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5 Top Google Business Profile FAQs From The Official Help Forum

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Google Business Profile has gone through quite a few changes over the past several months.

A name change, new features, the push to manage business profiles in different ways, and more.

Business owners and marketing agencies try to keep up with all the changes – but it can be challenging.

Plus, because of its nature, everyone who uses Google Business Profile will encounter issues or problems at one point or another.

And sometimes, those problems or questions turn into major roadblocks.

Here are five frequently asked questions on the Google Business Profile Help Forum – and the answers.

(Now, if you think that none of these pertain to you, keep reading anyway – you never know when you will experience one of these issues. I’m just sayin’.)

1. How Do I Start Managing My Business Profile In Google Search?

You’ve probably seen the not-so-subtle blue banner at the top of the “Info” section in your Business Profile Manager encouraging you to manage your Business Profile directly on Google Search.

Or perhaps you’ve seen the “nudge” on the “Home” section of your dashboard:

Screenshot from Business Profile Manager, May 2022Manage Your Business Profile On Search

Either way, managing your Google Business Profile on Google search is something most business owners will have to get used to.

If you only have one business/location, soon, you will only be able to manage your Google Business Profile on Google search or the Google Maps App.

This pop-up recently started appearing when you log in to your Business Profile Manager:

Google Business Profile Management Moving To Google SearchScreenshot from Business Profile Manager, May 2022Google Business Profile Management Moving To Google Search

If you’re an agency or business that manages multiple Google Business Profiles, you can manage them from the Business Profile Manager. However, it’s still a good idea to understand how to manage profiles in search.

When you manage your profile on search, you can essentially do everything you can in the Business Profile Manager.

The challenge?

Until you get used to where everything is, you may have to hunt around for the fields and options you’re looking for.

How To Start Managing Your Business Profiles In Google Search

Make sure you’re logged into the account you use to manage your Google Business Profile.

Then search for your business name on Google (sometimes, you may have to enter your city and/or state.) You can also search for “my business.”

If everything goes right, you’ll see your Knowledge Panel on the right and the Merchant Panel off to the left.

Here’s how the management area looks.

You’ll see your Business Profile/Knowledge Panel and the Merchant Panel, where you will do most of your editing and management work.

The Merchant Panel includes the Menu where you will find all the ways you can dig in and update your Business Profile and Chips, which are “nudges” Google gives you on extra things you can do with your profile.

Anatomy of Managing Business Profiles on Google SearchScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Anatomy of Managing Business Profiles on Google Search

From the various menus, you can manage your Business Profile.

Business Profile Menus in Google SearchScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Business Profile Menus in Google Search

Here’s a brief breakdown of what you can do in the various menus.

Edit Profile  

This is where you can edit your main business information, like your contact information, URL, business hours, and other information about your company.

You can also add and delete products and services and upload photos and videos.

Edit MenuScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu dialog, May 2022Edit Menu

Note: It’s typically in the Edit menu where you will find information that Google changed due to data found online that conflicts with the business owner’s info or changes that users suggested and Google approved.

If changes were made to your profile, you will get an email.

However, in Google search, you will have to hunt around the various menus to find what changed – whether to your hours, business name, website URL, address, products or services, etc.

(This is almost like an easter egg hunt, in my opinion.)

You will find Google changes highlighted in blue.

Google Updates In BlueScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu dialog, May 2022Google Updates In Blue

Promote

From the Promote menu, you can see your Google Business Profile insights, create a shortened URL that you can send to customers so they can leave reviews for your business, upload photos and videos, create posts, and more.

Promote MenuScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu dialog, May 2022Promote Menu

Customers

In the Customers menu, you can look at the reviews you’ve received and respond to them, see inbound call information if you have the call history feature turned on, read and reply to messages, and even answer the questions people ask your business in the Q&A section.

Customers MenuScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu dialog, May 2022Customers Menu

Advanced Menu

The three dots next to the main menu is where you will find the advanced features.

Advanced MenuScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu dialog, May 2022Advanced Menu

You can do more advanced features from this menu like add and remove managers and owners, see your Business Profile ID, edit labels, store codes, and other more advanced settings, and even mark your business as permanently closed or stop managing the profile.

Manage Business Profile SettingsScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu dialog, May 2022Manage Business Profile Settings

You can also manage notifications and add a new business profile and other features. If you can’t find something in the regular menus, chances are it’s in the advanced menu.

