If you've been working on building an inbound link presence for SEO purposes, you might have started to wonder where all your links now come from. Sometimes, when law firms start doing this in 2012, it's because Google has sent them a warning about some of their inbound links seeming unnatural. Whether you're just curious about your links or you—like about 5 percent of webmasters—have been punished by Google Penguin, you need this guide. Keep reading to learn about inbound link checker software and how it can make your job easier.
What Are Inbound Links?
Inbound links are now the single most important aspect of search engine optimization, responsible for up to 70 percent of what your website's final rankings in Google's searches look like. If you're not deliberately working on inbound linking, you're probably missing out on many inbound link resources that are easy to use and don't take a lot of specialized training to understand.
An inbound link can come from just about anywhere, but Google prefers some types of links to others. Google assigns a number to every website between 0 and 10 called a PageRank that acts as a stand-in for a website's level of popularity and authority. If you get an inbound link from a website with PageRank 9, you'll see much more impact on your search rankings than you would from an inbound link from a PageRank 1 website.
Certain other things can also impact how much weight Google attaches to your inbound link presence. If you have .edu links, they will outperform their PageRank, because they tend to be much harder links to get. This means that you should dedicate more time to seeking out high value links, either from .edu websites or high PR sites.
What Is an Inbound Link Checker?
Once you start to develop an inbound link strategy, it's time to start thinking about software. Using an inbound link checker tool periodically is a good way to make sure that the inbound links you've already built are working just as you had intended.
Different inbound link checkers are made for different purposes. For instance, if you want to do an analysis of the anchor text that is on your inbound links, you can use an inbound link checker that gives you this information. Some tools can help you compare your inbound link strategy to that of a competitor—when you compare yourself to a competitor with a great Google presence, you can get a lot of new ideas about where to post your inbound links.
Even if you don't feel the need to compare with your inbound link checker, you can still find out a lot of valuable information. You can also check your inbound link sources to see if any of them are pointing to pages that no longer exist on your website, so that you can build redirect links or ask a webmaster to change the link destination.
Why Do We Need Link Auditing?
It's very important to run an inbound link checker tool periodically on your inbound links. If you don't, your inbound link presence could be compromised in any of several ways. Google now penalizes websites that show clear indications of over optimization, and can even de-list your website if it appears that you paid for the inbound links that you've already received.
Because the ways that Google detects over optimization are predictable and relatively well understood, you should take them into account when you run your inbound link checker. For example, if every inbound link to your website is from the same IP address, you could very well end up seeing yourself penalized. Google also monitors with its own inbound link checker algorithms whether you're building inbound links too quickly for your results to be natural. Try raping up your inbound link building efforts very slowly in order to avoid tripping this detection system.
Help! I Got an “Over Optimization” Warning From Google!
If Google believes that your website is over optimized, odds are you haven't been running an inbound link checker. Your website can recover, and the damage isn't irreversible, but you need to start taking your inbound link sources into consideration before you do anything worse to your search rankings.
To get the over optimization penalty to stop, you'll need to ask webmasters hosting the offending links to pull the links off their website. This means running an inbound link checker and finding out which links are most likely to be setting off Google's detection. If the webmasters of those websites won't delete the inbound link in question, you can appeal to Google. You'll need to show them the documentation, because in order to stop penalizing you, they need to see a good faith effort to have the link removed or changed to a “nofollow” link.
Finding the Right Inbound Link Balance
To avoid ever getting the over optimization message, you'll need to work on balancing the kinds of links you're getting. The best results from an inbound link checker will show a wide variety of links, rather than just a few sources. This diversification strategy not only makes your inbound link footprint look much more natural, but also ensures that even if a link source falls into disrepute later on, you have a number of other types of links to fall back on.
Having the right link balance isn't just about sources, either. You'll also want to vary your anchor text, sometimes substantially, in order to avoid accusations of over optimization. Many websites that are very over optimized use the same exact keyword match phrase over and over as link anchor text, which is a very unnatural pattern and quite easy for search engines to identify.
Any time you use an inbound link checker, you shouldn't see any one type of result that overwhelms the others. If you do, it's time to branch out—or possibly to ask for “nofollow” links or link removal at the website that is dominating your link presence.