How to identify a bad link?
Table of contents
With improved toolsets, larger link indexes, and increased expertise, identifying poor backlinks has been simpler in recent years. But it’s still crudely applied for many in our sector. While having a professional go over your link profile and check each link one by one for issues would be ideal, for many webmasters, that’s simply too expensive (and, frankly, overkill).
Our experts from Jacksonville SEO Company guide you through a basic process for combining the capabilities of Moz Link Explorer, Keyword Explorer Lists, and lastly Link Lists to complete a full link audit using Link Explorer and Excel (though you could do it just as easily using Google Sheets).
There are various factors to consider when deciding if a link is “bad” and should be deleted. Finally, we want to be able to assess the link’s riskiness (how likely is Google to flag the link as manipulative and how much do we depend on the link for value). Let me go through three basic parameters that SEO analysts utilize to calculate this score:
Metrics of trustworthiness:
In our sector, there are a few measures that may be used to assist identify issues with backlinks. Moz Spam Score and Majestic Trust Flow are the two that spring to mind first (or, better yet, the difference between Citation Flow and Trust Flow). These two scores function in quite different ways. Based on specific site attributes, Moz’s Spam Score estimates the risk of a domain being banned or punished. Majestic Trust Flow evaluates the quality of links going to a site or page to measure its trustworthiness. The purpose, while calculated differently, is to assist webmasters in determining which sites are trustworthy and which are not. While these are useful beginning points, they aren’t adequate in and of themselves to determine if a relationship is good or negative.
Manipulation of anchor text:
One of the first lessons an SEO analyst learns is that employing valuable anchor text may help you rank higher. They quickly discover that utilizing precious anchor text might result in a penalty. The reason for this is simple: it’s quite unlikely that a webmaster will provide you with important anchor text out of the goodness of their heart, thus over-optimization stands out like a sore thumb. So, how can we determine how much anchor text is manipulated? When we look at anchor text with our eyes, it seems logical, but there’s a better method to do it in an automated, at-scale manner that will help us analyze links more accurately.
Low level of authority:
Finally, low-authority connections are troubling, especially when the domain suggests a greater level of authority. A good link should originate from a well-linked internal page of a website. It’s a cause for concern if the discrepancy between the Domain Authority and Page Authority is quite large. It’s not a powerful signal, but it’s worth paying attention to. This is particularly evident in specific forms of spam, such as paginated comment spam and spam in forum profiles.
Now that you know these metrics, let us begin with steps to identify a bad backlink.
Steps to identify a bad backlink
Step 1: Gather backlink information.
The simplest and most straightforward step is to acquire your backlink data from Link Explorer’s massive backlink database. With approximately 30 trillion links in our index, you may be confident that we will find the majority of the problematic backlinks. To begin, go to Link Explorer > Inbound Links and type in the domain or page you want to investigate. Because we don’t care about no-follow links, you’ll want to use the “follow” filter to ensure that only followed links are exported. We’re also unconcerned with removed links, thus the Link Status may be set to “Active.”
After you’ve configured these filters, click the “Export” option. There will be a few options available to you. Choose the instant download if your website has fewer than 1,000 backlinks. If your link profile is bigger, however, select the maximum setting and wait for the download to complete. In the meantime, we can continue with the rest of the project, but you don’t want to miss out on any poor links, so export them all.
Many SEO analysts will give up at this point. You can detect harmful links a lot easier now that PA, DA, and Spam Score are included in the standard export. Link Explorer takes care of everything for you right out of the box. However, we want to take it a step further and do “anchor text qualifying” for our needs. This is very useful for link profiles with a lot of links.
Step 2: Obtain anchor text.
It’s quite easy to extract anchor text from the new Link Explorer. Simply go to Link Explorer > Anchor Text and select Export. There will be no need for any further filters in this case.
Step 3: Calculate the worth of the anchor text
Now, here’s a fast tip from our Jacksonville SEO experts: we can use the Keyword Lists in Moz Keyword Explorer to detect anchor text that looks to be modified. First, we’ll get rid of some of the unnecessary anchor text that we know won’t cause any issues, such as URLs as anchor text. This step is optional, but it may save you some credits in Moz Keyword Explorer, so it may be worth it. We will just copy and paste our anchor text into a new keyword list for Keyword Explorer once you’ve deleted the unnecessary anchor text. We’ll be able to arrange anchor text by search volume by placing it into Keyword Explorer. Although it is uncommon for anchor text to have significant search traffic, when webmasters try to influence search results, they frequently utilize the phrase they want to rank for in the anchor text. As a result, we may utilize anchor text search volume as a proxy for altered anchor text. In fact, prior to joining Moz, I observed that anchor text manipulation was the greatest predictive element in link penalties when working with Remove’em.
Step 4: Combine, filter, sort, and model your data
We’ll now combine the data (backlinks export and keyword list export) to create the final backlinks list. Let’s start with the export of backlinks. We’ll open it in Excel and eliminate any duplicate domain-anchor text pairings.
