Creating a Robust and Varied Link Profile: A Step-by-Step Guide

  • June 15, 2024
  • SEO
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The realm of search is evolving at an unprecedented rate, with new features, formats, and even new search engines emerging in the space.

Google’s algorithm continues to prioritize backlinks when ranking websites. To ensure your website is visible in search results, you must focus on acquiring backlinks and maintaining a robust backlink profile.

A healthy backlink profile necessitates diversity in backlinks.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into how to build and sustain a diverse backlink profile that enhances your website’s search performance.

What Constitutes a Healthy Backlink Profile?

As emphasized in Google’s guidelines, the search engine primarily crawls pages through links from other pages, which are obtained through both promotion and natural progression over time.

A practical approach to a healthy backlink profile involves three crucial elements: the distribution of link types, the variety of anchor text, and the ratio of followed to nofollowed links.

Let’s explore these elements in detail to understand what a healthy backlink profile should encompass.

Distribution of Link Types

One key aspect of diversifying your backlink profile is ensuring a mix of link types.

A predominance of one type of link may appear unnatural to Google and signal an insufficiently varied content strategy.

Your backlink profile should ideally include:

  • Anchor text links.
  • Image links.
  • Redirect links.
  • Canonical links.

For instance, at my company, Whatfix, our backlink profile as analyzed through Semrush demonstrates this variety:

Screenshot from Semrush, May 2024

Typically, anchor text links and image links should dominate because they are the most prevalent link types online. Nonetheless, other types of links should naturally emerge over time.

Variety of Anchor Text

Another critical component is ensuring a diverse range of anchor texts in your backlink profile.

An overemphasis on a specific type of anchor text can appear suspicious to search engines like Google, potentially leading to negative consequences.

Your backlink profile should include various anchor text types, such as:

  • Branded anchor text – Incorporates your brand name or elements of it.
  • Empty anchor text – Links without anchor text.
  • Naked URLs – URLs used as anchor text (e.g., www.website.com).
  • Exact match keyword-rich anchor text – Anchor text exactly matching the target keyword (e.g., blue shoes).
  • Partial match keyword-rich anchor text – Anchor text partially matching the target keyword (e.g., “comfortable blue footwear options”).
  • Generic anchor text – Common phrases like “this website” or “here.”

For a balanced anchor text distribution, aim for this mix:

  • Branded anchor text – 35-40%.
  • Partial match keyword-rich anchor text – 15-20%.
  • Generic anchor text – 10-15%.
  • Exact match keyword-rich anchor text – 5-10%.
  • Naked URLs – 5-10%.
  • Empty anchor text – 3-5%.

This assortment mirrors natural linking practices. Most anchors will be branded or partially branded because websites tend to use brand names when linking. Partial-match keywords or generic anchor texts come next in frequency.

Exact-match anchor text is less common, typically appearing only when the linked page is a highly relevant resource known to the site owner.

Ratio of Followed vs. Nofollowed Backlinks

Maintaining a balance between followed and nofollowed links is also vital.

If you need a refresher on nofollow backlinks or their usage, consult Google’s guide on qualifying outbound links.

The nofollow attribute should be applied to paid links or links from untrusted sources.

Though having some nofollow links is not unusual, a healthy backlink profile has more followed links. Ideally, aim for an 80%:20% or 70%:30% ratio favoring followed links. For instance, here’s a snapshot from Ahrefs depicting my company’s link ratio:

Referring domains
Screenshot from Ahrefs, May 2024

Additionally, you’ll encounter other rel attributes like UGC or Sponsored. The “UGC” tag is for user-generated content links, while the “Sponsored” tag identifies links from paid sources. These, like nofollow tags, signal to Google that the links aren’t trusted or endorsed by the linking site and can be included in your nofollow ratio.

Why is Diversification of Your Backlink Profile Important?

There are three primary reasons to diversify your backlink profile:

  • Avoiding overoptimization.
  • Diversifying traffic sources.
  • Reaching new audiences.

Let’s explore these points further.

Avoiding Overoptimization

Diversification helps prevent overoptimization, reducing the risk of penalties that could harm your site’s visibility.

Our role as SEO professionals involves optimizing websites to enhance performance. However, excessive optimization in any aspect—be it backlinks, keywords, or structure—can result in penalties, affecting search visibility.

We’ve explored the components of a healthy backlink profile. Deviating too far from this model can make your site appear suspicious and might trigger manual or algorithmic penalties from Google, suppressing your search rankings.

Considering the frequency and opaqueness of Google’s algorithm updates, your performance could decline without clear indicators of why.

Therefore, maintaining a diverse and balanced backlink profile is crucial.

Diversifying Traffic Sources

Another critical reason for a diverse backlink profile is diversify your traffic sources.

Google penalties can be sudden and unexpected. If your website relies heavily on a single traffic source, a penalty can severely impact performance, making recovery challenging.

Diversifying traffic sources—from search, social media, email, etc.—minimizes risk. Similar to diversifying a stock portfolio, varied traffic sources ensure a consistent flow of visitors even if one source experiences a downturn.

