Getting Your Link Profile on Point in 2018

The importance of rankings is ever-present in the search community. It’s reported that Google has over 200 ranking factors, which is insane, but needed. The landscape is more competitive than ever before, making it harder to manipulate rankings. Ask any SEO specialist and they will tell you how important backlinks are. In short, a link profile accounts for the vast majority of a site’s ranking according to Google’s algorithm. If you want to hit number one for your keywords and stay there, you need a diverse and healthy link profile.

Let’s say the majority of your links come from communities and forums, and you rank highly: what if Google devalues this through an algorithm shift? This will affect your rankings significantly.

Therefore, you need diversity across your incoming backlinks; a natural backlink profile includes links from many different root domains with diverse keywords – to various pages of your website. In this post, I’ll take you through the importance of a varied link profile and how you can stand in good stead in 2018.

So, how do you check your backlink profile?

There are a number of tools you can use, and many offer free trials. There’s Ahrefs, Moz, Link Research Tools, SEMrush, and more. All do the job well, with some nice backlink analysis features, but I prefer Ahrefs. I find the link intersect and domain comparison tools highly valuable, especially when looking to gain an edge over your competitors. It shows you domains that link to competitors but not you, so you can approach those links to close the gap.

The important thing is, we need to ensure the link profile looks natural… this doesn’t mean we can’t manipulate them to gain an advantage.

Link building and digital PR have a range of tactics to improve a link profile, with an emphasis on sites with high authorities, or high relevance. I’ve spoken to many digital PRs at events and conferences who just chase those short-term links, to get that immediate link juice from a guest post. But there’s more to it than that, and we need to step back and look at the larger picture to make the most difference for our clients. You need to stay ethical when link building, otherwise you could be on the receiving end of a penalty.

A client forwarded me this (from before we worked with them), and it sent shivers down my spine. Safe to say trying to build a diverse and varied link profile is at the forefront of my client activity.

So let’s run through the elements to consider when building a diverse backlink profile.

Anchor Text

This is really important and can help with certain keyword search terms. Google wants to see anchors that display diversity. There are a few types of anchor text, and it’s healthy to have a mixture of all. The easiest to acquire is branded anchor text, which includes any link that is a brand name such as Hallam Internet.

You can also have exact match anchor text, which refers to the words in the links (anchor text), exactly matching the keywords you’re trying to rank for; like SEO Services linking to Hallam’s SEO service page. As long as it’s relevant and natural, there’s no harm done. And it does work, here are two follow links with the exact match anchor text of Altendorf. 

Which directly resulted in increased rankings for that term.

It’s likely you’ll have many keywords that you want to rank for, and it makes sense to build links to those specific keywords. Yes, they can help you rank quickly but be aware that this tactic is also highly susceptible to algorithm changes. When link building, reoccurring anchor texts can send unnatural signals to Google. Anchor text was one of Penguin’s biggest targets, and many websites that had been overly aggressive with their exact match anchor text links saw their rankings plummet. 

Compound anchor text, also known as partial match anchor text, is used when the link contains the brand or targeted term, in addition to other words that you aren’t targeting. Hallam’s blogs on SEO are a great resource.

There’s also ‘generic or zero match anchor text’, which uses a call to action to drive users to targeted pages, such as, click here, or website.

I wouldn’t try and manipulate anchor text in links too much, I tend to go for branded as they’re easiest to acquire. But, as long you have a backlink profile that includes a variety of compound, generic and a few keyword rich links, a healthy mix will make your link profile look natural and therefore, help you rank.

NoFollow Links

Follow links pass equity (or link juice as I like to call it), whereas nofollow links do not. Search engines still see nofollow links, but they’re told not to consider them.

Google expects nofollow links, and will look at them when deeming whether a link profile is natural. No worries if you get a nofollow link instead of a follow link, it’s still useful. 

Varied Domain

You need to gain links from all types of domains, whether that’s .com, .org, .edu (or .ac in the UK) etc, to stop your link profile from looking artificial. .orgs and .edu links are particularly good to target, as they have a high authority. 

