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Link Penalty Remediation (2/5)

Audit your Inbound Links

Back to: 1. Link Penalty Remediation

“Potentially Toxic Links” are your Minefield.

Danger Minefield

Danger MinefieldThe first Majestic data segment, as detailed in the video on the previous page, provides you with an introduction to the link auditing process. It also helps you to eliminate the bulk of toxic links from your website’s inbound link profile. In the vast majority of penalty remediation scenarios, overall link numbers should gradually diminish as Trust Flow (TF) and Citation Flow (CF) levels are increased through Majestic’s filter options. By the time you reach the TF 16-30 sheet, you should mainly be dealing with safe links, in most cases.

However, as you audit links with progressively higher Trust Flow, you can actually damage your chances of lifting the manual action by leaving too many toxic links in place, or hurt your site’s (SERP Search Engine Results Page) performance by culling too many beneficial links.

If you haven't watched our Link Penalty Remediation Video yet, NOW is a good time to do so.

Your "Toxic Links" Spreadsheet MUST be Set Up Correctly

Link Audit Word Cloud

Link Audit Word CloudYour “Toxic Links” sheet forms the core of your link penalty remediation efforts. It must be compiled diligently and without taking shortcuts during the audit process of the separate Majestic datasets.

As detailed in the video, here are the Trust Flow/Citation Flow filter ratios you’ll need to set for your inbound link report, before downloading each data segment:

  1. TF Min: 0 - TF Max 0 - CF Min 1 - CF Max 100
  2. TF Min: 1 - TF Max 2 - CF Min 3 - CF Max 100
  3. TF Min: 3 - TF Max 5 - CF Min 6 - CF Max 100
  4. TF Min: 6 - TF Max 15 - CF Min 12 - CF Max 100
  5. TF Min: 16 - TF Max 30 - CF Min 40 - CF Max 100

The Bad News is that from Dataset 2 onward you’ll no longer be able to simply discard an entire section of the downloaded link sheets. You’ll now have to audit every referring domain, first by TF/CF Ratio, and and then manually for spamminess, to separate the good from the bad.

The Good News is that - unless your site is an extreme offender - you should be able to safely ignore all links pointing at your site from referring domains with a Trust Flow of 20 or higher.

Note: With the above filter levels you’re extracting the “Potentially Toxic Links” from your website’s inbound link profile and then auditing these ”Profile Excerpts” to get rid of those links which caused Google to penalize you in the first place.

The Majestic Trust Flow/Citation Flow Link Naturalness Zone Chart

Majestic Trust Flow - Citation Flow Naturalness Chart

The 1:2 and 1:3 ratios described in the video enable you to prequalify your ”Potentially Toxic” and “Probably Toxic” links, and eliminate any that fall beyond the given parameters, out of hand. Once again, spam links need to be moved over to the ”Toxic” list for later action.

Majestic's Tools in Action

Majestic excels at distinguishing link quality at either end of the above chart. However, it can't work 100% reliably in the narrow "Caution Zone", between 1:2 and 1:3 Trust Flow/Citation Flow.

In this zone you’ll need to use your own judgment to ascertain link toxicity, but Majestic has done most of the heavy lifting for you. Experience has shown that this Caution Zone normally runs at 12% - 16% of your total link profile, so if you’re tackling 10k referring domains at the outset, you’ll still be left with 1,200 to 1,600 domains/websites you’ll need to assess manually.

Dealing with these remaining links is time consuming, because you have to visually examine webpages and sites. You need to consider both the individual quality of web pages linking to you, as well as the quality of the websites they're part of.

The good news is that the moment you find a spam page on a website, you're done, because you'll only VERY RARELY find a low-quality page on a quality site, but you will NEVER find a high-quality page on a spam site. Dump every URL from the site into your toxic list and move on.

Pro-Tip: There are no hard and fast rules for this part of the process, though there is one question which you should ask of every single website you’re assessing:

“Would I feel comfortable linking to this website from my own?”

If the answer is ”NO” you’re best off moving the domain in question to the ”Toxic Links” list.

Other factors you should take into consideration when manually auditing links:

  1. Overall Quality of Page[s] Linking to You
    Do these pages contain any useful content, like text or videos, or are they just vehicles for outbound links?Anything that looks and feels like a “Free for All” link repository can be safely disposed of on the “Toxic Links” list.
  2. Topic of the Page[s] Linking to You
    Topical Relevance is a big factor in link quality assessment. If the page you’re auditing is not at least of minimal topical relevance to your own website, then the links should be considered toxic.
  3. Number of other Links on the Page[s] linking to You
    Is yours the only site linked to by the other web page? Is there a small number of sites linked to by the web page or is your site one of many? If your site is one of many, linked to by the other web page, you’re safer marking the link as toxic.
  4. Topics of other Links on the Page[s] linking to you
    Where else is the page linking? If you’re a plumber from Cincinnati, do you really want to be associated with a place that also links to a Mexican pharmacy specializing in generic Viagra alternatives or a movie piracy website? Unless you’re comfortable with all other links on the page you’re auditing, it should be considered toxic.

The Task is Daunting, but not Impossible

Lastly, there’s usually no need to individually audit every single page from any given website. Spam will usually give itself away fairly quickly. If you have a thousand links to your site from a single domain, and the first couple are bad, chances are so are the other nine hundred and ninety eight. At that stage it’s simpler and easier to consign the entire website to the ”Toxic Links List” and be done with it.

Pro-Tip: While you’re auditing the domains on your Probably & Potentially Toxic lists, check the offending ones for contact email addresses and put those you find next to their home websites in your toxic links list. You’ll need them later.

Next up: 3. Gather Contact Email Addresses

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Armament Solutions

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