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Category Archive: Link Building

  1. The Difference Between Clever SEO and Link Schemes

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    Link building strategies require a delicate balance. In order to earn more authority for your domain, you’ll have to engage in some kind of link building strategy, but if any of your links appear unnatural or violate Google’s official policies, you could end up getting penalized instead of rewarded.

    In the early days of search engine optimization (SEO), it was possible to earn page rank through sheer force of will. Climbing to the top ranks of Google was a simple matter of posting as many links as you possibly could, using whatever tactics you could come up with to get the job done. Google has grown sophisticated, and today, it’s able to easily detect those link schemes and stick the perpetrators with a ranking penalty. Link building today requires tactful consideration and well-executed strategies, carefully toeing the line between what’s seen as a “link scheme” in Google’s eyes and what is simply a type of clever SEO.

    The problem is that the line between clever SEO and link schemes is thinner than you might think, and it’s difficult even for seasoned experts to tell the difference. In this article, we’ll take a look at the types of link building strategies that can earn you a penalty, and how clever SEO is distinguished from them.

    The Risk of Link Scheming

    articleimage884 The Risk of Link Scheming

    It should be no secret that link scheming will earn you a penalty if you’re aggressive enough. Ever since Google’s Penguin update in 2012 (and its subsequent revisions and follow-ups), Google has been able to clearly evaluate the quality of links on the web and take that quality into consideration when it evaluates rank. Google’s entire philosophy is to improve how people experience the web, and that means weeding out the people who abuse the system or fail to provide value to users.

    Put simply, link scheming is any way of building links that carries absolutely no value for the end user. This is a simple definition, but should allow you to evaluate whether your strategy falls into this category. Because these schemes have no value to users, and may even hinder their experience, Google will penalize domains who engage in them by throttling their domain authority and automatically or manually decreasing their rank for various queries. You’ll want to avoid link schemes at all costs.

    Types of Link Schemes

    articleimage884Types of Link Schemes

    If you’re having trouble determining exactly what counts as a link scheme, you aren’t alone. Since some people qualify a link scheme as any attempt to increase domain authority through link building, the lines are particularly blurry. Below are several examples of plain-as-day link schemes you’ll want to avoid no matter what; they should help illustrate what counts as a scheme.

    Article Directories

    Article directories are low-quality sites that host hundreds of poorly written articles as an excuse to build links. They don’t specialize in anything, they don’t provide value to users, and they don’t offer anything other than a place for random sites to post articles. Building links here or creating your own directory to pass authority qualifies as a scheme. The exception to this is niche directories, which cater to a specialized industry and try to connect industry companies and direct users to them.

    Link Farms

    Link farms are even worse than article directories, because they don’t have any content to back them up (usually). A link farm is a group of peripherally related websites that all link to each other for no reason other than to link to each other. Some people try to wedge their way into an existing link farm and others try to set up their own independent domains; either way, it’s classified as a scheme and will earn you a penalty.

    Automated Link Building

    Building links with any automated process, such as creating a bot to spam links across the web, is a bad idea. In fact, it’s one of the easiest types of schemes for Google to detect; you’ll be caught right away, and your domain will likely face a harsh penalty.

    Reciprocal Link Building

    Reciprocal link building can be good in small doses. Backlinking to a site and having them link back to you is not a link scheme by itself; however, when two sites exchange links constantly, and don’t diversify their strategy with other sites, it’s a clear indication of poor link building.

    Link Buying, in Any Form

    As a general rule, if you pay for the link to be built, it qualifies as a link scheme. The only justifiable reason to pay money for a link is when you’re using an affiliate link strategy—and affiliate link building is acceptable.

    What Constitutes “Clever” SEO

    Clever SEO can take advantage of Google’s algorithm and find ways to link build without risking the threat of a penalty. Diversity is the key here; you can build links on almost any source, as long as you hedge your bets by including many other sources. Use varying types of anchor text, grounded in the body of great, contextually appropriate content, and link to different internal pages of your site. You can even use nofollow links and link-less brand mentions to keep your strategy even more diverse.

    The Best Strategy

    articleimage884The Best Strategy

    If you’re worried about what constitutes a link scheme and what’s simply an execution of clever SEO, go the safe route. Let your audience build your links for you. By creating and syndicating high-quality, informative, entertaining content, you’ll encourage viral sharing of your material, and by extension, you’ll be the recipient of hundreds to thousands of inbound links. Creating viral content takes time and isn’t an exact science, but you’ll never have to worry about being penalized for links you earn as a result of it.

  2. Is Google Easing up on the War Against Link Building?

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    articleimage883s Google Easing up on the War Against Link Buildin

    The war against link building has been going on for years now. Starting in the mid-to-late 2000s, Google began an initiative, cracking down on shady link building schemes around the web in any way that it could. Back then, backlink building required no tact—it was just a matter of quantity, and the more links you had pointing back to you the better. People would readily buy up backlinks or build them using questionable practices like article directories or link farms, and user experience suffered.

    Google started clearing up the spam by de-indexing or manually penalizing sites that existed solely to help people build backlinks. A few years later, in 2012, it released the Penguin update, a massive algorithm change that rewarded high-quality links and penalized any that appeared to be built solely for the purpose of passing page rank. Since then, Google has continued to make it abundantly clear that anyone caught buying or selling links, along with anyone who built links using questionable practices, would face the search engine giant’s wrath.

    Now, that storm appears to be calming, and it could mean that Google’s war against link building is starting to subside.

    The Slowing Momentum of Penguin

    First, we have to take a look at the Penguin update as it exists today. When it first debuted in 2012, it was a massive game-changer, sending webmasters scrambling to try and pick of the pieces of their lost campaigns. Anyone who was hit by the update had to remove the offending links in short order, and anyone not hit by the update had to update their strategies to ensure they remained in compliance.

    A new version of the update, Penguin 2.0, came a year later, but had a significantly lessened impact. It refined a few processes and added some more criteria to how Google evaluated the quality of links, but beyond that it was a straightforward data refresh.

    In 2014, the SEO community expected a similar update, informally known as Penguin 3.0, but the update was delayed until much later in the year. When the update finally did arrive, it appeared as though the changes were even less significant, making little to no waves in the SEO community at large.

    It could be argued that the slowed momentum of Penguin is due to the fact that Penguin is still doing its job; bad link builders are punished and good link builders are rewarded. However, it could also be an indication that Google is starting to lighten up when it comes to penalizing link builders. It recognizes that millions of sites rely on link building to gain authority, and furthering the struggle against them isn’t worth the effort.

