Whenever purchasing a website or an expired domain there are a lot of risks that need to be considered. One of the biggest is the exposure to a Google Penalty based on the sites backlink profile (penguin or manual un-natural link penalty).
In this article I will show you the 9 common kinds of backlink SPAM and how to quickly spot them.
For an even more in depth guide on performing due diligence before you purchase a website checkout https://www.motioninvest.com/buying-websites-for-sale/
With both my expired domain finding service and my recent focus on purchasing a couple of websites I have been deep diving into analyzing backlinks.
What is the Risk?
Several months ago I purchased a website which I knew had paid for a few links. I believe as a result of those links the site went from making close to $1,000 in the first month I purchased it(after making monetization changes) down to $250/month due to a penalty!
I was aware of the links and believed I priced the risk fairly into the purchase ($4k to buy the site)…unfortunately for me the site got hit pretty quickly after purchasing.
The 9 Types of Backlink Spam
I use MajesticSEO(not an affiliate link) to analyze backlinks because of the graphic representation of the link profile which makes it incredibly easy to quickly see the quality of the backlink profile.
PART 1 – ANCHOR TEXT
Anchor Text manipulation is pretty easy to spot in Majestic SEO. Using the Anchor Text section there are 2 key things to look for..
- First unnatural anchor text density
- Secondly obvious SPAM in anchor text keywords (porn/poker/pharmaceutical or completely un-relevant keywords)
- Obvious SPAM in Anchor Text
- classic-purse.com – This example is subtle! Often the spam is far more obvious with Porn/Pharmaceutical/Poker or other highly SPAMMED niches like PayDay loan anchor text. Whenever there are obvious signs of anchor text manipulation avoid it! In cases like the one below we need to ask ourselves if the anchor text could naturally occur in the way that it is being shown?
PART 2 – LINK METRICS
- Large difference Trust Flow to Citation Flow – Links build naturally should be balanced between citation flow and trust flow (or for MOZ PA/DA should not show a large (~3x or more) difference between them)
- bushybride.ca – Here there is an obvious mis-match with Trust Flow = 2 and Citation Flow = 15. Ideally we want that ratio to be close to 1:1 but anywhere up to 1:3 can naturally occur but be cautious whenever you get below 1:2 Trust:Citation.
- Root to URL completely different – This one is often miss-understood. When there are good metrics for one domain and then none for another it often means that links were intentionally built to one URL and then none to another. This represents link manipulation!
- goteamintraining.com – Here the metrics on the Root Domain are ok but then the metrics at URL are non-existent!
- Concentration of Links on the TF vs CF Map – This is one of the reasons why Majestic is so great. A quick look at the TF vs CF graph can tell a lot about the backlink profile. The ideal graph is a series of domains spread along the line moving 1:1 from the origin. Two indications of a SPAMMY backlink profile is when there is an unreasonable concentration of links all in one location or when all the links are low trust. On the graph each dot represents a single link and the Trust and Citation score of that link.
- whoswhere.ca – In this example shown below there are 2 concentration and another grouping along the bottom representing Trust Flow on each of those links of ZERO. Typically what occurs is when a link building service is purchased a lot of the links will come from similar sites with the same CF/TF which results in concentrations on the TF vs CF graph.
- bedandbreakfastparksville.ca – Here there is one single high density concentration of links, there is a chance with this link profile that it could occur naturally but this is a warning flag. Whenever there is a single concentration of links on the TF vs CF graph there is a reasonable expectation that the links are artificially created.
PART 3 – TYPE OF LINKS
- Non-Relevant Link Pages/Directories/Blog Network Pages
- legal-professionals.net (non-relevant links) – Non-relevant backlinks like the ones to this site provide no value.
- trendier-diaper-bags.com (directory) – Here is an example of a site that only uses directory links. Relevant human-reviewed directories are good but having only non-relevant free directories are bad!
- nadafhospitality.com (directory) – Here is another example of too many low value link/directory pages.
- howtotreatkidneystones.net (PBN & Hacked Sites) – Sometimes most metrics can look good but when you visit the pages linking to it it becomes obvious the links are all blog network links or sites that have been hacked.
- kitchenexhaust.info (SPAM sites) – When the sites linking to the URL are only SPAM sites then it is obvious the site provides no value and should be avoided.
- theweddingdiamonds.info (non-relevant directories) – Again relevant directories and link pages can be natural however, low value directories as shown by these links are bad.
- whoswhere.ca (Blog Network) – There is the famous quote from Judge Potter Stewart stating in regards to Porn vs art “I know it when I see it” and this applies to most of us who look at websites and can quickly determine if the site is built only for links or not. When the majority of the links pointing to a domain was clearly built for the purposes of providing a link, like in this example, we should avoid it.
- Blog Comment or Forum SPAM
- allhandbags.info (Forum) – Blog comments and forum SPAM are old low value black-hat tactics that still many domains have links from. In these cases it is important to look at the comment and forum post and just think if it is reasonable. Blog comments and forum links that are real are fine, blog comments and forum links that are only left for the purpose of the link are bad! Another fast way to tell is to see if there are A LOT of useless comments on the post…if that is the case then the site likely has auto-approve comments on and has been hammered by low-value black hat SEOs.
- Foreign Language Links
- fantastic-bags.com – Here is an example of english links on foreign language websites. This is almost always a sign of link manipulation and if spotted should be avoided.
Most of the instructions above are pretty obvious. The intent of this post with the videos was to hopefully show a nice effective way to quickly determine the quality of the backlinks pointing to a site. Using MajesticSEO daily is a huge time saver for me and I wanted to share some of the tricks I have learned analyzing thousands of domains and dozens of sites over the last few months.
What other tools do you use to analyze a sites backlink quality? Ahrefs? OpenSiteExplorer? other?