While I’ve posted a few times about SEO Excel spreadsheets, and I’ve used link profiles a couple of times in blog posts, I’ve never been able to show what a backlink profile full of backlinks looks like.
Back to the beginning
A healthy backlink profile is one that has links of all types. It is usually nice bell curve, with medium amounts of low DA and PA backlinks and fewer super high quality backlinks (which makes sense), with a nice number in the middle as well. This makes sense, as super high authority sites are much less common that lower authority websites. You should expect links of all kinds.
One way that I think search engines could easily spot if a website is buying links is by running the site’s links through a process that then visualizes the distribution of Domain and Page Authority across those backlinks.
A Healthy-ish Profile
Let’s look at a few examples of strong and healthy backlink profiles. What we’re looking for is that nice bell curve that I talk about above.
Here is Distilled’s backlink profile:
As you can see, that nice bell curve has taken shape. There are low authority links and high authority links. There’s nothing out of the ordinary here.
Here is SEO.com‘s backlink profile:
Once again, we get that nice bell curve. SEO.com’s link profile looks pretty healthy to me!
*Remember*, this is not the whole story behind any backlink profile, but it is a good quick way to visualize if you need to dig deeper.
An Unhealthy Profile via Paid Links
This past week I was working on a site that has been buying links for years (not as a Distilled client). They have seen the error of their ways and are a brand new client of mine and will not be named. Part of my work with them is to help clean up their backlink profile as much as possible.
I used the Domain Authority spreadsheet that I have written about previously, and boy was I surprised at what I saw.
Here is your example of what a bad backlink profile looks like:
Remember that bad paid links often happen in bulk and are from low authority and low quality link networks or directories. They are built quickly and with reckless abandon. Since the easiest links to get are usually the low authority links, a site with a lot of paid links will have a lot of links from a lot of low authority sites.
How This is Valuable
These graphs can be valuable because they are actionable. Often lower authority sites are easier to get links from, so in Distilled’s case we may want to try to get links with targeted anchor text (as it is often easier to get this on lower authority sites than high authority).
Also, if we are able to visualize a site’s backlinks this easily, how easy would it be for a search engine to do it as well? I bet they do too. Depending on the industry and their tolerance for spam in that industry (and most SEOs agree that Google has different spam tolerances for different industries), I wouldn’t be surprised if they used a methodology like this as a signal in determining spam.
Finally, this methodology can be used to help qualify potential clients. Knowing what they have done before they you sign a contract, by doing your homework on them, can save you a lot of headaches in the long term.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
3 thoughts on “Here’s a Paid Links Backlink Profile Visualized”
Good post John! I think it’s crucial to remember that this is all relative. So you should compare your backlink profile not to distilled and seo.com but instead to your competitors. Some niches have more authoritative links than others so you should try and compare sites in the same industry if possible.
Yes, very valid point Tom! My point was that this can give a quick insight into whether or not their backlink profile is weighted one way or another, but I absolutely agree that this needs to be compared with their competitors to see if it’s really out of balance.
In the case that I showed though, it’s pretty obvious that something fishy is up. Then the deep-dive commences!
Great post. It’s interesting to think that Google has a threshold of spam for each industry. This explains why some SERPS look like the wild, wild west. I have a competitor who has a backlink profile full of spammy, paid links but have also managed to get a link from Adobe.com. I really feel as though this authoritative link along with a few other is what is keeping them propped up. Do you think obtaining links from high enough DA sites can somehow get you some form of forgiveness in Google’s eyes for poor/paid links?
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