How to analyse your Backlink Profile... the way Google does
I'm proud to present our third Penguin 2.1 case study, written by our newest Certified LRT Xpert, Derek Devlin, who is the head of digital marketing strategy at Made By Crunch; the 2nd Certified LRT Agency worldwide and the first in the UK!
This case study will look into one of UK's leading hosting providers - hyve.com, which was hit hard by Panda in 2012 and then hit again by Penguin in 2013.
We look forward to your feedback and always appreciate you sharing the work of our Certified LRT Professionals.
- Enjoy & Learn!
Christoph C. Cemper
PS: if you really want to dive deep, we also have a 96 page PDF version for download that contains five more chapters for you to download here
CEMPER Power*Trust is now LRT PowerTrust
You may still see CEMPER Power*Trust™, CEMPER Power™ and CEMPER Trust™ on some screenshots in this case study.
In 2015, we renamed these metrics to LRT Power*Trust, LRT Power and LRT Trust to reflect the shortname of LinkResearchTools - which is LRT.
Table of Contents
- 1.0 Organic Visibility
- 2.0 Competitive Landscape Overview
- 3.0 Assessing the Impact of Disavowed links – Competitor Analysis
- 3.1 Working with disavow files in CLA
- 3.1.1 Step One – Upload your disavow:
- 3.1.2 Step Two – Run the Report:
- 3.1.3 Step Three – View your Report
- 3.1.4 Step Four – Use the filter slice function to compare your old / new link graph
- 3.2 Anchor Text
- 3.2.1 Anchor Text WITHOUT the Disavow File Used
- 3.2.2 Anchor Text INCLUDING the Disavowed file
- 3.3 Link Status (followed versus. no-followed)
- 3.3.1 Link Status WITHOUT the Disavow File Used
- 3.3.2 Link Status WITH the Disavow File Used
- 3.4 Link Type (text, image, redirect, Etc)
- 3.4.1 Link Type WITHOUT the disavow
- 3.4.2 Link Type WITH the disavow
- 3.5 Deep Link Ratio
- 3.5.1 Deep Link Ratio WITHOUT the Disavow
- 3.5.2 Deep Link Ratio WITH the Disavow
- 3.6 Geographic Location of Links
- 3.6.1 Geographic Location of Links WITHOUT the Disavow
- 3.6.2 Geographic Location of Links WITH the Disavow
- 3.7 Power*Trust of Links
- 3.7.1 Power*Trust of Links WITHOUT the Disavow
- 3.7.2 Power*Trust of Links WITH the Disavow
- 3.8 Competitor Summary
- 4.0 Link Risk
- 4.1 Link Detox Setup
- 4.1.1 Factoring your Disavow File into Link Detox
- 4.2 Link Detox Risk
- 4.3 Providing Context with CDTOX – Hyve.com’s Risk Profile vs. Competitors
- 4.3.1 Hyve.com’s Risk Profile vs. “Cloud Hosting” Competitors
- 4.3.2 Hyve.com’s Risk Profile vs. “Cloud Hosting UK” Competitors
- 4.4 Hyve.com Link Risk after submission of the Disavow File
- 4.4.1 Links from De-indexed Sites
- 4.4.2 Links from Weak & Low Quality Sites
- 4.4.3 Unnatural Linking Practices
- 4.4.4 Link Networks & Link Diversity
- 4.4.5 Abandoned Domains
- 5.0 Round-Trip Disavow – Building An Action Plan
- 6.0 Link Velocity Trend
- 7.0 Findings & Action Plan
- 7.1 Attributes of the Hyve link profile that need to be corrected
- 7.2 Did the disavow go far enough?
- 7.3 Should some links be “un-disavowed”?
- 7.4 Is Hyve.com worth fighting for?
- 7.4 In practical terms, where does that this leave Hyve.com
- 7.5 Results of taking decisive action
- 7.6 Future Linking Strategies for Hyve.com
- 8.0 Thanks
In September 2013, I was commissioned to audit the offsite strategy of Hyve.com.
Hyve have built a reputation as one of the UK’s leading Cloud Hosting providers, delivering mission-critical managed hosting to blue-chip clients such as British Airways, LG and Tesco.
Despite this impressive track record, Hyve were not able to escape the wrath of Google’s second generation Penguin Algorithm and like many other legitimate businesses, their website lost a significant amount of organic traffic from Google seemingly overnight following May 22nd 2013 – the Penguin 2.0 Update.
