There’s a lot to cover when it comes to a website’s link profile. Yet, it seems like such a simple topic; get a bunch of links, and your site gets known, right? Well, not really. In our estimation, to have a healthy and diverse link profile, there’s an approach and methodology. In this article we’ll cover the following:
- What’s a backlink?
- What’s a natural link?
- What’s an internal link?
- What’s an external link?
- How to check a website’s link profile.
- What makes up a good site link profile?
- How to maintain your site’s link profile.
What is a website link profile?
In the early days, Google’s algorithm was based on relevance (which they calculated as popularity). So how did they calculate popularity? The shear volume of links incoming to a website, web page, or website image. Now a lot has changed in the last 25 years, and while Google remains a black box (we SEOs do our best, but we don’t know with 100% certainty any of Google’s magic formulas), we know relevance is still a significant factor (although it’s calculated with much more complexity now than my popularity example afforded).
A link profile is comprised of two high-level factors: Internal and External Links. Internal links are anchor tags pointing to pages within your site. External links (also known as “incoming links” or “backlinks”) are links from other domains to your website.
Which are more important? Backlinks (external links) or Internal site linking?
While this fluctuates, external links (backlinks) are still more important than internal links. If we were to put a numerical representation to it, I would estimate a 3:1 level of importance. If your budgeting for search engine optimization and your link profile is a line item, I’d focus 75% of resources on external link efforts and 25% (or less) on internal link refinement.
What are internal links?
Internal links on a website are the links each page has to other pages within the same domain. In other words, if your site is a house, it’s the bathroom telling you there’s a kitchen or the living room telling you there are three bedrooms. Internal links help users and search engines understand the full breadth of pages on your website. We use the term “Internal Link Mapping” when working on this for clients.
It might help to use a visual when thinking about an internal link map. Visualize for a moment a nature documentary that shows a spider web glistening in the morning dew. In this depiction, you can see the interconnected points and how each intersection of a spider web leads to another connecting point. If you focus on one intersection, you might not understand the full expanse of the entire web. But since each intersection (page) extends in multiple directions (links) it’s easier to understand the scale of the entire web (website).
What are external links (aka backlinks)?
A backlink is a link from a different domain pointed at a page on your domain. E.g., www.externaldomain.com has a link on its page pointing to www.yourdomain.com/your-product (a page on your website). Have high-quality and diverse backlinks is a huge golden nugget in the SEO world. A lot of SEO experts consider backlinks an element of off-site SEO.
External Links also come from other places: email, social media, paid traffic, etc. If backlinks are simply from other sites, external (incoming) links can come from anywhere. Maybe a newsletter, advertising campaign, or a plethora of different marketing mediums.
It’s essential to have external links coming into your site. Remember how I stated relevance was still a significant factor? External links represent a signal to search engines that others find the content on your site valuable. The more authentic external links that point to your site, the more importance Google will place on your site (and page), and higher up the search engine results pages (SERPs) your site will go.
What is a good link profile?
A good website link profile is comprised of a well-curated internal linking scheme and healthy, trustworthy external links (backlinks).
How does my website get a healthy and unique backlink profile?
Having backlinks that are high-quality is more important than having a high volume of backlinks. One external link from a NY Times article is more valuable than 1000 external links from bobsfishshack.com.
What is Link Diversity?
It’s also important to have diversity in the external links coming into your site. E.g., links coming from your social profiles, organic/paid traffic, high-quality websites (different domains), email campaigns, etc. are great! Think of diversity in links in two ways: the unique number of domains and the unique type of marketing mediums. External link diversity really is all about spreading the wealth.
A quick list of factors to consider to improve external link diversity:
- Source/Influence Level: Is that source trustworthy and influential in my industry? Where are the links coming from? Are they spread across different domains/mediums? Are backlink domains diverse and trustworthy? Etc.
- Marketing Mix: are the backlinks to my site coming from high authority sites? Are they coming from different marketing mediums (and what’s that distribution look like)?
- Domain Ratings: Are my backlinks real? Never buy backlinks that produce volume over quality. Do any of the links pointing to my site look fake and low-quality? Is there a bunch of links from the same site? Is the domain itself high-quality? Would I be proud to show my grandmother the site linking to mine?
How do I improve my internal website links?
The easiest way is to start going page by page to ensure the content of the site is maximizing any opportunities to link to other internal content. For a page or article with 500-800 words of content, try to add one or two internal site links. Double that for 1000 – 1500 words, and so on and so forth.
The more extensive way to improve your internal link web is to create a hierarchical map that prioritizes the differing levels of your site and assigns internal link quantities at each level. You also want to add schema code that instructs google at which level each page is within your site architecture. Contact us to discuss the complexities of this step if you’d like more information.
SEO: How Do I check my website’s link profile?
We use a plethora of industry tools to check client link profiles. For external links, Google “website backlink profile analysis.” For internal link analysis, you’ll want to use a site crawling tool. There’s many out there and you can google something like “website crawl tool” to find what works for you.
How can I maintain and monitor my backlinks?
Monitoring and maintaining a healthy external link profile really is just an exercise in using your favorite analysis tool (look right above this section for info on finding tools that work for you) at a consistent interval. What is a consistent monitoring interval? For smaller sites, you can get away with checking every six months or quarterly. For large or enterprise sites, we recommend monthly (if not quarterly at a minimum).
Steps for monthly link profile maintenance:
Each month do the following:
- Use your favorite tool(s) to analyze what’s going on with your link profile.
- Compile a list of the top 3 – mission-critical first – items you’d like fixed.
- Create a plan of attack to fix.
- Fix the items over the next month.
- Disavow any spammy domains in a backlink list
- Recheck the items with your favorite link profile tool(s) to ensure they’re fixed.
- Rinse and Repeat next month.
How will Google react to an influx of low quality, high volume links?
A better way to approach this might with a question like can competitors buy links to negatively impact my site? So if the question is, “how will Google respond?” that’s a hard one. Realistically, we see search engines drop sites in rankings all the time due to high-volume, low-quality link buys all the time! At the same time, John Mueller w/ Google says this:
“We probably ignore them…”
You can search Twitter for a million responses from @johnmu on if you should disavow spammy links or not. Our advice? YES, disavow any unnatural link placements and DO NOT buy high-volume, low-quality links. We simply don’t know if Google is counting them against you or not (regardless of what Mueller tells us, sometimes the evidence is contrary to his statements). If you need help on link buying, contact ENDURANCE.
The Gist on Website Link Profiles?
A large majority of what makes SEO work can be vaguely siphoned down into Link Profile + Content + Authority = Success. The Gist? A site’s link profile is massively important and if you’re having issues doing this yourself, just ask a question. We are always willing to answer or consult with you at no commitment or charge (I promise).