    The Emergence of Link Buying Ads

    articleimage883The Emergence of Link Buying Ad

    According to a recent post by Rand Fishkin of Moz, Google AdWords has apparently removed its ban on advertising from link building companies. Previously, any advertisements that explicitly mentioned the buying or selling of backlinks for the purposes of increasing Google rank were explicitly banned in Google AdWords. Now, a quick search for “link building” or “buy links” reveals several top ads for link building companies.

    Keep in mind that Google’s official policy still forbids the buying and selling of links for the purpose of passing page rank. Allowing advertisements for companies that shamelessly violate that policy is a seeming contradictory decision. It could be a further indication that Google is starting to realize that no matter how hard they try, they’ll never be able to win the war against link builders. If they’re going to exist anyway, Google might as well stand to make a little money off of them through advertising in the process. But does this mean that Google is implicitly agreeing that link building is a necessary strategy to increase rank, or that it accepts the process?

    “I’d Avoid Link Building in General”

    articleimage883I’d Avoid Link Building in General

    Google’s own John Mueller recently gave his opinion on the matter. As part of the Live Hangout, a user asked the question “is link building in any way good?”, directly calling the matter to Mueller’s attention. Mueller responded, “in general, I’d try to avoid that,” then elaborating that pursuing a link building strategy would ultimately cause more problems for your site than it would solve.

    Mueller reinforced the accepted truth that links are still an important part of the Google ranking algorithm, but there are so many other factors that link building should never be your top priority. If you try too hard to build links, you’ll ultimately end up hurting your domain authority, instantly ruining any of the benefits you may have picked up along the way.

    This little discussion makes it clear that even though Penguin is losing momentum and Google AdWords now allows link buying companies to place advertisements, Google is firm on its position that buying or artificially building links is a bad idea.

    The Bottom Line

    Google isn’t fighting the war against link building as hard as it used to. However, that doesn’t mean that excessive link building is suddenly okay. The search engine’s policy on buying or improperly building links is still intact, and some of its highest ranking officials are explicitly warning against it. If you want to build links to increase the authority of your site, the best way to do it is by writing or posting great content, and making it easy for your users to share that content and link back to you. This strategy generates hundreds to thousands of links, but doesn’t carry the risk of a penalty since it constitutes a form of natural link building. Otherwise, build your links on relevant sources in context with the conversation, and never resort to buying links directly or spamming users.

  3. The 11 Ingredients of a Perfect Backlink Profile

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    Backlink building has become more of an art form than an exact science, especially since Google’s Penguin updates have all but eradicated the old ways of building links. Today, quality matters far more than quantity, and if you want a chance at SEO success, you’ll need to make sure your backlink profile is as perfect as it can be.

    These 11 ingredients of the ideal backlink profile will help you increase your domain authority and ranks without worrying about the risk of a penalty:

    1. Authority.


    Authority is the first ingredient you’ll need. The more authoritative the source you’re building a link on is, the more authority you’ll gain from the link. The highest authority sources you’ll find are .edu sources, like colleges and universities, and .gov sources, which are government sites, but other high-authority sites, like major publishers and well-respected sources, are also valuable. You don’t need every link to come from a high-authority source, but the more you have in your profile the better.

    2. Relevance.


    The relevance of your sources also plays a factor in how your links are interpreted by Google. Google knows what your company is and what your industry is, so it’s going to evaluate how your backlink sources fit into that description. For instance, if you work in manufacturing and you have links pointing back to your domain from manufacturing forums, that’s considered a relevant source. If you link from a site about veterinary medicine, that probably won’t be seen as a good fit.

    3. Context.


    The context of your links is also vital. Google looks at links to determine not only how relevant they are to the source, but also how relevant they are to the conversation. For example, if you include a link as part of a comment on a particular blog post, the text in your comment better have something to do with that blog. You can do this by ensuring all of your links are valuable to visitors when they’re built.

    4. Social Value.

    Not every link you post on social media is going to pass authority to your site, but Google does look to see how often people are mentioning or linking to you on social channels. Your backlink profile definitely needs a social element, and that means syndicating links to your content on social channels and giving users the opportunity to share your content on their social channels as well.

    5. Natural Support.

    Google loves to see naturally built links, and that means you’ll have to create situations where people naturally want to link to you. The best way to do that is by creating pieces of exceptionally high-quality content—usually original research, infographics, or impactful videos—and making them available for the public. If your piece goes viral, you’ll get hundreds or even thousands of inbound links, and all of them will be 100 percent natural.

    6. Navigation.

    It isn’t enough to simply link to your homepage every time you build a backlink on an external source. The direction of your links has a significant impact on your overall domain authority. For example, if you’re responding to a forum question about installing a water heater, it’s better to link to a blog on your site that talks about water heater installation than it is to simply link to your home page. You have detailed internal pages, so use them.

    7. Consistency.

    Consistency is also important for a good backlink profile. Google checks to see when your links are built. If it looks like you have one big influx of backlinks, followed by a period of total inactivity, it can reflect poorly on your website. Build your links steadily, and stay consistent in your patterns.

    8. Mentions.

    It may seem strange, but links aren’t the only thing you’ll have to build for your backlink profile. You’ll also have to work in brand mentions, which are non-linked instances of your brand name on external sources. This is often easier to work in, and it passes authority without setting off any red flags with Google.

    9. Timelines.

    Like with content, Google favors sites who have updated their backlinks recently. Your backlink profile needs to have ample juice from links built in the past few weeks and months; even if you have a powerful backlink profile from a few years ago, those links may no longer register with as much authority.

    10. Anchors.

    Anchor text used to mean everything for your backlinks. Using text that was optimized for your target keywords would pass keyword-specific authority to your site, and increase your rank for those keywords. Since the Penguin update, anchor text is no longer as important, and over-optimizing your text with keywords can actually harm your overall authority. Instead, make sure your links are anchored in natural words—words that aren’t forced, but have a meaningful value to the conversation.

    11. Diversity.

    I mention this last, but it’s probably the most important ingredient of your entire backlink profile. The diversity of your strategy is fundamental, and it applies to almost every area of link building. You need a diverse range of sources, a diverse range of link types, and a diverse range of text to back them up. The more diversified your strategy is, the more natural it seems, and the less likely you’ll be to get a penalty.

