Did you miss the previous part in this backlinks analysis series? No worries, you can catch up right here: Analysis of 1 Million Backlinks: Dollar Shave Club (Part 6/10)
TL;DR – We analyzed 1 million backlinks via 10 random sample sets of 100,000 backlinks across 10 different websites from a variety of business verticals to determine how the link metrics from those backlinks would impact gains or losses in organic search visibility.
A Quick Word About Link Analysis at ScaleOne piece of advice about link analysis: never manually review thousands of backlinks one by one! Click To Tweet
Seriously, don’t do it! You will burn out or fail (likely both) and your client/manager will be very upset with you for not making proper use of your time.
What you should do is look for patterns, trends and commonalities among link metrics for a given set of URLs to identify unnatural links.
Pro Tip: Powerful crawlers and anchor text classifiers like URL profiler can save you hundreds of hours of grunt work. We’re in no way, shape or form affiliated with them, but we highly recommend checking them out!
Here’s a link audit tool stack that I’d recommend:
Upon completing a link audit, you should have a few outputs to work with:
- Danger List – These are the links that are extremely likely to be unnatural and should be considered for disavowal.
- Caution List – These are the links that could be unnatural and must be manually audited to determine if they are safe or dangerous.
- Safe List – These are trustworthy, authoritative links that are most likely to be natural. Getting more of these will help boost organic visibility.
- Link Schemes – These are large groups of similar links that are coming from the same source, and are the most probable cause of site-wide links.
- Link Opportunities – Some websites (especially popular brands) earn natural, high quality links without knowing it. An audit will help you discover those sources, so you can build relationships and earn more links.
- Link Equity Consolidation – In almost every case, there are authoritative inbound links pointing to 404 pages on a given website. Those 404 pages should be revived by implementing 301 redirects to a live final destination URL to reclaim the lost link equity.
Link Metrics Considered
The link metrics can be segmented into 4 key categories:
These are the primary link metrics that will be used to evaluate HelloFresh’s backlink profile:
- Majestic Citation Flow – Rates how influential a URL may be based on how many sites are linking to it, based on a 100-point scale.
- Majestic Trust Flow – Predicts how trustworthy a page is based on the trustworthiness of those sites that are linking to it, based on a 100-point scale.
- Moz Spam Score – Rates the level of penalization risk associated with a given URL, based on a scale of 0-17 where any rating of 11 or higher is likely to be spam.
- Moz Domain Authority – An overall website rating that is calculated by metrics, such as linking domains, number of total links, MozRank and MozTrust, into a single 100-point logarithmic score.
- AHrefs Referring IP C-Class Diversity – IP Addresses are divided into lettered blocks (AAA.BBB.CCC.DDD). The more referring C Class Duplicates that exist within the link profile indicates that the site is likely to be engaging in link networking.
- AHrefs URL Rating – Prediction score for how well a page is likely to rank in organic search results, based on a 0-100 scale.
We included the following websites in our study:
Analysis of 1 Million Backlinks: Casino Room
Casino Room is an online gaming hub. You can play online casino games, such as blackjack, slots and roulette, for free. Of course, you can also play for money. Virtual slot machines and all your favorite casino classics are available with the click of a button.
Key Insights: Casino Room’s Link Profile
- Total Referring Domains: Casino Room is far behind its competitors in the battle of backlinks. At the domain level, Party Casino is crushing it – acquiring more links from more referring domains over time than key competitors. Casino Room falls in last place when compared against RoyalPanda.com and WizardofOdds.com
Source: Open Site Explorer
- SEMrush Comparison: Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if all those backlinks made any difference in organic traffic for one of Casino Room’s top competitors, WizardofOdds.com. In this case, it looks like the links had a significant effect.
- SEMrush Traffic Cost Analysis: This is always fascinating to examine. SEMrush provides a rough estimation of how much a given site’s organic traffic would cost them in paid advertising dollars (great for making an SEO business case, by the way). In this case, there was a staggering difference: $4,200 vs $393,000
- Insight: In this case, while links matter, so does content and size of site. WizardofOdds has more content, more pages, and has been around longer. A classic David and Goliath scenario.
- Content: Another reason for the success of WizardofOdds.com is their investment in content marketing. They’ve built reviews, guides, articles, checklists and more for those who are interested in online gaming. This has a lot to do with their harvest of organic keywords and links.
After data sterilization, approximately 27K live links were found:
There are a number of clustered outliers at DA 33, 34, 41 and 54:
Cluster at DA 34
Upon inspecting the clusters at DA 33-34, I found exactly what I was expecting. Check out the URL structure of this backlink:
If that doesn’t give it away, I don’t know what does. Meet Mr. Spammy McSpamster.
This is a link website, made for low-quality link building. I’d expect Google to find this site eventually and take action. If you look on the right side panel, you’ll notice “submit a link,” which is an indicator that this is a directory site. Not the type of link to be proud of.
Ahrefs page level authority skews heavily toward the low end, with outliers at the 46 and 60 range, and a surge of links at zero. These ranges suggest that a significant portion of backlinks are unlikely to move the needle, despite some links with average authority.
Example of Domain Rating Zero
Another typical link that I’d expect to have a low rating. This is a link wheel site with a footer that’s stuffed with partner links, all of which happen to be gambling websites.
Not an effective link-building tactic.
The Domain Trust Flow distribution has an extremely strong outlier at 19, an indication of duplicative site-wide links, some of which may be unnatural.
The Domain Trust Flow outlier is a redirect link to a foreign TLD:
Moz’s Spam Score (0-17 scale) recommends reviewing links with a score above 8. The links identified at score 7 and 8 have already been called out.
Mostly branded anchor text reflects a branded profile, with the emergence of online blackjack and online casino for non-branded terms.
The anchor word cloud raises suspicion as strange terms appear quite frequently:
Casino Room is at moderate risk for penalization based on the large number of the same type of links coming from low quality sources:
Most links are coming from sidebars and footers, an indication of low quality links:
Casino Room’s top referring domain, freespinstuaninsattning.com is a low-quality directory link site:
Example of a low-quality directory link:
Casino Room: Conclusions & Next Steps
- Needs a deep-dive link audit and clean up.
- Disavow freespinstuaninsattning.com
- Casino Room is trailing behind competitors in terms of links and traffic.
- The site is at moderate risk for a penalty.
- Start investing in content marketing and follow WizardofOdds.com
- Avoid sponsored site-wide footer and sidebar links.
- Urge affiliates to link naturally (content and editorial links preferred).
An SEO-savvy in-house marketer with technical chops can likely work with Casino Room’s P.R. and development teams to implement these recommendations.
If you're not an SEO-savvy marketer or you just don't have the time, Single Grain can help you! We’ve helped business of all sizes improve their marketing ROI, ultimately increasing revenue – check out some of our case studies here.
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Have you done any link audits lately? What’s your process like? Let us know in the comments below!