Doing Link Removal? Use This Flowchart to Quickly Evaluate Backlink Quality
With Google Webmaster Tools sending out hundreds of thousands of “unnatural link” notifications, as well as the new Penguin penalty – er, “algorithm update” – link removal has become the hot new topic in the SEO industry.
At Bruce Clay we’ve been performing SEO penalty assessments and link pruning projects for some time now, and we’ve found that by far the most tedious part of the process is manually evaluating each and every backlink. Especially if you’ve got a list of 45,000+ URLs to sift through.
We created this flowchart in order to make the process of evaluating backlinks as efficient as possible, as well as to ensure that our analysts use the same metrics when working independently on the same project. We hope you find our chart as useful as we have.
Brief explanations follow below.
Editor’s Note: See our updated Backlink Evaluation Flowchart, revised in August 2015.
Load the page. Can you find the link?
This is the obvious first step. If the link isn’t on the page, you’re done – move on to the next. Ctrl+F is your friend here. Don’t forget to check the source code if you don’t see the link on the page, because it might be hidden.
Does the page appear to exist ONLY for SEO?
If you’ve been monitoring your backlink profile and doing link pruning for any length of time, you should be able to spot these almost instantly. Usually, low-quality directories and spun article sites just won’t pass the smell test, and a lot of them will look identical because they’re run by the same person.
Is the link relevant to the page?
This is the most subjective option. Consider the topic of the linking and linked pages, the position of the link, and any other metrics you use to gauge relevance.
Does the anchor text contain high-value keywords?
Are these keywords used excessively in links to your site?
We added these options in response to Google’s Penguin update, which (among other things) targets backlink profiles with a high percentage of exact-match anchor text for “money” or “transactional” keywords.
Does the link contain a rel=”nofollow” attribute?
Does the page Head section contain a Meta Robots “nofollow” tag?
If Google has been told not to follow a link then it shouldn’t be affecting your rankings, no matter how spammy the linking site is. You may also want to check the site’s robots.txt file to see if the linking page exists in a disallowed directory – but this is such a rare occurrence that we left it out of the chart.
Tedious though it may be, link evaluation is absolutely necessary when it comes to link pruning, either for your site or for a client’s – you need to find all the poor-quality links as quickly as possible without accidentally getting beneficial links removed.
Did we forget anything? Do you have a question about the chart? Leave a comment below.