For companies that rely on leads generated from Google this type of hit can have devastating consequences so it’s imperative that the situation was resolved.
Hyve’s in-house team acted quickly, taking steps to disavow 674 domains. However, three months later the sites organic visibility had still not improved and organic visits from Google had flat lined.
It was at this point that Hyve approached me to conduct an offsite audit.
My objectives were to:
- Study the impact Penguin had on the site.
- Identify hypotheses as to why the site had been hit by contrasting the link graph with top ranking competitors.
- Assess the merits of links pointing at the site.
- Formulate an action plan for recovery.
Above all, the key question was:
Did the disavow file submitted by Hyve go far enough?
In addition, Hyve senior management wanted to understand the opportunity cost of keeping the existing domain:
Would switching to another domain be a better use of resources?
This case study presents a summary of my findings extracted from the offsite audit.
In addition, I aim to provide you with some tips and strategies to help you get the most out of the advanced features within LinkResearchTools.
Before we get into the meat of the analysis, let’s get some background…
1.0 Organic Visibility
After conducting an in-depth analysis of Hyve.com’s organic visibility, I was able to draw the following observations...
1.1 Hyve.com Observations
Hyve was largely unscathed by Google updates in 2011:
Nothing too exciting happened in 2011... traffic was moving up and to the right and the site appeared not to of taken any significant drops in visibility.
Panda hit the site hard in 2012:
2012 was a different story. There was a massive drop followed by a sustained period of low search visibility. This was most likely a big hit from Panda #12 (Point A); however, it is possible that this was a Penguin 1.0 (Point B) pre-cursor.
A lot of sites reported large fluctuations around this time - it’s feasible that Hyve were part of a “test case” segment and that this was actually the cause for the drop. On balance, I would speculate that Panda was most likely to blame here.
March / April 2013 saw a mini-recovery only to suffer another hit – this time from Penguin 2.0.
From March 2013, the site looked to be improving only to be slapped again, this time by Penguin 2.0. Thereafter, search visibility has sustained at an all-time low.
Hyve.com had not been completely de-indexed (184 pages still cited as being in the Google index).
The issues were purely algorithmic because Hyve.com had no manual actions in force.
Considering that the sharp decline in organic visibility coincides with the release date for Penguin 2.0 it’s pretty clear that the site was a victim of the update.
With no official ‘manual’ penalty in play the issue, as with the vast majority of sites that get hit by Penguin, is down to the algorithm.
The Penguin algorithm was designed to catch out sites that utilise “unnatural” linking practices to try and game the search engine. In essence, it looks for commonly used spam techniques, particularly in the way that sites link to one another. We can therefore speculate that Hyve were somehow guilty of spammy or manipulative techniques to try and gain an edge in the rankings.
This explains the loss in visibility coinciding with the update. The site or portions of the site are clearly being suppressed.
1.2 Impact of Penguin 2.0 “Suppression”
Although not as severe as the hit the site took from Panda in 2012, the impact of Penguin 2.0 was still significantly damaging (based on 12 weeks before, versus 12 weeks after the update):
- Unique visitors to the site dropped by 12%.
- Non-paid visits from Google were down 47%.
- Landing pages saw a 22% decrease in visits.
- 29 pages stopped receiving any traffic at all from Google.
- The homepage was the biggest loser, down 50%.
- No page made a significant increase in visits since the update.
- Branded keyword traffic dropped by 44%.
- Visits from unbranded keywords dropped by 48%.
The loss in visits correlated with ranking drops from many keywords; “dedicated web hosting”, “secure ftp server” and “cloud hosting” saw the biggest decline.
For brand terms, such as “Hyve” and “Hyve Hosting” and “Hyve managed hosting” the site still ranked in position 1 so it is surprising that visits from brand keywords dropped. The loss in visits here was most likely attributed to factors outwith search rankings.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the decrease in branded and unbranded keyword traffic was just the result of Google increasing the proportion of “not provided” keyword data in Google Analytics.
However, this appears to have not been the case...
“Not provided” traffic to Hyve.com saw the biggest absolute drop in visits, almost halving from Pre-Penguin 2.0 levels.
All in all, the negative impact suffered by Hyve.com is conclusive – the site is a clear Penguin 2.0 victim.
Since then there were a number of confirmed Google Algorithm updates.
