Other than content, the link structure of a website is one of the most important ranking factors for Google. For the search engine’s crawlers, all links to a domain are of interest, but also the internal page navigation as well as the choice of links to foreign domains (outbound links). A frequent link audit should be on your to-do list.
However, the Google algorithm pays particular attention to what sources the backlinks are from (inbound links). The explanation for that is very simple: the more high-grade the referring page is to Google, the more reliable is the quality of its recommendations. The same applies vice versa: the lower the quality of the link structure’s sources, the more the linked website’s reputation and ranking in the search engine decreases.
Link Audit – The Optimization of the Link Structure
Those that put a lot of effort into optimizing the internal link structure, and consequently equipped promotional outbounds links with appropriate tags, maybe because of a punishment from Google, should also take a look at the inbound links afterwards: For a general “house cleaning”, it makes sense to reduce poor links in regular time periods, to become more attractive for Google due to this link audit. For that, it makes sense to create a list of referring links using an SEO analysis tool or directly using Google Webmaster Tools.
Often, the majority of links is part of a wild mixture of results from link exchange actions, and manual entries into web catalogs, which, for the most part, originate from the page’s launching. On top of that come the organic links that were placed over time by operators of other domains, as the website’s content has convinced them, or because they have published critic comments on the content, and linked your site as the source. These links certainly are, with certain limitations, the most valuable backlinks in the eyes of the search engine.
However, those links that were placed by the operators of plenty of spam pages are “as annoying as flies”. Their only purpose is to make as many webmasters as possible access the page via their analysis tools, to manipulate the access numbers this way. The home of these websites is not rarely located in Russia or the Far East, the content, however, is mostly relevant but not valuable.
Another type of links that almost all webmasters would deny are the paid references. For Google, they are the biggest enemy, unless they are explicitly labeled as advertisements, and equipped with a nofollow tag in the HTML code.
Link Audit: How Can You Tell Which Links Should be Removed?
There are mixed opinions on which links are good for the ranking and which aren’t. As Google still keeps its exact algorithm a secret and frequently updates it, webmasters depend on speculations. However, some factors are entirely unclear:
- Purchased links that carry money keywords, but are not marked as advertisements have a high risk of being detected by Google and contribute to a massive downgrade of the website.
- If there are many entries in rather unsubstantial web catalogs or pages with unfitting topics in the list of inbound links, only those that increase the visitor count should remain. By experience, almost nothing remains with these considerations in mind.
- Those that work with friendly webmasters a lot should analyze if a construction of up to twenty websites could also be recognized as a network by Google. This is the case when references towards each other are plentiful, and maybe even make up the majority of the link structure. In the most cases, such nepotism causes an enormous downgrade of the website’s ranking.
- When in doubt, a manual check can be helpful: Does the linking page leave a competent impression?
- Spam links of websites from overseas, however, can be neglected, as Google has already recognized and has most likely generally devalued them.
Subject: Asking for the Removal of Link Placements on Your Website
Dear Sir or Madam [Last name of the webmaster]
due to recent measures to restructure our link strategy, we want to politely ask you to remove the link to our web presence [URL] on your following page.
(Link Source/Link Text/Link Destination)
www.website-of-the-webmaster.com link text www.your-website.com
Please do not regard our request as a contempt of your website, as it is solely based on technological considerations. We want to thank you in advance for the resultant efforts. If you have any questions and / or ideas, we are happy to be at your disposal.
[Name and signature]
After waiting for a couple of days – without a reply – you can dig deeper using a reminding message that, in the best case, contains the previous email. It is not a rare thing that website owners only answer the second message, as it reminds them of your request.
Often, the webmasters are happy about a short thank you, which will also give you, the applicant, a good feeling, as the removal of links is barely ever connected to an expense allowance.
For links that can not be removed this way, the Google Search Console allows you to upload a Disavow list, which contains the respective URLs. The Google Disavow Tool is a part of the Google Search Console and is used to devalue inbound links. The tool was introduced with the Google Penguin updates, which was introduced to fight links of poor quality.
In conclusion, you can consider the link audit a very effective measure to optimize a web shop or a website, even if the effort might seem to be very high. The most important things are the conscientiously, and in the best case, manually executed valuations of the inbound links, as well as the respectful and polite treatment of the respective webmasters.