Chips

You will also see “chips” in the Merchant Center.

Chips give you hints on optimizing your profile and doing other things.

Chips on Google searchScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu dialog, May 2022Chips on Google search

Keep in mind that you can also select edits and features directly from your Knowledge Panel.

So now is the time to start practicing using Google search to manage your Business Profile.

2. My Google Business Profile is Suspended. What Do I Do?

There is nothing worse than seeing that heart-stopping notification telling you that your Google Business Profile has been suspended.

Suspension Notification on Google SearchScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Suspension Notification on Google Search

For many small to medium-sized businesses, Google Business Profile is their only form of marketing (which is not a smart idea, by the way).

When you put all your eggs in one basket and your basket breaks, you are in big trouble.

That’s what happens when your company gets its Google Business Profile suspended.

There are two kinds of suspensions: A “soft” suspension and a “hard” suspension.

With a soft suspension, your Knowledge Panel still shows up in search results, but you cannot make any changes to your profile – it’s almost as if your business is no longer verified.

Soft Suspension Google Business ProfileScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Soft Suspension Google Business Profile

If you get a hard suspension, your Business Profile does not appear on Google at all and is not visible to the public.

Hard Suspension Google Business ProfileScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, Screenshot Credit: Colan Nielsen, May 2022Hard Suspension Google Business Profile

Google doesn’t tell you why your Business Profile is suspended. It’s up to you to determine that.

So what do you do when your Business Profile gets suspended?

First, when your Business Profile is suspended, you need to carefully read Google Business Profile Guidelines and restricted content and identify which rule (or rules) your profile violates.

(Many people don’t realize that Google updates these guidelines frequently. And it’s your responsibility to ensure you’re up to date on the rules and that you follow them.)

I always suggest that you read the guidelines line-by-line while you have your business information pulled up to check your profile against the guidelines as you’re reading.

Once you have identified the issue(s), you need to fix the problem with your profile and then fill out a reinstatement request.

Note: Do not fill out more than one reinstatement request.

When you submit your reinstatement request, make sure you explain what the problem was and let Google know that you fixed the profile issue, providing proof that you are a legitimate business. You can do this by uploading:

  • Photos of your permanent business signage – both outside and inside your building.
  • A copy of your business license.
  • Registration with the Secretary of State or other business licensing governing body in your country.
  • A photo of a company vehicle with signage on it (if you’re a Service Area Business).
  • Phone bill with your business’s name and address on it, etc.

Essentially, you need to prove to Google that you are a real and legitimate business eligible for a Google Business Profile.

After you submit the Reinstatement Request, Google Business Profile Support will need time to review the information.

It typically takes three days for support to review your information and reply with their decision.

Once they evaluate your reinstatement request information, you will receive an email from their support team with their reinstatement decision.

After the Google Business Profile Support team responds to you about your suspension, you will need to correspond with the support team via those emails moving forward.

There will be a case ID in the subject line – an important number to keep track of.

Here are some more resources you can go to to find more information on what to do if your Business Profile gets suspended or learn more about how to fix your suspended Google Business Profile.

3. Service Area Business Moves From One State To Another State – But The Business Profile Still Shows Up In The Old State’s Search Results

This is an odd fluke that doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it causes chaos.

Here’s what occurs:

A Service Area Business (SAB) moves from one state to another state – let’s say, the business moves from California to Texas.

The business owner changes the address in their Business Profile to the new address in Texas.

As per the guidelines, they then delete their address and select Texas service areas.

Everything should be good to go, right? In most cases, things are all good.

But in some situations, the Service Area Business still shows up in search results for the old location and not the new location.

In the example below, the business moved from California to Texas. However, when you search for their business category in their old service area, their business still shows up.

Service Area Business still showing up in search results for old locationScreenshot from search for [DJ service Escondido CA], Google, May 2022Service Area Business still showing up in search results for old location

And when you search for the business in their new location in Texas, their Business Profile is nowhere to be found.

Service Area Business doesn't show up in search results for new location -- city and stateScreenshot from Google for [DJ service Schertz TX], Google, May 2022Service Area Business doesn't show up in search results for new location -- city and state

Even when you search specifically for DJ Services and the exact company name and Schertz TX (their new business location), the company’s Knowledge Panel doesn’t show up – even though The Knot recognizes that they are in Texas:

Knowledge Panel Doesn't Show Up For Exact SearchScreenshot from Google for [DJ services COMPANY NAME Schertz TX], Google, May 2022Knowledge Panel Doesn't Show Up For Exact Search

Remember, according to Google’s Guidelines, if you’re a Service Area Business and you move from one state to another state, you need to update your Google Business Profile’s address, and delete that address (because Service Area Businesses cannot publicly show addresses in their Business Profiles) and then select service areas.

