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How To Analyze A Link

>> Thursday, 30 January 2014

The importance of link quality in SEO cannot be overstated1. Before you begin any link building project within2 SEO, you must be sure you’re pursuing3 links that will not only have an impact today, but will continue to have a positive impact in the future.
4That means understanding what makes a quality link, and why. Let’s take a look at the elements of link analysis, which are:
  1. Relevance
  2. Link Type
  3. Authority
  4. Location
  5. Smell Test


Relevance should always be the north star of your link building compass. Without relevance, a link will, at best, be sub-par quality and, at worst, negatively impact your SEO efforts, potentially resulting in a manual penalty from Google, or the algorithmic penalty (filter) Penguin.
Of course, relevance isn’t the only factor worth considering, but it’s certainly the first you should examine. And, as with all elements of a link, relevance needs to be analyzed at both the page and domain level.
The page level should always be strictly relevant — if the link doesn’t make contextual sense on the page, the link will be useless or worse.
Domain to domain relevance should be a goal, as well, although there will be times that the link only makes relevant sense at the page level. A good example of a quality link lacking domain relevance would be a link from the New York Times to, say, a Mom blog. Obviously, the Mom blog would and should be thrilled to have the link, despite the lack of domain relevance.

Link Type

Link type is the second consideration when analyzing a link. This means both the way the link is formed and the manner in which it’s linking, both of which make a difference in link quality.
First, let’s examine the different ways a link can be formed:
• Anchor Text Link. Anchor text is the visible, clickable text of the link. Anchor text links are the most common and best way to increase search ranking for a targeted keyword; although, Penguin will punish over-optimization. The words used as anchor text can include branded, keyword-rich, partial branded, long tail, etc. Variety is extremely important in organic link building.
• Naked URL. A naked URL is when the full path URL used as the anchor text (http://www.example.com/). These are a very natural way to link, although not as powerful as an anchor text link.
• Citation Link. Citation links are the condensed version of a naked URL, e.g., pageonepower.com instead of http://pageonepower.com/. Citation links tend to be more powerful if your web address is the same as your brand name (i.e., Page One Power and pageonepower.com).
• Image Link. An image link is when an image is used as the link — in other words, clicking the image takes you to a new page. These are good for link diversity, as long as the alt attribute tag is properly utilized (this tag acts as the link’s anchor text, although it’sslightly less powerful).
• Short Link. A short link is a condensed or shortcut URL that will redirect you to a full URL (e.g., http://selnd.com/NqXlw). These links need to be examined to see how they’re redirecting to determine whether they’re passing link equity.
Each of the above methods of linking has its pluses and minuses, and each has an impact on the quality of the link. Now, let’s look at the different manners of linking:
• Direct. A normal, regular link which takes you straight to the intended page. There’s nothing to impede link equity or link quality.
• Redirect. A redirect is a link that takes you to one page, which then passes you on to another page. This can mean link equity is lost if Google’s crawlers can’t follow the redirect, which will make the link virtually worthless for SEO purposes (outside of referral traffic). Redirected links need to be checked to see whether they are permanent (301) redirects or temporary (302) redirects — 301s pass link equity, but 302s pass little to no link equity.
• Site-wide. A site-wide backlink (video autoplay) is located on every page of the entire linking site. Typically this happens when the link occurs in the footer/sidebar of the site. This can be natural, and Google often counts these as a single link. In some cases, Google may even red flag site-wide links (especially if it’s a pattern), which can bring the wrath of Penguin.
• JavaScript. Often times, JavaScript is used to create drop-down, fly-out or mega menus on a site. Though these are often SEO-friendly, it all depends on how they are coded.
• Nofollow. Nofollow is an html tag which tells Google crawlers to ignore the link. This means the site owner specifically chose not to pass link equity. Google advises using the nofollow tag for paid links or links to websites you don’t specifically trust. There are different arguments about whether or not these have any value, as Google is vague about how they treat them. A few nofollow links are very natural within a site’s backlink profile.
The goal here is to build naturalistic links. You want a variety of naked URL, citation, image and anchor text links. Variety within the anchor text links themselves is essential as well — you should be using a mix of branded terms, partial branded terms, long tail keywords, exact match keywords and synonyms, etc.
As far as the method of linking, you should always strive for direct. Keep an eye on site-wide, redirects and javascript, and be aware of their potential to diminish or hurt your SEO efforts.