1.3 Hummingbird - August 21/22 - Mildly Arousing...
A lot of Hype and misinformation surrounded the launch of Google’s new core algorithm - Hummingbird. The impact in terms of ranking changes appears to have been negligible.
Looking specifically at Hyve.com, “Hummingbird” had a mildly positive impact:
- Overall traffic increased by 24%.
- Non-paid visits from Google took a short-lived boost of 52%.
- The top 5 pages that lost visits after Penguin started to regain visits.
All this looks encouraging until you put it into perspective...
Organic visits from Google were still down 30% on pre-penguin levels and landing pages with the exception of one, were still pulling fewer visits than Pre-penguin levels.
1.4 Penguin 2.1 – The Misery Continues
Penguin 2.1 provided the opportunity for Hyve.com to recover.
Penguin does not work in real-time; affected sites need to wait for a refresh of the Algorithm to gauge whether the site is still under some form of suppression.
Despite the fact that 674 domains had been disavowed there was no improvement in the sites visibility around October the 4th, the date of Penguin 2.1:
This lack of improvement must mean one of three things:
- The suppression still exists - Hyve.com is still considered by Penguin to have too many unnatural links pointing at the site and as a result, the site is still being filtered - The disavow therefore, didn’t go far enough.
- The disavow file did go far enough so the suppression no longer exists but the lost Pagerank from getting rid of 674 links in the disavow file has decimated Hyve.com’s ranking potential.
- The disavow file was not processed fully or fast enough by Google. LRT have some great news coming up to possibly exclude this possibility in the future with Link Detox Boost. We don’t know about this yet.
Which is the more likely scenario of the first two?
This is the question I intend to answer in due course throughout this investigation.
The fact remains… neither Hummingbird, nor Penguin 2.1 correlated with wide spread recovery of rankings for key terms.
However, I did observe something interesting happening with internal pages...
Over time, internal pages appear to have made a number of ranking fluctuations in keyword verticals where the homepage had previously ranked well prior to Penguin 2.0.
It looks clear-cut that the homepage remains suppressed, it has pretty much tanked for all but one query with no sign of reprieve.
On the plus side though, the internal pages look to still be in the mix as far as competing for the SERPS goes.
When I first analysed the site in September the internal pages had made significant gains in verticals where the homepage had previously ranked well. In November, many of these pages remain placed.
Combining these insights with the knowledge that some internal pages started to gain visits after Hummingbird (one particular internal page that was hit by Penguin is now pulling more visits than pre-Penguin levels), I would speculate that the internal pages are not encumbered in the way that the homepage appears to be.
I believe that it would be worthwhile to try and promote the internal pages to earn positive ranking signals to see how the pages respond. Given that no proactive link building has been carried out in the last 6 months, the visibility of these pages looks encouraging.
1.5 Organic Visibility Summary
Penguin 2.1 presented an opportunity for Hyve.com to recover. Organic visibility failed to return and weighing up all the evidence, I don’t believe that the Penguin ‘flag’ has been lifted from the site.
I am of the opinion though that the algorithmic suppression is not site wide. It appears to be mainly focused on the homepage. Hummingbird did nothing to change this fact but it did have a positive effect on certain parts of the site. It looks like the internal pages have gained the most. One internal page that was hit by Penguin is now bringing in more visits than pre-penguin levels, which supports the theory that internal pages still have the potential to rank.
The homepage suffered the most from Penguin and still continues to rank poorly for the main terms that the site is targeting, with the exception of “cloud servers uk”, which Google still merits a ranking for. This term is at the bottom of the 2nd page so I think that still supports the theory that the filter is page based. It is possible though that it’s working on a keyword level, i.e. suppressing those particular keywords that have been used excessively on link anchor text.
Matt Cutts talks a lot about Google taking ‘targeted action’ and to me it makes sense that Penguin could work on the keyword level. So it is plausible that the keywords where Hyve were overly aggressive with anchor text were suppressed and that the rankings have not returned yet because the anchor text has not been removed to an acceptable level.
It’s common for most of the aggressive anchor text to be pointed at the homepage so it is feasible that there is still a negative ranking factor in place holding down rankings for the main terms and that this is in turn weighing the homepage down.
In the coming sections I intend to look for anomalies in the site and to try and substantiate these claims.
First, let’s look at the competitive landscape within which Hyve is trying to compete.
2.0 Competitive Landscape Overview
I want to assess Hyve.com’s link profile against competition in keyword verticals that the site is trying to rank highly in.