If you are not asked to re-verify your Business Profile when you change the address, you may find yourself in this type of situation.

If this kind of freaky thing happens to your Business Profile, Google needs to manually change your address on their end.

To resolve this, the best route to take is to go to the Google Business Profile Help Forum and provide detailed information about the situation and give the following information:

  • Business name.
  • New address and old address.
  • Website URL.
  • And business profile ID.

You will need to ask a Gold Product Expert or higher to escalate your issue to Google so they can manually fix the problem.

Keep in mind that Google can take a while to respond to these situations, so you will have to be patient.

4. How Do I Add Managers Or Owners To My Google Business Profile?

Adding managers (or owners) to your Business Profile allows other people to help you manage your Business Profile.

First, if you’re granting access to others, make sure you trust them – especially if you’re giving access to digital marketing agencies.

Never make anyone else a Primary Business Owner.

There can only be one Primary Business Owner – and that should be the actual business owner.

Keep in mind that you must be an owner to add (or remove) users.

To add managers (users), you need to go to the advanced menu on the Merchant Panel in Google search. Click on the three dots next to the main menu.

Click on the three dots to get the advance featuresScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Click on the three dots to get the advance features

Then click on Business Profile Settings:

Business Profile SettingsScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Business Profile Settings

There you will see the Managers option where you can add, edit, or remove Business Profile managers:

Click on ManagersScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Click on Managers

To add a Manager or an Owner, click on Add and you’ll be taken to a dialog where you can send invitations to the person you’d like to add to your Google Business Profile.

Click Add Managers and OwnersScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Click Add Managers and Owners

Enter their email address and select the role you want to give them: Owner or Manager.

The Owner role allows the user to edit, add managers, and transfer ownership of the Business Profile – so choose these users and roles carefully.

The Manager role is the most limited and perfect for a digital marketing agency or an in-house staff member updating your Business Profile.

Invitation to Add Manager or Owner to Google Business ProfileScreenshot from Google Merchant Center Menu, May 2022Invitation to Add Manager or Owner to Google Business Profile

The person you added as a Manager or Owner will receive an email to accept and confirm that they want to manage your Business Profile.

Once they accept the invitation, they can manage your profile.

5. My Postcard PIN Won’t Work

What do you do if you receive your Google Business Profile PIN postcard in the mail, but the PIN doesn’t work?

This is likely happening because the postcard PIN verification code is invalid for several reasons.

First, the PIN verification codes expire after 30 days.

If it’s been longer than 30 days since you requested the postcard, the PIN code has expired, and you must request a new code. You will then have to wait for the new/replacement postcard.

While waiting for the second postcard to arrive, do not request another postcard or make any changes to your Business Profile – just to be safe (you’ll learn more in a second).

Keep in mind that there may be other issues.

Each PIN verification code is unique to your business and the business address you listed when you requested the postcard.

It’s vital that before you request any postcard, you first ensure the physical location is correct/accurate and meets Google’s address guidelines.

If your address doesn’t meet these address guidelines, your company is not eligible for a Google Business Profile.

Physical Address GuidelinesScreenshot from support.google.com, May 2022Physical Address Guidelines
Service Area Business Address GuidelinesScreenshot from support.google.com, May 2022Service Area Business Address Guidelines

There are several other possible reasons your PIN isn’t working.

Did you request a new postcard while waiting for the first one to arrive?

Or did you edit any major information in your Google Business Profile – such as your business name, address, category, or other info – while awaiting the PIN postcard?

If you requested a new PIN code postcard while the current postcard was in route, or edited certain information in your Business Profile, Google will cancel the code on the postcard in the mail.

(This step helps protect the integrity of your profile.)

So you will have to request a new postcard.

Example: Only the PIN code requested for the address entered in your Business Profile when the postcard was requested and mailed will work.

If you change your business address before the postcard PIN verifies your Business Profile, the PIN won’t work, and you must request a new code.

Another important thing. When you enter your PIN code, make sure that you don’t enter an incorrect code more than five times. If you do, your verification will permanently fail.

You must remove the Business Profile from your Google Account and make a new profile when that happens. So you essentially have to start over.

