in today’s blog we looking at how to avoid poor quality link building. Poor quality links exist across the web and with today’s modern SEOs trying desperately to grow their clients domain profiles as part of an SEO service, its created a marketplace for blog owners and link re-sellers.
So what is poor quality link Building?
Poor quality link building is the practice of obtaining irrelevant external backlinks to a client website and not focusing on the linking websites quality but rather focusing on the linking domain metrics only.
Are links still of importance?
Yes they are.
Even to date, links are still fairly heavily weighted in terms of SEO value, although there is no specific weight logic as this very much depends on the niche / Google’s algorithm updates. With that in mind, earning links in a saturated marketplace can be difficult and costly. One thing that SEO agencies and Freelancers know is that clients investing in SEO can have fairly steep expectations, especially if they’re spending thousands of £ a month – for that reason, speeding up link acquisition is often key (even if it’s not the right way to go about it).
Welcome to the world of poor quality link building.
With the ever growing demand for links + the ease of setting up websites thanks to quick CMS deployment i.e. WordPress, there has been an explosion of bloggers/site owners and website link re-sellers, all desperate to pedal their links for fees.
We see huge networks of websites, built with the sole purpose of selling links and making money. With site owners, bloggers and link re-sellers pushing to do more, there has been significant increases in the number of websites/domains with artificially inflated domain metrics and scraped/spun/cloned content to help attract more link sales by making the site look and appear more genuine.
Link re-sellers now often, using random GMAIL / YMAIL / Hotmail accounts will target website owners, SEO agencies and freelancers in an attempt to sell more links. E-mails will often reveal one or more sites followed by DA/PA/Trust metrics, an example URL of a post and a price.
So why are people buying these links?
Well, for the most part, it’s convenient and often inexpensive to buy links this way. Historically some of these links may have delivered value which has encouraged more people to buy them.
Others buy them because they don’t look far enough into the domain and instead, go by face-value metrics from the e-mail, or by looking up the metrics only in link tools but not digging below the surface. Buying a DA 50 link for $100 might seem like great value, especially if the website looks genuine.
Another popular reason behind purchasing these types of links is simply because it saves time. Many SEO agencies or freelancers can sometimes feel under pressure to deliver an SEO strategy which is often underpinned by links and therefore will resort to buying these types of links, especially if a client has had their expectations mismanaged or if the campaign simply hasn’t performed.
The most common reasons behind low value/low cost link building include:
- Minimising budget deficit / minimising spend
- Speeding up link acquisition / domain metric growth
- Speeding up ranking growth
- Perceived client value for money
- Quick turnaround time
How do you avoid poor quality link building?
The answer to this one is quite subjective but firstly and foremost is to not buy links from link resellers, link networks or blogger sites. Whilst not all blog sites and link reseller sites are of poor quality many of them will have artificial domain metrics, cloned/duplicate content and other spammy tactics to help them appear more genuine.
Instead, focus on good, high value link acquisition by leveraging sustainable strategies such as writing exceptionally high quality content and distributing it, giving people free tools, media, infographics, offering top tips and things that are useful, contributing to niche relevant platforms and more.
Avoid buying links from cold email outreach or through targeted link ads, avoid buying links which appear to be good value for money (unless you know, categorically that the website is of good quality).
The best tips to follow to avoid poor quality link building:
- Do not buy links from domains that have good domain figures but terrible traffic statistics in SEMRUSH.
- Do not buy links from domains that have good domain figures (i.e. trust flow, Domain authority, Page Authority, URL Rank) but poor quality inbound referring domains
- Do not buy links from domains that have accrued a significant volume of referring domains in a short-time span
- Do not buy links from domains that have been drop-caught
- Do not buy links from domains that have a high volume of outbound links
- Do not buy links from domains where most of the inbound links are to the root of the domain (without at least 20% of the links pointing to internal pages)
- Do not buy links from domains that have lots of inbound forum links, odd CCTld’s or comment spam
- Do not buy links from domains where the domain has duplicate content / content scraped from other websites
- Do not buy links from domains where the content is of poor quality and written in bulk to a very low standard
- Do not buy links from domains where the anchor profile is saturated with random words/information
- Avoid buying links from link re-sellers – it’s likely that the links will be resold into the future, eventually devaluing the domain
- Don’t buy links from domains that do not have history – it’s quick and easy to check a domains history in https://archive.org/web/ wayback machine
- Don’t buy links from websites which link out excessively
- Don’t buy links from websites that openly resell links
- Don’t buy links from websites of an irrelevant nature
So the next time you get one of these link offers, here are some nifty things you can do to make a real decision about whether a website offers a good link opportunity?
