What are the qualities of a healthy link profile?
When people began to learn about the power of links, they began manipulating them for their benefit. They’d find ways to gain artificial links just to increase their search engine rankings. While these dangerous tactics can sometimes work, they are against Google’s terms of service and can get a website deindexed (removal of web pages or entire domains from search results). You should always try to maintain a healthy link profile.
A healthy link profile is one that indicates to search engines that you’re earning your links and authority fairly. Just like you shouldn’t lie, cheat, or steal,linksexpert you should strive to ensure your link profile is honest and earned via good, old-fashioned hard work.
Links are earned or editorially placed
Editorial links are links added naturally by sites and pages that want to link to your website.
The foundation of acquiring earned links is almost always through creating high-quality content that people genuinely wish to reference. This is where creating 10X content (a way of describing extremely high-quality content) is essential! If you can provide the best and most interesting resource on the web, people will naturally link to it.
Naturally earned links require no specific action from you, other than the creation of worthy content and the ability to create awareness about it.
Earned mentions are often unlinked!
When websites are referring to your brand or a specific piece of content you’ve published, they will often mention it without linking to it. To find these earned mentions, use Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer. You can then reach out to those publishers to see if they’ll update those mentions with links.
Links are relevant and from topically similar websites
Links from websites within a topic-specific community are generally better than links from websites that aren’t relevant to your site. If your website sells dog houses, a link from the Society of Dog Breeders matters much more than one from the Roller Skating Association. Additionally, links from topically irrelevant sources can send confusing signals to search engines regarding what your page is about.
Linking domains don’t have to match the topic of your page exactly, but they should be related. Avoid pursuing backlinks from sources that are completely off-topic; there are far better uses of your time.
Anchor text is descriptive and relevant, without being spammy
Anchor text helps tell Google what the topic of your page is about. If dozens of links point to a page with a variation of a word or phrase, the page has a higher likelihood of ranking well for those types of phrases. However, proceed with caution! Too many backlinks with the same anchor text could indicate to the search engines that you’re trying to manipulate your site’s ranking in search results.
Consider this. You ask ten separate friends at separate times how their day was going, and they each responded with the same phrase:
“Great! I started my day by walking my dog, Peanut, and then had a picante beef Top Ramen for lunch.”
That’s strange, and you’d be quite suspicious of your friends. The same goes for Google. Describing the content of the target page with the anchor text helps them understand what the page is about, but the same description over and over from multiple sources starts to look suspicious. Aim for relevance; avoid spam.
Use the “Anchor Text” report in Moz’s Link Explorer to see what anchor text other websites are using to link to your content.
Links send qualified traffic to your site
Link building should never be solely about search engine rankings. Esteemed SEO and link building thought leader Eric Ward used to say that you should build your links as though Google might disappear tomorrow. In essence, you should focus on acquiring links that will bring qualified traffic to your website — another reason why it’s important to acquire links from relevant websites whose audience would find value in your site, as well.
Use the “Referral Traffic” report in Google Analytics to evaluate websites that are currently sending you traffic. How can you continue to build relationships with similar types of websites?
Link building don’ts & things to avoid
Spammy link profiles are just that: full of links built in unnatural, sneaky, or otherwise low-quality ways. Practices like buying links or engaging in a link exchange might seem like the easy way out, but doing so is dangerous and could put all of your hard work at risk. Google penalizes sites with spammy link profiles, so don’t give in to temptation.
A guiding principle for your link building efforts is to never try to manipulate a site’s ranking in search results.
But isn’t that the entire goal of SEO? To increase a site’s ranking in search results? And herein lies the confusion. Google wants you to earn links, not build them, but the line between the two is often blurry. To avoid penalties for unnatural links (known as “link spam”), Google has made clear what should be avoided.
⃠ Purchased links
Google and Bing both seek to discount the influence of paid links in their organic search results. While a search engine can’t know which links were earned vs. paid for from viewing the link itself, there are clues it uses to detect patterns that indicate foul play. Websites caught buying or selling followed links risk severe penalties that will severely drop their rankings. (By the way, exchanging goods or services for a link is also a form of payment and qualifies as buying links.)
⃠ Link exchanges / reciprocal linking
If you’ve ever received a “you link to me and I’ll link to you” email from someone you have no affiliation with, you’ve been targeted for a link exchange. Google’s quality guidelines caution against “excessive” link exchange and similar partner programs conducted exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, so there is some indication that this type of exchange on a smaller scale might not trigger any link spam alarms.
It is acceptable, and even valuable, to link to people you work with, partner with, or have some other affiliation with and have them link back to you.
It’s the exchange of links at mass scale with unaffiliated sites that can warrant penalties.
⃠ Low-quality directory links
These used to be a popular source of manipulation. A large number of pay-for-placement web directories exist to serve this market and pass themselves off as legitimate, with varying degrees of success. These types of sites tend to look very similar, with large lists of websites and their descriptions (typically, the site’s critical keyword is used as the anchor text to link back to the submittor’s site).
There are many more manipulative link building tactics that search engines have identified. In most cases, they have found algorithmic methods for reducing their impact. As new spam systems emerge, engineers will continue to fight them with targeted algorithms, human reviews, and the collection of spam reports from webmasters and SEOs. By and large, it isn’t worth finding ways around them.