Also, Google only allows a business a limited number of verification attempts over a period of time – and you won’t be able to update your Business Profile name until you complete verification.

These are the main reasons PIN codes may not work.

If you requested a second postcard and you do not receive that postcard within approximately 14 days of your resend request, please fill out the Google Business Profile support form.

Lots Of Questions

Google Business Profile is definitely making lots of changes.

More features are being added – which is always a good thing.

New ways to manage your profile are being pushed.

But all of this leads to issues, questions, and more complexity.

It’s best to keep current on the guidelines, follow the rules, and stay up to date on new features and any of the latest bugs that may be going on.

More resources:


Featured Image: STEKLO/Shutterstock

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Google Answers Question About Toxic Link Sabotage

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Gary Illyes answers a question about how to notify Google about toxic link sabotage

Google’s Gary Illyes answered a question about how to notify Google that someone is poisoning their backlink profile with “toxic links” which is a problem that many people have been talking about for at least fifteen years.

Question About Alerting Google To Toxic Links

Gary narrated the question:

“Someone’s asking, how to alert Google of sabotage via toxic links?”

And this is Gary’s answer:

I know what I would do: I’d ignore those links.

Generally Google is really, REALLY good at ignoring links that are irrelevant to the site they’re pointing at. If you feel like it, you can always disavow those “toxic” links, or file a spam report.

Disavow Links If You Feel Like It

Gary linked to Google’s explainer about disavowing links where it’s explained that the disavow tool is for a site owner to tell Google about links that they are responsible for in some way, like paid links or some other link scheme.

This is what it advises:

“If you have a manual action against your site for unnatural links to your site, or if you think you’re about to get such a manual action (because of paid links or other link schemes that violate our quality guidelines), you should try to remove the links from the other site to your site. If you can’t remove those links yourself, or get them removed, then you should disavow the URLs of the questionable pages or domains that link to your website.”

Google suggests that a link disavow is only necessary when two conditions are met:

  1. “You have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site,
    AND
  2. The links have caused a manual action, or likely will cause a manual action, on your site.”

Both of the above conditions must be met in order to file a valid link disavow tool.

Origin Of The Phrase Toxic Links

As Google became better at penalizing sites for low quality links and paid links, some in the highly competitive gambling industry started creating low quality links to sabotage their competitors. The practice was called negative SEO.

The phrase toxic link is something that was never heard of until after the Penguin link updates in 2012 which required penalized sites to remove all the paid and low quality links they created and then disavow the rest. An industry grew around disavowing links and it was that industry that invented the phrase Toxic Links for use in their marketing.

Confirmation That Google Is Able To Ignore Links

I have shared this anecdote before and I’ll share it here again. Someone I knew contacted me and said that their site lost rankings from negative SEO links. I took a look and their site had a ton of really nasty looking links. So out of curiosity (and because I knew that the site was this person’s main income), I emailed someone at Google Mountain View headquarters about it. That person checked it and replied that the site didn’t lose rankings because of the links. They lost rankings because of a Panda update related content issue.

That was around 2012 and it showed me how good Google was at ignoring links. Now, if Google was that good at ignoring really bad links back then, they’re probably better at it now, twelve years later now that they have the spam brain AI.

Listen to the question and answer at the 8:22 minute mark:

Featured Image by Shutterstock/New Africa

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How To Build A Diverse & Healthy Link Profile

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How To Build A Diverse & Healthy Link Profile

Search is evolving at an incredible pace and new features, formats, and even new search engines are popping up within the space.

Google’s algorithm still prioritizes backlinks when ranking websites. If you want your website to be visible in search results, you must account for backlinks and your backlink profile.

A healthy backlink profile requires a diverse backlink profile.

In this guide, we’ll examine how to build and maintain a diverse backlink profile that powers your website’s search performance.

What Does A Healthy Backlink Profile Look Like?

As Google states in its guidelines, it primarily crawls pages through links from other pages linked to your pages, acquired through promotion and naturally over time.

In practice, a healthy backlink profile can be divided into three main areas: the distribution of link types, the mix of anchor text, and the ratio of followed to nofollowed links.

Let’s look at these areas and how they should look within a healthy backlink profile.

Distribution Of Link Types

One aspect of your backlink profile that needs to be diversified is link types.

It looks unnatural to Google to have predominantly one kind of link in your profile, and it also indicates that you’re not diversifying your content strategy enough.

