Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post published by permission of its author.
When it comes to search engine rankings, SEO backlinks can make or break your website’s positioning in search results. A backlink refers to any link to your site that comes from another site. In Google’s algorithm, backlinks are like votes of confidence for your website: if many sites link to yours, Google regards your site as relevant and trustworthy. If few sites link to yours, Google regards your site as lower quality.
However, not all backlinks are created equal. In the SEO world, a link from an article or website that’s related to your site’s topic is more powerful than a directory listing or a link that comes from a page loaded with advertising. For example, if you operate a dental or medical website, backlinks from local organizations – say, those that you’ve volunteered services with – will improve your ranking more than directory listings.
In the early days of Google, website owners tried to obtain as many backlinks as possible without having to worry about the quality of the links. However, with ongoing improvements and changes made to Google’s algorithm which aims to provide web searchers with high-quality results, the quality of backlinks is just as important today as the number of links you have pointing to your site. If you’ve found that your website is not ranking well, it’s time to take a close look at your backlinks to make sure they are all of good quality.
If you have low quality, spammy backlinks pointing to your website, it’s not only bad from a ranking point of view – it’s also detrimental to the credibility of your business. Here are a few steps you can take which can go far in helping you avoid being penalized by Google and the other search engines due to your site being determined as having a spammy backlink profile.
Use Google Webmaster Tools
To find what your link profile actually looks like, use Google Webmaster Tools. If you have not yet done so, set up a free account, add your website, and then verify it. Then go to Search Tools> Links to Your Site> More, and under “Who Links Most”, click on “Download Latest Links”. This will provide you with a spreadsheet view of your most recent inbound links.
You’ll have to manually go through this list carefully so you don’t end up removing valuable links that are beneficial. When evaluating your link profile, watch out for any of the following backlinks: non-niche directories that have no defined focus or criteria, links coming from sites that are completely unrelated to your site, blog comments that include spammy link text, and low quality or spun article links. Ultimately, you want a link profile filled with relevant, natural-looking links from high-quality websites.
When you’ve identified a bad backlink, you can politely contact the webmaster of that site and ask to have the link removed. While many webmasters will respond to your request, some may not. Often times, persistence pays off here – if you don’t hear back from a webmaster in a few days, ask again.
Try a Google Disavow File
The Google Disavow links tool allows you to ask Google not to take certain links into consideration when assessing your website. When you tell Google which links you don’t want it to consider, it won’t put any value on those links. To use this tool, simply create a text file that consists of one link per line you wish to disavow. Then simply go to the Google Disavow links page, select your domain from the dropdown menu and then click on “Disavow links”. You’ll then be directed to upload and submit the text file you created. Disavowing links should be a last resort, though: see if you can contact a site’s webmaster to have the links removed before using the Disavow tool.
Build Quality, Trustworthy Links Over Time for Strong SEO
To avoid getting more bad backlinks pointing to your site, get into the practice of regularly building good links that Google will trust. You can do this a number of ways including guest blogging, getting your site listed in local directories such as Google, Yelp, Yahoo Local, Foursquare and Angie’s List. You also should do things such as writing and distributing press releases about new products, services or newsworthy info people will find interesting about your business. Combined with great web design, a consistent strategy of building high-quality backlinks will help improve your position in search results and grow your business.
As a Senior Account Manager at Wpromote, Kaitlyn is responsible for assisting West clients with their digital marketing needs. In her spare time, Kaitlyn is an avid bookworm, Jeopardy aficionado, and fantasy football champion. Learn more about Wpromote at West.Wpromote.com