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June 1, 2017

3 myths about backlink profiles

Find out why messy anchor text is good, why disavow files still matter and why you shouldn't rely on proprietary metrics

1. Brand terms need to be 100% correct

If you’ve earned a backlink but the webmaster has misspelled your brand name in the anchor text, it’s tempting to fire off an email and demand a correction. But from an SEO point of view, it might be better to let the mistake stand. ‘Natural’ is the watchword for backlink profiles, so a bit of diversity in anchor text is actually a good thing.

The key is to not interfere with how others link to your site. The most important thing is that the link exists, and is correct. If the url itself is incorrect, then yes, that’s a problem – try contacting the webmaster, but if that isn’t successful, create a redirect to ensure that your site can take advantage of some equity from that link.

Just to prove that we practise what we preach, here’s a glimpse of our own anchor cloud:

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 10.10.20

2. Negative SEO has been stamped out

Negative SEO was once a hot topic. If you Google the term and take a quick look at publication dates, it seems to have peaked between 2012 and 2014 – and here in 2017, many people assume that the introduction of real-time Penguin in September 2016 more or less eliminated the risks.

Indeed, Google has recently stated that its algorithms are “designed to prevent these kinds of activities from causing problems for webmasters.”

However, recent news of mass negative SEO extortion threats caused Google’s John Mueller to reinforce on Twitter (below) that the disavow file is your friend in negative SEO situations.

So what do you do to protect yourself against these threats? Firstly you should keep an eye on your backlink metrics, and investigate any sharp increases.

Sadly the data that Google gives you won’t necessarily be good enough to allow you to spot these, so it’s worth investing in a third party tool like Ahrefs or Majestic. They’ll also allow you to set up alerts for new backlinks.

If you find any signs of negative SEO, you should keep a list of all source domains of negative links and keep your disavow file updated with new domains on a regular basis.

3. DR/DA/citation flow/trust flow is the ultimate target

Don’t get us wrong: these proprietary metrics are a very useful way of measuring changes to your backlink profile. We use them ourselves. They only become a problem when marketers fixate on one alone, and treat it as the sole source of truth.

It’s important to keep in mind that any metric from a third party is a subjective view on the quality and diversity of your link profile, based on the tool’s algorithm at the time and the links it can find.

In particular, remember that:

  • Google may find a lot more links than these tools, but just chooses to show us a small selection in Google Search Console
  • These tools can change their algorithms, which will impact their metrics, irrespective of whether your backlink profile has changed

In other words, use these metrics, but take them with a pinch of salt. If a client asks you to use one as a KPI for a project, steer them towards using a range instead. It will give a broader and more objective view of performance.

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