Some of the various link types you should see in your backlink profile include:

  • Anchor text links.
  • Image links.
  • Redirect links.
  • Canonical links.

Here is an example of the breakdown of link types at my company, Whatfix (via Semrush):

Screenshot from Semrush, May 2024

Most links should be anchor text links and image links, as these are the most common ways to link on the web, but you should see some of the other types of links as they are picked up naturally over time.

Mix Of Anchor Text

Next, ensure your backlink profile has an appropriate anchor text variance.

Again, if you overoptimize for a specific type of anchor text, it will appear suspicious to search engines like Google and could have negative repercussions.

Here are the various types of anchor text you might find in your backlink profile:

  • Branded anchor text – Anchor text that is your brand name or includes your brand name.
  • Empty – Links that have no anchor text.
  • Naked URLs – Anchor text that is a URL (e.g., www.website.com).
  • Exact match keyword-rich anchor text – Anchor text that exactly matches the keyword the linked page targets (e.g., blue shoes).
  • Partial match keyword-rich anchor text – Anchor text that partially or closely matches the keyword the linked page targets (e.g., “comfortable blue footwear options”).
  • Generic anchor text – Anchor text such as “this website” or “here.”

To maintain a healthy backlink profile, aim for a mix of anchor text within a similar range to this:

  • Branded anchor text – 35-40%.
  • Partial match keyword-rich anchor text – 15-20%.
  • Generic anchor text -10-15%.
  • Exact match keyword-rich anchor text – 5-10%.
  • Naked URLs – 5-10%.
  • Empty – 3-5%.

This distribution of anchor text represents a natural mix of differing anchor texts. It is common for the majority of anchors to be branded or partially branded because most sites that link to your site will default to your brand name when linking. It also makes sense that the following most common anchors would be partial-match keywords or generic anchor text because these are natural choices within the context of a web page.

Exact-match anchor text is rare because it only happens when you are the best resource for a specific term, and the site owner knows your page exists.

Ratio Of Followed Vs. Nofollowed Backlinks

Lastly, you should monitor the ratio of followed vs. nofollowed links pointing to your website.

If you need a refresher on what nofollowed backlinks are or why someone might apply the nofollow tag to a link pointing to your site, check out Google’s guide on how to qualify outbound links to Google.

Nofollow attributes should only be applied to paid links or links pointing to a site the linking site doesn’t trust.

While it is not uncommon or suspicious to have some nofollow links (people misunderstand the purpose of the nofollow attribute all the time), a healthy backlink profile will have far more followed links.

You should aim for a ratio of 80%:20% or 70%:30% in favor of followed links. For example, here is what the followed vs. nofollowed ratio looks like for my company’s backlink profile (according to Ahrefs):

Referring domainsScreenshot from Ahrefs, May 2024

You may see links with other rel attributes, such as UGC or Sponsored.

The “UGC” attribute tags links from user-generated content, while the “Sponsored” attribute tags links from sponsored or paid sources. These attributes are slightly different than the nofollow tag, but they essentially work the same way, letting Google know these links aren’t trusted or endorsed by the linking site. You can simply group these links in with nofollowed links when calculating your ratio.

Importance Of Diversifying Your Backlink Profile

So why is it important to diversify your backlink profile anyway? Well, there are three main reasons you should consider:

  • Avoiding overoptimization.
  • Diversifying traffic sources.
  • And finding new audiences.

Let’s dive into each of these.

Avoiding Overoptimization

First and foremost, diversifying your backlink profile is the best way to protect yourself from overoptimization and the damaging penalties that can come with it.

As SEO pros, our job is to optimize websites to improve performance, but overoptimizing in any facet of our strategy – backlinks, keywords, structure, etc. – can result in penalties that limit visibility within search results.

In the previous section, we covered the elements of a healthy backlink profile. If you stray too far from that model, your site might look suspicious to search engines like Google and you could be handed a manual or algorithmic penalty, suppressing your rankings in search.

Considering how regularly Google updates its search algorithm these days (and how little information surrounds those updates), you could see your performance tank and have no idea why.

This is why it’s so important to keep a watchful eye on your backlink profile and how it’s shaping up.

Diversifying Traffic Sources

Another reason to cultivate a diverse backlink profile is to ensure you’re diversifying your traffic sources.

Google penalties come swiftly and can often be a surprise. If you have all your eggs in that basket when it comes to traffic, your site will suffer badly and might need help to recover.

