Assessing Your Link Damage
What is Link Damage?
It’s what happens when you hire black-hat (bad) SEO companies to give you higher search engine rankings, despite their claims of calling themselves white-hat (ethical). Chances are if you are reading this it might mean you already realize you might have link damage associated with your website. A significant drop in search rankings is a good indication that this is the case.
This article should give you some good insight into finding out if you’ve been victimized with harmful link building strategies by your SEO company. If you unfortunately find this to be true, please click here to find out how to recover from the devastating damage you may have incurred. We would also like to make you aware of our 90-day link detox program aimed at cleaning up your damaged link profile.
Tools for Assessment
There are some great tools on the web for assessing your link damage. Those tools include OpenSiteExplorer.com, ahrefs.com and even your own webmaster tools account if you have one. These reports will show you links that point to your site and include valuable metrics to measure the quality of those links. The lower the quality, the more harm that link can be.
I took a screen shot of a sample report from opensiteexplorer.com. I cropped off the top part of the screen to keep the company name anonymous. I also chose to keep the local Lancaster SEO company building these back links somewhat anonymous too.
Snapshot of Link Profile Damaged by a popular Lancaster SEO Company
This local deck building business was paying a Lancaster SEO company good money for several years to help them. His link profile is now severely damaged and Google has punished them accordingly.
Breaking the Analysis Down
In the top left corner, you will see this company has 300 external links (links from other websites pointing to their site. We like to set the filter option to only show external links for this portion of our link analysis. The following columns in this report are:
Title and URL of Linking Page: In this column is the title of the page and the URL that links to this company’s website. This referring URL should be a reputable website in a related field or with a common interest. Why else would they want to link to this deck builder? As you can see the first link is commandtheraven.com (whatever that is), second link is from Europe and the last several on the screen shot are Chinese websites.
Link Anchor Text: The words that are used to link to your website is referred to as “anchor text”. Anchor text should be predominately branded, or in other words should be the name of your company or a variation of it. As you can see in this example, the link anchor text is keyword phrases and nothing even close to the name of the deck building company (although I’m withholding the name). That’s because their SEO company was building links for those keywords he wanted to rank for. Doesn’t that look fabricated? Now you are starting to see just the tip of the iceburg that Google sees. Chances are the deeper you dig, the more crap you’ll find.
Page Authority: Is simply a metric for how authoritative the linking web page is. The more authoritative, the more that link value it could have. The numbering scale is 1-100 and the higher the number, the better.
Domain Authority: Just like page authority, the domain authority is a measurement of how authoritative the linking website as a whole is, not just the page that contains the like. Again 1-100 is the scale with a higher number being better than a lower number.
OpensiteExplorer.com is a great tool from one of the most recognized companies in the industry called MOZ. They used to be called SEOMoz, until recently when SEO started to get a bad name from all the unethical strategies being carried out, so they dropped SEO from their name.
This tool is free to use, but limits free accounts to just view a few of the backlinks. A paid subscription unlocks many more metrics and advanced features to really dig deep in the link analysis. We can tell so many things just from this one tool. Imagine what data Google has locked down in their vault.
Ahref’s Snapshot of another Link Profile Damaged by the same SEO Company
This local swing set business was paying this same Lancaster SEO company good money for several years to help them. His link profile is now severely damaged and Google has punished them accordingly.
Breaking the Analysis Down
Again, a paid subscription has so many metrics to analyze and sort links with this tool. The free version only allows about 5 links to be shown. The following columns in this report are:
Rank and Domain Rank: A number from 1-100 that Ahrefs uses to evaluate the score of the linking domain. The higher the number the better.
Referring Page URL and Title: This is the URL of the page that links to the swing set company. The title of that page should give an indication of what that page is about. The 2nd link is from Brazil, the 4th listing has to do with some murder trial.
Internal and External Links: The page that links to the swing set company, also has a bunch of internal and external links on that same page. Internal meaning links to other pages of their website and external meaning links to other websites in addition to the one going to our example swing set company. The first listing in this screenshot shows 382 external links are found on this page. Sounds like a free-for-all link party. You could probably add yours to if you wanted. Go ahead and visit the mom’s blog page (http://officialblog.momblogsociety.com/at-home-pampering-for-mom/). It’s an article with a bunch of spammers writing junk comments in return for a link that points to their website. Now hit <ctrl> and the letter ‘F’ on your keyboard simultaneously and in the search box that pops up, type “outdoor playsets”. It will take you to the place on the page where this SEO company placed the link. You can see their witty comment and that it was done on August 31, 2012 at 4:36. If you click on “outdoor playsets” it will take you to the swing sets companies page. Wow, Google will never be able to tell that’s fabricated… Not! Even a moron can tell.
Link URL and Link Anchor: I blurred out the website address of the swing set company that this page links to, but if you followed my steps in the preceding paragraph you already know who both the swing set company is and the shady SEO company because their name is at the bottom of the swing set company’s website. The term “link anchor text” was explained earlier in this article. And as you can see in this screenshot, keyword phrases are being used and not the company brand name. In the first result, you can see it says “outdoor playsets”. That is why I had you search that phrase in the preceding step.
Last Seen and Last Check: These are dates the Ahrefs first seen the link and the last time it checked if it was still there.
How This Applies To You
So what does your link profile look like? The first page is your best links. It only gets worse from there. Does your link profile have a bunch of keyword phrases instead of the name of your company? Do you have any from China, Europe or Brazil?
Can you even imagine what kind of metrics the almighty Google has locked in its vault? To think that people can still trick Google into higher rankings is unbelievable.
I hope this article was insightful to you and gives you a glimpse into how this game works. I hope it also makes you aware of the damage that can incur from people whom you may have put trust in over the years.