Backlink Analysis: How to Judge Good Links from Bad

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Backlink Analysis: How to Judge Good Links from Bad was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

“Please share a post about how to classify good and bad quality links.”
blog commenter Mike Jone, July 25, 2015

Backlink analysis - gavel and scalesBacklink analysis is a much-needed skill today. Our SEO analysts spend hours analyzing backlinks for clients — whether they come to us specifically for help removing a Google penalty or not.

These days, all webmasters need to keep an eye on their backlink profiles to identify good links to count as wins and bad ones to target for link pruning. Here we’ve outlined our internal process for analyzing SEO client backlinks to judge which links to keep and which to get rid of.

  1. Understand your goal. Approach backlink cleanup differently when working to remove a penalty vs. performing regular backlink maintenance.
  2. Create your master list. A spreadsheet is your tool for keeping track of your research and backlink analysis activities.
  3. Check your site’s backlinks against any previously submitted disavow files. If you’re inheriting a website that has had search engine optimization management, you may find that a Google disavow file has been submitted. It’s always a good idea to confirm that the previously created disavow file was accurate and did not prune links unnecessarily. Once you’ve confirmed that the disavowed links are low quality, you can continue to include them on future disavow files.
  4. Score backlinks (keep, request removal, disavow) with tools. Tools including DisavowFiles, Ahrefs, Majestic and Moz can indicate quality of backlinks.
  5. Visit the pages linking to your site. While you can get some idea of backlink quality with tools, nothing can evaluate topical relevance and overall appropriateness like a human visitor.
  6. Choose to keep, request removal or nofollow, or disavow each link. Then take action.

At the end of the article you’ll find additional backlink cleanup resources:

Backlink Analysis

Analyzing backlinks is a messy and time-consuming business. When we perform SEO penalty assessments and link pruning services for our clients, the most tedious part is manually evaluating the individual backlinks. It’s like sorting laundry, or weeding a lawn, or separating trash into recyclables and, well, garbage. But all of these tasks must be done.

Have the Right Attitude for Your Goal

Keep in mind that backlinks are necessary and good to help a website rank. Don’t go waving your machete around too wildly or you might hurt your website more than help it. Still, as Bruce Clay says, every site has its weakest link — and depending on the site, you may have a lot of spammy links that need removing.

Have a penalty? If your site has been penalized for unnatural links, then you should be harsher in your backlink analysis. Your site is already bleeding traffic and revenue. Find the bad links and cut them off! Websites not in a penalty situation can be more lenient in their backlink analysis. Adjust how strict you are in your attitude towards backlink cleanup based on your site’s situation.

Create a Spreadsheet to Track Your Findings and Decisions

Backlink analysis is a process that has many steps that may not be happening linearly or along the same timeline. Every one of your thousands of backlinks could be in a different stage of the process. Use a master list to combine the data from several different sources in whatever spreadsheet program you’re using (Excel or Google Sheets). Basically, you want to take the different spreadsheets you created doing the various downloads and combine them into one.

We recommend downloading your backlinks in bulk from Google Search Console and at least one of these additional sources:

In your spreadsheet, use the linking URL as your key identifier in one column, the root domain in an adjacent one, and get the various other data fields lining up. Merge and delete your duplicates to create a workable list of backlinks.

Your spreadsheet may have hundreds or thousands of web pages that link to yours. Here’s an example of how you might set up the combined list, with columns for Source, URL, Root Domain, Action, Trust Flow, Citation Flow, Nofollowed, Not Found, Notes, and Whois.

Backlink analysis spreadsheet example

Example backlink analysis spreadsheet (click to enlarge)

Check for Disavowed Links First

Save yourself some work and find out right away whether the website has ever submitted a disavow file to Google, which is the list of links a website asks the search engine to ignore. Get a copy of the most recent disavow file that was submitted (because each new disavow file submitted to the search engine supersedes any previously submitted versions for that site).

If either the specific URL or the domain of the linking site (which is the main site name, such as have been disavowed, consider the link disavowed also. The good news is that, once you are satisfied with the disavow file’s accuracy, you won’t need to do any more backlink analysis on those links! You’ve already asked the search engine to ignore them, so you can, too.

Find Out More about the Linking Sites

With the remaining (non-disavowed) backlinks, you need a way to tell the good from the bad. Can you tell just by looking at the URL? With practice, sometimes you may be able to. But usually, you’ll need some extra information in order to evaluate them.

The tools below provide quick intel for backlink analysis. They can help you judge the quality of websites linking to yours. Which ones you choose depends on your budget, time and tool preferences.

  • Majestic: Trust Flow and Citation Flow
    Majestic’s metrics top our list because our SEO analysts think this tool gives the most accurate, up-to-date link information available. In fact, we integrate our SEOToolSet Pro software with link data pulled from Majestic to provide link reports for subscribers. So if you gathered your original backlinks list using either your own Majestic account or an SEOToolSet Pro Link Report, then your spreadsheet should already contain columns for Trust and Citation Flow. Briefly …Citation Flow is a number from 0 to 100 that shows how much link juice the site has (based on how many sites link to it). So this number roughly shows how influential a backlink from this site may be, whether for better or worse.Trust Flow (also 0 to 100) shows how trustworthy the site is based on how close those links are to authoritative, trustworthy sources. In other words, this number shows whether a backlink from this site could be helpful or not.
  • Moz: Page Authority and Domain Authority
    Moz’s Open Site Explorer product shows you scores (on a 100-point scale) estimating the authority of a specific web page and of the site as a whole.
  • Ahrefs: URL Rating and Domain Rating
    Ahrefs’ proprietary scoring system can help you judge backlink quality. Ranking scores attempt to measure the authority of a URL (page) and its domain based on backlinks, similar to Google’s PageRank.
  • (a free service of Bruce Clay, Inc.)
    DisavowFiles compares your backlink profile (pulled from Majestic) against disavow files others have submitted into a crowdsourced database, telling you how many times a particular linking site has been disavowed by others in the database. Knowing which of your backlinks have been disavowed by others can help you easily identify sites you might want to disavow, too. There’s no stronger red flag for backlink cleanup than knowledge that a site is a frequently disavowed suspect.