    Building a great backlink profile takes time, so don’t get discouraged if you have trouble making immediate progress; if it were easy to build authority through backlinks, everyone would be able to do it. Stay focused on these 11 priorities, and eventually you’ll build an indomitable backlink profile that will carry your domain forward for years to come.

  4. The Difference Between High and Low Quality Backlinks

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    articleimage850 The Difference Between High and Low Quality Backlin

    Backlinks are still a big deal. You can define SEO in two major contexts—onsite and offsite optimization strategies—and one of those, offsite optimization, is almost exclusively reliant on the power of backlinks for development. The more backlinks you have, and the more powerful those links are, the more authority you’ll build, and the higher you’ll rank for relevant terms in user searches.

    Unfortunately, not all backlinks are created equal. High quality backlinks are extremely valuable, increasing your reputation, improving your domain authority, and ultimately increasing your visibility in Google. But low quality backlinks can actually have a detrimental effect on your SEO, lowering your authority and earning manual penalties that can seriously compromise your inbound traffic.

    Knowing the difference between high and low quality backlinks is crucial if you want your SEO campaign to succeed.

    Low Quality Backlinks


    Low quality backlinks can damage your reputation with Google and compromise your visibility in searches.

    Typical Source

    The source you use to build your backlink is the most obvious indicator of its quality. As a general rule of thumb, the lower the quality of the site, the lower the quality of the link will be. Posting a link on a disreputable, very low-ranking, or poorly designed site is going to carry a negative impact. Similarly, posting any link on a source designed specifically to manipulate rank is sure to earn you a penalty.

    However, you’ll have to consider more than just the quality of your source; you’ll also have to consider its appropriateness. Anything completely unrelated to your industry could qualify your backlink as low quality due to its lack of relevance to the source.


    The intention of your link is also a contributing factor to its quality, and yes, Google has ways of telling why you build the links you do. The biggest thing to watch out for here is the intention to directly improve your domain authority or rank; if Google determines that a link has no purpose other than to artificially generate traffic, it will be treated as low quality.


    The structure of your link usually correlates to its intention; for example, if your link is posted by itself in a blog comment, with no introduction or explanation, it will usually be seen as spam. However, if your link is structured in the context of supporting content that’s free from spam indicators like “click here,” you won’t have to worry.

    Link Type

    If Google starts to see that you’re posting the same link on all your external sources, such as a link to your homepage, it can be treated as a bad link. You want your links to be relevant to specific conversations and platforms, so avoid relying on one or two common link destinations.


    Finally, the frequency at which you post backlinks can determine their quality. If you post backlinks on the same source multiple times a day in different instances, your links could be treated as spam. The same rule applies to multiple sources; if your backlinks suddenly skyrocket with no explanation as to why, you could be seen as spamming and your link quality could suffer.

    The bottom line for low quality backlinks is that they serve no function other than to increase the target site’s traffic.

    High Quality Backlinks


    High quality backlinks will, when accumulated, reward your site with greater domain authority and higher search visibility.

    Typical Source

    The authority rule works for high quality backlinks in reverse; the higher the quality of your source, the higher the quality of your backlink. High quality sources generally include very reputable sites, with the most credible sites being those with a .gov or .edu distinction. Well-known authoritative sites, like major publishers and sources of information, are also great sources for high quality links.

    You can also earn high quality backlinks by using highly relevant sources to your industry. Industry-specific blogs and forums are great opportunities for this, and the more specific your niche, the better.


    The primary intention of high quality backlinks has nothing to do with rank manipulation. Instead, the highest quality links are built for a valuable purpose; for example, links that are built in order to establish credibility, elaborate on a point, cite a fact, or connect one important site to another all share a common goal to increase value or provide substance to existing content.


    High quality links have a more reputable structure than a standalone link. Typically, they are framed in explanatory text; for example, a link could be introduced in a forum comment with a quick explanation for why it’s being posted, or the link could be housed in the body of a high quality guest blog.

    Link Type

    Link quality increases with the diversity of links you use. Simply pointing to a homepage time after time is going to earn you a negative reputation, but high quality links tend to point to very specific internal pages as sources, serving a specific function and getting to a specific point.


    High quality links also enjoy a reasonable frequency. They are posted sporadically over time, rather than in fits and spurts, and they are never spammed into one source all at once.

    The bottom line for high quality backlinks is that they’re intended to improve a user’s overall experience.

    Keep your offsite SEO strategy ripe with high quality backlinks, and avoid those low quality backlinks like the plague. If you’re ever concerned about the makeup of your current backlink profile, or if you’re interested in auditing your current link building efforts, use a tool like Open Site Explorer to analyze your backlinks and watch out for any low quality offenders. It’s a good idea to clean up your profile from time to time, and actively work toward keeping your links as high quality as possible.

  5. Can You Be Penalized for Building Affiliate Links?

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    Affiliate links can be a valuable opportunity, both for the website trying to host the links and the website trying to earn traffic from them. But on the surface, the description of affiliate links inherently violates Google’s policy of explicitly forbidding link buying schemes. You’re paying an external site for any traffic the link generates, so shouldn’t that be considered a violation?

    Clearly, if affiliate links caused more harm than good, they wouldn’t be used so extensively across the web. Posting an affiliate link or buying affiliate link space to get more traffic to your site isn’t going to give you an instant penalty, but is it possible to be penalized if you use the strategy regularly?

    What Are Affiliate Links?

    articleimage828What Are Affiliate Links

    First, let’s take a look at the anatomy of an affiliate link. Basically, affiliate links are a means of gaining direct referral traffic. Under most conditions, they work similar to paid search advertising. The recipient of the traffic only pays for the number of clicks they receive—so if the link generates zero traffic, the recipient doesn’t pay a cent.

    Inbound Affiliate Links

    Because of the pricing distinction, affiliate links aren’t technically paid links. You’re paying for traffic generated through a link rather than paying directly for a link itself. This may not seem like a huge difference, but it is in the eyes of Google. Google wants to stop people from manipulating their search ranks through spam-like link building practices, not stop link creation processes altogether.

    If you’re the one trying to build external affiliate links, you have greater control over the situation. You can set your price, name your conditions, and request very specific links to be built. For example, if you’re building inbound affiliate links toward a specific product, you could compensate your affiliates with a portion of the total sales their link generates. It usually works out as a win-win situation.

