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Is your SEO performance a dumpster fire? Here’s how to salvage it

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Is your SEO performance a dumpster fire Here’s how to salvage it

30-second summary:

  • A failing SEO strategy can happen to the best of us
  • No doubt it’s disheartening when your competitors are miles ahead and your business is struggling to bring in new leads
  • Founder of LSEO and best-selling author, Kristopher (Kris) Jones provides comprehensive steps and advice on how you can salvage your SEO performance

Dumpster fires: surely they can’t happen to you. Right? But before you know it, your website’s traffic has tanked, your competitors are getting all the organic love, and you couldn’t get a conversion if your life depended on it. Folks, if your SEO performance sounds like that, you might just have a dumpster fire on your hands.

A failing SEO strategy can happen to the best of us. There’s no doubt it’s disheartening when your competitors are all miles ahead of you and your business isn’t bringing in new leads.

The good news is that it’s never too late to turn things around.

When is the best time to plant a tree? 20 years ago.

When’s the second-best time? Right now, so let’s get to it.

Here’s how to salvage your dumpster fire of an SEO strategy.

1. Review and optimize all your current content

I’m going to talk about content a few times in this post.

That’s because content has long been and remains the most important element to focus on in your overall SEO strategy.

Websites are nothing without content.

You can see a website getting by with no meta descriptions, you can see them getting by without optimized images, but without content, what do you have?

Not a website!

But if you’re focusing on content first to turn around your SEO strategy, where do you start?

Yes, you optimize everything you already have.

You don’t want to get ahead of yourself by constantly creating new content when you have a whole slew of old pages and posts that may have fallen into SEO disrepair.

Google treats optimized content the same as new content, so to start out, you’ll want to audit your existing content to see what’s good, what’s bad, and what you can fix up to be good again.

You can use a content audit tool like that found in Semrush, or, if you have a more manageable load of content to work with, checking things out manually would work well, too.

This is about more than just deciding what content you like or do not like, although you should be able to tell at a glance which topics are still relevant to your website.

But to check out the SEO performance of each page and post, you can use Semrush as I said, or go manual with Google Search Console.

What I like to do is to put each URL into Search Console and check out how it’s doing as far as impressions versus clicks, click-through rate, and the average positions of its ranking keywords.

That gives me a decent snapshot of which pages need attention.

For example

A page with 10,000 impressions in a 30-day period but only 100 clicks will have a CTR of only one percent (not too great).

I would then go to that page to figure out what is causing the low CTR.

The page is obviously being ranked for the keyword, given its high impressions, but if few people are clicking, then maybe the page isn’t as relevant for the term as it once was.

If that’s the case, then optimizing the page for SEO could be a matter of creating new sections of content around that keyword, and certainly retooling what’s there already.

Optimizing your website’s content is a major part of improving your SEO strategy because it involves so many things that are going to help you.

For this first point, I focused only on the writing and editing part of the content optimization.

Let’s now move on to some other parts of an SEO strategy where you could update things (things that could nonetheless still be involved in content optimization).

2. Assess and update all meta tags

Your pages’ meta tags play an important role in your website’s overall SEO health.

Meta tags are also one of the easiest things to let slip by as you work on your website, because they’re so brief and simple, and there are so many of them.

The thing is, meta tags can go out of date as the landscape shifts around your industry and the keywords for which you were optimizing are no longer relevant.

Meta tags are a classic example of why you can’t set it and forget it with SEO.

Meta tags are another element to look at as you go through your content pages to improve their CTR.

Sure, a lot of your content itself could use updates, but retool the meta titles and descriptions, as well.

Remember, the meta information is what organic users see as they scroll a SERP.

If your title and description aren’t interesting or urgent enough to draw in audiences that are in the awareness stage, then those people will keep on scrolling.

Redoing meta tags could include using a new target keyword, rewriting the call to action, or making everything more concise.

Maybe start with a handful of pages only, say 20 or 30, and A/B test the old and new titles and descriptions to see how traffic and CTR change after your edits.

Doing that will confirm for you whether the updating you’re doing is worth it, and whether you should continue down this road with the rest of your pages.

3. Work on your technical performance

When you have to turn around your entire SEO strategy, you have to think about your website holistically.

That means focusing not just on your keywords and content, but also on how your pages perform technically.

I’m grouping issues such as image compression, site speed, mobile responsiveness, and Core Web Vitals all together under the umbrella of “technical performance.”

Although these factors are less “creative” and open-ended as compared to performing new keyword research or optimizing content, they matter just as well.

When people get to your website and are greeted with slow pages, a messy mobile appearance, and content elements that jump around as they load, their trust in you drops.

In a world as competitive as ours, you can’t afford to give people cause for distrust, because you can bet that there are a hundred competitors waiting in line to market to those customers if you can’t do so successfully.

If development work isn’t your forte, look into contracting out to someone who can clean up your website’s coding and otherwise speed things up while also optimizing for mobile.

Images should be compressed so they take up less space but don’t lose any of their quality, and each image should have optimized alt text.

Compressing and optimizing images is something you can definitely do yourself, either through a plugin (on WordPress) or manually if it’s feasible.