Visit the Linking Sites

Once you’ve combined download sources, merged duplicates, removed already-disavowed links, and added trust metrics and intel, it’s time to review your master list. Now’s when you roll up your pant legs and prepare to wade through a little mud.

Just kidding. (Not really.)

Unfortunately, there’s no substitute for going to look at most backlinks manually to determine whether they are OK to keep. Since you may be working with thousands of backlinks, prioritize the work so you find the worst offenders first. You may not have to wade far before you’ve discovered and removed the links that are hurting your site the worst.

To prioritize your backlink analysis, sort your spreadsheet by the metric you feel shows trustworthiness the most clearly. For example, you could sort by Trust Flow (with Citation Flow and Root Domain as second and third sort levels). Invert the order if necessary (by clicking on a column heading) so that the lowest trust metrics appear at the top.

Make Decisions and Take Action

Create columns for where to put the results of your research. In the spreadsheet example we showed above, there were columns for Action and Notes. Use these to mark whatever you find out and what you decide to do, if anything, with each link.

There are several possible backlink cleanup decisions you can make from your backlink analysis.

  • Ignore (keep the link)
  • Request that the site remove or nofollow your link
  • Request that the site change the anchor text of your link
  • Disavow the linking page or domain

What Makes a “Good” vs. “Bad” Backlink

Unless the site engaged in illicit link-buying in the past and accumulated a slew of spammy links, most links are probably beneficial or at least neutral in their impact. You should be able to ignore the majority of backlinks in your spreadsheet for most non-penalized sites.

Good backlinks come from a trustworthy site, not a spam site. So look at those trust metrics you gathered. For example, a Trust Flow of zero could mean the site is new and hasn’t gotten any link love yet — but it also could indicate a problem. Watch out especially for a site with low Trust Flow and high Citation Flow — that means it’s getting a lot of link juice from all the sites linking to it, but they may all be spam! A link from that type of site could be poison.

Good backlinks come from web pages that are relevant to your page’s topic, as well. One or two links to your auto insurance site coming from a local dog groomer might be innocuous. But beware of patterns of unnatural linking. If every dog groomer in the state is linking to your auto insurance page, it could cause an eyebrow raise or even a penalty from Penguin.

Similarly, beware of global links to your site. For instance, if every page on a site has a followed link to your auto insurance quote page, that looks really suspicious to the search engines. If you see hundreds of links all coming from a single root domain, you should look to see what’s going on there.

Nofollowed Links Are Okay

Besides ignoring the good links you find, you can also ignore links that are nofollowed. Google won’t tell you which ones are and aren’t followed links to your site, meaning that they pass link value (for better or for worse). So it’s up to you to know how to tell the difference.

Look at the HTML source code of a page to see if either of these are true. If so, the link is harmless to your site:

  • The attribute rel=”nofollow” is contained in the link tag itself.
  • The head section of the linking page has a meta robots nofollow tag.

Backlink Evaluation Flowchart

Here’s a handy diagram you can refer to when doing backlink analysis and cleanup. Click to open the full size image.

Backlink evaluation flowchart

August 28th 2015 SEO

Danny Sullivan & Ginny Marvin Video Speed Interview: What’s Trending at SMX

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August 26th 2015 PPC, SEO

Free SEO Tool Alert! Keep Your Server Running Its Best with the Check Server Page Tool

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Free SEO Tool Alert! Keep Your Server Running Its Best with the Check Server Page Tool was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

It’s time for another Free SEO Tool Alert blog post! In this educational miniseries we share our free SEO tools – the complimentary samples you can use without registering or downloading software. Today’s tool is the Check Server Page tool.

The Check Server Page tool reports a page’s server header response codes to help you spot any server-level issues that might be affecting your site’s performance in search engine rankings.

Free SEO Tool Alert: Check server page

It’s a simple diagnostic tool that helps you keep your server running its best. Dive in to learn exactly what it shows about your server and how to use the data to improve your organic search engine optimization strategy.

Today’s Free SEO Tool: Check Server Page Tool

Tool type: diagnostic tool, header check, server health

What you’ll learn: the “crawlability” of your site and if there are any issues that might be blocking your site from showing up in search results.

Why this matters: The data you get from this tool shows you the header response codes for any page on your site, which gives you the opportunity to fix any errors. Fixing server-related errors makes your site easily crawlable for the search engines and provides a pleasant user experience.

This is the Check Server Page tool; try it now.

Check Server Page Tool

Please submit your URL; one URL at a time:


 SEOToolSet® Page Cloaking Report
URL Google Yahoo Search Bing Firefox Internet Explorer Opera Google Chrome
= No cloaking found, = Cloaking found. You may need to check the site for the specific user-agent.


How to Use It

  1. Submit a URL and click the Check Response Headers button. You can only enter one URL at a time.
  2. The Check Server Page tool produces a report that features information about the response codes for the URL you entered, including the server’s response headers, tags like the content type, expire date, and other important information like the server type, DNS IP & average ping time.

The HTTP response headers in the Check Server Page tool report vary depending on the type of server and the website you have. But a typical report gives you information about the following response headers:

  • Status: where you will find HTTP status codes, or a list of your redirects and any errors
  • Content length: this is the size of the resource in bytes
  • Expires: the date after which the resource will be outdated
  • Server: the type of server
  • Connection: typically “keep-alive” or “close”

In addition to HTTP response headers, the report also provides other information about the page, including:

  • The original URL
  • DNS IP address
  • Ping

check server page screenshot

How to Use This Data

When you run your key pages through this tool, you’ll learn server-level issues that might be affecting your site’s performance in search engine rankings.