    Outbound Affiliate Links

    Outbound links enjoy a similar distinction. Because outside sites aren’t paying you directly for the link to be built, you don’t usually need to worry about being seen as a propagator of forbidden link building practices.

    Outbound links are generally easier to acquire, as many major e-commerce platforms already have long-established affiliate link practices. For example, the Amazon affiliate program is one of the most popular on the web.

    However, despite the fact that affiliate links are not paid links, there are still a handful of potential dangers to watch out for when using them as a part of your inbound marketing strategy.

    The Problem With Paid Links

    articleimage828The Problem With Paid Links

    To understand the potential problems with paid links, you have to understand Google’s motivation behind penalizing straightforward paid links to begin with. There is one reason why Google does anything: to improve user experience online. And in order to do that, they’ve historically penalized any sites attempting to manipulate their ranks through deceptive or spam-like practices.

    Paid link building is considered a form of rank manipulation, and by extension, a form of spam. In Google’s eyes, links only exist to provide a value to a user. Links pass authority because if a site decides to link to an external source, that external source is assumed to have value to a user. The more valuable to a user the site is, the higher it’s going to rank. Paid links bypass that otherwise natural relationship. They are built as a result of a financial transaction, not as any indication of true value to the user. And because paid links can actually be detrimental to the collective online user experience, Google started penalizing sites that perpetuated them.

    That being said, despite the financial element of affiliate links, they aren’t doing anything to violate Google’s end goal of exceptional user experience. They aren’t intended as a means of manipulated rank, and while they are built in exchange for monetary compensation, they are traditionally built in a way that is valuable to the user—for example, an article about headphones could contain valuable links to some of the best headphones on the web.

    How Google Sees Affiliate Links


    For most outbound affiliate links, you don’t need to worry at all. According to Matt Cutts, Google is already intimately familiar with the major affiliate link networks, and understands the purpose of these links. Therefore, if Google crawls your site and finds a few dozen Amazon affiliate links, you don’t need to worry about being penalized, since Google inherently understands the purpose of those links.

    However, if you’re building external affiliate links pointing back to your own site, Google may not be familiar with your affiliate link network. This is especially true if you’ve only recently started your inbound affiliate link strategy. In this case, if Google notices an exceptional number of affiliate links bringing traffic to specific product pages on your site, you could face an issue. If you’re worried about it, include a “nofollow” tag on every link to mask it from Google’s robots.

    The Risk of a Penalty

    As long as you’re following best practices for building affiliate links, your risk for getting a penalty is exceptionally low. Google realizes why affiliate links exist and the search giant has no problem with allowing the practice to continue. Building affiliate links does not directly violate any of Google’s policies.

    However, there are still a handful of scenarios where an affiliate link might warrant a penalty. Because Google is focused on achieving the best possible user experience, it’s on the lookout for any suspicious behaviors that register as spam or could interfere with the habits and practices of others. For example, if you were to make a blog post with no title and no text, and only a long list of 50 Amazon affiliate links, it would obviously be a ploy to generate a bit of affiliate traffic without providing any real information or value to your readers.

    Similarly, if you post the same affiliate link to the same internal page on the same external source, day after day, it’s going to be apparent that you aren’t trying to create a great user experience; you’re merely taking advantage of a situation and spamming your link to get more traffic. If you avoid these types of practices and use affiliate links in diverse, respectful, and valuable ways, you shouldn’t have any problem maintaining an ongoing affiliate link building strategy.

    The Bottom Line

    Affiliate links aren’t going to pass any authority to your site, but they aren’t going to earn you any Google penalties unless you seriously abuse them. As a general rule of thumb, your affiliate links should be surrounded in content and context that provides value to your users—and that goes for both inbound and outbound affiliate links. If you’re linking to a product, include content that provides detailed information about that product. Vary your linking strategy so your users don’t become bored or irritated. Use links only as necessary—don’t spam your users by piling dozens of links into one place.

    Ultimately, affiliate links are like any other online strategy. You need to put your users first. As long as you aren’t using affiliate links in ridiculous ways and you aren’t compromising the integrity of your site, you aren’t going to be penalized.

  6. Is it Beneficial to Have Multiple Links from The Same Site?

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    Backlink building is an integral part of any SEO strategy, serving as the bulk of most offsite optimization strategies since the early 2000s. However, due to aggressive link building, inappropriate link building, and downright spam-level tactics, Google has gradually increased the sophistication of its backlink profile analysis and has refined the way it views backlinks as a means of conveying online authority.

    A decade ago, quantity meant everything. The sites with the greatest number of backlinks pointing back to them were the ones with the highest domain authority, and were the most likely to rank for a given set of keywords. Today, that’s simply no longer the case. In order to get the authority and ranking benefits from a backlink, you must adhere to a strict and often ambiguous series of rules and guidelines that Google implemented through its Penguin algorithm updates.

    Link sources tend to be at the center of this scrutiny; building links on low-quality sources can compromise your perceived integrity. Building too many links on one source alone can also make you seem like a spammer, but diversifying your links, using multiple sources and links to multiple internal pages, can improve your standing. As such, many webmasters wonder: is it beneficial to have multiple backlinks from the same site?

    Anatomy of a Backlink

    articleimage787 Anatomy of a Backlink

    First, you have to understand the function of a backlink, and what elements of a backlink contribute to its SEO value. Google looks at a number of factors when it comes to judging your backlinks, including:

    • The root domain of the backlink (this will always be the same if you’re posting links back to your own site).
    • The individual page of the backlink (posting too many links to one page can be seen as spam, whereas using a plethora of different internal pages can be beneficial).
    • The quality of the source (authoritative sites carry more weight than low-quality sites).
    • The appropriateness of the source (in terms of its relevance to your industry).
    • Anchor text (while anchoring your links with keywords was once beneficial, doing so excessively can now earn you a penalty).
    • Context clues (a judge of whether your link is helpful and beneficial to the conversation or just there to promote your rank).
    • Frequency (which we’ll cover in more detail shortly).

    All of these factors, working together, are what comprise the overall “authoritativeness” of your individual backlinks.

    External Links and Root Links

    articleimage787External Links and Root Links

    For the purposes of determining the authority and “value” of a given backlink, it’s important to distinguish between individual links and what’s become known as “root links.” Root links refer to the number of domains that link to your domain, while traditional external links refer to individual instances of links to your domain. For example, if you have 1,000 links split between four different external websites, you would have 1,000 external links, but only four root links.