I have therefore selected two keyword verticals to analyse:
- Cloud Hosting
- Cloud Hosting UK
These keywords also make good candidates for analysis because they saw two of the most significant ranking drops and were two of your most trafficked terms.
2.1 Topline Observations of “Cloud Hosting”
The top ranking sites in the “Cloud Hosting” keyword vertical on Google.co.uk are:
Using the Quick Domain Compare tool we can get an overview of how Hyve.com stacks up against these sites.
2.1.1 Observations from the QDC Analysis
First, it’s important to note that we are viewing Hyve.com as it was prior to links being disavowed. Second, QDC works in ad hoc mode pulling links from the LRT database to provide us with sample metrics.
My first impression is that Hyve has a strong Power & Trust profile - only to be out performed by Rackspace and Fasthosts.
Power and Trust are high in equal measure, which is an early indicator that Hyve has some well-trusted and high quality links so not just bad stuff here.
Sites with a significantly lower trust scores have the most toxic link profiles consisting of mainly weak and low quality links, whereas Hyve clearly have some high authority links present.
Hyve.com has the lowest number of keywords ranking according to the visibility indicator.
Based on what I have seen in the analytics this figure is a bit misleading as Hyve is generating most of their traffic from one or two clicks here and there on a number of long-tail / random phrases.
QDC uses data pulled from SEMrush so they will most likely be tracking the head terms in the web hosting niche rather than the more obscure long-tail phrases. This metric is still an insightful measure of performance because it indicates the site ability to compete for the high volume verticals. The higher the number here the likely the site will be able to rank for big terms.
532 domains are linking to Hyve. Whereas, Rackspace and Fasthosts have several thousand domains linking!
Pulsant are third with 442, this would suggest they are doing something different by having far less linking domains but still meriting a place in the top three spots...perhaps a lot of site wide links? We will see.
Breaking the domains down and looking first at unique class C IPs, linking sites decreases down to 350, it’s normal to take a decrease here but still worth assessing what these sites are, that share the same IP address. Do they belong to networks of sites?
The number of .edu and .gov links pointing at Rackspace is an eye opener!
85 .edu and .gov links is a lot for a commercial enterprise to have. It would be interesting to look at these and see if they are earned links or manufactured - most likely the latter. Hyve have 5 .Gov links, which may go some way to explaining the high trust score.
Total links including site wide links (links in the side bar and footer that appear on many pages) for Hyve.com are 115,962 coming from 532 domains.
This seems quite high - I can do a quick check to see how this compares to the other sites in the cloud-hosting vertical by using the Bulk URL Analyzer (Juice Tool).
2.1.2 Site-wide Ratio
Here is the site wide ratio of linking domains versus total linking pages.
We can see that Hyve has the second highest out of the top 4 sites in the cloud hosting vertical, so there is a reasonable degree of site wide links in play here.
Very interestingly - Pulsant, who if you remember are ranked third in this vertical with the lowest number of unique domains, don’t have the highest site wide ratio, so it’s not side wide links that are giving Pulsant the edge to place amongst the top ranked sites.
Hyve.com have a higher than average site wide ratio at 217. Fasthosts stand out with the highest ratio at 265.
2.2 Topline Observations of “Cloud Hosting UK”
The top ranking sites in the “Cloud Hosting UK” keyword vertical on Google.co.uk are:
2.2.1 Observations from the QDC Analysis
Instantly, we can see that the “cloud hosting uk” is a far less competitive vertical.
Rackspace are the only company to appear in both verticals. Holding the top spot for “cloud hosting” and “cloud hosting UK”.
Cloud Hosts who are sitting 4th have weak Power and Strength indicators and in theory should be outranked by Hyve - all other factors being equal.
Hyve have the third highest number of head keywords ranking. We can surmise that far less ranking domains are needed to do well in this vertical. Once again there is an anomaly, this time it’s Cloud hosts with only 17 linking domains! Seems odd!!
Nimbus and TSO have 120 and 194 unique domains linking respectively, still dwarfed by Hyve.com’s 532. Similarly, .edu and .gov domains have not been used to the extent that they were in the “cloud hosting” vertical. Positions 2,3 and 4 have been secured without the need for these “hard-to-get” domain extensions.
With the exception of Rackspace, I’m struck by how few unique class-C links the competitors have. This is a vertical that’s wide open for a half decent site with a diversified and clean link graph.