Use the information provided in this report to:

1. Identify server-related problems with a web page

Are you concerned about a recent falling out or a drop in rankings? The first place to check is your server. Apart from using it as a regular maintenance check, the Check Server Page tool should be your go-to diagnostic tool when there’s problem with your website’s ranking or visibility. To see potential problems, pay attention to the server status codes in the report.

To see the service status codes, run the tool and look at the Value column next to the Status header. Within that column the report will give you the server status codes for that URL the way search engines see them. What you do next depends on what you find.

A Healthy Server: 200

If you see the number 200, then you know the page is normal and healthy. If you’re doing a regular maintenance check, you should be satisfied with the results. However, if you’re trying to discover the reason for a fluctuation in your rankings, a healthy server means that you can now move on from this tool and focus your diagnosis on other SEO factors to find the cause of a drop or fall out.

check server page tool 200

Red Flag Error Codes: 302? 404?

There are many different server status codes and each one gives the search engines specific information about your web page. Some status codes should be seen as red flags, letting you know that there’s a real issue with how your site is being crawled by the search engines.

For example, a 302 server status code, which tells the search engine that a web page has temporarily moved from one URL to another, can cause serious problems with your sites rankings. This is mainly because the redirect does not pass the accumulated link equity (“link juice”) to the redirect destination. It is almost always better to use a 301 redirect in these instances.

Another common server status code that could raise a red flag is the 404 error code, which basically tells search engine spiders that the web page they are requesting is not there. Similar to the way human visitors react when coming across such a page, search engine spiders have no choice but to leave your site which could stop them from indexing all of the pages on your site.

Common Error Codes

It’s also possible to find error codes that might not be responsible for a fall out or a drop in rankings. Nevertheless, an error is an error. Even if it doesn’t raise a red flag, an error server code should be fixed in order to have a healthier server (and site).

2. Fix server error codes

As mentioned above, the Check Server Page tools shows you any errors that might be stopping a search engine spider from properly indexing the web page. Now that you’ve used the tool and have identified these obstacles, it’s time to use the data you got from this tool to repair the damage.

For example, as we mentioned earlier, if you found a 302 redirect code, change it to a 301 status code. Unlike the temporary 302 redirect, a 301 means that the web page has moved permanently. This code allows a spider to travel easily from the old page to the new one without any problems and has the added benefit of transferring link juice to the new destination.  Repairing these errors can be a quick and easy way to improve the health of your server and boost your website rankings.

3. Check the page speed

While the server header section of the report gives important information about your server, there’s a lot more to the report than the page status. Another valuable piece of data you will find in the report is the average Ping time. This information is located at the bottom of the report in the category Other Info. Average ping time can often reveal network latency or overall site speed issues. You can expect an average ping to be anywhere from 30 – 100ms. Anything longer than that and you may have an issue. While ping time is not enough to confirm that there is a problem, it can signal a potential issue that can be revealed by performing a more thorough check of site speed and performance.

When to Use This Tool

The Check Server Page tool is a free diagnostic tool you can use to find potential URL level server issues. Keeping your server healthy allows search engine spiders to react to pages on your site the way you want them to. Bookmark this Free SEO Tool Alert to use this tool as often as you need, including:

  • After a site migration, to make sure that you’re using the proper redirect rules (using as few jumps as possible) and that those redirects are traveling through a 301 redirect instead of a 302.
  • Before you manually submit your site to search engines to index new content
  • Regularly, as part of your ongoing maintenance to ensure that your server is clean and healthy, especially for important landing pages

Discover More FREE SEO Tools

If using free SEO tools works well for you, take advantage of this miniseries to learn how to use all 10 of our free tools. They are imbedded within this miniseries as well as in our SEO tutorial, which provides detailed context and education about the tools within our time-tested search engine optimization methodology.

If you like the complimentary tools, start using the SEOToolSet. Use the lightweight, free version of the tools, SEOToolSet Lite, to save your projects and analyze your site for free. The full SEOToolSet Pro includes our Ranking Monitor for $89 a month. If you’re serious about SEO, SEOToolSet is designed to give you the data and reports you need to grow your business through organic search engine optimization.

August 26th 2015 SEO

SEO changes, and so do our site reviews

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SEO changes, and so do our site reviewsYoast has three main product lines. You all know our plugins, which are the main part of our business. Next to that, we have written a number of eBooks (the third one is actually coming out soon!) and we perform website reviews on a daily basis.

All three product lines are related: they’re all about optimizing your website for both Google and your visitors. From our site reviews, we learn the issues webmasters or website owners are struggling with. Both from the intake forms that we send before the review, as from the six weeks of email support we provide with our reviews. The things we learn provide valuable input to improve our plugins, and provide ideas for our eBooks and the upcoming Yoast Academy we’ll be launching later this year.

This coherence in our products makes that we can stay on top of our game.

Ever changing website reviews

Our website reviews help you to optimize your website the best way possible. In our Gold Review, we check your website for over 300 possible issues, depending on the type of website you have. Obviously, we focus on the issues that matter most.

These checks sometimes change on a weekly basis, and a lot of these changes are triggered by market developments or Google algorithm changes. Sometimes new checks are ‘inspired’ by the blog posts or the eBooks we write. Let me give you an example. Over the last year, the importance of headings for SEO has decreased a lot. It’s more and more a user-friendly way to mark up your articles, instead of headings having any SEO value for your page. In our reviews, we do a number of checks for headings, but with more and more UX focus. I can imagine we will eventually check for instance the design and how font sizes of H2 and H3 relate to each other, as Google is better and better at analyzing the design of a website, regardless of the markup itself.