    Google tends to place more value on root links than it does on external links. So, if you have 1,000 different links on four different sources, you’ll get significantly less authority than if you have 1,000 different links on 1,000 different sources.

    Frequency and Diminishing Return

    articleimage787Frequency and diminishing returns

    When considering the number of your external links, and the frequency with which you post them on an external site, it’s important to understand Google’s law of diminishing return. Posting a link on a new domain will earn you a new root link, which is greatly beneficial to your authority. Posting another link will not grant you a new root link, and will not pass as much page rank as your first link, but will still pass a significant amount. Your third link will post slightly less authority, and so on. The more links you post on a given source, the less authority you’ll get from each link.

    Let’s say you have two cases with an identical number and type of root links; in one case, you have 100 external links split amongst those sources, and in the other case, you have 1,000 split amongst those same sources. In the second case, you will have a higher total authority coming from those sources, but the average individual value of your links will be lower.

    However, this analysis does not take into account the idea that each of your links can point to a separate internal page. Pointing to multiple internal pages can increase the individual page rank of those pages, in addition to whatever domain authority increases you receive. For example, if you have 1,000 links pointing to your home page, you will receive X amount of increased overall domain authority, but the only page more likely to show up in search results will be your home page. However, if you have 1,000 links pointing to 100 different internal pages, you’ll receive X amount of increased overall domain authority, but you’ll have 100 different pages more likely to show up in search results.

    Multiple Links on the Same Page

    There’s also a case where you have two links pointing back to your domain on the same page of an external site. For example, if you write a guest blog post that features multiple links back to your domain, you could encounter this problem. According to Matt Cutts, in this situation, any links on the same page will be recognized as carrying page rank. Therefore, if two links in the body of your guest post point to the same internal page, you would get roughly twice as much page rank as a result. Differing anchor text will not affect this, so don’t be afraid to post multiple times, as long as the context of your links is appropriate.

    The Bottom Line

    If you’re building high-quality links, then every link you build will have some benefit for your domain.Therefore, building multiple links on the same site is a worthwhile strategy.

    However, it’s important to note that your root links are more important than your total number of external links. If you build links continuously on the same external site, you’ll get far less value than you’ll get by building links on other external sites. Building links that point to different internal pages is also important so you can maximize the number of internal pages showing up in search results.

    The bottom line here is that even though posting the same link many times on one site is beneficial, it’s more beneficial to diversify your strategy wherever you can; use multiple anchor texts, use links to multiple internal pages, post links on multiple pages and most importantly, post links on different external sources.

    However, in the words of Matt Cutts, spending too much time worrying about the logistics of individual backlink analysis is akin to “splitting hairs.” There are much more important qualities of your campaign to consider. For example, the structure of your site, the crawlability of your content, the user experience of your site, your social media presence, and your ongoing content management strategy are all far more important elements than individual link analysis. Take the information in this article into consideration when developing your backlink building strategy, but don’t let it overpower your focus on the more significant factors that influence your rank.

  7. The Penalty-Proof Way to Build Backlinks

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    Ranking penalties, as the result of Google algorithm updates, have plagued search marketers and webmasters since the search engine got serious about defeating spam back in the late 2000s. The Penguin update of 2012 and its subsequent iterations were responsible for most of the link-related ranking volatility of recent years, distributing penalties to sites with irregular, irrelevant, or otherwise non-valuable backlink, leaving many to abandon or dramatically overhaul their offsite SEO strategies.

    Today, backlink building is still an integral part of any SEO strategy, as a means of increasing your site’s domain authority and making it easier to rank for almost any phrase. While there are modern tactics to build a high quantity of links without earning a penalty from Google, the safer approach is to incorporate a long-term, penalty-proof system of link building, which will keep you safe in the short-term and protect you against any future Google updates.

    Step One: Choose Your Sources Wisely

    articleimage772Choose Your Sources Wisely

    Your first step is to build and maintain and inventory of quality external sources where you can build links. Consulting and abiding by this list will protect you against penalties based on the type of sources you use, and help boost your domain authority even further by increasing your relevance and building meaningful associations.

    As a general rule, you should scout for sites that are authoritative (meaning they’ve been around for a while, they have value for their users, and a respectable amount of traffic), and sites that are directly related to your industry. You can find these sites by performing regular Google searches, using an aggregated news feed, or by examining the link profiles of your competitors using a free tool like Open Site Explorer. Collect a long list of these possible sources and begin making requests for your links on a rotating basis.

    Be sure to avoid the following types of non-authoritative sources:

    • Article directories. Article directories exist for the sole purpose of publishing random articles for the sake of building backlinks. Such sites are few and far between since Google began their crackdown, but stay far away from them regardless.
    • Link farms. Link farms, much like article directories, exist solely to help other sites build backlinks. They publish hundreds of links pointing back to your domain, but all of them are very low quality and will likely result in a penalty.
    • Payment-based sources. Google has an explicit policy against paid link building, which means that any links you pay for (other than advertising or affiliate links) can earn you a harsh penalty.
    • Irrelevant blogs or forums. Forums, blogs, and directories can all be quality sources for backlinks—but only if they are relevant to your specific field. Posting a link on an irrelevant forum, or in an irrelevant conversation, can do more harm than good.

    Step Two: Post Like a Person

    articleimage772 Post Like a Person

    If the search engine giant suspects that your link was built through automation or by a scheme to improve your rank, it will penalize you. So if you post like an ordinary, unbiased user with no ulterior agenda, you’ll be in the clear.

    There’s no “trick” to getting past these evaluations of Google’s algorithms. Instead of trying to make your post look like it was posted to improve user experience, bypass that step and post content that is actually valuable.

    The biggest key here is relevance. When you find a thread on an industry forum that seems like it might be a good fit for a link, read through it before you post. If your company doesn’t have anything to do with the topic, move on. If there’s a blog post that elaborates on a topic mentioned or substantiates a claim made in the thread, post a link to it! And don’t just post the link and be done with it; take the time to write up an explanation of why you’re posting the link, and why you think it would be helpful to the conversation.

    Similarly, you’ll need to ensure that all your guest blogs and offsite content align with the expectations and standards of your offsite sources, and of course, ensure that they are well-written. Keep your hyperlinks to only what’s necessary or what’s helpful in understanding the article.

