13th May, 2013

Much talk has been made of the value of back links since the Google Penguin update.

Let’s go back to the beginning and understand where the term ‘PageRank’ originated from, what it is used for and how it is calculated.

At this point you might be thinking what has PageRank got to do with the Google Penguin update?  Well, PageRank is named after Larry Page, the co-founder of Google. It was the mathematical equation that he had a physics professor put together that was one of the fundamental foundation building blocks of the Google algorithm and that’s why Google was different to the other search engines.

PageRank is still useful

pagerank diagram

Put simply PageRank is calculated by every page on the Internet having a miniscule value assigned to it simply because it exists. A web page’s PageRank value is increased simply by it receiving links from other web pages.

For example let’s assume every page on the Internet starts off with a PageRank value of .01.

Let’s imagine that web page A receives one link from 50 different websites and thus has a total PageRank value of 2.0.  If web page A were to place a link to web page B it may well be that PageRank value of web page B would be 1.0 with just one link!

How does this affect which SEO backlink services you should avoid?

seo link building

It has always been the case that the most valuable links are from web pages that have a high PageRank value and that don’t link out to many other websites.

It is unlikely that Google ever thought, when putting its original algorithms together, that people would place thousands of links on poor quality websites (i.e. websites that have no back links/credibility of their own) just to manipulate the search engines… but this is exactly what has happened!

In fact Google have a ‘spam’ team, headed up by Matt Cutts, and that’s what they spend most of their time doing.

Google Penguin update

google penguin update

The primary role of the Google Penguin update is to filter out thousands of low quality back links because Google knows that, in the majority of cases, thousands of back links from a low quality websites are usually just spam and a blatant attempt to manipulate the search engines!

So to keep it simple…. The SEO backlink services that you should avoid are low quality back links from low quality websites!


Are directories and blog comments poor quality?

directory & blog submissions

Lots of people think that where your back links are from can be categorised into low or high quality?  For example some people think that all links from business directories will be poor quality backlinks.  This is not the case.  There are still thousands of business directories that are run by humans, meaning your submission has to be approved by someone before it will be posted to the site.  Most directory websites that have an automated process for submissions, tend to be poor quality because the automated process leaves them open to being spammed by thousands of gaming and Viagra websites!

One of the common places to get backlinks from is blog commenting… This is where you place a comment on someone else’s blog post with the sole purpose of getting a backlink to your website.  Again, some websites have an automated approval process of blog comments which leave them open to being spammed.

However, if it is a genuine website there will be a human who approves all comments before they go live on the website. This manual approval process, stops spam and keeps standards high which means a backlink is more than likely going to be valuable for your site!

How to check the quality of SEO backlink services

If you are in any doubt there are a few checks you can easily do to check the quality of your SEO backlink service.

Firstly, ask your service provider for a list of all of the full URLs of where your back links have been placed. For each of these URLs go into Google and type “site:URL” into the search box.

Google will then show you whether that URL has been placed into its index. You may now be asking why would you want to know this? Well your backlink service provider may give you a list of 100 URLs that appear to contain lots of links to your website. However it might be that these URLs are never crawled by Google which means that they are ineffective as backlinks to your website.

If you check each of these URLs and find that they are all in the Google index, this at least means that they are pages that Google is actually looking at which means they can then provide some value to you as a backlink!


How to check the quality of a backlink

checking backlinks

If the website is a PageRank value of greater than zero it’s probably safe to assume that any backlink coming from this for page will have good credibility.

A well trusted SEO data gathering company called MajesticSEO.com have an excellent tool that will quickly tell you the trust of a website.

Simply go to their website and type in the URL and look for the trust value. Any website with the trust value of greater than 10 usually indicates that the website is likely to come into the realms of being a Google Penguin candidate.  Therefore any links from a website that has the trust value greater than 10 are likely to be good.

The above tests show whether a web page has some quality/credibility attached to it or not. However some unscrupulous SEO backlink service providers will build up the credibility of a website and once they have done this they will then use the website by placing dozens, hundreds or even thousands of links on that website to pass its credibility to their clients.

If you see URLs that have a link to your website…. that also have more than 20 external links to other websites…. alarm bells should start to ring. Pages that have more than 100 links should be avoided as these will soon get marked as a link network by Google and thus could potentially, become a negative backlink for your website.

A simple rule of thumb is… If you look at the URL that contains a backlink to your website and it looks okay it probably is okay! If it looks a bit dodgy…. Or a bit spammy… like a human would never want to read that page – it probably isn’t of good SEO value either!

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