2.2.2 Site-wide Ratio
I can look and see the extent to which site wide links are a factor in ranking for “cloud hosting UK” by doing the same check with the juice tool for site wide ratio.
Wow! Nimbus Hosting has a very high ratio of total links versus linking domains.
Site wide links are clearly influencing their ranking, I suspect they are using a “powered by” footer link on their clients sites but I will check this later.
Checking back to the QDC, I see that Nimbus have 1.2 million total links:
Hence, the very high site wide ratio. Hyve has the second highest ratio of site wide links but doesn’t look so high as to be a concern. Although, looking at Nimbus it doesn’t seem like Google are seeing this as a negative signal!
Just a side note... It will be interesting to see what anchor text the Nimbus links have… any form of money anchor text would surely of been caught by Penguin?
2.3 Top line Comparison Summary
I’ve taken a high level look at 2 separate keyword verticals that previously sent traffic to Hyve.com pre-penguin.
Based on my analysis I have made the following observations about Hyve.com’s position prior to disavowing links:
The site had a strong link profile in terms of the Power and Trust being passed.
- Site wide links although higher than most of the competition, look to be acceptable based on the thresholds being tolerated for Nimbus.
- About 1/3 of Hyve.com’s linking domains have duplicate Class C IP addresses, possibly from client sites hosted on Hyve’s own servers? Or is there a network in play here?
- Rackspace are the leading authority in both verticals – by a long margin – looking at the metrics it would take a number of years for a new site to even get close to Rackspace.
- Cloud Hosting is a competitive vertical, with a high number of unique linking domains and also high authority links required to rank well.
- “Cloud Hosting UK” is much less competitive.
- I would speculate that it’s possible to rank in the top 4 positions without .gov or .edu links and between 100 - 200 unique class C links.
3.0 Assessing the Impact of Disavowed links – Competitor Analysis
Now that I have a feel for the competitive landscape, I am now going to move on to compare Hyve.com’s link profile in more detail. The objective is to identify anomalies against the top-ranking competition in each keyword vertical.
This has two purposes:
- It allows us to identify potential hypotheses as to why Hyve.com saw a decrease in organic search visibility after the Penguin 2.0 update.
- It allows us to identify thresholds in the link graph that Google finds acceptable, given that the competing sites are sites that continue to rank well post Penguin 2.0.
This is where things start to get interesting because I am now dealing with two link graphs for Hyve.com.
First, I want to assess how the link graph looked before any links where disavowed – this is effectively the link graph that Penguin demoted, we should expect to see heavy use of keyword anchor texts with commercial intent and also some spammy linking techniques.
Second, I want to look at the link graph with the disavowed links taken into consideration. This is how Google now sees Hyve.com’s links.
Comparing and contrasting the link profile as it was before versus how it is now should provide a lot of insight. Especially when set against the context of high-ranking competitors.
This should tell me if the disavow has gone far enough in remodelling the sites link graph.
For this part of the analysis, I will mainly be using the Competitive Landscape Analyzer (CLA) to do the competitive analysis and the Backlink Profiler (to analyse anchor text).
3.1 Working with disavow files in CLA
It is now commonplace for site owners to disavow links to their site in an effort to cleanse their link profile. Quite often this is a reactive process, carried out because the site has experienced an algorithmic demotion or in the most serious cases, a manual action.
There are also a growing segment of site owners that realise they have to manage the risk associated with their links, they take a more proactive approach disavowing links to stave off any potential penalties that may be lurking around the corner.
Whatever the reason, SEO’s, Site Owners and Webmasters should learn how to analyse their site whilst also factoring the disavowed links into the analysis.
There’s little value in running link reports for your site unless you are able to assess the link graph as Google sees it.
This is where LinkResearchTools excels. BLP, CLA and DTOX / CDTOX can all factor your disavowed links into the equation, giving you the complete 360 view of your link graph. The process for working with your disavow files is similar across all the tools in LRT.
Here’s how to do it in CLA - follow these 4 steps:
3.1.1 Step One – Upload your disavow:
Navigate to your “settings” folder and upload your disavow file – (do this before running your CLA report).
CLA and BLP differ from Link Detox slightly, DTOX requests your disavow on the “start report” page, however, with CLA and BLP you need to have already uploaded the file in the “settings” section.
NB: It’s important to make sure that your disavow file is properly formatted according to the convention set out by Google.