    Step Three: Diversify

    Another key in making sure you avoid any penalties in the future is to diversify your entire strategy. You’ll want to include as much variation as possible in every step of the process if you want to hedge your bets against the search engine’s next moves and stay ahead of the game no matter what.

    First, you’ll need to diversify your sources. Hopefully, you’ve got a fairly long list of potential sources to draw from; take advantage of its entirety. Rotate your sources regularly, and never post too many links on any one source.

    Second, you’ll need to diversify your timing. Don’t post all of your links on one day of the week or even worse, one day of the month. Spread your links out at random times over random days in an irregular pattern. Links look more natural that way.

    Finally, it’s a good idea to diversify your link structure. Avoid posting the same link to your homepage over and over again. Instead, use deep links from your interior pages and blog posts to vary your external posts—it will also help ensure that your posts are specifically relevant to the conversation at hand. For good measure, be sure to build a significant number of linkless brand mentions as well. Brand mentions pass authority without garnering the negative attention of excessive backlinks.

    Step Four: Audit Regularly

    articleimage772 Audit Regularly

    Unfortunately, maintaining solid best practices throughout your implementation isn’t enough to fully protect you against the possibility of a penalty, or even against the possibility of error in your own work. If you want to maintain the quality of your strategy and catch potential problems early on, the best course of action is to audit your backlink profile on a regular basis.

    There are a few ways to do this, but the easiest is to consult a link-based search tool like Open Site Explorer, which we mentioned above. Here, you’ll be able to review all the links on the web that are pointing back to your site, and evaluate them for diversity, appropriateness, and authority. If you find any links that are irrelevant or questionable, you can easily get rid of them by asking the webmaster to remove them. If you find that your strategy doesn’t include as much diversity as you’d like, or if you spot too many patterns in your posts, you can adjust your process accordingly.

    Plan on implementing a full backlink profile audit at least once a month, possibly more often if you have an aggressive link building strategy in place.

    Put these steps into action for your entire offsite SEO strategy, and you’ll protect yourself against whatever new algorithm updates Google throws at you. Google’s entire motivation in rolling out updates is to make the web a better place with more relevant, accurate content—so if you focus on creating the best possible online experience for your visitors and modern searchers, there will be nothing for the search engine to penalize.

  8. 6 Strategies to Optimize Text for Click-Throughs

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    If you’re managing an active online presence, the more traffic you can get to your site, the better. Finding ways to drive more clicks and more visits to your site is a surefire way to get more visibility for your brand, more conversions on your site, and of course, a greater stream of revenue as a result. With a myriad of external links pointing to your website embedded or sandwiched in text, if you can optimize that text to increase the likelihood of viewers clicking through, you’ll enjoy the benefits.

    Increasing Click-Throughs for Syndicated Links

    Whether you’re working on building your domain authority for SEO through external links or building your brand reach through syndicated content on social media, there are dozens of places where you post links to your site on a regular basis. Cleaning up the text you use to introduce those links will give your users a more concise, more compelling message, which will increase their tendency to click your link and visit your site.

    Increasing Click-Throughs for a Google AdWords Campaign

    In a Google AdWords advertising campaign, you’re only going to pay for people who click on your advertising, up to your set budget. Therefore, increasing your total click-throughs will not increase the total traffic to your site—it will just help you hit your budget faster.

    However, increasing your click-throughs on an AdWords campaign has a ton of other benefits. It can increase your Quality Score, which can indirectly give you a boost in rankings, and simultaneously lower your average cost per click and minimum bid—making your entire campaign cheaper in the process. High click-through rates are a sign of authority and quality, both of which are favorable qualities to Google, and Google always rewards the sites that play by its rules.

    No matter what types of campaigns you run, you can use these strategies to optimize your text to get the greatest number of click-throughs:

    1. Explain the unique value of clicking to the user.

    articleimage756Explain the unique value of clicking to the user
    There are a lot of links floating around on the web, and most of them are garbage. The average user is aware of this fact, and generally browses past hundreds of links a day without clicking a single one of them.

    If you want to attract someone to click your link, you have to explain why it’s valuable for them to click it—either directly or indirectly. Complicating things even further, you have to explain why it’s uniquely valuable—why would your user click this link before any other similar links he/she encounters?

    For example, if you’re posting a link on social media to a recent how-to guide you’ve written about repairing an old sink, don’t just post a link that says “Sink repair guide.” It’s too general, and it doesn’t explain what the benefit is of reading it. If, however, you dress up your language using something like “Learn how to stop your leaky sink and save moneyon your water bill,” you’ll be giving your users plenty of reasons to click through.

    2. Call the user to action.

    articleimage756Call the user to action

    Using indirect language that compels a reader to take action is a subtle strategy that increases the chances of a user eventually clicking. You can’t be too blunt with this—using wording like “CLICK HERE!!!!” is going to alienate your users and earn you scorn from Google.

    Instead, strive to use your language more subtly. Command words that start sentences like “Read how…” or “Join us” lead people to a natural conclusion that taking action is necessary. Imbuing your text with a sense of urgency, using words like “now,” “today,” or other time-related modifiers, can also increase your average user’s chance of clicking.

    For example, if you’re running a promotion that includes a discount on users’ total orders, the phrase “Significant discounts applied to your entire order on our site” doesn’t exactly call a user to take action. On the other hand, something like “Join today and you’ll earn discounts of up to thirty percent on your next order,” calls the user to action immediately and also explains the unique benefits of clicking.

    3. Tease, but don’t give away the full story.

    articleimage756Tease, but don’t give away the full story

    This strategy is especially useful for content marketers trying to entice people to read more of their stories. You might see this strategy used for article teases that pop up on your news feed, and while it can be annoying if overdone, it can also be highly effective if used tactfully. Consider the article title, “This dog walks into a liquor store, and you won’t believe what happens next!” It’s bona fide click bait that will earn more links than a flat headline but might also give users a bad impression of the brand—the point in this exaggerated example is to show how the writer teases the full story without giving everything away.
    You can do the same thing for your articles to increase their appeal. For example, if you’ve written an article about a new exercise routine, you can tease it by saying something like, “Three weeks, and this exercise routine will have you six pounds lighter and happier than ever.” It implies the full body of the content without giving everything away up front. It lures the user to click so he/she can read more.