Another example. Authorship markup isn’t important anymore for your rankings. That doesn’t mean the author isn’t either. In our reviews, we removed the check for authorship, but there should still be attention for the author, so we do check for that.

All kinds of customers

Our Gold Reviews consist of a number of checks that apply to all websites, but a number of checks is tailored to specific types of sites.

If a site for instance is an online shop, we check how customer support is integrated into the website. If you want to increase trust, and thus lower the barriers to purchase a product in your web store, you want to make sure there is an obvious way to contact you. That could be by displaying a phone number in your header. With more and more live chats on eCommerce websites, this might become a substitute for that phone number. But as long as not all your customers are used to live chat, you really need that phone number.

We also encounter photography websites on a regular basis. These websites are usually about photos, photos and nothing but photos. You really want text to go along with these, and you also want to use data to make sure Google can ‘read’ these images as good as possible as well.

Magazine websites or blogs require a different focus than purely informative websites. There is more user interaction and archives play a huge role. In our reviews, we will pay extra attention to these specific issues, where we might focus more on a menu and search option for the informative websites.

User experience is related to all kind of things, one of them being theme color. We have seen dentist websites that were going against the stream with green and orange color schemes. If you Google ‘dentist website’ in image search, your screen will turn blue. Only a few, specialized dentist websites can pull off a different color scheme than that. In our reviews, we try to take the business type and branding into account when advising on user experience.

That’s just a tip of the iceberg. Our Gold Reviews help all kind of websites, from large, well-known sites to the grocery next door.

Gold review: value for money

We have to adjust our reviews on a regular basis to match up to latest developments in the SEO world. As our reviews change, we always keep a keen eye on the value for money as well. It’s a combination of time spent, euro-dollar rate and capacity. We have hired more consultants, have upgraded our tools and accordingly, permanently lowered the price for our Gold Review.

If you have ever considered ordering a Gold Review, but decided not to at that time, you might want to reconsider now. Our Gold Review is now available for only $899 $799. Go and order your review. Or visit that same page for more information, of course.

Marita Meegan“If you need in-depth on-page and off-page SEO analysis, their customized Website Review analyses about 200 factors on your website. In other words, Yoast stays on top of not just Google’s updates but also new opportunities for SEO in order to provide a first class review.”
Marita Meegan, founder of

We’re happy to help you improve your website!

This post first appeared as SEO changes, and so do our site reviews on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

August 25th 2015 SEO

How 3 Mega E-Commerce Websites Approach Title Tag & Meta Description Optimization

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Here’s a test: Google “fairy wings” right now. Your job is to quickly find which result will sell you a set of glitter fairy wings and preferably include free shipping.

Now that you’ve begun your search, how do you know which result will bring you to the most qualified products? One way is to visually scan the title and description snippets in your search results.

There are nearly 12 billion Google searches per month. Consumers conduct searches for products or services they need, and often use the snippets in search results as deciding factor on whether to click, or keep scrolling.

The examples below show how three mega e-commerce sites approach title tags and meta descriptions, what they’re doing right and some additional opportunities.

alibaba logo takes a keyword-heavy approach to title tags and meta descriptions. Jam-packed with keywords, their title tags and meta descriptions often exceed recommended character counts and do not create compelling arguments for click-throughs.

What they’re doing right

  • Specifying title tags and meta descriptions on every page
  • Including keywords in title tags and meta descriptions
  • Using action-oriented meta descriptions to call readers to “Find quality [product name here]”

Strategic recommendations

  • Reduce title tag length: Lengths are consistently over 100 characters. Limiting the character count to 50-60 will reduce truncation in search results and allow to reign in their optimization strategy to focus on 1-2 top priority keywords per page.
  • Reduce meta description length: Descriptions tend to be upwards of 200 characters on this site. Limiting the character length to 160 characters or less will allow to lead with a complete, cohesive sentence in search results.
  • Draft unique and compelling meta descriptions: Meta descriptions on this site’s product pages simply reorder keywords listed in title tag and tend to trail off into lists of keywords for the bots to read. Draft descriptions for readers instead of search bots to improve click-through rates with concise, actionable language that emphasizes’s value proposition.

alibaba meta example


amazon logo

Amazon appears to take a minimalistic approach to title tags and meta descriptions. Template-style descriptions leave room for improvement in terms of providing useful and compelling reasons to click.

What they’re doing right

  • Specifying title tags and meta descriptions on every page
  • Not exceeding character limitations in most cases

Strategic recommendations

  • Draft more robust meta descriptions: Second level category pages such as Toys & Games or Electronics appear to have effortless, default meta titles and descriptions. Due to the incomplete description provided by Amazon in the example below, Google has opted to feed additional copy from the page that it feels better represents the content of the page. Amazon could take control of this lost meta description real estate by providing a detailed and compelling description.
  • Draft compelling title tags: Although “Toys & Games” may be the actual page title, this title tag does not compel a reader to click. It does not evoke interest, or curiosity, or excitement. We recommend drafting a title that highlights the value proposition or ties into an overarching brand voice.

Amazon meta example

Best Buy

best buy logo

Best Buy’s approach to meta titles and descriptions is the perfect mix of taglines, keywords and marketing objectives to provide attractive page snippets you can’t help but click.

What they’re doing right

  • Concise language that defines the benefit of shopping with them: In-store pickup, free shipping on thousands of products, expert service.
  • Appropriate lengths to avoid truncation in search results
  • Unique title tags and meta descriptions on every page

Strategic Recommendations

  • Keep rocking your mad meta skills!

best buy meta example

For years, optimization experts have been told that keywords within meta titles and descriptions do not effect organic ranking – and while Google’s ranking algorithm may not be reading these keywords, users are. They’re deciding which search result to click on based on their perception of the relevance of each result page.