Once the file is uploaded, you will see the file saved on your settings page:
3.1.2 Step Two – Run the Report:
Next, you need to run your CLA report.
Navigate to the “Start Report” page, select the Competitive Landscape Analyzer and configure your report options:
Pro Tips for CLA:
TIP: Use your ‘canonical’ domain
To www. or not? The first decision you need to make is whether to compare the www. version of your domain with your competition or the root domain without the www. version.
My advice here is to use the canonical version of your domain; i.e. whatever version your domain resolves to – your “preferred domain” as Google calls it - you have got a 301 redirect in place to set your canonical version…right? If you don’t - read this.
You’ll notice when you use the “Find Competing Pages” tool it will pull in the top 10 competitors from the keyword vertical and engine you specify:
The tool is pulling your competitors from the Google search results so it will pull the canonical version of your competitor’s domains, i.e. the version that Google believes to be your preferred domain.
You can see here – cloudhosting.co.uk are the only site to use the root domain as their preferred version - the rest use www. version:
The result is that you should get a like-for-like comparison and ultimately, a more accurate CLA report.
Tip: Site-wide links filter – Set to 5
It’s logical to presume that Google devalues site wide links to an extent. It’s therefore advisable to set a threshold after which the tool ignores the site wide links. In most cases, setting the site wide link filter to 5 will be appropriate. This is enough to give the site wide links extra credence in the report but not enough to skew your results.
Remember, it can be very worthwhile to run two CLA reports and compare how your link graph looks with site wide links included versus with them set to 5, as you will see in my Hyve analysis coming up. You can gleam some actionable insights from using this technique, for example… How do site wide links impact our anchor text profile?
Tip: Choose a descriptive name for your report
This sounds obvious but start as you mean to go by making things simple for yourself. When running a lot of reports, it can be very easy to lose track of what report you ran and why, especially if you have to go back and re-trace your steps a month or so later. Take the time to think of the best descriptive name you can to ensure that this doesn’t become an issue for you.
3.1.3 Step Three – View your Report
Once your report is ready to view. You will have the report that shows you your link graph as Google is viewing it, that is with the disavowed links being taken into account, i.e. those links in the disavow file will be being ignored at this stage.
3.1.4 Step Four – Use the filter slice function to compare your old / new link graph
A quick way to check that your disavow file was formatted correctly and your disavowed links were activated in the report is to check the stored slices box on the CLA report page.
If your report populated properly, you will find a new “Stored Slice” called “Without Disavowed and Ignored links”:
Selecting this slice will open a new CLA report in another tab of your browser, this new report re-calculates all the metrics and graphs ignoring that you have used a disavow file. This effectively shows you how your link-graph should look to Google if they honor 100% of the disavow commands.
You can confirm that the report you are viewing is “without the disavowed links” because there is a notification showing you the rules used to create the slice:
Viewing your link profile ‘without the disavowed and ignored’ links is very useful for measuring the impact that your disavowed links have had on your link graph. This can be a great technique to use before you formally upload your disavow file to Google or as in the case of my Hyve.com example, you can use this to gauge the effectiveness of the disavowed links after the event. Did the disavow do a good job of remodelling your link graph to blend in with top ranking competitors?
Let’s jump back to my example case study – Hyve.com… starting with Anchor Text.
3.2 Anchor Text
It has been well documented that excessive use of commercial anchor texts on inbound links is one of the easiest identifiers of a self-engineered link profile since ‘natural’ link profiles do not contain a high density of these “money” keywords. This was one of the issues identified in the LRT Meta Case Study on Penguin victims.
Penguin 1.0 was developed to penalize aggressive use of money keywords as anchor text by webmasters and SEO’s. Penguin 2.0 has likely been more aggressive in terms of the threshold tolerance and it makes sense that the algorithm would consider the spread of money keywords across all the pages of the site as well.
It’s therefore important to manage the proportion of money anchor text in the context of your competitive verticals.
First, I’m going to assess Hyve.com’s link graph WITHOUT the disavow file so this is how the link graph looked when Hyve got hit by Penguin...
3.2.1 Anchor Text WITHOUT the Disavow File Used
Here is Hyve.com’s link profile anchor text in totality. This word cloud is a snap shot of the sites anchor text, first including all site wide links.
Straightaway “cloud hosting” is jumping right out at me, as is “hp and vmware cloud hosting”.
The brand term “hyve” is visible but I would prefer to only see a mix of brand terms here as the dominant force in the anchor text cloud.