    4. Make your copy ultra-specific.

    Each phrase you use in your introductory copy should be as specific as possible. That doesn’t mean contradicting the mysteriousness we set in point 3, but it does mean refining your word choices to be as unique and specific as possible. In the example from the above point, we call the user out with indications of “three weeks” and “six pounds,” both highly specific values. If the title read, “This new exercise routine will make you lighter and happier than ever,” it wouldn’t carry nearly as much click power. Use numbers and specific adjectives whenever you can.

    Users crave specificity because there’s a lot of content on the web, and if you write ambiguously, your text will fall into a pit of white noise, never to be seen or clicked.

    5. Cut out any unnecessary words.

    This step can be difficult, especially if you’ve added several words to make your text more specific, in compliance with point 5. However, cutting out any unnecessary words from your introductory text is a perfect strategy to put the final polish on your copy.

    As much as users crave specificity, they crave conciseness. Fleeting attention spans and infinite volumes of content have significantly shortened the chance you have to capture a user’s attention. If your text has too many filler words, it will be gleaned over. If your text is too long, it will be ignored entirely. Study every word in your sentences and evaluate their necessity in your copy. Eliminate any that aren’t absolutely necessary for your message.

    6. AB test.

    There are some intangible factors that affect click-throughs, which can’t be concisely identified in a bullet point. Some users prefer the texture of certain words over others. Some prefer subtlety while other prefer frankness. You won’t know for sure until you test in the field.

    Use AB tests to measure different variations of your copy against each other. Set each to run under similar circumstances, at similar times of day and on identical platforms, and measure which variation is more effective at generating clicks. Do a few rounds of this, and you should be able to form a clear conclusion on which text works best, and apply those findings to the remainder of your campaign.

    Put these strategies to good use when writing any new text around your external links. Measure the results of your efforts, make adjustments when necessary, and eventually you’ll hone a near-perfect strategy to attract more people to your site through links.

  9. 4 Types of Traffic to Measure for Your Site

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    For most online marketers, web traffic is everything. The more web traffic you can earn, the more visibility your products you’ll get, the more conversions you’ll see, and the more revenue your company will get as a result. Content marketing, social media marketing, and other inbound marketing techniques are all developed as ways to increase this volume of traffic, but unless you have a way to objectively measure your increases and determine which strategies are effective for increasing them, you’ll be operating blind, with no real insight into what makes your campaigns tick.

    There are four main types of traffic that will be coming to your website, and it’s important to familiarize yourself with all of them: direct traffic, referral traffic, organic traffic, and social traffic. By segmenting your efforts and measuring them against each other, you’ll be able to figure out the core strengths and weaknesses of your business and make the adjustments necessary to keep growing your revenue year after year.

    Why Objective Measurement Is Important

    Small business owners and new entrepreneurs sometimes invest in a marketing campaign, either in money or in time, without any formal plan for how to measure the results. Measuring your results, objectively, is the only way to improve your campaign in the future, and it’s the only way to measure your return on investment (ROI), so you can know exactly how profitable your campaign is. For example, if your traffic is growing slowly but your ROI is exceptionally high, you’ll know to invest more money into your campaign, and you’ll grow faster as a result. If your ROI is dwindling and your traffic patterns are unpredictable, you’ll need to analyze what’s wrong and make adjustments before you start losing money.

    Analyzing the fluctuations in your four main sources of web traffic can help you understand the scope of your campaign and possible areas for improvement.

    Direct Traffic


    Direct traffic is composed of users who found your site by plugging in your URL directly into their browser. People who found you this way must have had some prior knowledge of your brand—otherwise they wouldn’t have known to plug in a direct URL. Oftentimes, this is the result of a previous website experience, but it is possible to get new visitors in the direct traffic pool, especially if you use printed advertising to advertise your domain.

    Few digital strategies can optimize for direct traffic, since the main sources of online traffic are from search engines, social syndication and referral links. However, repeat traffic in the form of direct visits is a good indicator of whether your website is impressive enough to encourage visitors to come back for more. Even if you don’t use printed advertising, monitor your direct traffic closely, especially in comparison with your other traffic sources. If you find that you’re getting insufficient repeat traffic, you might want to step up your efforts to encourage revisits.

    Referral Traffic

    articleimage724 Referral Traffic

    Referral traffic is based on users who found your site through external links, such as affiliate links or links from external press releases. Obviously, not all external links are equal, so it’s important to pay close attention to which link sources are earning you the most traffic. For instance, if you notice the bulk of your referral traffic is coming from one specific guest posting opportunity, you should consider stepping up your efforts accordingly. Or, if you notice one of your affiliate links declining in popularity, you might want to find an alternative source of traffic.

    Some of your referral traffic might be out of your control—such as links that your infographics or viral content attracted naturally—but for the most part, you have strict control over which of your links are syndicated and where. Keep a close eye on your link profile as well to ensure that your links are getting the greatest possible visibility.

    Organic Traffic

    Your organic traffic is the traffic that finds your site after performing a search, either using branded or non-branded terms. If you’re running a search engine optimization (SEO) campaign, you can consider it responsible for the size and relevance of your organic traffic. The more effort you put into optimizing your site for search engines, the higher you’ll rank, and the more organic traffic you’ll begin to see as a result.

    If you’re just starting an SEO campaign, it’s normal for your first few months to see only minimal activity. It isn’t until a few months into a campaign that your momentum truly starts to build. However, for as long as your efforts remain consistent, you should see exponential increases in your traffic, month over month. If you notice a sharp drop in organic traffic, it could be the result of a soft penalty from Google or a negative backlink that’s dragging you down. Keep an eye out for such anomalies, and use them as launch points to perform thorough campaign audits and recover quickly.

    Social Traffic


    Finally, you’ll take a look at social traffic. As you might suspect, this is all the traffic that is generated from your and other social media profiles, such as your Facebook page or Twitter account. It’s worthwhile to take a look at the individual links and posts that led to the greatest percentage of social visits—if you notice trends, such as post subject matter or time of day, pursue more posts that follow suit to increase your numbers.

    Like with organic traffic, you can expect this number to grow slowly at first. However, if you ratchet up your efforts consistently, you’ll see explosive growth, month after month. Adding more social media profiles to your repertoire and focusing on positive engagement with your core audience can lead to greater following numbers and eventually more traffic as a result.

