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Understanding How Backlinks Can Help (Or Hurt) Your SEO

SEO, Backlinks and Toxicity Score—What Do They Have In Common?

Hey everybody, Nick here with Pinckney Marketing. Today we’re going to talk about something that’s near and dear to my heart: SEO.

Now, there are three sides to SEO that you may have heard about:

  1. Onsite SEO
  2. Technical SEO
  3. Offsite SEO

Today we’re going to focus mainly on offsite SEO. While there are multiple parts to offsite SEO, we’re mostly going to take a look at backlinks.

Backlinks are any type of content out there on the web that point traffic back to your site. This could be in the form of images, videos, hyperlinked text—anything that points that traffic back to your domain.

There’s a big misconception out there that all backlinks are created equal. Unfortunately, that’s not true. There are a few things that Google looks at, such as quality and quantity of backlinks, how they are related to each other, and what we should actually focus on more—all of which we get into more below.

More Doesn’t Always Equal Better—Especially For Backlinks

Many strategists will suggest getting as many backlinks as you can. And although that’s part of a strategy, it’s not the entire strategy. One of the problems with going after this type of strategy is that Google takes a look at the relevance of those backlinks.

Backlink relevancy

For instance, if you’re a clothing company and you’re associated with a shoe company, there’s an indication of your intent because there’s a clear connection between the two brands.

However, if you’re a clothing company and you have backlinks from a car company, it’s hard to make that connection. This causes Google to look at that and say, “I don’t understand what shirts have to do with this car.” Since Google is unable to make that connection, that backlink typically doesn’t count in your favor.

Backlink location

The other thing Google takes a look at is location, so where these backlinks are actually located. If you’re a U.S. based company that only does business within the U.S., and you have backlinks from a foreign country, that looks a little suspicious to Google as well.

What we usually find when we see these backlinks coming from other countries is that they’re usually spam, phishing scams or other types of malware—things you don’t really want to be associated with.

So, Google takes a look and says, “Well, there’s a backlink from this site that is known to be problematic and it’s connected to your website, so you must be guilty by association.” Therefore, it ends up hurting your ranking. So, having more backlinks isn’t always the answer. We have to look at the quality of those backlinks as well.

How Trust Score, Domain Score and Domain Authority Influence Backlinks

We need to briefly mention trust score, domain score and domain authority—we want to make sure those are as high as possible. Typically you have higher domain and trust scores from well-known companies like Coke-A-Cola, Nike, Amazon who have very high trust and domain scores. Whereas other companies, which are more of your mom-and-pop types of shops, typically have a lower domain score and domain authority.

There’s plenty of tools out there to help you measure these scores—two of our favorites are SEMrush and Moz. However, I will tell you that the one problem with measuring these scores is that there’s not a standard for it. So when you look at your domain authority, take it with a grain of salt—however, it’s not to be completely ignored.

Toxicity Score and Backlinks

One other thing we want to talk about briefly is your toxicity score. When we take a look at the backlinks that are pointing to your site, we also look at the toxicity score associated with them. Usually, it’s scored anywhere from zero to 100. The higher the number, the more toxic that backlink is, and the more guilty you will be through association with that company.

We want to make sure that anything with a toxicity score of 50 or higher gets removed and there are a few ways we can do that.

1. Find out who owns that domain and reach out to them

You can say something like, “Hey, I really appreciate the backlink, thank you for that. However, I’d appreciate if you’d either put a no-follow tag on it (something we’ll get to in a later video) so that it doesn’t affect my ranking, or completely remove that ranking altogether.”

2. Disavow the links through Google

The web is a big place, and we know people are unresponsive on the web as well. So if you send this email out, and don’t get a response or the right response, don’t worry. There’s still one more option!

What we can do is create a file full of all the URLs you don’t want to be associated with. Then we can submit these to Google through Google Search Console and tell Google to disavow these backlinks. When you disavow, you’re telling Google you don’t want to be associated with them and you don’t know why they’re linking to you, and asking them to not let it affect your ranking. Google usually takes this into consideration and will normally not associate you with that backlink, therefore not harming your ranking.

There’s a lot of cool tips, tricks and tactics we can do, it’s just making sure to identify the right one and going through the right steps first. So, start by identifying:

  • How many backlinks you have
  • What they are
  • The quality of those backlinks

I would rather have 5 or 6 good quality backlinks than 100 bad backlinks. Quantity and quality don’t always match up, so you want to be sure the people that are linking to you are relevant and there to help you, not hurt you.

I know this is a lot to take on at once, and if you have questions or aren’t sure how to start, feel free to contact us. We’d be happy to do a quick audit to let you know what your backlink structure actually looks like.

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