The recent launch of the Google disavow tool (to remove links regarded as unnatural by Google) has set the whole SEO community on fire. The tool has been intended for webmasters who recently received the unnatural link warnings in Google Webmaster Tools. Sounds like a final solution for your Penguin issues? But do you really think that the brand new tool is the complete answer to the overall backlink profile problem?
The flow of discussions has surrounded the tool since its launch – some marketers are relieved, others are pretty skeptic on the whole matter.
What we know for sure is that before you decide to disavow any of your backlinks, you should get the full objective picture of your backlink profile, analyze where your real weak points are and only after that take the decision to either remove or disavow the links. But why should you be so careful with the tool?
- Google doesn’t give you a clear message on what backlinks exactly should be removed
- Compiling the necessary TXT file with links can be pretty time-consuming, especially if you manage an old domain that was long ago optimized via “5000 dofollow links in 100% search-engine-friendly directories” methods.
- If you disavow some backlinks by mistake, it’s going to take really long according to Matt Cutts to bring those links back.
If you feel persuaded enough not to rush to the disavow links tool immediately and discard half of your backlinks, you need to understand what to do now.
How do I get the full unbiased picture of my backlinks?
Let’s go through a step-by-step backlink audit and recovery plan that will save you both money and nerves in the post-penguin-and-disavow-tool times:
1. Collect your backlink stats yourself. Yep, Google does show you your backlinks, but not all of them. You need to get as much info as possible.
One of the quickest ways to accomplish this is to create a project in SEO SpyGlass and run a deep backlink check – this is how you’ll be able to collect backlinks from dozens of sources, including Google.
(Choosing backlink sources in SEO SpyGlass)
2. Now, when you have a long list of your website backlinks, it’s high time to recollect the SEO knowledge of the universe and analyze your backlink profile! If this doesn’t sound like a fun task, you can let SEO SpyGlass do the whole job for you (if you don’t mind for sure) and analyze backlinks according to dozens of crucial factors.
Love diagrams? Switch to the Report tab to see the backlink data arranged in visual graphs and diagrams.
3. So here’s your backlink data – what are we going to do with it? First, let’s look at your backlink anchors. What kind of anchor text should alarm you? Here’s the help list:
- Anchors overstuffed with keywords (Michigan best dancing school reviews in Michigan)
- A large proportion of anchors with commercial terms (car insurance company, cheap baseball tickets, used books store, etc.) No doubt, these money-making keywords can constitute the biggest part of your anchor texts, however now you should be careful using this kind of phrases.
- Anchor text that is not related at all to the backlink page topic (“home loans Brad & Co” anchor text used below the article about shelter for homeless animals).
Press the Statistics button in the main window and choose the Anchor Text tab:
The stats table will show you the exact percentage of your anchor text variations. If you find your existing anchors quite uniform, here are the tree types of anchors to focus on when building new links:
• Hybrid branded anchors ("Brand name + keyword variations")
• Universal anchors ("here's the link", "link", etc.)
• Naked URLs ("www.site.com")
If you have spotted some backlinks with “too unnatural” anchors, you can tag them as “Suspicious” using the tagging functionality of SEO SpyGlass. In the end you’ll be able to filter the tagged records and take a closer look at them. To add a tag, select the necessary record in SpyGlass, right-click and choose Add tags.
4. Okay, let’s move on to the “home” of your backlinks – backlink domains and pages. What you need to know and analyze can be shortly described as Diversity-Relevancy-Neighborhood:
- Diversity of the domains. If lots of your backlinks come from a small number of domains – you need to diversify your backlink sources. Sitewide links are potential unnatural backlinks, so if most of your links are sitewide, it’s time to take some measures. SEO SpyGlass will show the stats for backlink domains in the Statistics table under the Domain tab:
- Relevancy. Your backlinks should be placed on the domains and pages that are close to your own topic and niche. How do search engine bots discover if this page relevant to your website? Right, they look at the keywords. Let’s look at them too, under the Keywords tab:
There are 2 important things about the keyword stats – first, the keywords found in the titles and anchors should be relevant to your website; second, your anchor text density should look natural (not 90% for your main keyword!).
