Why A Diverse Link Profile Is More Critical Than Ever

I really hate reading articles where people say “I told you so” or blast someone’s techniques, but the recent crackdown and deindexing of blog networks is a great lesson in what can happen if you rely on any one method in link building. I know people who run these types of networks and I know people who use them, and I also really, really hate to see anything bad happen, regardless of what I think about the techniques used.

For the record, I don’t see networks as being any worse than a lot of other tactics, so I’m writing this to illustrate a point, not to judge in any way.

We work with some clients who also work with other link builders who do other types of link building than we do. We also work with some clients who dictate what we do, and we work with some who leave it all up to us. Because of this, I think we have a fairly good idea of the full picture and of what works and what doesn’t work.

If I had to choose just one thing that our most successful clients have in common, it would be link diversity.

The sites that continue to enjoy good rankings and traffic are the ones that employ a variety of methods, that either have different groups working on different tactics, or that ask for and follow our advice about how to do things so that they aren’t reliant upon something that can crush them if the algorithm changes.

What Is A Diverse Link Campaign All About?

I think it’s much more than making sure that you have some nofollowed links, some image links here and there, and maybe a few good old sitewides. It’s about analyzing all the opportunities available to you and pursuing anything that you find credible. It’s also about ensuring that you’re visible in the latest and greatest places.

Where To Get Links

For a diverse profile, it’s all about getting your content out there through the use of social media, guest posting, reviews, and many other forms of interaction.

It’s about pursuing blog links, directory links, links on sites where your competitors are listed, and possibly links on crappy sites (trust me, it’s extremely rare to find a link profile that doesn’t include something spammy or questionable) and paid links that will send you lots of traffic.

Anchor Text Variation

I did something very cool recently, at a client’s request. I broke down competitors’ anchor text into categories that he gave me, rather than classifying them in my usual way. It gave me a whole new perspective on anchor text variation.

We tend to think of anchor text in broad categories like money terms or longtails, so breaking anchors down further made me see the smaller picture and identify similarities where I hadn’t seen them before.

Top Level Domain & Geo Variation

I know there are certain gold standards for link building (we love those .govs and .edus!) but I like to see a variety of links from other TLDs like .info, .net, .biz, among others. I also like to see good CCTLDs (country code top level domains) where it makes sense for your audience, but there are few sites that don’t show some sort of foreign links in their profile.

It’s kind of ethnocentric to think that you shouldn’t have those. If you’re doing link outreach and you’re finding targets by searching in Google, run some searches that will only generate results from a specific TLD or CCTLD.

Types Of Links

Permanent, sitewide, footer, sidebar, directories, links that roll off a blog’s homepage, links to your homepage, links to your subpages, profile links, forum and blog comment links, links on sites that show nothing but press releases or articles, links that fade away from a site after a certain amount of time, image links, and yes, even flashing banner links are all part of most profiles that I have analyzed.

I don’t deliberately pursue certain types of links at all times, for various reasons, but in analyzing profiles, it’s apparent that variety is definitely there. Many links that I wouldn’t necessarily pursue (like at the moment I’m not feeling the love for sitewides) are part of a natural profile and can give you great traffic if they’re well placed on the right site.

I’ve had to work on sites that had too high of a reliance upon sitewides, and that’s why I don’t usually seek them out, but I’d take a blogroll link on a great, high-profile blog relevant to my industry over an in-content one on an old site that gets 50 hits a month.

Real World Examples

Our SEO Chicks blog is approaching its 5th anniversary and I’ve used it before as an example of a very natural link profile.

Here’s what we see:

  • A really nice percentage of nofollowed links that are giving us good referrals.
  • Text and image links.
  • A good homepage to deep page link ratio.
  • Links from .com, .uk, .org, .net, .us, and .br.
  • Link from the Netherlands, Germany, the US, the UK, and Canada.

A quick look at my company website shows the following:

  • Links from the US, the UK, Canada, and France.
  • Text links and image links.
  • Nofollowed and followed links.
  • .com, .net, .org, .uk, and .me links.

That is a very simplistic summary of two link profiles that are at least semi-diverse and completely natural (ie., there are no paid links involved.) There is a heavy reliance upon certain types of links (I think we have too few image links and too high a percentage of .com links for my website, for example) but it’s getting to a better place in my eyes.

need more image links!

need more than just .com links!

We also do a local city blog called Avant Greensboro which is very, very new and shows the following:

  • Massively high anchor percentage for the brand.
  • No image links.
  • Links from only .com and .org sites.
  • Only links from the US.

Now, as I said we’re just starting out and we have not yet actively pursued links, but I can immediately devise a plan here. Since I like to create wishlists, here you go:

AG wishlist

Now, as I’ve said earlier, this is an extremely simplistic (and initial) method of analyzing your link diversity, as it’s limited to what’s been reported by Link Research Tools in my case. However, it’s a start, and it’s a good way to see your profile in terms of its variety in a few areas.

This type of quick analysis won’t tell you things like whether you have enough blog links or whether you’re too reliant upon certain anchors (there are other tools to help you with that) but the key is to think about diversity and to pursue it.

A Final Word

You may have a rare demographic that isn’t engaged socially (yet) for example. However, as we’ve seen with the recent insane growth of Pinterest, new social networks arise that appeal to people who might not have been previously attracted to them. In fact, the people following me on Pinterest are a truly diverse group that includes an old next door neighbor, high school classmates and their moms, and of course all you SEOs.