How compelling are your title tags and meta descriptions? Ensure they follow recommended character limits, include 1-2 keywords most relevant to the page’s content and concisely pitch your value proposition. If you do, your glittery fairy wings should be flying off the shelves in no time.

For more real-life examples of search engine optimization strategies and results, check out TopRank Marketing’s integrated marketing case studies.

Header image via Shutterstock.

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August 25th 2015 Online Marketing, SEO

Free SEO Tool Alert! How Strong Is Your Competition? Compare at a Glance

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Free SEO Tool Alert! How Strong Is Your Competition? Compare at a Glance was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Search engine optimization tools — kind of our specialty. Bruce Clay’s suite of SEO power tools gives our own SEO specialists the data and analysis they need to service our clients and we’re pretty sure that these SEO tools can help you work through your search marketing to-do list a little faster.

SEOToolSet is now in its sixth incarnation, bringing users new features and rich data. Over the years we developed free versions of some of the tools to extend their usefulness and let everyone use them without signing up. Who doesn’t love free samples?

Bruce Clay, Inc. offers 10 stand-alone, lightweight versions of our SEO tools that run instantly without download or registration required. You can use them from the Free SEO Tools page on, when you want, as often as you want, and without logging in.

So far we’ve posted about five free SEO tools in our Free SEO Tool Alert Miniseries. (You can see the entire miniseries here, including a lightweight backlink analyzer and the free version of the powerful on-page content analyzer, the Single Page Analyzer.) Today we introduce you to the Domain Indexing Report, which lets you compare your site and up to five competitors to see how the strength of the pack stacks up at a glance.

Today’s Free Tool: Domain Indexing Report

Tool type: competitor research, content analysis

What you’ll learn: Important domain-level statistics including PageRank and the number of pages indexed in the search engines about your own website and your competitors.

Why this matters: You want to know how your website optimization compares to your high-ranking competitors. The domain statistics you get from this report let you see if you’re in the same weight class as them when it comes to certain elements of your on-site content. By comparing this data you can discover the quality and quantity of content you need for your niche and fine-tune your own website accordingly.

This is the Domain Indexing Report:








SEOToolSet® Domain Indexing Report

Domain PR Total Google Yahoo Search Bing Pages Indexed Chart

How to Use It

  1. Submit up to six domains(one domain per box) and select “Get Info.”

Tip: Enter your main competitors’ domains according to each of your important keywords.

  1. The lightweight Domain Indexing Report produces a chart that includes the following domain-level statistics:
  • The number of pages each domain has indexed broken down by search engine, for Google, Bing, and Yahoo
  • PageRank of each site

Domain Indexing Report

  1. Click on the number of indexed pages provided for each search engine to see the pages that have been indexed in that search engine.

Domain Indexing Report Google Pages

Once you click on the number of pages in Google, for example, you will be taken to the pages indexed in the actual search engine.

Pages Indexed in Google

Note: The Domain Indexing Report gives you a number of pages that might be different than the numbers of pages you see when you actually click on the link. This happens because for the actual report, we use the custom search API for each search engine; however the link sends you to results for a web search in the browser. Here’s Google’s explanation as to why that happens.

Ways to Use This Data

Now that you know the PageRank of your competitors as well as the number of pages they have indexed in the search engines, it’s time to learn how to use this information to boost your own website optimization efforts. Here are three ways you can harness the data:

  1. Compare the number of pages you have indexed in the search engines with your competitors. The Domain Indexing Report lets you see if there is a significant difference between your indexed page count and the number of pages your competitors have indexed in the search engines. Why is this important? A significant gap could be the reason why you’re not ranking as well as your competitors.

For example, if you discover that your competitor has a thousand more pages indexed than your website, this insight can help you ask the right questions, such as “Are they writing about topics that you’ve overlooked?” Or, the Domain Indexing Report might reveal that you have a large number of pages indexed, while your most successful competitors are ranking well with less content. Why is this the case? Identifying the issue will allow you to ask the right questions and get to the bottom of your SEO issues.

Along with revealing any disparities, comparing this data offers another benefit: It gives you an idea of the average or normal website page count for your type of business or industry. This information allows you to see where you stand and whether you need to add more content to your website to be seen as a trustworthy expert in your field.

  1. Examine the way search engines consider your site. Using the Domain Indexing Report, you will get a good idea of whether the search engines are crawling your site the way you want them to. If you see that there’s a big difference across each search engine, it’s time to look deeper into why that might be the case. For example, you might find that the difference is due to the fact that some search engines index faceted search pages and others don’t. If search engines find pages with filters on them, they may or may not include them in their index. So if you discover that this is the reason for the difference you can then take the necessary steps to fix the problem.


  1. Compare your PageRank with your competitors’. PageRank is a score Google calculates using the number of inbound links and other factors (you can learn more about What is PageRank here.) Google has said that it doesn’t update the PageRank score anymore, but it’s still a metric that can be considered in SEO analysis. How does your PR compare to your strongest competitors? The Domain Indexing Report will tell you. Learning the PR of your competitors gives you a clear idea of the weight class you have to fall under in order to compete in the ring. If you find that you’re in the same weight class, great. You can now focus your SEO efforts on beating your competition in that ring. But if you find that you’re way off, it’s time to start working out — or getting your website on par with your strongest competitors.

Domain Data Beyond the Free Sample

You can access the same domain data featured in the Domain Indexing Report by subscribing to SEOToolSet Pro. The only difference is that the information in this report is featured in a different tool, the Multi Page Analyzer. To see the domain data in SEOToolSet Pro, run the Multi Page Analyzer and select the “Off-Page Ranking Factors” tab.

Take Advantage of 10 Free SEO Tools

The Domain Indexing Report is a free and simple competitive analysis tool that allows you to see whether you’re in the same weight class as your competitors. Sample the Domain Indexing Report and the rest of the lightweight tools we offer to test, analyze, and improve your strategies, for free. If you’re happy with the results, we invite you to sign up for our forever-free SEOToolSet Lite or the SEOToolSet Pro for $89 per month for two site projects. You can learn about the two subscription choices here.