Firstly, go to SEMRUSH.COM and put the domain in the Domain Analytics tool >
What you want to be looking for is:
- How much traffic is the domain getting? if the domain has a high authority i.e. DA 50 / URL Rank 50 but the traffic is very low i.e. less than 5k a month than it should be treated as suspicious
- How does the traffic look over time? has it fallen substantially over time? any big historic drops? Any sharp climb and decline?
- What are the top organic keywords and keywords overall? Seeing lots of odd terms? irrelevant keywords? It could be a strong indicator of spam / poor quality website content
Using SEMRUSH, you should be able to deduce whether or not the site is spammy or whether it has any actual value.
- The website has good, strong growth over time, ideally 3-5 years with no sharp declines and no recovery
- The websites top organic keywords and keyword profile are semantically relevant to the domains theme and that the profile of content is consistent or varied within a consistent niche
If you see:
- Significant traffic decline historically with no recovery then it could indicate a historic Google Penalty
- Sharp growth in a very short-time span (less than 6 months) then it should be investigated to make sure the growth is not temporary as a result of underhanded tactics (scraped content / PBN)
- Irrelevant, odd keywords as part of the TOP ORGANIC KEYWORDS then this is a very strong indicator of spam
You can further evaluate the domain using AHREFS / MAJESTIC and MOZ to evaluate the link profile. I tend to do them sequentially starting with AHREFS >
What is key to look for >
- Look at the referring domains, look at the growth over time, look at the scales, if you see hundreds of referring domains a year that could be a negative indicator (depending on the site size in index, Wayback history and SEMRUSH performance). Not all high performance growth is spam, but, for smaller sites it is unusual to see large referring domain growth.For example, in the SEMRUSH snapshot, if you see very little organic traffic growth i.e. less than 10,000k visits a month yet you see referring domain growth of say 100-200 referring domains a year, that would be borderline suspicious. If you saw 1k a month organic traffic and 300 referring domains a year then without a doubt, likely to be spam
- Look at URL rank and Domain Rank – look for significant differences between the figures, this is also a good indicator for spam at ROOT domain level. Page level works differently, although, most pages on a website will not follow too far behind the root domain on a good quality website
- Look at the referring domains / backlinks, are they relevant? where does the domain receive link equity from? Do you see lots of poor quality links? odd link metrics? What you want to be looking for is the source of the domain growth and how the links have been placed.
- Look at the backlink anchor profile for the domain – again, lots of random irrelevant words is indicative of a spammy website
Combining SEMRUSH and AHREF data is a highly effective way to route out poor quality domains / domains with artificially spun referring domain profiles >
What else you can do to identify poor quality websites / avoid poor quality link building
- Use tools like CopyScape or Siteliner to check the domain for duplicate content or content scraped from other websites. This is a really good way to see if the content is unique to the domain or whether it has been cloned/duplicated.
- Check the domain in Google, check the site using the site: command, look through the index, see how far into Google search results you can go before you get supplemental results
- Look at the websites cache dates in Google, poor caching performance can be attributed to a poor quality website, especially at the root of the domain
- Look at the website in Wayback machine, check the old snapshots, was the website something else in the past? was the domain drop caught and re-purposed?
The UK Link Building Marketplace
The UK link building marketplace has rocketed each year. We surveyed over 230 link building/marketing agencies in the UK as well as collecting poll data. Our findings revealed the following:
9 out of 10 UK SEO Agencies participated in unscrupulous link building techniques in 2018
It’s not surprising given that traditional link building strategies that are ethical tend to involve a lot more work and time, which, in the SEO industry can create real headache when client’s see a lack of results.
2 out of 10 UK SEO Agencies used black hat link building techniques (PBNs)
Alarmingly some agencies have resorted to PBN networks to encourage organic growth.
Over 40% of SEO companies put link building as the most difficult aspect of SEO
Whilst logically link building might not be difficult, doing it properly can be.
7/10 SEO Freelancers and Consultants Regularly Buy Links
Surprisingly it seems that SEO freelancers and consultants are less likely to buy links over an agency. Perhaps budget constraints are responsible for this trend.