Tools of the Trade - The Toxic Link Analysis


- Arman G. Advani

So, you’ve been consistently building up your backlink profile over the last several months by adding links from anywhere you can find them, hoping to topple your rivals in the SERP rankings. You haven’t paid much attention to where the links are coming from, or who’s providing them for that matter, as you’ve come to the conclusion that any link to your site is good so long as it’s not from a spammy or directory site. Fast forward a few weeks, and while performing your monthly check of your site’s ranking, you can’t figure out why you’re not where you want to be. In fact, wait a minute, you’ve actually dropped a few spots in the rankings. As you ask yourself how this could have happened, let’s take a step back and examine what got you here in the first place. Rather than trying to pile on more links and quick-fixes you find on tinfoil hat SEO blogs, let’s take a look at the real culprit here - you’ve probably set yourself up for failure with some questionable links.


Where did I go wrong?

When it comes to links and, more importantly, how Google interprets links, we’ve already addressed how quality trumps quantity every time. We know that not all links are created equally, as factors such as Domain Authority, contextual relevance, and referring domains can all influence whether a particular link will help improve visibility for your site or hurt it in the long run.

Consulting with an SEO firm that specializes in high quality content can help guide you towards the optimal linking strategy. If you have already bought a generic “one-size-fits-all” backlinking package from a less than reputable vendor, you may have already unintentionally done harm to your backlinking profile. Therefore, it’s of paramount importance to rectify the situation before employing any other strategies moving forward. You could commit as large of a budget as you'd like to a truly quality product like ours, but you would still be held down by your prior mistakes.

These mistakes are a common occurrence with new clients and SEO novices, as most don’t take the time to investigate the source of each individual link with a careful eye. When we onboard a new client, we take a granular look into their overall backlink profile. If you’re stuck in a similar situation, speak with one of our Digital Strategists. With our proprietary software, we can tell you right away whether or not a Toxic Link Analysis is necessary for your site.


But what exactly is a Toxic Link Analysis?

When evaluating any client’s domain, we take a look at a number of key signals and metrics associated with the links that are referring to their domain. By indexing all of the referring domains associated with your profile, our systems comb through each individual link and evaluate them against known metrics of strong or high ranking domains. We began performing this service for our clients over three years ago, and by doing so we have been able to create a comprehensive set of criteria that we use to rate the quality of each individual link within a larger backlink profile. This methodology delves much deeper than assessing the mere Domain Authority of a particular site. The more data we accrue by conducting increasing amounts of Toxic Link Analyses, the more sophisticated our algorithms become, as there really is no other service out there that compares to ours.

Once our analysis is complete, we present the client with a list of links that we recommend they disavow (oftentimes, this is where we see links from other SEO agencies appear).  The list is then uploaded into the client's Google webmaster tools, and all the toxic links are disavowed. Disavowing a link essentially tells Google that you do not want these links associated with your domain, as it was not something you were aware of and thereby don’t want any associated metrics, adverse or otherwise, to point back to your domain.


Where could these toxic links have come from?

The results of a thorough Toxic Link Analysis may surprise you. You may find that the agency you have been working with has been making falsified claims about the quality of the links they are selling you, or you may find out that you have been a victim of a Negative SEO Attack. In either situation, by removing these “toxic” links from your backlink profile, you are cleansing your profile of any potentially adverse effects and creating a clean slate on which to work on positive SEO.

If you’ve never worked with another SEO agency, it’s very possible that you’ve been the victim of a Negative SEO Attack. Similarly to how we create link building campaigns for our clients, there are services out there by which one could build harmful links for a desired domain (in which case, it’s likely that one of your competitors has done this as a means of addition through subtraction). Rather than focusing on their own backlink profile, or while simultaneously employing their own strategies, they also chose to cripple their nearest competitors through a Negative SEO campaign; pointing spammy links to a list of competitors in an effort to move themselves up the rankings while also moving their competitors down at the same time.

This is certainly a dirty trick, but one that is unfortunately all too common in the cutthroat world of SEO, as every jump in the SERP rankings has a monetary value associated with it. Increased traffic translates to an increase in sales, so it’s understandable why there are those willing to spend thousands of dollars on Negative SEO Campaigns to target their nearest competitors. At Ocean, we’re not in the business of tracking down the source of these negative campaigns, but we certainly can help you absolve your backlink profile of the negative effects associated with it.

Nipping toxic links in the bud will improve the overall authority and ranking of your site. If your backlink profile is dominated by these low quality and spammy links, you will even see rankings jump simply by removing these links and doing no other SEO work.

Just remember to keep an eye on your backlink profile, and any time you see questionable practices or large groups of links, periodically perform this service as a way to recognize any negative trends or bad practices.