August 19th 2015 SEO

The New Era of SEO: Optimize for People Before Searchbots

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Human shaking hands with a robot

Dating back to when the first mainstream consumer search engines became available in the mid-nineties, digital marketers have desired to see their businesses succeed in the lucrative but often confusing search marketing landscape. And thus search engine optimization (SEO) was born.

Twenty years later, we’ve certainly come a long way, both in terms of the capabilities of search engines and in the strategies that SEO professionals implement in their attempts to master them. Given the complexity of modern search engine algorithms, it takes a lot more than just sticking keywords on your website in order to achieve prominent search rankings.

So, what does it take to win in search in 2015 and beyond? With hundreds of complex algorithms working 24 / 7 to serve up answers for over 5 billion Google search queries per day, that’s a question that can get very complex, very quickly.

But it doesn’t have to be so complex. Rather than trying to understand and react to the intricacies of every search engine algorithm that rolls out, it’s much more productive and sustainable to think in terms of the core objective of search engines, which is actually pretty simple: to connect users with great search results. Great results make people happy and happy people are likely to keep searching. If your website content makes for great search results, the search engines will be happy to serve them up.

Below are five attributes that you can incorporate into your website and content to make sure you’re providing the kind of great search results that will help you succeed in SEO both now and in the future.

Technically Sound

Remember when you found that excellent article, but the experience was dampened by the fact that it took 20 seconds for the page to load, the images were poor quality, the embedded video never loaded at all and several of the in-text links were broken?

Me neither. I clicked away after waiting 5 seconds for the page to load and never came back, and I’m betting you would have too if this wasn’t a hypothetical question.

Search engines reward technically sound sites that work well because they know that it’s essential for good user experience in additional to helping bots to effectively crawl and index.

Make sure your site is in tip top shape by:

• Improving page load speed
• Fixing broken links
• Optimizing images and media assets

Answers Questions

‘Where is the best wood-fired pizza in my neighborhood?’ ‘What’s the quickest way to get rid of the flu?’ ‘How can I get a better ROI from my company’s content marketing investment?’

Whether stated implicitly or implied, every search query is a question and every search result is an answer. Of course, not all answers are created equally and Google only wants to show the best answers.

In order to be the best answer, the critical first step is to understand the questions your customers are asking. Persona based keyword research plus solid content planning, creation and promotion are essential.

Works on All Devices

Mobile devices are practically ubiquitous today and the search engines know it. In fact, more Google searches take place on mobile devices than desktop computers today.

Smartphones and tablets have already taken the internet by storm and all signs point to an increasingly mobile future. This means that a mobile optimized website is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s an essential.

Easy to Share

Whether the effect is directly causal or not (the jury is still deliberating), research demonstrates a strong correlation between social signals (shares, comments, etc.) and prominent organic search rankings. Similar to links, social signals are a good indicator of the value of web content to users, so it makes sense that search engines would take these factors into account.

To make sure your content is easy to share socially, make sure you have prominent share buttons built into the template of your website and external digital assets. For extra credit, implement social schema markup like OpenGraph and Twitter Cards to help your content look great and have added functionality when shared.

Optimized Across the Customer Journey

As previously mentioned, every search query is a question and every search result is an answer. In addition, every search query has context and intent behind it. The best answers take this into account.

For example, somebody searching for pizza in Minnesota probably isn’t going to be satisfied with the same results as somebody performing the same search from New York. Similarly, someone looking to contact a sales rep at your company probably isn’t going to be happy going to your FAQ page, whereas someone who is in the process of evaluating your solution against your competitors would probably be quite happy to land there.

Especially if you have a longer sales cycle, there’s a good chance that prospects will interact with your content multiple times before converting into customers and will search differently along the way. In the exploratory phase, people may search broadly for information on a topic or industry, and can be attracted by easy to digest content like blog posts or videos. Further along the journey, people are likely to narrow their searches a bit to seek out specific information or drill in on topics in more detail. Termed the engagement phase, longer form content like ebooks or whitepapers can be the perfect answers for these searchers. When they are ready to convert into customers, users are well served by content that helps them to make the decision. Case studies, feature comparisons and testimonials may provide them with the evidence they (and their bosses) need to feel confident that they are making the right choice.

Optimizing for the context and intent behind the search keywords you’re targeting means that your content has a better chance of reaching searchers when it’s going to be the most valuable, which is directly in line with what the search engines want too. See how that works out?


Need help getting your SEO program firing on all cylinders? Check out TopRank’s full range of strategic SEO services.

Image via ShutterStock.

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The post The New Era of SEO: Optimize for People Before Searchbots appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

August 17th 2015 Online Marketing, SEO

How to Aggregate All Your Data into SEO Dashboards

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Have you ever missed a client mention or let an SEO project fall through the cracks? We all have, but there are now solutions that make getting organized and staying on top of our complex work lives easier.

While we all know how to set up alerts, receiving them in emails doesn’t make it easy to organize them and share them with clients. Did you know you can pull them all into an All-in-one Cyfe dashboard and track your keyword rankings and backlinks in the same place?

Between that how-to post and the comprehensive instructions Kristi Hines wrote up in this Search Engine Watch managing your SEO clients with Cyfe post, it is possible to monitor everything, pull it into a dashboard, and even export it into good-looking reports for clients.

Monitor Client Brand Mentions

Kristi wrote that Google no longer allows us to monitor brand mentions using RSS. But she provided a process to do it using Cyfe:

  • Use Google blog search
  • Search for brand mentions minus the brand site URL. For example, brand name
  • Scroll to the bottom of the search and copy the search result RSS link
  • Use the Cyfe RSS widget to create a latest blog post mentions dashboard

View All Client Gmail Addresses in Cyfe

Do your clients have multiple email addresses (such as info, sales, support, etc.) that you need to monitor? Set up a Cyfe gmail dashboard to review and preview them all in one place.

