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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

What makes a good backlink?

We want to make sure that when we get the backlink, it’s from either a relevant page, or the domain is relevant to our own website. We want to feel that the backlink was earned, so they decided to link to us on merit. That’s what Google wants. That’s white hat SEO. And ideally the backlink should be from an authoritative page, an authoritative domain, so page authority, domain authority.

Keywords in anchor text can help. Relevancy will be part, but this can be quite a risky thing to do as well. So we’ll want relevancy in anchor text in a natural way. And the other thing with what makes a good backlink is ideally it has the potential to bring good referral traffic. So, imagine that we’re not thinking about SEO at all, would that site bring good referral traffic to your website? If the answer is yes, that’s a really good sign that you’ve got a good backlink. And what I would say is, as much as there are a lot of factors that make up a good backlink, it’s rare that you’ll get it perfect each time. So just bear that in mind.

A backlink profile is essentially how search engines see all the backlinks to your site. To have a good backlink profile there is a couple of things you can do.

  • Diversity: Ideally, you want to have a range of backlinks. For example, if 90% of all of your backlinks were from guest blogging, it looks a bit odd to search engines. Try to mix up the types of backlinks to your site.
  • Natural links: Backlinks should look natural and not paid. You want the majority of your links to be earned.
  • Range of pages: Try to get some diversity when it comes to the pages on your site that are being linked to. If they all come to the home page it might give the indication that the rest of your content just isn’t very interesting.
  • Anchor text: Be careful with anchor text. You shouldn’t really be asking other websites to link to you with certain phrases in them. If you do, it might get picked up by search engines that it looks unnatural and could trigger a penalty.

Avoiding a Penguin penalty

One of the most common ways that you can get a penalty is when Google considers that you’re building unnatural links. Unnatural links occur when you’re building links not on your own merit. That’s not to say you just create a blog post and you forget about it. If you get a backlink, then great. Sometimes blog posts need promotion, you need to contact influential people, and you need to be proactive.

However, if you’re doing it in an unethical way that seems fake and unnatural, that’s where Google Penguin might pick you up and give you a penalty. So, this is quite an interesting case study. So, icelolly.com is a UK travel price comparison website, and it kind of looks quite interesting.

So, the middle of January 2012, they had a sudden spike in SEO visibility. So maybe they started using an SEO agency from the first of January, and they started buying lots of backlinks, that could be what happened. And their traffic just increased and increased, and they were doing really, really well until May 2013, which coincided with the release of Penguin 2.0.

It appears that what happened here is Penguin 1.0 wasn’t sophisticated enough to work out that they were building fake backlinks, but 2.0 was. And we can see it had a massive impact on their SEO visibility. They really nosedived. And if we look at this example, these are keywords where they ranked before Penguin 2.0, and after Penguin 2.0. We can see for cheap holidays they went from position one to position 65. So, they went from as much traffic as they could get pretty much for cheap holidays, to pretty much getting no traffic.

So, why did this happen? Well, they took the old school approach to link building, and at that time even this was considered spammy at that time. They basically tried to get as many backlinks as possible with cheap holidays in the anchor text. So, in fact it was actually 43% or just over 43% all their backlinks had this key phrase that they wanted to rank for, and that just looks unnatural.

Your highest anchor text backlink keyword should really be your brand, that’s the most common thing for most websites. And when it starts to become a transactional keyword then it’s quite easy for search engines to detect something untoward, and maybe your website might get manually reviewed, maybe you’ll get an algorithmic penalty, but it’s quite easy to spot. And three years later Ice Lolly recovered from their penalty, but for three years they pretty much got no Google traffic. It was a severe penalty.

So, when you do have a penalty you can recover in a week, it can take three years. It can take even longer. It depends how bad your black hat SEO activity has been.  

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Joe Williams

Managing Director and SEO Trainer at Zen Optimise

  • Founder and SEO Trainer at Zen Optimise with 10 years’ experience in Search Engine Optimization
  • Zen Optimise is a London-based digital marketing training company
  • SEO consultant and trainer for hundreds of small, medium, and blue chip companies including Qantas Airlines, Sky, Eurostar, EasyCruise, and Anti-Slavery
Joe Williams

Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

DMI Short Course: GDPR

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ABOUT THIS DIGITAL MARKETING MODULE

SEO Workshop
Joe Williams Joe Williams
Skills Expert

This module covers the basic concepts that underpin SEO. It introduces methods for improving technical SEO and on-page optimization of a website. It explains how to plan and implement a strategic SEO campaign and also covers the best practices for successfully building and maintaining backlinks to a website.

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