We can deduce from this that there are clearly site wide links present that say, “cloud hosting”.
Here’s how the keyword cloud actually breaks down:
Links with the exact match anchor text “cloud hosting” account for 24.1% of the sites backlink profile. This is the tied with “powered by hyve vmware cloud hosting” as the two most prominent anchor texts.
“Powered by hyve vmware cloud hosting” is most likely coming from site wide links on client sites.
Let’s look at the word cloud for Hyve.com’s backlinks with the site wide links restricted to 5.
The reason for doing this is I believe that it would be logical for Google to look at backlinks in totality and also in isolation with some type of threshold. It’s reasonable to think that Google won’t count more than 5 links from any given site when it comes to calculating PageRank but in my view they probably consider anchor text of site wide links differently.
It makes sense to me that if you have a lot of site wide links with exact match anchor text, Google won’t simply ignore this anchor text.
Here’s how the link profile looks with site wide links set to 5:
This is a far more acceptable keyword cloud.
The brand term “hyve” dominates, which is much more natural looking.
The URL of the site is also prevalent. “Cloud hosting” and “web hosting” are still visible, which for my liking means that they are probably still a little top-heavy in terms of their proportion to total links.
Let’s look at the breakdown:
“Cloud Hosting” is still the highest money keyword but has reduced from being 24.1% down to 6.3% of links. “Powered by hyve vmware cloud hosting” has disappeared and therefore must be under 2.9% of links, so these links are indeed mostly site wide links.
As indicated by the tag cloud, “Web hosting” has actually increased as a proportion of total links after restricting the site wide links. It’s the second highest of the money keywords visible, sitting at 3.7%. This term was our 7th biggest loser in terms of lost keyword visibility after Penguin 2.0. It’s also interesting to note that “web hosting” is clearly still suppressed since it’s not ranked in the top 100 positions on Google or Bing for that matter.
On the flip side, what is pleasing about the breakdown is that when we take site wide links out of the equation by reducing them to 5 per site, the brand keywords have become a lot more visible.
What I have learned from all this is that there are a number of site wide links with the exact match anchor text “cloud hosting” that need to be dealt with. It would be much more preferable to change these to “hyve” if that was at all possible.
The overall usage of money keywords is also important. We can assess the extent to which money keywords have been over or under-utilised by comparing the proportion of money anchor text against the top performing competition in the core verticals.
Anchor Text Profile Before Disavow Versus the “Cloud Hosting” Competitors
This graph shows the proportion of money anchor text used versus competitors in the Cloud Hosting vertical:
In comparison to the top ranked sites, Hyve clearly over did it with the money anchor text.
Not enough “brand” or “other” generic anchor text has been used. The big disparity is “branded” keywords; these should represent a much higher proportion of total links.
Here is the same graph just looking at the absolute number of links:
Just look at the gulf in brand links!
This amplifies my previous point about brand anchor texts being far too low but what is really interesting is that the use of “money” and “compound”, in terms of absolute number of links is pretty much bang on.
In theory, Hyve could just of built 700 brand links and 80 “other” links and be in the clear from the anchor text thresholds the next time Penguin comes round. Of course, this would not of protected them from being caught if the links are completely toxic, however, from an anchor standpoint we know that these are thresholds that Google is happy to tolerate.
Anchor Text Profile Before Disavow Versus the “Cloud Hosting UK” Competitors
It’s the same story in the “Cloud Hosting UK” vertical, way too high a proportion of money keywords used...
Here’s the link profile comparison looking at the percentage of anchor text used:
Again far too much money anchor text, not enough brand and generic terms used. The use of compound keywords, i.e. combination of money and brand anchor text is also a little high in comparison to the top ranking sites for “cloud hosting UK”.
Here’s the same graph looking at the absolute number of links:
It’s a surprise that even in this vertical (cloud hosting UK) where sites in the main have far less links, Hyve still have far fewer brand links.
This was clearly one of the main flaws with the original link building strategy.
That being said, a disavow file has already been submitted so the graphs we have been looking at represent the way the link profile used to look.
I now want to look at the link profile from the perspective of anchor text but with the disavow file taken into consideration so we will now be ignoring the links that were disavowed – just as Google would. This is effectively what the link graph looks like now.
How did the anchor text profile of Hyve change once Hyve disavowed 674 domains? Let’s see...