Running a big promotion? Use Cyfe to count the number of emails coming into an email address set up just for that promotion.

Client SEO Dashboards

Create a dashboard for every client and pull up to 60 metrics from Google Analytics showing traffic sources, audience, conversions, content, ecommerce and events.

Add a Google Webmaster widget and never miss an important notification again. See crawl errors, unread messages, top internal/external keywords and sitemap URLs.

Moz widgets can import a snapshot of domain authority, page authority, MozRank, external links and backlinks, external links for each client website.

Important keyword phrases and URLs can be added as widgets to monitor client SERPs.

Find the Alexa widget and add it, too.

The number of prebuilt widgets available continually grows. If what you want doesn’t already exist (and if it is a major solution it probably does), build a custom widget.

Import Backlinks

Export backlinks from your favorite backlink monitor program and import them into Cyfe.

Export One-Off or Regular Reports

Never manually create reports for clients again. Use Cyfe to export any dashboard as a CSV, PDF, JPG or PNG. Set up a regular schedule to automatically email reports, or send them individually at any time manually. Keep your clients, boss or yourself continually up-to-date.

Expand to Social Media Management

Once you’ve automated all your SEO work, why not expand into managing your client’s social media accounts, too. Cyfe makes it easy to stay on top of them.

They provide widgets for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn YouTube, Google+ Search, Pinterest, Instagram,, Klout, AddThis and much more.

Stay on Top of SEO News

Create RSS feeds right in Cyfe to aggregate all your favorite SEO blogs in one place. Here are some SEO blogs to add to your list:

  • SEOChat
  • Search Engine Watch (SEW)
  • Search Engine Land (SEL)
  • Search Engine Roundtable (SER)

Competitor Dashboards

Once you optimize your client dashboards and have them just the way you want them, start adding dashboards for competitors, too. Track their stats, SERPs, and create graphs to compare them to your clients.

Zapier Widgets

Cyfe added 400+ more widgets when they integrated with Zapier. First check to see if there is a pre-built widget. If there isn’t, and you’re not sure how to build your own, it can be easier to “make a zap” than to create one custom.

We all have too much data to keep on top of so why not aggregate it in one place? While it may take some time to get it all pulling correctly, you will be glad when you’re done.

The post How to Aggregate All Your Data into SEO Dashboards appeared first on SEO Chat.

August 13th 2015 SEO

Local Search Game Changers: New Organic & Paid Google Local Results Affect Local Businesses

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Local Search Game Changers: New Organic & Paid Google Local Results Affect Local Businesses was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Google Local Game Changers update

Google local results shifted in two significant ways that local businesses and home service providers should take note of.

  1. Fewer local organic results display on the first page.

Where last week seven local results were shown next to a map for a local-intent query, this week we see only three organic local listings by a map. As a result, local businesses ranked beyond the top three have no organic visibility.

  1. Google is testing a new search ad format for home service providers.

Google is beta testing home service ads. To be included in this coveted space, service providers must meet the most stringent qualifications for advertisers yet, including background and license checks, online reputation checks and mystery shopping checks.

3 Results in a ‘Local Stack’ Replace Local 7-Pack

With fewer organic local results displaying in the local-pack format on page one, businesses with store locations will be strongly impacted. We started seeing the new results consistently across all SERPs for all clients with brick-and-mortar locations late last Thursday night. Google hasn’t made an official announcement regarding the change, but considering the speed of the rollout and its permanence in all our test queries, we’re certain the change is a permanent one.

The immediate impact here is obvious. If a business ranks outside of the top three local results organically, visibility will be substantially impacted. The top three results are all that matter now when it comes to Google My Business (GMB) local listings.

The New Look of Google Local Organic: Before and After

Previously, Google would display Google My Business information in a 7-Pack with seven local results on a Page 1 SERP:

A local 7-Pack in May 2015

A local 7-Pack for “real estate olean ny” featured by Mike Blumenthal on his blog in May 2015.

The 7-pack has been replaced by a new local pack that contains only the top three results. Mike Blumenthal, a local search and Google My Business SEO specialist, is calling it the local stack.

Here’s what the new local stack looks like:

google local stack

A local stack for the query “hardware store” published in Search Engine Land on Friday, August 7.

On desktop and mobile, the phone number and full address for businesses are no longer displayed on the SERP. The street name and hours now appear on the new local stack as well as “Website” and “Directions” buttons.

This should impact the number of people who visit local business websites from local SERPs, as previously there was no direct link to the website from the local pack. It also eliminates the ability of the potential customers to dial or visit the store without interacting with the local listing in some way.

This is a very deliberate change by Google; there was a substantial amount of store calls and visits that they could never attribute to their SERPs prior to this change. Now if a searcher wants the information, they have to click through to get it.

It’s also important to note that clicks on the business name itself no longer take searchers to the business’s Google+ page, but instead take them to a “local finder” page that shows the expanded listing information for the result they clicked on, along with an expanded set of local results. Clearly here Google is cutting ties between Google+ and local, choosing instead to feature a hybrid of their maps products and removing any paths to the Google+ business pages that they previously required businesses to create in order to be listed in local search.

On mobile devices users get the same type of experience :


A local stack result for the query “hardware store” snapped on an iPhone this morning.

On mobile, the website and directions links that appear on the desktop SERP have been replaced by a single “Call” button. The phone number is hidden, and we suspect that this is also intentional.

