22nd May, 2013

Is there a need for an SEO backlink checker?

Backlinks are the external links coming into a website from outside sources, so it’s no wonder Google uses these to measure a site’s credibility. The reason being is because backlinks, as Google sees them, are little recommendations from different sites, as if it was a point scoring game and the more you have the better you are. Well this unfortunately is no longer the case.  In fact unless you are doing things properly, naturally,  credibly and keeping them on theme, Google will either not bother with the low quality links or penalise the site altogether so we’ll explore further the merits of using an SEO backlink checker.

How Important Are Backlinks?

seo link building

We talk all the time about the value of content marketing and social media. There is no doubting that these are massive players in the SEO world and in fact the marketing industry as a whole, but what was Google originally based on?  Well it was links.  In fact the owner of Google or it’s creator Larry Page created the search engine called Backrub – better known today as Google. The search engine was originally called Backrub based around the way sites would “rub the back” of other sites. So if you had a link from one site that was a good credible site, on theme and very well placed, then that would act as a recommendation for your site, increasing your popularity and rankings. This has developed, as I am sure you can imagine, into a very indepth and well detailed set of algorithms. When you now look at Google a lot of people will take for granted that whoever comes up on the first page is the best and go with them. As a business this leaves you with a perfect opportunity to utilise a user’s mindset, but do you understand how Google gets to this conclusion about who should be number one for a keyword? It is down to a lot of varying factors but there is one thing it generally boils down to and that is who do they deem to be the best result for the customer?

Quality or Quantity?

When I first broke into the SEO industry I had many pre-conceived ideas and many I was not sure of at all. One of them was ‘quality’ or ‘quantity’. This question is always asked in SEO and it has always been answered differently. However I strongly believe that for backlinks it is all about quality not quantity for an SEO link building tactic that is. Some SEO companies practices are to go and build/find lots of high quantity links to point to your website.  Sometimes they are paid links and other times they are manual blog commenting links; whichever they are, the mindset is based around quantity. Now this can work and there is no problems with doing blog commenting and paying for links, it is all about doing it in the right way. If you are openly going to sites that give you let’s say 1000 links for $5, then you are running the risk, especially if you just sign up, of getting links from a black-listed site or a potential site that could be found by the Penguin Update.  Quality links however are often small quantity, one or sometimes two links from one site that is on theme with your site and has its own credibility. To measure quality can be tricky and there are lots of backlink tools out there like AHREFS or MajesticSEO which both give you very similar data, but ultimately Google will decide on what a credible link is and what isn’t.

Online Sweets Scenario

So let’s use a scenario to help further. You’ve got a new site which is selling sweets online. That’s your keyword and you want to build up a backlink profile for selling sweets online. So you eventually begin ranking for these sorts of keywords. Which backlink approach do you take?

Option 1

You could potentially go out and get lots of paid links from various directory submissions sites, or instruct an SEO company to go out and get you lots of high quantity anchor text focused links, saying the keyword ‘online sweets’.

Option 2

On the other hand you could be build up a backlink profile of low quantity, high quality links from focused places such as sites on theme with yours and doing similar things to you, as well as suppliers,  friends or you can instruct an SEO company to build these quality links.  Again all focused on the keyword ‘online sweets’.

Now if you take the first approach and let’s say these links that you have just gained in a week or so of around 1000 all saying ‘online sweets’ if I was Google right now this to me would be unnatural, not normal and looks pretty spammy.  However, if I did the opposite to this and I was getting some quality links from good places building the backlink profile slowly, it would seem to Google that I am a new site just on the internet and I’m not  paying for all my links, I am earning them.  It shows I am trying to add quality to my backlink profile as well as my site. It can be really tricky for someone who doesn’t really understand SEO to just come in and look at their backlink profile. Especially with some of the tools out there that show you that sort of data. If you do understand backlinks and you can use the data effectively, then by all means use an SEO backlink checker. If you don’t understand them and you are concerned with your backlink profile you can always ask us to have a look and give you some guidance or use any other reputable SEO company who, if they are worth their salt, they should be able to help you with this and give you good, accurate feedback.

Penguin targets links

google penguin update

It has been no secret to anyone that Google introduced a new update in April 2012 and they made it pretty clear why and what it was going to do. For those of you that don’t know exactly what the Penguin Update was introduced to do I will quickly explain.  Penguin was introduced to find and target low quality, high quantity, paid for, spammy links.  In most cases it has been a manual penalty that your Google webmasters notifies you about.  In others it will cause a slight slip in the rankings or a dramatic one.  Now if you know that in the past or now you are getting lots of links from directories, blogs and various other sites, then I urge you to stop trying to get lots of links because that’s the wrong mindset to have.  Instead it should be that you want Google to start to share you website in the results right? So you should give and show Google reasons why you should be shared, why you are an expert on your business area and why you are the best result to be returned in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). Hopefully you can see already how, but just in case here it is again:

Add quality links from on theme places
Add quality content to the site on a regular basis
Focus your site to keywords specifically
Lastly don’t panic!

The last point I have made is a very common one and I can relate to why this problem occurs and people don’t understand exactly why the site has dropped ‘in their eyes’ so dramatically.  I can assure you that a drop onto page 2 is not a dramatic Penguin hit.  In fact if you were hit by Penguin you were probably de-listed or de-indexed altogether.  It most likely means that you have not ticked all the boxes anymore. Google hasn’t just introduced this Penguin update in April it has introduced refresh updates that are going deeper into it sometimes once a month. So please do not be under the impression that if you disavow the links you will be brought back into the same position. Google wants to see you trying to get back there by doing the quality things I have mentioned. For this reason you might feel you need an SEO backlink checker to see if the links are still being added, where they come from and when they arrived.  Again, a good SEO company will advise on this and can help you recover from a Penguin or a slight drop, but the key is to get the strategy right before you start any work.

What to do Next?

If you are concerned with your backlink profile then yes you might want to use the backlink checking tools available or an SEO company can consult and help you as well, but the thing to be mindful of is to be very careful about how you approach it, gather as much information as you can about your backlinks and if you want to remove them try your utmost to do so – don’t head straight to the disavow tool. If you have tried everything you can think of and still nothing then yes use the tool. But unless you proactively try and show Google you are now a quality website doing all the right things the disavow will not return you to the number one position.

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