However, diversifying your traffic sources (search, social, email, etc.) will mitigate risk – similar to a stock portfolio – as you’ll have other traffic sources to provide a steady flow of visitors if another source suddenly dips.

Part of building a diverse backlink profile is acquiring a diverse set of backlinks and backlink types, and this strategy will also help you find differing and varied sources of traffic.

Finding New Audiences

Finally, building a diverse backlink profile is essential, as doing so will also help you discover new audiences.

If you acquire links from the same handful of websites and platforms, you will need help expanding your audience and building awareness for your website.

While it’s important to acquire links from sites that cater to your existing audience, you should also explore ways to build links that can tap into new audiences. The best way to do this is by casting a wide net with various link acquisition tactics and strategies.

A diverse backlink profile indicates a varied approach to SEO and marketing that will help bring new visitors and awareness to your site.

Building A Diverse Backlink Profile

So that you know what a healthy backlink profile looks like and why it’s important to diversify, how do you build diversity into your site’s backlink profile?

This comes down to your link acquisition strategy and the types of backlinks you actively pursue. To guide your strategy, let’s break link building into three main categories:

  • Foundational links.
  • Content promotion.
  • Community involvement.

Here’s how to approach each area.

Foundational Links

Foundational links represent those links that your website simply should have. These are opportunities where a backlink would exist if all sites were known to all site owners.

Some examples of foundational links include:

  • Mentions – Websites that mention your brand in some way (brand name, product, employees, proprietary data, etc.) on their website but don’t link.
  • Partners – Websites that belong to real-world partners or companies you connect with offline and should also connect (link) with online.
  • Associations or groups – Websites for offline associations or groups you belong to where your site should be listed with a link.
  • Sponsorships – Any events or organizations your company sponsors might have websites that could (and should) link to your site.
  • Sites that link to competitors – If a website is linking to a competitor, there is a strong chance it would make sense for them to link to your site as well.

These link opportunities should set the foundation for your link acquisition efforts.

As the baseline for your link building strategy, you should start by exhausting these opportunities first to ensure you’re not missing highly relevant links to bolster your backlink profile.

Content Promotion

Next, consider content promotion as a strategy for building a healthy, diverse backlink profile.

Content promotion is much more proactive than the foundational link acquisition mentioned above. You must manifest the opportunity by creating link-worthy content rather than simply capitalizing on an existing opportunity.

Some examples of content promotion for links are:

  • Digital PR – Digital PR campaigns have numerous benefits and goals beyond link acquisition, but backlinks should be a primary KPI.
  • Original research – Similar to digital PR, original research should focus on providing valuable data to your audience. Still, you should also make sure any citations or references to your research are correctly linked.
  • Guest content – Whether regular columns or one-off contributions, providing guest content to websites is still a viable link acquisition strategy – when done right. The best way to gauge your guest content strategy is to ask yourself if you would still write the content for a site without guaranteeing a backlink, knowing you’ll still build authority and get your message in front of a new audience.
  • Original imagery – Along with research and data, if your company creates original imagery that offers unique value, you should promote those images and ask for citation links.

Content promotion is a viable avenue for building a healthy backlink profile as long as the content you’re promoting is worthy of links.

Community Involvement

Community involvement is the final piece of your link acquisition puzzle when building a diverse backlink profile.

After pursuing all foundational opportunities and manually promoting your content, you should ensure your brand is active and represented in all the spaces and communities where your audience engages.

In terms of backlinks, this could mean:

  • Wikipedia links – Wikipedia gets over 4 billion monthly visits, so backlinks here can bring significant referral traffic to your site. However, acquiring these links is difficult as these pages are moderated closely, and your site will only be linked if it is legitimately a top resource on the web.
  • Forums (Reddit, Quora, etc.) – Another great place to get backlinks that drive referral traffic is forums like Reddit and Quora. Again, these forums are strictly moderated, and earning link placements on these sites requires a page that delivers significant and unique value to a specific audience.
  • Social platforms – Social media platforms and groups represent communities where your brand should be active and engaged. While these strategies are likely handled by other teams outside SEO and focus on different metrics, you should still be intentional about converting these interactions into links when or where possible.
  • Offline events – While it may seem counterintuitive to think of offline events as a potential source for link acquisition, legitimate link opportunities exist here. After all, most businesses, brands, and people you interact with at these events also have websites, and networking can easily translate to online connections in the form of links.

While most of the link opportunities listed above will have the nofollow link attribute due to the nature of the sites associated with them, they are still valuable additions to your backlink profile as these are powerful, trusted domains.