Again, the upshot of the shrunken local listings is reduced visibility for any local business ranked beyond the top three. Not displaying core information like phone numbers and addresses in SERPs allows Google to directly attribute searcher conversion behavior (like getting driving directions or making phone calls) to local search results ━ a major requirement if Google hopes to monetize local search, which leads us to …

Sponsored Home Services Listings in Beta

Organic local listings aren’t alone in Google’s remodel; a brand new type of local sponsored listings began showing up at the end of July.

In July, Google acquired Homejoy, an online service connecting customers with house cleaners. At the time we reported on speculation that a new feature may be in the works to connect home services providers (house cleaners, plumbers, roofers, etc.) with people searching for home improvement terms, right in the results. That feature is certainly what we’re seeing today in the beta test available in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The New Local Search Ad We’re Seeing in San Francisco SERPs

In the home services ad stack we see three sponsored listings deemed “qualified,” and a call to action to “connect with trusted and experienced professionals in your area.”

Here’s Moz’s Dr. Pete’s snap of the SERP, one of the first reports:

That same day, a Google rep explained what we’re seeing via the @adwords account:

The support page on home service ads has more details about how businesses qualify for home service ads:

“To help provide peace of mind when booking a professional through home service ads, Google requires all locksmiths, plumbers, cleaning services, and handymen to undergo a series of screening procedures, including background, insurance, and license checks, interviews, online reputation checks, and mystery shopping.”

While home service ads are currently only available for businesses in the Bay Area, we see a connection between them and the larger changes to Google’s local space. On the SERP for San Francisco plumbers, there are no local organic listings on the page. Is the end goal of all the changes to Google’s local search results monetization of local across the board?

With the local stack shrinking organic SERP real estate, there will be businesses that find they are knocked off Page 1. For business that meet the qualifications and have enough budget to pay to play, service ads may be their best and only option to get back that Page 1 visibility.

August 11th 2015 Google, SEO

Infinite Scroll & SEO: Do They Mix?

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Infinite Scroll & SEO: Do They Mix? was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

At a recent SEO training, I met a webmaster who excitedly told me that he was going to soon be implementing infinite scroll on his website.’s indefinitely scrolling articles immediately popped into my head and I told him that was awesome … and then I wondered why we don’t use infinite scroll on our own blog or site. So I sought out our SEO Manager Robert Ramirez’s search engine optimization advice when I returned back to the office.

He agreed that there are benefits to infinite scrolling, noting that it may improve:

  • User experience, as it can lead users to content they might not have otherwise discovered
  • Time on page, as users theoretically read longer
  • Load time of above-the-fold content

However, infinite scroll carries risk for content indexing and ranking, and may even decrease user interaction on the site.

Infinite Scroll Stop Sign

Read on to discover what infinite scrolling is, the potential SEO hazard it poses, the problems Etsy encountered when it added infinite scroll, and why our recommendation is to proceed with caution.

What Is Infinite Scroll?

First, a definition. Infinite scrolling is the process of loading content when the user brings it into view — an image, a video, or content won’t load until it needs to load, i.e. when the user scrolls or clicks.

Note: Technically, infinite scrolling is not actually infinite — it’s seemingly infinite. Take Twitter for example — spend a day or two continually scrolling, and you’d eventually reach the end of tweets.

Infinite Scroll in the Wild

Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest all use a variation of infinite scrolling. Infinite scrolling is also used on media sites such as and — when one article ends the user literally scrolls right onto another one. Infinite scrolling is also used on product pages for some ecommerce sites.

How Infinite Scroll Can Hurt SEO

Any time you implement JavaScript-enabled features, you run the risk of making it harder for search engines, like Google, Yahoo and Bing, to crawl your site’s content.

Last year, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller summed up the problem on the Google Webmaster Central Blog:

“With infinite scroll, crawlers cannot always emulate manual user behavior—like scrolling or clicking a button to load more items—so they don’t always access all individual items in the feed or gallery. If crawlers can’t access your content, it’s unlikely to surface in search results.”

In order to be crawled, each article or page of products must have its own natural crawl path, i.e. an individual URL that is linked to within the site.

For those who are sold on infinite scrolling, the ultimate search engine optimization advice comes from Mueller’s must-read “Infinite Scroll Search-friendly Recommendations.” Here he outlines the steps for how to implement infinite scroll while still having content that stands to be indexed.


Infinite Scroll Is Good for User Experience … But Not Always

In theory, infinite scroll will keep your users scrolling through content on your pages, but sometimes the infinite scrolling backfires. Because people aren’t necessarily conditioned to scroll rather than click, they might find the experience awkward and/or overwhelming. Consider this takeaway from a recent Nielsen study:

“There are psychological consequences to endless scrolling that can hurt the user experience as well. For task-driven activities, infinite scrolling can feel like drowning in an information abyss with no end in sight. People who need specific types of information expect content to be grouped and layered according to relevance, by pages. Web users don’t mind clicking links (e.g., a link to the next page) if each click is meaningful and leads them closer to the desired goal.”

Etsy: A Cautionary Tale

The popular handmade and vintage item marketplace site Etsy implemented infinite scroll in 2012 and the results were less than positive. Users clicked and favorited fewer items. They also bought fewer items from search. Etsy users didn’t like the change, and, accordingly, Etsy removed infinite scroll from the site. Etsy’s formal principal engineer Dan McKinley held that infinite scroll can have a positive impact, but that site owners should work to understand the people using their websites before making such a big change.

Bottom Line: Proceed with Caution

While we acknowledge that infinite scroll can provide a fresh user experience, we don’t use infinite scrolling on our own website because we don’t think it’s worth the potential SEO risk. If you or your client are interested in implementing infinite scroll, we’d advise you to make sure your pages are indexable and point you toward Mueller’s clear-cut guidelines. Pay close attention to your KPIs after implementation, perhaps survey visitors about website satisfaction, and always track the effect of major design and user experience changes.

August 7th 2015 SEO