Who knows what’s next? We may see another Facebook or Twitter, and you will need to promote your site socially. Getting good links on high-traffic blogs with lots of good social signals is (in my opinion) something that will be one of the key ways to build links moving forward. I wouldn’t have said that three years ago.

Think about this too:  in the event that something bad does happen with your site in the rankings, being able to keep traffic coming is going to be critical. You have to diversify your traffic sources, period.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Building | Link Building: General | Link Building: Paid Links | Link Week Column


About The Author: owns the link development firm Link Fish Media and is one of the founding members of the SEO Chicks blog.

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  • http://twitter.com/jeffonsports Jeff Williamson

    Great article.  One question… in the article you said “ I broke down competitors’ anchor text into categories that he gave me, rather than classifying them in my usual way” … can you elaborate on this?

  • juliejoyce

    Hi Jeff,

    Thank you and I can indeed…I usually break things down into something like money phrases, longtails, brand, URL, noise, etc. but I broke the longtails down into more narrow categories so that I could tell how the “money” keywords were being used, like were they at the end of the longtail or the beginning. I didn’t do this for the other categories but you certainly could, as you’re sure to see brand anchors like “Search Engine Land” and “SearchEngineLand” AND “Search Engine Land’s site.” Does that help?

  • http://twitter.com/jeffonsports Jeff Williamson

    That definitely does help… thank you very much for responding so quickly!

  • juliejoyce

    You are very welcome!

  • http://www.ontargetcoach.com/ Brent Pittman

    This is all new to me. Just trying to comprehend. Question: I heard paid links are getting dinked on PR recently. True? 

  • juliejoyce

    Hi Brent…I have heard that some sites that exist only to sell links have seen their PR go back to 0 or n/a but that’s it. I have not yet witnessed anything personally though.

  • http://twitter.com/connections8 James Norquay

    A strong link profile will have various methods, I have been pushing this with clients for years to have varied sources and varied anchor text, too many people rely on a high percentage of the same anchor text until they get hit.

  • Kajetan Mazur


    Great Article :) Everyone should remember about JC Penny :)  As well our Polish sites like Nokaut,Ceneo and Skąpiec on January get filtered by google.pl(big polish sites that comperes prices).
    Once again great article :)

    Best Regards
    P.S, You didn’t what perspective did You gain in anchor variation?? “It gave me a whole new perspective on anchor text variation”- ca You be more specific ??

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1567677343 Moumita Ghosh

    Hi Julie,

                  One thing is not clear to me that longtails keywords are valuable or not. Please reply me.

  • juliejoyce

    I think they are always valuable, like almost anything else. 

  • juliejoyce

    Hi Kajetan,

    When I looked at anchor text breakdowns in a new way, it made me realize that I’d been missing the chance to dig deeper into variations mainly. I usually lumped anchors together as money terms, for example, and when I broke them down differently, what would have previously just been in my “money” category was now a variety of categories. I really just appreciated that doing something in a new way made me want to do other things in a new way, so it kind of broke my routine and that’s usually a good thing!

  • http://twitter.com/reputationvip Reputation VIP

    Well it is a 100% theorical post. Have you ever tried to rank a website without diversity ? I think many would have some surprises.

  • juliejoyce

    To be honest I’ve ranked websites in just about every way you can imagine. Lots of things that CAN be done may not be the best idea for the long-term though. 

  • Jack Flaming

    As Google is taking big steps towards preventing spamming, I think only this diversity thing can help saving the future of seo.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/kmadhav Sourabh Rana

    Hello juliejoyce,

    No doubt that we need links diversity on different types of domains, IP, categories like you mentioned. Search Engines loves your link on different types of domains.

    you talked about the this Link Research Tools  Is these tools help in link building and what is your opinion on Link Research Tools

  • juliejoyce

    Hi Sourabh,

    I use that set of tools for analysis but my opinion is quite favorable. You can get a one-day pass to check it out here: https://www.linkresearchtools.com/members/signup-v8.php?product=daypass

  • http://www.seothomas.com Thomas

    I am totally on board with you here except for one thing…..getting links from other country codes. Does Google.com really share info and link history with google.uk  

    Don’t these 2 entities run apart from each other? 

  • juliejoyce

    What I mean is that if you look at almost any link profile, you will see links from other countries than just the originating country where the site is based. It’s also the same data overall, just different views.

  • http://searchmonkeys.us/ Karthik kumar

     Good article. But, to my understanding links from diverse ccTLDs play a more important role than just diversity in link profile. I guess, as far as Google SERP is concerned, links from diverse ccTLDs help ranking in localized search results (more than ever, after Venice update). Now that said, doesn’t it imply that this kind of diversity would depend on wherever the website’s audience are in? I also think that, for websites that serve local audience, the respective ccTLD will have to dominate the profile.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=850289819 Jon Ogden

     This is a really great article that covers some pretty
    important points and keeps to the principles of ‘quality’ link building in mind.

    Diversity is the key to keep a link profile looking organic
    and not manipulated. In some respects it is common sense but so many people
    feel the pressure to outrank competitors from clients and thats when people
    start looking at the small picture i.e. quick wins and miss the big pic.

    When you refer to anchor text, how broad do you go? Anchor text diversity in my
    opinion is very important to success in link building.

    Again solid post! :-)

  • http://twitter.com/MedicalInsMedia Medical Insurance

    Very interesting. I always knew having links from .edu’s and .gov’s was important, but I never really thought about the importance of diversifying to .biz, .net, etc. I will definitely be broadening my link building tactics. Great article!

  • http://gamezone.in.th/ GameZone

    A strong link profile will have various methods, I have been pushing this. Thank you.


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