Did you miss the previous part in this backlinks analysis series? No worries, you can catch up right here: Analysis of 1 Million Backlinks: Lyft (Part 3/10)
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 Scale
Have you ever manually reviewed hundreds of thousands of backlinks one by one? I bet you haven’t — and it’s because you can’t. Well, maybe you can, but you would hate your life. So I don’t recommend doing that!
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 literally 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 four key categories:
These are the primary link metrics that will be used to evaluate Workday’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, 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 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: Workday
Workday is an enterprise-level software solution for human resource and financial management. Their platform is a unified alternative to enterprise resource planning, boasting clients such as Netflix, LinkedIn, Adobe, and Visa.
Key Insights: Workday’s Link Profile
- Referring Domain Velocity: Workday and Kronos have been fighting it out for the top spot since 2014. Workday has since taken a slight edge, building more links from more referring domains over time than key competitors. On average, they earn links from approximately 2,000 referring domains per month. That level of referring domain growth has been instrumental to their organic search success.
Source: Majestic SEO
- Total Referring Domains: Aside from gaining links faster than competitors, Workday has also acquired more overall links from more linking root domains, giving them a handsome edge against the competition.
Source: Open Site Explorer
After data sterilization, approximately 37k live links were found:
The distribution is showing a wide range of referring domains at various strengths, with the biggest cluster between DA 30-60, and a few outliers at 73 and 80:
Cluster at DA 42
Upon inspecting the cluster at DA 40-43, there was nothing unnatural about any of the referring domains. I’d expect to see some duplicate and site-wide links, but even those appeared sparingly. The example below is a typical mid-tier editorial link; they mention how Bonus.ly integrates with Workday to reward their employees.
Very common link from a typical mid-tier human resources blog.
Outliers at DA 80
Products that disrupt traditional ways of business operation, such as Workday, will naturally attract links from authoritative domains based on the unique story behind their product. See two examples of this below, the first from BusinessNewsDaily.com and the second from MarketWired.com.
The page authority skews heavily toward the mid-low end, with a cluster at the 13-20 range, and a second surge of links at 28-31. Based on these ranges, we may conclude that most backlinks are of average quality, with outliers above and below the average:
This is a low-quality link. There’s no content on the page except lists of other links:
The Domain Trust Flow distribution has strong outliers at 24-25 and 29, which is an indication of duplicative site-wide links, some of which may be unnatural:
The outlier at Trust Flow 29 is a low quality, site-wide, sidebar link:
Sidebar Links vs Editorial Links: Yes, It Matters!
Search engines have gotten really good at understanding how to algorithmically de-value low-quality backlinks.
Google is smart enough to know that lists of links, blogrolls and links that weren’t earned contextually don’t deserve the same weight as links from paragraph text.
At the URL level, most backlinks have a Citation Flow rating of 19-25, with a significant outlier at 33, which is an indication that most backlinks are somewhat influential, despite a high probability of site-wide links at the outlier:
The Citation Flow outlier is yet another sidebar widget link:
Moz’s Spam Score (0-17 scale) recommends reviewing links with a score above 8. Most of Workday’s links are below the alert threshold:
Mostly branded anchor text reflects a natural profile; however, there should be stronger signals for non-branded anchors like human resources.
The anchor word cloud confirms a natural anchor text profile:
Despite site-wide links and a high concentration of backlinks to referring domains, Workday has a natural link profile and is likely safe from penalization:
Workday has mostly shown a natural link profile, despite 49% of links falling into the caution bucket. These links should be reviewed manually to determine their fate:
Workday’s top referring domain, nstrm.nl, is a low-quality broken site:
Related Content: How to Build Premium Quality Backlinks to Boost Ranking [podcast]
Workday: Conclusions & Next Steps
- A disruptive product = backlink gold.
- Workday has emerged ahead of the pack in a competitive space.
- Build diverse anchor text links.
- Avoid sponsored widget links.
- Disavow Nstrm.nl
- Disavow Danger List URLs.
- Review Caution List.
An SEO-savvy in-house marketer with technical chops can likely work with Workday’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!
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