Part of cultivating a diverse backlink profile involves obtaining a variety of backlinks and sources, enhancing traffic diversity.

Reaching New Audiences

Finally, a diversified backlink profile exposes your site to new audiences.

Relying on links from the same few websites limits audience expansion and brand awareness. Therefore, strive for links that can introduce your brand to different audiences.

This can be achieved by employing various link acquisition strategies.

A diverse backlink profile suggests a comprehensive approach to SEO and marketing, attracting new visitors and enhancing brand awareness.

Strategies for Building a Diverse Backlink Profile

Having understood the characteristics of a healthy backlink profile and its importance, let’s discuss the strategies to build one.

Effective link building encompasses three main aspects:

  • Foundational links.
  • Content promotion.
  • Community involvement.

Here’s how each area contributes to a diverse backlink profile.

Foundational Links

Foundational links are essential links that your site should naturally have. These are logical connections where a backlink would exist if all websites were aware of each other.

Examples of foundational links include:

  • Mentions – Websites mentioning your brand, products, employees, or proprietary data without linking.
  • Partners – Real-world partners with whom you have offline connections, meriting online linking.
  • Associations or groups – Membership organizations where your site should ideally be linked.
  • Sponsorships – Websites of sponsored events or organizations that should naturally link back to you.
  • Competitor links – Sites linking to your competitors might also find it logical to link to you.

These foundational links set the baseline for your link acquisition strategy, ensuring you start with highly relevant backlinks.

Content Promotion

Promotion of quality content can also significantly contribute to a diverse backlink profile.

Unlike foundational links, content promotion actively generates link opportunities through valuable content creation.

Content promotion examples include:

  • Digital PR – Campaigns aimed at link acquisition as a primary KPI amidst other goals.
  • Original research – Unique data-centric content that earns citations and links.
  • Guest content – Guest articles that build authority and reach new audiences.
  • Original imagery – Visual content deserving of link citations for unique value.

Promoting high-quality content fosters organic backlink growth, contributing to a healthy profile.

Community Involvement

Active participation in relevant communities also aids in building a diverse backlink profile.

Post achieving foundational links and promoting content, engaging within community spaces where your audience congregates is vital.

Community involvement can entail:

  • Wikipedia links – Earning backlinks from high-traffic, trusted sources like Wikipedia.
  • Forums – Gaining referral traffic from platforms like Reddit and Quora through value-driven links.
  • Social platforms – Engaging on social media to generate traffic and potential links.
  • Offline events – Networking at events to transform offline interactions into online links.

Despite many community links being nofollow, their value in diversifying traffic and aligning with your audience is significant.

Avoiding a Toxic Backlink Profile

Understanding how to cultivate a healthy backlink profile is crucial, but it’s equally important to avoid pitfalls that lead to a toxic profile.

Overoptimizing can make your actions appear suspicious to search engines. How do you mitigate this risk?

The “Golden Rule” of Link Building

One effective approach is to adhere to the “golden rule” of link building: Would you want your website linked on the prospective site if search engines didn’t exist?

This mindset focuses on the human aspect of linking, ensuring the link makes practical sense and navigates the web more efficiently.

Avoiding Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

Steer clear of Private Blog Networks (PBNs), which can be detrimental but hard to identify.

Red flags include:

  • Offers of link placements across multiple domains.
  • Linking sites with low traffic and minimal engagement.
  • Thin content and poor user experience on the linking site.
  • Sites covering overly broad and generic topics.
  • Pages with numerous external but few internal links.
  • Overoptimized backlink profiles.

Diversification in tactics and strategies, alongside avoiding questionable link networks, ensures a clean, healthy backlink profile.

Assessing Your Backlink Profile

Maintaining a healthy backlink profile requires regular evaluation and analysis.

You can achieve this by leveraging analytical tools and comparing your profile against your competitors.

Using Analytical Tools

Utilize various third-party tools to analyze your backlink profile, which offer insights into:

  • Number of backlinks and referring domains.
  • Followed vs. nofollowed links.
  • Authority metrics (Domain Rating, Domain Authority, etc.).
  • Backlink types.
  • Geographic location.
  • Anchor text distribution.
  • Top-level domain types.

These tools help track new and lost backlinks, providing growth insights. Additionally, they can gauge how suspicious your profile might appear to search engines.

Competitive Comparison

Comparing your backlink profile with competitors provides benchmarks and goals for improvement.

Areas for comparison include:

  • Total backlinks.
  • Total referring domains.
  • Authority metrics.
  • Link growth over time.

While not solely determinant, strong backlink profiles correlate with robust search performance.

User-First Approach to Link Building

The search landscape is rapidly evolving, potentially altering how people search in the near future. However, backlinks remain a cornerstone of Google’s ranking algorithms.

By following the strategies outlined in this article, you can cultivate a backlink profile that enhances your site’s performance, regardless of algorithm changes.

Adopt a customer-first mindset in link acquisition, and you’ll naturally build a diverse, healthy backlink profile over time.

More resources:


Featured Image: Sammby/Shutterstock

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