Even though page speed and load times aren’t always the most accessible kind of work to business owners and website owners, those are important issues to keep in mind as you labor toward turning around your dumpster fire of an SEO strategy.

4. Resume creating new content

You can turn around even the worst SEO strategy in the world.

Google isn’t going to hold you to the fire forever just because your SEO has been in the dumps even for the last few years.

Google crawls your site every so often whether you’re doing something with it or not, and as it sees that your SEO is improving, it can start to rank some of those pages higher.

So here is where we get into creating all-new, high-quality content.

Content in 2023 can mean a whole range of things, from blog posts to infographics to videos and podcasts and webinars and slide decks.

Whatever makes sense for your business and your industry is what you should do. Whatever types of media you know your audiences like to consume, give that to them.

In 2023, however, you have to be incredibly mindful of being comprehensive and useful for people.

If there’s anything that we’ve learned from 2022’s helpful content update, it’s that you just cannot skimp on content creation (not that you ever could, but Google is smarter than it was 10 years ago).

Gone are the days of skirting by on SEO-centric content, created just to score some ranking for this or that keyword.

Google is paying much more attention now to the intent and usefulness of a piece, and rewarding those web pages featuring actually helpful content (get it?) with higher rankings.

A perfect example of how Google is thinking these days is the product review update, also from 2022.

Google is now deprioritizing the ranking of low-quality product reviews in favor of more expert-level reviews where the reviewer has actually used the product or service and can speak to its pros and cons.

Why? Because Google wants to direct users to content they can actually trust to help them.

When you take the product reviews update and helpful content update together, you can see why content marketing has gotten so much harder over the years.

You can’t just rank after spending an hour on a 400-word blog post anymore.

You have to be a real expert, or at least put in the time and effort to create deep content if you work for a client portfolio.

These are all things you must keep in mind as you create new content for your website in the name of putting out your dumpster fire of an SEO strategy.

Now, of course, there are the nuts and bolts you have to remember, as well, when it comes to new content.

You have to mine the SERPs, develop the proper keyword strategy, and understand the correct intent behind those keywords to be sure you’re creating what people expect to see when they search that keyword.

That stuff you can all learn.

What I want you to take from this section is the idea that you have to work to create that new content. You have to put in that time and dedication to do it well.

5. If you’re local, focus on reviews

I don’t want to leave out the local businesses here: if you’re a local business, do you know that one of the single largest factors in helping your SEO is getting positive Google reviews?

Now, local businesses need to perform all the on-page SEO work that anyone else does, but what do you do as an ongoing SEO strategy?

The play here isn’t keyword-driven SEO content so much, because your local audience isn’t really going to find you that way.

Local audiences find local businesses by performing local searches and checking out the reviews in the map pack.

In fact, 77 percent of local buyers always read online reviews while checking out local businesses.

Your reviews affect the level of trust the public has in you. More people are likely to visit your website and use your business when they see that others have had a positive experience with you.

The cycle goes on when you encourage your customers to leave positive Google reviews.

The more reviews you have, and the more positive they are, the better off your chances will be of rising to the top of your local map pack.

Being at the top should translate into more traffic and better SEO overall.

6. Build natural backlinks

Finally, I want to mention another pillar of Google’s list of known ranking factors: natural backlinks.

Links are what unite everything on the internet together.

They’re also vital in keeping the ranking juices flowing to your web pages when it comes to your SEO strategy.

Backlinks to your website from other websites show Google that you’re an authority in your market niche since people want to reference what you have to say.

Link building, then, is really about building relationships to get your name out there as a trustworthy resource for others.

When Google sees your links coming from relevant, authoritative websites, it will assign more trust to your own site.

Just remember to keep the links coming from websites that make sense to your own.

The quality matters much more than the quantity here.

To do it, create content that people would want to link to, something with a lot of useful stats and other data.

You can also scout other websites in your niche to see where they may have content gaps, and then create content to fill that gap and ask for a link back.

It takes time and effort, and you’re not guaranteed anything, but it’s the natural way to earn backlinks that will actually help your SEO.

Give your SEO time to turn around

You can put out even the biggest dumpster fire when you know what to do and how to do it.

I’ll say again that SEO dumpster fires can happen to the best of us. Sometimes we go all-in on things we think will work, and they don’t.

Sometimes we get lazy and let our SEO go for years.

But it’s never too late to correct things.

It will definitely take time to see things start to shift for you, though; SEO isn’t an overnight solution. It needs anywhere from three to six months or longer to start showing a difference.

If you keep in mind both the broad strokes and the specifics of everything I’ve described here, you truly can reinvent your SEO strategy and be on your way to business growth.


Kris Jones is the founder and former CEO of digital marketing and affiliate network Pepperjam, which he sold to eBay Enterprises in 2009. Most recently Kris founded SEO services and software company LSEO.com and has previously invested in numerous successful technology companies. Kris is an experienced public speaker and is the author of one of the best-selling SEO books of all time called, ‘Search-Engine Optimization – Your Visual Blueprint to Effective Internet Marketing’, which has sold nearly 100,000 copies.

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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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