backlinking after Penguin downhill graphic

How Many Backlinks Do I Have?

Want to know how many backlinks you have, and how that compares with your competition? I show you exactly what you need to know…

Backlinking is probably one of the great myths of Internet Marketing. There are tens of thousands (literally) of products, books and articles on the subject.

The advice ranges from ‘no backlinks necessary’ to ‘get as many as you can as quickly as possible’. So what is the best advice?

First of all you need to connect with Google Webmaster Tools. There is so much information you can get from that for free, it is the first step you need to do.

Most people used Yahoo site explorer to research backlinks in the past, but it was rumoured it would be turned off in 2011, so there was a need to find alternative tools.

However, Microsoft came to the rescue with their Yahoo! and Microsoft Search Alliance. As I write this, the original Site Explorer site is still up as they are busy incorporating it into Microsoft Webmaster Tools (the MS version of Google Webmaster Tools).

One site I like is this: http://website.informer.com

Enter any URL and depending on how popular it is, you will get a ton of information. It uses a mashup to bring together information from Yahoo, Compete, Alexa, Site Advisor, Mywot and others depending on the site. It will also tell you about the owner of the site, and even shows other popular sites from the same owner. Very revealing.

SEO Moz is another well known and respected tool and has been used by many as a good alternative, but it is quite costly (it is aimed at webmasters rather than business owners).

So, back to backlinking. First up. The truth! No one knows how the search engine algorithms are tweaked. You can look up Google’s patents or see what Google spokespeople like Matt Cutts has to say on the subject, but we are talking here about many hundreds of different metrics that make up a search engine’s idea of page relevancy.

And those metrics are constantly changing. In other words it’s pretty much anyone’s guess as to what works today and what will work tomorrow.

Google are fairly transparent about this, which is a good thing in my view. The massive changes made in 2011 (Panda etc) and the new social metrics introduced in 2012 (Google’s ‘Search Plus Your World’) have changed things even further.

What the search engines are after of course is completely natural backlinks. They absolutely do depend on them in order to test relevancy. The basics of this relevancy is called PageRank (PR). Each page is given PR and if that page links to another page, some of that PR is passed along to it (the original page doesn’t lose any PR, it is just accumulated along the path).

So if you have a page with a PR of 2 that has lots of outgoing links, each link will have a very diluted portion of 2. Or to put it another way, the more outgoing links there are on a page, the less important the PR from that page is (note that the page itself is obviously still relevant as it has a PR of 2).

So, imagine you have a page you want to rank for the keyword ‘best sausages’. It makes sense that if other pages have a link to it, and those other pages have something to do with sausages, then your pages PR will increase. Right?

Well, not necessarily. Those other pages may have links pointing to them that are not about sausages (i.e. not relevant). They may also have pages that a search engine may consider spammy (negative PR anyone?).

Links to your page may also not be relevant, or they may be spammy. So would you lose PR because of this? Well, again, no necessarily. If that were the case, then as has been stated before, you could kill off a competitor site.

So, the SE’s algorithms have to be extremely robust. And they do this in many ways, including tracking activity over time. This is one reason why it is possible to get a brand new site on to page 1 of an SE within 24 hours (it is very easy to do BTW).

But unless you have a very strategic plan, there is a good chance your new site will just as suddenly disappear.

Here’s a simple blueprint to follow to give you a rough idea of what to do:

  1. Pick the keyword you want to target
  2. Type it into an SE
  3. Research the top 10 sites that show up (for backlinks and other metrics such as keyword in title etc,)
  4. Research the PR of the pages linking to those top sites
  5. Make a decision on whether it is now worth chasing
  6. Build your plan to ‘naturally’ out do the competition

I will go into far more detail with this in the future with examples. Make sure you join my Inner Circle by filling in the form on the right so you get the latest information on internet marketing tactics that work.

Meanwhile you may like to check out some interesting things about the Google Penguin update and how you should think about linking and ranking: read it here…

Also, Matt Cutts of Google announced in a tweet in October 2012 that another tweak of the search engine algorithm had been implemented (actually, this is along with well over 60 updates in September) to stop thin sites that use exact match domains (EMD) ranking so highly.

See my post on the Google Freshness Project.

Quentin Pain

My earliest ambition was to become a rockstar (my band once backed The Waves who went on to win the Eurovision Song Contest). Unfortunately I decided to start a business to support my rock star dream, and as luck would have it, the business took off big time and the rock star dream died. I was 23. By the time I reached 50, my total business count was 6. The last one was Accountz that went from zero to 36,000 customers in 6 years. I now run ProofMEDIA Ltd and my specialism is copy that wins trust, engagement and long term sales. I'm also a published author (including a Dummies title), have won many awards including the IAB Small Business Mentor of the Year, and am a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

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