The links that you build to your website are important to your prospects of bringing in traffic to your website. What's more, it's likely they were not easy to come by. Why? High quality links take time to build and usually require high quality content to match. Those that struggle to build these links usually do so as they don't have the content to justify the vote.
Monitoring backlinks is a time consuming exercise. How much time do you devote to your monitoring activities? Which links are valuable enough to spend time checking? How often should you check them? What happens if you don't?
Over time, links are lost, and this will likely never change. Why? Because things change. Links built naturally are considerably more likely to stay in place, as they are given out of merit. The links you build through other means are more at risk as the reasons for giving the link can change. These links could be removed for many reasons - a website restructure; change of mind; accidental removal. The list is long. What's worse is that you might not know that these links have been removed or tempered with. A link might be moved to another page without being notified. It could be a dishonest partner.
Keeping track of your links over time helps you protect your websites' link profile. This profile is compiled by many criteria, including the quality, volume, date, placement and frequency of the links you build. While every quality link enhances your profile, every link lost / altered (which often has the same effect) has the opposite effect. The length of time a link is in place is important. More weight is given to links that stay in place. Lost links send negative signals that the they might have been acquired through unnatural means.
Why failing to monitor links can hurt your SEO rankings
What we have learnt in recent years is that the search engines have got far smarter at spotting low quality websites. The inbound and outbound links that a website has play an important part in this determination. We already know that naturally built links are far less likely to be removed as they were built out of merit. We know that search engines, like Google, would prefer us not to be buying or exchanging links and can penilise sites that evidence an unnatural link profile. They want the pure vision end game - everything built naturally and out of merit. It is a highly utopian view and whilst is never likely to be the case.
A lost link can send two negative signals. Firstly, it suggests that the link wasn't natural. Secondly, it could suggest that the site the link was pointing to is not worth linking to any more. Either way it is seen as a negative event. Too many links lost will send up a red flag. This red flag will impact your search results, ultimately resulting in a lower number of visitors to your website.
We need to act quick when links are removed. Especially where it is out of error and can be re-acquired. A high quality site will not have many dropped links, which will support the strong natural link profile that they will have.
So manually building links will hurt my rankings?
No, there will always be a place for building links. Acquiring these links from quality websites and making it look natural is more challenging. Google now tells us that "webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share".
That section actually used to read: "In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages."
What's clear is that there has been a change in apparent appetite. The focus has moved away from us actively looking for high quality sites to building high quality content that people want to link to. To ensure our link building does not attract unwanted attention, we should know what contributes to the link profile of a website.
The way that Google, in particular, knows whether you are worthy of a top spot in the search results is by way of monitoring these key factors. Note - 'quality' encapsulates quality criteria such as relevancy, age, PR etc
What should i be checking my links for?
The most important check you can make is that your links are not removed. Whilst you can't do much about the links built naturally, if you've manually built a link, you should monitor it. Links should be checked periodically - the more frequent the better. It is also important to check the number of outbound links on the pages hosting your links. Too many and the page loses all value. If you have too many of these links you're risking penalty for a high number of spammy links.
You should also be checking your link hasn't been changed or altered. For instance, an old webmaster trick is to add NOFOLLOW tags after an exchange to prevent any link juice from being passed to your website. It usually takes the other webmaster time to notice and they benefit in the process. Another key check is that the page with your link stays indexed by the search engines (especially Google). When a page is dropped, your link doesn't count towards your profile. It could also be an indication that the site linking to you has been penalized in some way - so it's good to keep an eye on this one.
How often should i check and what do i do when i find an issue?
The more frequent the better. The problem many face is that it takes time. Any more than 40 or 50 links and we need to rely on automated tools. Lotrax has been designed to provide this service at a highly affordable rate.
Automating Your Link Monitoring
Links are lost on all websites, regardless of the quality of the website. Automatically monitoring links will reduce the negative effect that lost links have on a websites results. Lotrax allows you to monitor your links around the clock, every day of the year. Even more than this - we monitor your links every 15 minutes! Set your links, what you want checked and what you want to happen when an issue is detected. We think the tool is simple, effective and at a price point that won't break the bank.