Authority is the next metric you’ll need to measure in order to determine link quality. This was overvalued in the past, often being placed above relevance.
In today’s link building world, authority is still an important link metric. However, if the link isn’t relevant, or the link is created in an artificial/poor manner, then authority won’t be enough to move the needle.
Authority can be measured in a variety of ways, depending on personal preference. There’s the PageRank toolbar, which I don’t recommend as Google only updates it periodically (and it isn’t a great metric to begin with).
Then there’s the toolbar from Moz, which includes the metrics Domain Authority, Page Authority and MozRank. I’ve found this to be the most convenient tool to use as it’s lightweight, accurate and free.
There’s also Alexa Toolbar, of course.
Regardless of how you decide to determine authority, bear in mind that it’s more of a quality check than a determining factor — you want to meet minimum thresholds, not chase the purple dragon of high authority. For link quality, we’ve had much better results acquiring natural links from highly relevant niche sites than chasing after a link from the New York Times.
Make sure to check the authority of the page and the domain, as both will impact link quality.
And, don’t wholly rely on toolbars to tell you a site’s quality, either. Check traffic levels withSEMrush, check out social media engagement and blog comments (if there’s a blog), etc. Check for signs of actual life on the site, and the quality of engagement.


The location of the link on the page is the next factor in link analysis. Where the link is located plays a role in how much link equity is passed. Here’s a sliding scale of link placement, from best to worst:
  1. In content
  2. Boxed out of content (e.g. author bio box)
  3. Sidebar
  4. Footer
Although old, Rand Fishkin’s article, All Links Are Not Created Equal, still does an outstanding job explaining basic link principles; and, I highly encourage you to take the time to read it.
Now obviously, you can’t always control link placement — in fact, it’s far better to have a link make contextual sense than to be shoehorned in to increase link equity. But for understanding and analyzing links, keep in mind that the location of the link does affect the link’s overall quality.

Smell Test

SEO is in some ways an art as much as it is a science. When analyzing a link, it’s important to look beyond link metrics. The site as a whole needs at least a quick quality analysis.
One thing I’ve learned from doing thousands of quick site analyses is this: don’t be afraid to listen to your instincts.
In link building, I refer to this as the “smell test” — our noses know when a site stinks, sometimes even before we can logically determine it.
Don’t be afraid to listen to your gut, your nose or whatever anatomical part you’d like to metaphorically engage.
More specifically, here’s what I typically look at when performing a quick and dirty smell test:
  • Other outbound links on the page and even domain
  • Content quality, both page and domain
  • Website or brand information
  • Contact information
  • Date/frequency of blog posts (if there is a blog)
Basically, scan through the site with a critical eye. Do they have a blog? Is it up to date? How’s the content quality? Do they have an in-depth About page? Are they linking out to irrelevant sites? Do they have an address in the contact page? What about a phone number? Who runs the site? What’s their background?
All of these questions will separate the wheat from the chaff — a real website from a thinly veiled spam site.
Once again, this is to make sure your link isn’t in a bad “link neighborhood.” Check the site for quality practices outside of link metrics. Spend enough time scouring the web and you’ll develop a keen sense of site quality, quickly.

Putting it all Together

The point of breaking down and analyzing a link is to better understand a strong link versus a weak link and what separates the two.
If you’re worried about a link, simply check:
  • Page and Domain Relevance
  • Link type
  • Site Authority
  • Link Placement
  • Website Smell Test
By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of the value of the link, not to mention an idea of the quality of the linking website.
The goal should be good links on sites that make sense, which will continue to have a positive ongoing impact on your SEO efforts.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.
Source:  Searchengineland.com


Google Search Redesigns

Yesterday, Google launched a new design of the stock quotes “card” at the top of its search results. The new card dropped links to competing financial websites, something Google previously had in place since 2000. But after attention was drawn to the fact, Google quietly restored the links.
Google Operating System noted the change and the drop of competitor links yesterday, as didTechCrunch. And that’s what we saw when we first posted this story at 9:22am ET today:
Compare the new card above to the old one below, and you can see how the links to competitors were removed:
Google has provided stock quotes at the top of its results for searches on stock symbols since 2000, and those quotes have included links to competitors since that time.
A few hours after our story on this originally went up, however, Google updated the new look to restore competitor links. Actually, what seems to have happened is that it went back to the old design as shown at the top of this article.
Was the new design a brief test? A reconsideration after attention was drawn to removal of competitor links? We don’t know, but we’ve asked Google for more.
Postscript: A Google spokesperson sent us a statement, “We’re always experimenting with new formats and features for answers in Search, but we don’t have anything specific to announce here.”
Source : http://searchengineland.com/