These links help diversify your traffic sources by bringing substantial referral traffic, and that traffic is highly qualified as these communities share your audience.

How To Avoid Developing A Toxic Backlink Profile

Now that you’re familiar with the link building strategies that can help you cultivate a healthy, diverse backlink profile, let’s discuss what you should avoid.

As mentioned before, if you overoptimize one strategy or link, it can seem suspicious to search engines and cause your site to receive a penalty. So, how do you avoid filling your backlink profile with toxic links?

Remember The “Golden Rule” Of Link Building

One simple way to guide your link acquisition strategy and avoid running afoul of search engines like Google is to follow one “golden rule.”

That rule is to ask yourself: If search engines like Google didn’t exist, and the only way people could navigate the web was through backlinks, would you want your site to have a link on the prospective website?

Thinking this way strips away all the tactical, SEO-focused portions of the equation and only leaves the human elements of linking where two sites are linked because it makes sense and makes the web easier to navigate.

Avoid Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

Another good rule is to avoid looping your site into private blog networks (PBNs). Of course, it’s not always obvious or easy to spot a PBN.

However, there are some common traits or red flags you can look for, such as:

  • The person offering you a link placement mentions they have a list of domains they can share.
  • The prospective linking site has little to no traffic and doesn’t appear to have human engagement (blog comments, social media followers, blog views, etc.).
  • The website features thin content and little investment into user experience (UX) and design.
  • The website covers generic topics and categories, catering to any and all audiences.
  • Pages on the site feature numerous external links but only some internal links.
  • The prospective domain’s backlink profile features overoptimization in any of the previously discussed forms (high-density of exact match anchor text, abnormal ratio of nofollowed links, only one or two link types, etc.).

Again, diversification – in both tactics and strategies – is crucial to building a healthy backlink profile, but steering clear of obvious PBNs and remembering the ‘golden rule’ of link building will go a long way toward keeping your profile free from toxicity.

Evaluating Your Backlink Profile

As you work diligently to build and maintain a diverse, healthy backlink profile, you should also carve out time to evaluate it regularly from a more analytical perspective.

There are two main ways to evaluate the merit of your backlinks: leverage tools to analyze backlinks and compare your backlink profile to the greater competitive landscape.

Leverage Tools To Analyze Backlink Profile

There are a variety of third-party tools you can use to analyze your backlink profile.

These tools can provide helpful insights, such as the total number of backlinks and referring domains. You can use these tools to analyze your full profile, broken down by:

  • Followed vs. nofollowed.
  • Authority metrics (Domain Rating, Domain Authority, Authority Score, etc.).
  • Backlink types.
  • Location or country.
  • Anchor text.
  • Top-level domain types.
  • And more.

You can also use these tools to track new incoming backlinks, as well as lost backlinks, to help you better understand how your backlink profile is growing.

Some of the best tools for analyzing your backlink profile are:

Many of these tools also have features that estimate how toxic or suspicious your profile might look to search engines, which can help you detect potential issues early.

Compare Your Backlink Profile To The Competitive Landscape

Lastly, you should compare your overall backlink profile to those of your competitors and those competing with your site in the search results.

Again, the previously mentioned tools can help with this analysis – as far as providing you with the raw numbers – but the key areas you should compare are:

  • Total number of backlinks.
  • Total number of referring domains.
  • Breakdown of authority metrics of links (Domain Rating, Domain Authority, Authority Score, etc.).
  • Authority metrics of competing domains.
  • Link growth over the last two years.

Comparing your backlink profile to others within your competitive landscape will help you assess where your domain currently stands and provide insight into how far you must go if you’re lagging behind competitors.

It’s worth noting that it’s not as simple as whoever has the most backlinks will perform the best in search.

These numbers are typically solid indicators of how search engines gauge the authority of your competitors’ domains, and you’ll likely find a correlation between strong backlink profiles and strong search performance.

Approach Link Building With A User-First Mindset

The search landscape continues to evolve at a breakneck pace and we could see dramatic shifts in how people search within the next five years (or sooner).

However, at this time, search engines like Google still rely on backlinks as part of their ranking algorithms, and you need to cultivate a strong backlink profile to be visible in search.

Furthermore, if you follow the advice in this article as you build out your profile, you’ll acquire backlinks that benefit your site regardless of search algorithms, futureproofing your traffic sources.