I’d consider this to be a nice backlink profile, with a reasonably healthy distribution across all referring domains. Naturally, you will gain more .coms. Looking at this is more of an indication of what links you need to try and acquire. So, for example, if a client has no .edu links, I would look to acquire these as part of my strategy. 

The Link Location Must Be Considered

In order to create link diversity, the location of the link should vary. You need to acquire backlinks from numerous domains and link them to various locations on the website.

Many experts believe that the deeper the link goes into a website’s structure, the more valuable it is in a link profile. It’s not unusual that most links a website gets, points to the homepage, but a good link profile will display lots of linked pages.

Domain Authority

I’m not talking about Moz’s Domain Authority (although that’s a reasonably good way to measure it), but rather I’m talking about the concept of domain authority/rating.

Google will expect to see links from poorly rated domains, as these will appear over time without control. But they shouldn’t be targeted unless they’re local or niche. The backlinks from high authority sites will make the most difference, and these should be at the forefront of link building campaigns. But you need links from all authority and ratings, so if you have too many links from highly rated domains, you may want to focus on acquiring lower level links. It all depends on the current state of a backlink profile. To explain better, please see these two (extreme) examples.

Example 1: This is an example of a profile where easy-to-acquire low authority links have been gained. This will quickly increase the volume of linking domains, but will probably get penalised by Google at some point as many of the linking domains will have likely been penalised themselves.

Example 2: This is a much smaller profile in terms of volume, but will have a significant amount of equity passed from links if they’re follow links; which could increase your own domain authority. However, if this profile was to get reviewed by Google, it’s in danger of appearing unnatural, as many acquisition programmes that are based on cherry picking domains and paying for that exposure look like this.

Text Versus Image

This one isn’t a big one, as whilst an image link does pass some equity, text links pass far more. HTML text is easier to crawl, and the anchor text is also a factor, whereas the alt attribute from an image won’t get the same weighting. Having said that, remember you want a ‘natural’ linking profile, and it’s relatively easy to get image links, so it could be part of a link building strategy.

Freshness of Links

Exactly the same as content, as time goes on, the value of a link tends to decline. If you have a link from a site with a domain authority of 87 that’s seven years old, it may not be delivering the same amount of value as a domain authority of 65 that just linked yesterday. Moz outlines how fresh content and links influence rankings here. Nothing too major to note, other than just keep up your link building activity.

Remember Relevance When Building Diversity

Of course, although your goal is to make your link profile as diverse as possible, this doesn’t mean that you should be building links from any random website. If a website isn’t related to the content of your website, you shouldn’t link to it or put a link on it.

No Paid Links

Paid links are spam, plain and simple. My grandad can process PayPal payments, so where’s the value we’re adding? Sponsored posts and articles have been around for a while, but I’ve found that the cost of sponsored content on online publications is still in its infancy, especially when viewed as a marketing channel.

Prices vary across a range of publications: a publication with a high domain authority, unique visitors per month and reputation doesn’t seem to be reflected in a higher price for a sponsored post.

Publishers and websites control their own pricing and standards, which makes it difficult to see the true value of a post, or paid link. This is a big issue in digital PR and outreaching to online media and bloggers, and one that link builders need to adapt to. I have discussed the cost of placing content in online publications in more detail before on my Hallam blog. Just remember you need to earn links, not buy them. Backlinks should be acquired through targeted outreach and not cash. I know media are feeling the squeeze, and blogging is a profession, but I’d advise against any monetary transaction for a link. Even if they’re the ones outreaching to you…!

So there we have it: a top-level overview of what goes into a diverse link profile. Moving through the link building process can seem daunting and never-ending, but building backlinks isn’t complicated, they just take time to earn them. There are certainly quick and easy ways to get backlinks to a website, but they’re likely to be low-quality links.

You need to follow a process or strategy and know exactly what it is you want from every backlink. But please remember that any links you acquire, need to be natural and relevant. These are the two most important factors in any link building strategy.

Alex Jones

About Alex Jones

Alex is the Head of Earned Media at Hallam, with specialist expertise in digital PR. With extensive offline and online experience, Alex currently helps clients increase their online visibility through digital PR, at the same time as building on their search engine marketing efforts.