- Neighborhood. It does matter what kind of websites neighbor your backlinks. Bad linking neighborhood (too many outbound links on the backlink page, adult and gambling websites’ links, etc.) is definitely an alarming sign.
In your SEO SpyGlass project, filter the backlink pages according to the number of external links (External Links column) and take a look at the “neighbors” of your backlinks starting from pages with maximum number of external links.
It’s also good to study some other quality factors of your backlink pages: page rank, age, Alexa rank, domain age, domain page rank, etc. You can find all these factors in the same table. The Link Value column can also help when you try to find the weaknesses of your backlink profile.
5. Congrats, you’ve just done a great link audit of your website! Do you want to compare your backlink profile with what competitors have been doing all this time? No problem at all – you can compare backlink data from up to 4 SEO SpyGlass projects within one convenient table. This lets you instantly spot the difference in your backlink strategies and identify potential link building sources (remember the Diversity factor!). Go to the Projects Comparison tab, add projects to be compared in the Comparison settings and press Update.
A comprehensive link audit is not a trivial task, but with the functionality of SEO SpyGlass, you’ll be able to collect the information times faster and more accurately. With dozens of visual graphs and tables, you’ll easily skip the overhead that you could have digging thousands of your backlinks manually.
Mr. Cutts recently said that webmasters in Google Webmaster Tools are given just the “flavor of the sorts of links” that should be submitted to the disavow tool. Well, SEO SpyGlass lets you dig in the backlinks really deep and get the whole “bite” of your “backlink cake!”
P.S. Here you can download the updated version of SEO SpyGlass
And here’s the quick backlink checklist to make sure your profile looks totally natural to search engines:
Analyze your anchor texts and work on list of new “penguin-friendly” anchor text variations, including
- Hybrid branded anchors ("Brand name + keyword variations")
- Universal anchors ("here's the link", "link", etc.)
- Naked URLs ("www.site.com")
Do NOT use
- Anchor texts stuffed with keywords
|Go to the Statistics table and look through the Anchor text section. It will allow you to see the exact proportion of existing anchor texts per backlink.Consider re-writing the anchor texts where possible to make the proportion look more natural.|
|Backlink domain diversity
-Try to avoid sitewide backlinks
|Go to the Statistics table and click the Domain tab. Look at the proportion of your backlink domains and mark those with sitewide links pointing to your pages.|
|Backlink page factors Look for backlinks on pages with:
- Relevant titles and h1-h4 tags (and normal keyword density)
|Switch to the Keywords tab and look through the title and anchor text keyword density. Mark the keywords with maximum density and use them really carefully for your future backlinks.Get back to the main window of SEO SpyGlass and filter the records according to the number of external links. Go to the backlink pages and look through the external links – if you detect bad neighborhood, tag these records as “Suspicious” or “Consider disavowing.”|
|Track competitors’ backlink profiles
- Analyze backlink sources
|Create a project in SpyGlass for your competitors’ websites and repeat the above steps (no, you don’t have to compose anchor text variations for them!)Go to the Project Comparison tab where you can compare backlink data from up to 4 SEO SpyGlass projects.|
|Use the Google disavow tool for really bad links…
If you received the unnatural link warning in Google Webmaster Tools, analyze again the backlinks you’ve tagged as suspicious in the project and upload them to the disavow tool. (If you are not sure about the backlink, better leave it as is not to harm your current rankings).
|After you submit the links to the disavow tool, don’t forget to track the results (rankings and traffic) in Rank Tracker. According to Cutts, it can take a couple of weeks for Google to "digest" the data.|
You can either download or order SEO SpyGlass right now to enjoy all of its features.
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