Approach link acquisition like you would any other marketing endeavor – with a customer-first mindset – and over time, you’ll naturally build a healthy, diverse backlink profile.

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SEO

Google On Traffic Diversity As A Ranking Factor

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Google answers the question of whether traffic diversity is a ranking factor for SEO

Google’s SearchLiaison tweeted encouragement to diversify traffic sources, being clear about the reason he was recommending it. Days later, someone followed up to ask if traffic diversity is a ranking factor, prompting SearchLiaison to reiterate that it is not.

What Was Said

The question of whether diversity of traffic was a ranking factor was elicited from a previous tweet in a discussion about whether a site owner should be focusing on off-site promotion.

Here’s the question from the original discussion that was tweeted:

“Can you please tell me if I’m doing right by focusing on my site and content – writing new articles to be found through search – or if I should be focusing on some off-site effort related to building a readership? It’s frustrating to see traffic go down the more effort I put in.”

SearchLiaison split the question into component parts and answered each one. When it came to the part about off-site promotion, SearchLiaison (who is Danny Sullivan), shared from his decades of experience as a journalist and publisher covering technology and search marketing.

I’m going to break down his answer so that it’s clearer what he meant

This is the part from the tweet that talks about off-site activities:

“As to the off-site effort question, I think from what I know from before I worked at Google Search, as well as my time being part of the search ranking team, is that one of the ways to be successful with Google Search is to think beyond it.”

What he is saying here is simple, don’t limit your thinking about what to do with your site to thinking about how to make it appeal to Google.

He next explains that sites that rank tend to be sites that are created to appeal to people.

SearchLiaison continued:

“Great sites with content that people like receive traffic in many ways. People go to them directly. They come via email referrals. They arrive via links from other sites. They get social media mentions.”

What he’s saying there is that you’ll know that you’re appealing to people if people are discussing your site in social media, if people are referring the site in social media and if other sites are citing it with links.

Other ways to know that a site is doing well is when when people engage in the comments section, send emails asking follow up questions, and send emails of thanks and share anecdotes of their success or satisfaction with a product or advice.

Consider this, fast fashion site Shein at one point didn’t rank for their chosen keyword phrases, I know because I checked out of curiosity. But they were at the time virally popular and making huge amounts of sales by gamifying site interaction and engagement, propelling them to become a global brand. A similar strategy propelled Zappos when they pioneered no-questions asked returns and cheerful customer service.

SearchLiaison continued:

“It just means you’re likely building a normal site in the sense that it’s not just intended for Google but instead for people. And that’s what our ranking systems are trying to reward, good content made for people.”

SearchLiaison explicitly said that building sites with diversified content is not a ranking factor.

He added this caveat to his tweet:

“This doesn’t mean you should get a bunch of social mentions, or a bunch of email mentions because these will somehow magically rank you better in Google (they don’t, from how I know things).”

Despite The Caveat…

A journalist tweeted this:

“Earlier this week, @searchliaison told people to diversify their traffic. Naturally, people started questioning whether that meant diversity of traffic was a ranking factor.

So, I asked @iPullRank what he thought.”

SearchLiaison of course answered that he explicitly said it’s not a ranking factor and linked to his original tweet that I quoted above.

He tweeted:

“I mean that’s not exactly what I myself said, but rather repeat all that I’ll just add the link to what I did say:”

The journalist responded:

“I would say this is calling for publishers to diversify their traffic since you’re saying the great sites do it. It’s the right advice to give.”

And SearchLiaison answered:

“It’s the part of “does it matter for rankings” that I was making clear wasn’t what I myself said. Yes, I think that’s a generally good thing, but it’s not the only thing or the magic thing.”

Not Everything Is About Ranking Factors

There is a longstanding practice by some SEOs to parse everything that Google publishes for clues to how Google’s algorithm works. This happened with the Search Quality Raters guidelines. Google is unintentionally complicit because it’s their policy to (in general) not confirm whether or not something is a ranking factor.

This habit of searching for “ranking factors” leads to misinformation. It takes more acuity to read research papers and patents to gain a general understanding of how information retrieval works but it’s more work to try to understand something than skimming a PDF for ranking papers.

The worst approach to understanding search is to invent hypotheses about how Google works and then pore through a document to confirm those guesses (and falling into the confirmation bias trap).

In the end, it may be more helpful to back off of exclusively optimizing for Google and focus at least equally as much in optimizing for people (which includes optimizing for traffic). I know it works because I’ve been doing it for years.

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