I’ll start by teaching you how to extract domains from a lengthy list of URLs with a fast method. In Excel, I copied the URL list from the first to the final column, then selected Data > Text to Columns > Delimited > Other > /. Wherever the slash occurs, the URLs will be separated into multiple columns, leaving you with a fourth new column containing only domain names.
We’ll eliminate duplicate domain-anchor text pairs after you’ve finished this step. It’s worth noting that we’re not going to limit ourselves to one link per domain, as many SEO experts do. This would be a mistake because the site might have several problematic links with varying anchor text. After selecting Data > Remove Duplicates, I choose the Anchor Text and Domain columns. After removing the duplicates, we’re left with the links we wish to rate as excellent or terrible. But there’s one more item we’ll need. We’ll need to combine the data from Keyword Explorer on search volume. In Keyword Explorer, click the export button on the keyword list you made from anchor text: Open the export and copy and paste the data into a new Excel sheet adjacent to the backlinks sheet you previously prepared and filtered. I called the two sheets “Raw Data” and “Anchor Text Data” in this case: Then, on the backlinks spreadsheet, execute a VLOOKUP to generate a column with the search volume for each link’s anchor text. I’ve included a snapshot of the VLOOKUP formula I used, but yours will alter somewhat based on the names of the sheets and the columns you’ve defined. It appears difficult, but that’s only because I’m using two VLOOKUPs at the same time to replace N/A results with 0. You may always manually enter 0 in places where N/A appears.
It’s now time for the most enjoyable aspect of the process: modeling. To begin, our Jacksonville SEO experts propose sorting by the volume column you just generated so that the most concerning anchor text is at the top. Because “ring” and “jewelry” are both high-volume keywords, it’s astonishing to see links with anchor text like “ring” or “jewelry” immediately fill at the top of the list.
Second, we’ll establish a new column using a formula that considers the link’s quality, the anchor text’s riskiness, and the Spam Score:
Let’s have a look at that formula in more detail:
D11: Simply put, this is the Spam Score (F11-E11): This is the difference between the Domain Authority and the Page Authority. (This is arguable; some individuals may want to stick with 100-E11.)
(Log(G11+1)*10): This is a sophisticated method of translating the number of times this anchor text link appears in our equation into a consistent number. If you don’t use the log(), a large quantity here might drown out the other signals.
(Log(O11+1)*10): This is a sophisticated method of translating the search volume to a value that is compatible with our equation. Having a large search volume without obtaining the log() might potentially overpower other signals.
We may sort by “Riskiness” and locate the links with which we should be most worried once we run this equation and generate a new column.
Because the methodology assigns a greater value to low-quality, spammy links with dangerous anchor text, examples of comment spam and sponsored links sprang to the top of the list. But hold on! There’s more!
Step 5: Create a Link Directory
After you’ve completed your analysis, Link Explorer doesn’t abandon you. Our purpose is to assist you in doing SEO rather than merely analyzing it. The following step is to create a new Link List.
You may use the Link List function to keep track of whether or not specific connections are active. You may construct a Link List and use it to track the progress of those links if you start a campaign to remove some of the spammy connections. Simply create a new list, give it a name, add your domain, and then copy and paste the relevant links.
You can now just keep an eye on the Link List while doing outreach to eliminate any harmful connections. All metrics, including whether the link has been deleted, will be tracked by the Link List.
Step 6: Bringing everything to a close
Link Explorer + Keyword Explorer and Link Lists make it feasible to perform a basic backlink audit by only looking at Spam Score and PA, or a thorough dive by checking into anchor text qualification. You can now be certain that the data you need is there at your fingertips, and if you need to get down-and-dirty with Excel, you can easily export it to undertake further research, thanks to our substantially enhanced backlink index.
Identifying poor backlinks has become simpler in recent years, but it’s still crudely applied for many. Moz Spam Score and Majestic Trust Flow are two measures that may be used to assist identify issues with backlinks. There are various factors to consider when deciding if a link is good or bad. A good link should originate from a well-linked internal page of a website. Low-authority connections are troubling, especially if the domain suggests a greater level of authority.
This is particularly evident in paginated comment spam and spam in forum profiles. The first step is to obtain anchor text from the new Link Explorer. We’ll then use this to calculate the worth of the anchor text in Moz Keyword Explorer. Next, we’ll get rid of unnecessary anchor text that won’t cause any issues, such as URLs. Backlinks export and keyword list export create the final backlinks list. We’ll open it in Excel and eliminate any duplicate domain-anchor text pairings. Then, on the backlinks spreadsheet, execute a VLOOKUP to generate a column with each link’s search volume. It’s astonishing to see links with anchor text like “ring” or “jewelery” immediately fill at the top of the list. We’ll establish a new column using a formula that considers the link’s quality, the anchor text’s riskiness, and the Spam Score.
Link Explorer + Keyword Explorer and Link Lists make it feasible to perform a basic backlink audit by only looking at Spam Score and PA. If you need to get down-and-dirty with Excel, you can easily export it to undertake further research. Also, remember to build new good quality backlinks while removing the bad ones. Here are some link building strategies that can help you.