Keyword Research After The Keyword Tool

One of the primary ways SEO changed forever in 2013 was Google’s move to 100% secure search  — otherwise known as “Keyword Not Provided.”  SEOs long accustomed to measuring their performance at the keyword level have been forced to rethink their measurement criteria in order to prove the value of their efforts.   
Secure Search Brightedge Methodolgy
After Google’s announcement in late September 2013, SEOs may have seen charts such as the one below that show a sharp decrease in organic traffic from keywords ranked on Page 1. Yet organic visits to the site may not have actually declined; it’s just that the keyword traffic data is no longer available.
Without visibility into keyword traffic data, this long-standing metric of SEO success is now outdated. The “new SEO” must now look for new ways of measuring success. Rank is one measure of success, but rank isn’t useful without real traffic data to put into context. Analytics is the “Source of Truth,” and Secure Search requires a new way of looking at analytics.
Source: BrightEdge

A New Framework For SEO In 2014

Below, I have highlighted a framework for building a successful SEO methodology in the world of Google’s Secure Search. This contains three steps and two key enablers.

1. Start With Pages

Keywords drive traffic, but pages convert. The page is the next level of granularity up from the keyword that can be easily measured. A user performs a search, clicks on a link on the SERP and arrives at a page. The page is where content resides, whether that content is meant to inform or entertain, capture leads or sell a product. The page — not the keyword — is the primary element with which the searcher interacts with your company. Unless the keyword is a brand name, the keyword is only the means by which the user arrives at your website and begins an interaction with your company.
In light of Google’s other changes in 2013, such as the shift to semantic search, the page is a better measure of performance than the keyword. The keyword can be generic, and the page is specific to your business. More importantly, the page is the place where the interaction with your content happens — and the place where you convert searchers into customers.
To transition to a page-centric SEO measurement approach, first establish baseline performance at the page level by ensuring that you have visibility into traffic, conversions and revenue for each page. Actual (not estimated) data is necessary here in order to understand how exactly your pages are performing and to take the next step in mapping your content (pages) to demand.

2. Pair Pages To Keywords

Keywords are still the primary engine of the SEO process, since it’s how users find your pages. And the ranking of your pages on those keywords is an important metric for correlating performance of the page.
Rank still matters (and it always will). Adopting page-based SEO does not mean the end of rank data. Rank data is essential for measuring the success of SEO activities. In 2014, tracking rank has become a multidimensional task, as rankings (and user intent) often differ by device type (mobile, tablet or desktop), location (city and country), and placement in Universal results.
When correlating rank data to conversions, it’s important to note which high-ranking pages are under-performing in conversions, or which low-ranking pages have high conversions. This type of analysis gives you insight into strategies for future success, particularly as you shift from a mindset of “How do I rank for this query?” to an audience-centric mindset of “How do I best answer the questions my users have?” in a post-Hummingbird environment.
Keyword discovery is still a necessary component for creating pages that answer user questions. Using keyword discovery tools gives you visibility into user intent and can inform the creation of pages that answer real questions users have, in the language they use to search.

3. Plan, Execute & Track

Page is the new center of the SEO Universe. Page-centric planning, execution, and measurement means that page conversions (not keyword conversions) will be the metric of success. The planning of goals and the implementation of tasks will work toward that end.
Just in the way that you likely already group keywords, it’s now necessary to group pages by similar criteria appropriate to your business, whether that’s product type, audience type or line of business. Once pages are grouped, it’s easier to plan activities based on business priorities and measure the success of those activities through rank improvement and, more importantly, conversions.

Enabler 1: Wire In Powerful Data Sources

All data is relevant and connected. Integrated and accurate data from sources such as Google Webmaster Tools and tools like Majestic SEO are essential in a Secure Search environment.
Google Webmaster Tools’ keyword click and impression data provides partial visibility into your success in the face of “Keyword (Not Provided).” Backlink data gives you a picture of what the search engines see about not only your site but also your competitors’ sites.

Enabler 2: Utilize Technology To Manage Data At Scale

The right technology platform allows you to integrate data from site analytics, backlink trackers, social platforms and Google Webmaster Tools. When you can see your rank, keyword, social and content data in comprehensive dashboard reports, you’ll get laser-sharp visibility into the success of your pages and will be able to make decisions on how to prioritize future activities with ease. The right technology partners have deep relationships with the search engines and make frequent product enhancements, helping you stay abreast of the evolving search landscape.
As Dave Lloyd of Adobe says, “You’ve got to deploy the tools that will help keep your team ahead of SEO changes and rapidly respon­sive to mar­ket changes.” Without these tools, your best page optimization efforts could find you outranked and with declining conversion rates.


With secure search here to stay, page-centric SEO is the next evolutionary step in a 15-plus-year-old industry that had been overly focused on the keyword. Adopting a page-centric SEO methodology that pairs keywords to pages in 2014 is a “must do” strategy. Make sure that you focus on planning, execution and tracking to optimize page conversion. Doing so ensures that SEOs will continue to “earn” their rightful place in digital marketing mix going forward.


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