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CONNECTED CULTURE Blog by Jerry Allocca

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Backlink Analysis (Part 2): Removing Penalties

In our last post we discussed how to conduct a preliminary backlink analysis, along with how to determine if your site has received a penalty from Google or if the penalty is only directed at the links pointing toward your site. In this post, we’ll examine what to do if a penalty is impacting your site’s visibility in search engine results.

If the penalty is affecting your site’s ranking, you’ll need to address the backlink profile in a more urgent way. Use your spreadsheet to identify the sites that are having a negative impact on your site and attempt to contact the owners of these sites to take your links down or add a no-follow tag to the links. Some sites will ask that you pay for link removal. Google has advised site owners that they do not have to pay for link removal, and to simply disavow these links.

Using the link disavow tool in Google Webmaster Tools is easy—sometimes too easy. Remember that you should only disavow links after trying to have them removed naturally. Once they’re gone, you can’t get them back, so make sure to use this tool carefully. Once you’ve disavowed your troublesome links, you can write a reconsideration request and submit it to Google. If they deem your request sufficient, they’ll lift the penalty.

Even if your site has not been penalized or doesn’t seem to be at risk, there are quite a few benefits to conducting regular link analyses. You can see opportunities to improve the link profile, and by using third party tools, you can see how your competitors’ link building strategies are progressing.

Links are an important part of any site’s cyber footprint. Make sure your link profile is a benefit, and not a hindrance, to your site. If you have further questions, we can help you make positive changes. Contact Connected Culture to learn more about backlink analysis today.

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Backlink Analysis (Part 1): Getting Started

Link Penalty. Two words no website owner wants to see. If you’ve been hit by one of Google penalties, or if you’re concerned that previous SEO work puts the site you’re working on in danger, it’s time to conduct a backlink analysis.

The first order of business is to see what kind of backlinks the site has currently. Google Webmaster Tools is invaluab

le here, as it is the only place to see all of the links pointing back to the site (as seen  by Google).

You can also use a variety of SEO tools to get a deeper look into the quality of these links. If you see links from sites with a low page rank, low trust ratings, or simply sites that don’t seem relevant to your site, you can separate these links and d

ecide how to deal with them. Linking red flags include links posted in sidebars or footers of every page on a website, text hyperlinks that appear to

be placed unnatural without any context, and sites that appear to be ‘link farms.’

In Google Webmaster Tools, you can also see if your site has been penalized, and if so, what kind of penalty the site has received. Many of the messages site owners receive are frightening, but upon closer inspection in the Manual Actions tab, you’ll see that that some penalties are not on the site itself, but rather on the links that are pointing toward the site. This doesn’t harm the site at all, but does take away any effect those links may have brought in the past.

This kind of penalty isn’t a major problem and it’s very difficult to get lifted—after all, it’s not directed at your site. But if you have a different kind of penalty that does impact your site’s ranking or appearance in search results, you’ll need to follow a number of steps to get back in Google’s good graces.

We’ll discuss an overview of how to remove link penalties in Google in our next post.

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Link Building – It’s More Than Just Earning Links, Part II

Finding the right site? That's the tricky part.

Finding the right site? That’s the tricky part.

Essentially, every link that a site manages to gain can help strengthen the core strength of your site. However, it’s best to try and obtain links that are of a higher quality, and by that, we mean links that meet some or all of the following criteria:

  • Sites that have well-written, relevant content to your industry (Relevancy is king in all marketing, not just SEO.)
  • Sites that have a loyal and large subscriber base (An active email list is worth its weight in gold.)
  • Sites that have an active social media presence (Do they share content through social channels? Do they interact with the social stream?)
  • Sites that have a passionate, engaged community (hint: look through the site’s comments to see the quality of the conversation. If it’s good, you’ve found a good site to work with.)
  • Sites that make their relationships outside influences known (i.e. choose sites that are transparent. The worst thing you could do is go with a site that hides the fact that it accepts paid submissions or uses affiliate links.)
  • Sites that have a good reputation (Are they written by a real person/real people? Are they known for being a source of information about a particular subject?)
  • Sites that look professional (most site visitors DO judge a book by its cover.)

To put it simply, you want to build sites with the potential to influence, not only just future customers, but also organizational stakeholders. Having your link appear on an industry authority’s website places even more trust in your overall brand and reflects positively on your organization. In this case, the medium is part of the message.

These are the types of links that pass along meaningful value, not just for engines but also for public perception. According to a survey results from 2012 by Burst Media, nearly two-thirds of consumers who visit or read blogs say that their purchasing decisions are influenced by brand mentions or promotions within the blog’s content. Having your organization linked to on an industry-related or customer-specific blog can persuade as well as give your brand additional visibility. Sites that are linking to you help provide context about your own site and help indicate quality and popularity. However, not all links can be perfect.

Unfortunately, no organization has complete control over its link profile. Unnatural or damaging links will occur in the wild and for most organizations, it’s not a problem. However, excessive link exchanging, links to and from unrelated sites, building partner pages for cross-linking, and using automated programs are. These are the types of links targeted by Google’s most recent algorithmic changes and with good reasons. Sites that employ these tactics are usually lazy when it comes to offering value to users.

The main goal of any search engine is to provide searchers with value. If a site that’s spamming the engines ranks high, it diminishes the value of the results page overall. Search engines continue to put in more safeguards to prevent irrelevant sites from ranking well, but there are occasions when a link spamming scraper site slips through the cracks. But the overall goal is to NOT become one of those sites.

No matter how valuable you may feel your organization’s content is, it still comes down to quality at every touch point with your brand. Having great content but poor links may not hurt you, but it won’t help you either. It’s tempting to go the easy route to build links quickly as opposed to waiting for earned links, but the signals a get links quick scheme sends to stakeholders, customers, and search engines speaks negatively of your brand. Bad links, bad reputation, ala DecorMyEyes and JC Penney.

However, there are special cases when you don’t have control and something goes wrong. Suddenly, you see a ton of incoming links (hint: to see your backlinks, check out tools like Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer) and they’re mostly spam. They come from bad neighborhoods. They smear your brand’s reputation. Negative SEO campaigns have unfortunately become more prevalent in recent years and there are ways that you can fight it should you come into contact with one.

First off, do your research to see where the links are coming from (you may need to ask the help of an SEO specialist to investigate). Usually, you’ll find that a competitor is the root cause. Contact them directly to try to get them to take down the bad links.

If you believe your site’s reputation and ranking are being harmed by low quality links that you have no control over (i.e. you can’t find the cause or get the competitor to take them down), you can simply ask Google to not consider them when assessing your site using Google’s Disavow tool. Using the Disavow tool can be tricky, so again, you may need to consider the help of an SEO professional before you start disallowing links.

Once the link profile is cleaned up, you’ll want to focus on building high quality links back to the site, which we’ll dive into the specifics of in our next post.

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