    Where to Find This Information

    You don’t need any fancy tools or subscriptions to measure and analyze this information. It’s all available in Google Analytics, which is free and relatively easy to set up for your site. Once you start pulling information based on the integration code, you’ll be able to log in and check out all this data under the “Acquisition” tab. There, you’ll be able to get a general overview of your stats, with charts comparing each channel against the others, or drill down to each individual channel in order to learn more information about the type of traffic that’s coming through that channel, such as bounce rates, and whether the traffic is composed of repeat visitors.

    While it’s important to review your information regularly, it’s also important not to go overboard. Daily fluctuations can be wild and inexplicable, and forming assumptions or taking actions based on such limited data could lead you in an inefficient direction. Instead, try to look at broader trends that develop over time, usually over the course of a month, before you make any major decisions about the future of your campaign.

    As you learn more information about the demographics that favor each channel, you’ll also be able to perfect your targeting strategy, refining your messaging to optimize for conversions and ultimately making the most of the traffic you’re getting—a step beyond just increasing your traffic numbers.

  10. When and How to Perform a Link Quality Audit

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    articleimage638When and How to Perform a Link Quality Audit

    Link building is still a viable and necessary strategy for SEO. External links pointing to a domain pass authority to that domain, and the more authority a domain has, the easier it will be able to rank for specific keywords.

    Unfortunately, the link building process is more complex than just posting links on external sites; Google’s Penguin update, which originally released in 2012, has made the link identifying components of Google’s search algorithm incredibly sophisticated. Its most recent iteration, 3.0 in October of this year, pushed those changes even further. Under Penguin, your external links need to be diverse, authoritative, and of a high quality. Otherwise, you could face a penalty and suffer a ranking drop instead of a boost.

    As a result, it’s important to perform an occasional link quality audit to review your overall strategy, identify possible weaknesses, and preventing the possibility of getting hit with a sudden ranking fall.Many search marketers know this information, but still fail to perform an audit regularly. This guide will help you understand not only when—but also how—to perform a link quality audit for your campaign.

    Reaction to a Penalty

    articleimage638Reaction to a Penalty

    Unfortunately, most search marketers only implement a link quality audit after they’ve already been hit with a penalty. It’s easy to spot a penalty when it happens, especially if you keep a tight watch over the progress of your campaign. Your rankings will start to diminish for some or all of your keywords, and your organic traffic numbers will start to dip.

    These penalties are usually not “penalties” per say. Instead, they’re the result of a new update or data refresh rolling out, such as Penguin 3.0. When this happens, Google refines what links it sees and how it sees them, and automatically recalculates the rank for every business on the web. A decline of rank after a rollout is just an unfortunate and automatic drop in perceived significance.

    Manual penalties also exist, but these are very rare. In these cases, if a website has committed a particularly atrocious offense, a Google analyst may submit a manual penalty and greatly reduce that website’s visibility across the web. You will receive a formal notification if this happens, and the road to recovery is long and difficult.

    Nevertheless, if you have already suffered an automatic penalty, your first step is to respond immediately by performing a formal link quality audit and find the root of your problem.

    Ongoing Maintenance

    articleimage638Ongoing Maintenance

    Obviously, the better way to solve a problem is to prevent it from happening in the first place. If you can identify your bad links before Google can get to them with a data refresh or an update, you’ll never have to experience a ranking drop at all.

    The first step, of course, is to build exclusively high-quality links in your profile. If you only submit the best links, it makes sense that you’d never have to worry about a penalty, and a link quality audit would seem redundant. However, it’s still a good idea to go through your link profile occasionally and clear up any inconsistencies. Old links and negative SEO attacks are just two possible liabilities a link quality audit can catch.

    You don’t need to perform a link quality audit every day, or even every week (unless you’re running a very high-profile campaign). Bi-weekly or monthly link quality audits are suitable for most businesses.

    Step One: Identify the Culprits

    The first step to any link quality audit is to find any questionable links pointing to your domain. It’s not enough to simply review what links you personally posted and where; you’ll want to take a look at every link on the web pointing back to your site. You can do this using a free tool like Moz’sOpen Site Explorer, or some other external link-based search system.

    Once you have a list of all the links pointing back to you, start going through them one by one. If you’ve already experienced a penalty, you can be pretty sure there’s at least one bad link hiding in the others. Keep an eye out for links that exhibit any of the following questionable qualities:

    • Links stuffed with keywords as anchor text
    • Backlinks on questionable sources, such as article mills or local directories that have nothing to do with your industry
    • Links that are unhelpful to readers or irrelevant to the conversation
    • Links you’ve paid for (other than affiliate links)
    • Links on guest blogging networks or other link building schemes

    You don’t necessarily have to remove every link that seems questionable. Unless you’re facing a harsh penalty, only remove a link if it truly stands out as suspicious.

    If you haven’t found any questionable links in your link profile, then congratulations! Your link profile has passed the audit, and you can relax until your next regular check.

    Step Two: Reach Out to the Webmasters

    Now that you know the worst offenders in your link profile, you need to work on removing them from the web. Otherwise, they could damage your reputation and make your ranking situation worse. Your first step is to try removing the links yourself through a login and manual removal. If you are unable to do so, you’ll have to go straight to the webmaster.

    If you remember building the link in the first place, you should still have the webmaster’s contact information. If not, you can usually find it listed on the site itself under the contact page.

    If you’re still having trouble finding the webmaster, do a Whois search in Google by typing “Whois” followed by the domain. This will give you all the publicly available information on a given domain such as the contact information and the hosting company. You can also contact the hosting company directly to try and get closer to the webmaster.

    Once you have the information, write a polite email to the webmaster and formally ask that the link be removed. In most cases, they’ll be happy to help.

    Step Three: Escalate the Removal

    Asking the webmaster for help removing the link is the easiest and most reliable way to go. However, there may be rare instances when they refuse to help or ignore your request. In these instances, there is a last-ditch effort option available through Google Webmaster Tools.

    You can find the tool here, but only use it as a last resort. Google rejects a vast majority of link disavowal requests.

    Step Four: Repair Your Ongoing Strategy

    Finally, take a look at the links you removed and determine the fault point that led to their creation. Where was the flaw in your strategy? Make any corrections that you need to make, and get your team up to speed on the adjustments. The more you refine your strategy, the better your link profile will be, and your link audits will be much easier as a result.

    Commit to performing a link quality audit at least once a month for your campaign, even if your link building strategy is only a small component of your overall direction. Finding and removing one bad link can save you the pain of dealing with a ranking drop, and proactively keep your site’s domain authority rising over time.

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