically, these are links that appear in the comment section of blogs.
10. Excessive blog comments
Blog comments can be easily manipulated, and therefore excessive blog comments can be interpreted as coming from a black hat program like Scrape Box, which is known for its blog comment features.
11. Left of 301 redirects
301 redirects per se are fine and links from 301 redirects shouldn't harm your website.
However, excessive redirects can:
- Weigh your website.
- Cause bandwidth problems (may not be an issue if you can afford significant traffic hitting your 301 redirects).
- Cause additional crawling problems if not managed properly.
They can be so exaggerated that managing them could be challenging.
12. Internal link anchor text
Any excessive use of some kind of internal link anchor text is considered spam and should be avoided.
For example, "Georgia widgets" should not always be linked again. Instead, your link profile should contain a varied anchor text.
Try to diversify it so that it appears more natural than manipulative.
13. Backlink age
Some SEO professionals believe that backlink age is a ranking factor based on a Google patent.
14. Number of outbound links on the page
Some SEO experts believe that a page with a lot of outbound links performs significantly less than a page with a healthy number of outbound links. However, this is no longer true.
Former googler Matt Cutts said he deleted the policy for 100 links per page. However, you can take action if the links are too spammy.
15. Site-wide links
Cutts talked about it in his video "How does Google take site wide backlinks into account?"
He confirmed that they compress the links into a link, but from a manual webspam analyst's perspective, they can take different actions into account if they're too spammy.
16. Excessive focus of the link anchor text on any keyword
It is generally accepted to have a link profile where no more than 20% of your links come from a website type, a spam type or a single keyword.
The more variety, the better.
17. Too much connection speed, too little connection speed
If too many links are captured in too short a time, this can affect the performance of your website in the SERPs.
This is especially true if it becomes an important part of your link profile (approximately 50 percent or more).
Too little connection speed is not necessarily a concern.
Connection speed becomes a problem if it comes from a source too quickly and too quickly and destroys your connection profile too quickly for other techniques to actually help.
18. Too many links that come from a domain too quickly (part of the link speed, but an investigation factor)
This could send a signal to Google that this domain is actually helping to manipulate link factors on the target website.
The idea here is that too much of anything is a bad thing and most linking techniques should follow the linking in moderation – if done too much and too quickly, it can be considered spam.
19. Excessive links to forum profiles
These types of links can refer to a program such as XRumer or Scrape Box, which is used on the black hat page to edit links.
Forum profiles can be easily edited and created with these programs.
20. Links from real sites vs. Splogs
A splog or spam blog is pretty easy to spot these days.
If blogs are created as part of a large network, they may have the same template, similar content, and all content may look like gibberish.
If the splog network is sufficiently advanced, they may even take care of creating high quality content.
However, most of the factors between these splog networks are similar and easy to identify.
21. Guest contributions
Guest posts get a bad name these days because they can be easily manipulated and can go article marketing if they are not done properly.
However, if done correctly, they can be a good asset, especially if you add unique, high-value content.
Guest posts can get bad if you only create your link profile.
22. Unnatural influx of links
Already discussed and mentioned elsewhere in this document in the Connection Speed section.
23. Google penalty
With the Panguin tool from Barracuda, you can not only determine whether you are to have a punishment, but what punishment do you have?
It includes a program that overlays your Google Analytics data with data and information about specific penalties – not only Penguin, but also Panda and many other algorithmic and manual actions that have been collected by Google.
It can help you diagnose your problem much easier.
Once you’ve determined exactly when you received a penalty, you should search Google Search Console and Google Analytics for support data before taking action.
If you don't have supporting data that came at the exact time of the punishment, another important change has likely affected your website.
24. Link profile with a high percentage of links of low quality
Many links from low quality websites – as they are often used by spammers – are known as follows:
- Excessive links to blog comments
- Websites with excessive duplicate stolen content
- Blog networks
- Article marketing sites
The following is specifically referred to as spam in Google’s webmaster guidelines:
- Links with optimized anchor text in articles.
- Press releases that are distributed on other websites and were created exclusively for the link.
- Any inferior directories or links to social bookmarking sites.
- All PPC advertising links that PageRank passes on to the buyer of the ad.
25. Linking the domain relevance
Relevant links from websites in the same / a similar niche are known to be more powerful than links from websites that have nothing to do with each other.
When checking your link profile, check whether the domain itself is relevant and does not cause major spam problems.
If it is spam and there is no way to contact the webmaster to ideally remove the link, you should add it to your disavow file.
26. Anchor text "Gift"
The presence of significant amounts of this type of anchor text (basically anything from known spam niches like gambling or Viagra) can negatively impact your website and be considered spam.
This is a popular negative SEO technique, in which one competitor references a number of links with spam anchor text to another competitor, effectively reducing their rankings.
Although Google continues to claim that participating in negative SEO rarely does any harm.
Identify all major cases where significant amounts of poison anchor text occur.
If you intercept it and reject the links, they are unlikely to cause any significant problems for your website.
If you don't, and you determine that you were the victim, you should contact a member of the Google Webspam team (e.g. John Mueller or Gary Illyes) and have them examined.
Time to compile the disavow file
After reviewing your entire link profile and identifying any broken links you want to disable, it is time to compile your Disavow file and upload it to your website using Google's Disavow Tool.
What to check
27. Your disavow files
Make sure your disavow file is error free. Excessive WWW and some formatting issues may occur before uploading your file.
For security reasons, copy your disavow file into the editor, save it as a TXT file and upload it.
28. Schema.org microformats
Schema.org has become a cult phenomenon.
It is not quite as popular with SEO professionals as it is with other techniques, as it is difficult to prove its effectiveness. However, some believe that pages that support these microformats can rank above the pages without them.
However, there is no doubt that the snippets recommended by Google are supported. This can be helpful when placing snippet results and the Google carousel for different niches.
By identifying Schema.org microformats in your audit, you can find out how to optimize next and how to proceed from here.
You can lay a foundation for Schema.org optimization and determine what needs further optimization and what other growth opportunities there are.
With Screaming Frog you can identify the on-site microformat code from Schema.org.
How to check
To identify pages with Schema.org encoding, you want to use custom filters.
Simply go to Screaming Frog and click on Configuration> Custom> Search.
Enter the following code in the custom filter configuration to determine if this page has schema markup: itemtype = http: //schema.org
Depending on how it's encoded (don't forget to check this first!), You might want to type: itemtype = "http://schema.org"
This identifies all major code elements that are encoded with Schema.org, but not specific elements.
If you want to identify a specific type of schema markup, use that very schema.
For example, you would need to use itemprop = "name" to find an encoding that contains that particular schema value.
It all depends on your niche and the scheme you want to identify.
Be sure to visit Schema.org for a comprehensive list of all available schema formats.
Selected picture: Paulo Bobita
Screenshot taken by the author