3.2.2 Anchor Text INCLUDING the Disavowed file
Here’s the anchor text displayed as a word cloud ignoring the disavowed links just as Google would.
The site wide filter is off for this report so any site wide links that were not disavowed are included here:
“Powered by hyve vmware cloud hosting platform” and “cloud hosting” still dominate the anchor text for the site.
Site wide links with the anchor text “cloud hosting” have not been dealt with sufficiently by the disavow file.
This can be confirmed by looking at the breakdown:
Wow! Following disavow, the proportion of links with the anchor text “cloud hosting” has actually increased!
“Cloud servers” is prominent also; it would be preferable to see only brand terms here in this breakdown. Also, there are no URL links, which are what you expect to see in natural link profiles.
Let’s take a look at how the link graph looks with site wide links restricted to 5 links per site – still with the disavowed links ignored:
The brand remains the main term, which is very positive. “Cloud Hosting” is still there but I can now see a lot of URL links as well, which is an improvement.
Here’s the breakdown:
“Cloud Hosting” has diluted a little from 6.3% to 4.3%, which is probably still too high for one single term but I can check this against competition later.
Changing some of the site wide links to “hyve” would fix this.
Anchor Text After Disavow Versus the “Cloud Hosting” Competitors
I can compare the use of money anchor text as a whole for Hyve versus the top ranking sites for “Cloud Hosting” and continuing to honour the disavow file (ignoring those links), here is what the overall anchor text profile looks like:
As before the “brand” keywords are substantially less but we already knew this.
Pleasingly, money and compound anchor text is now completely inline with the competitors, as a proportion of links.
Adding brand links will dilute this but that in my view is not a negative because it’s better to be in a position where you can add exact match anchors rather than having to take them away.
Looking at the absolute number of links remaining against the Cloud Hosting competitors we get a better perspective on the gulf in links.
Hyve is at least 800 to 1000 domains short of being able to compete with the top 3 sites in the “cloud hosting” niche!
Given that CLA works on an ad-hoc basis - we can only look at a snapshot of data at any one point in time, i.e. no backlink tool can feasibly index the whole web so it’s likely that the gulf in link volume is even bigger than we are seeing here.
Anchor Text After Disavow Versus the “Cloud Hosting UK” Competitors
Here’s the absolute link graph versus the Cloud Hosting UK competitors.
Finally, this graph confirms it again, even after the disavow file has been used; there were too few brand links and this needs to be the priority for Hyve.com going forward.
In comparison to the highest ranked sites in the “Cloud Hosting UK” vertical the site is 300 to 400 links away from being able to compete for the top three positions.
To give you an idea of the type of anchor text profile Google is favouring, I have profiled the top 3 ranking sites in the Cloud Hosting UK niche in Appendices One, Two and Three. For comparison, Hyve’s anchor text profile is in Appendix four.
What you will see when you look at these profiles is just how little money anchor text is needed to rank well for big terms.
Especially of note is Nimbus, remember they had a crazily high number of site wide links?
As I suspected, not a single one is a money keyword. Hence, they have flown under the Penguin radar unimpeded. This would suggest that site wide link on its own is not inherently bad – it’s the anchor text placement that is the issue with these links.
3.3 Link Status (followed versus. no-followed)
A very high proportion of no-followed links is synonymous with SPAM tactics since a lot of automation software places links in volume on locations that are usually nofollow, such as blog comments.
Whilst Matt Cutts says that a site can’t be harmed by no-follow links I still believe that it’s important to make sure that they fall within an acceptable range versus your competitors.
3.3.1 Link Status WITHOUT the Disavow File Used
Let’s now look at how the link profile looked when Hyve got hit.
With site wide links included followed versus no-follow links is a 59% / 39% split.
With site wide links set to 5, followed links decrease to 50% followed and no followed links increase to 47%.
3.3.2 Link Status WITH the Disavow File Used
Taking into consideration the links that have been disavowed (viewing the link graph as it is now) and with site wide links included we have a 50% followed to 48% nofollowed ratio:
Setting site wide links to 5 so as to try and mitigate the chances of them skewing our data, increases the proportion of nofollow links to 58.9% leaving followed in the minority at 37.2%:
This analysis may seem a little confusing but what this essentially is telling us is that although there may have been a small number of no follow links in the disavow file – they have not been disavowed in any great volume.
Should you disavow nofollow links?
I am of the opinion that nofollowed links should still be pruned if they are using exact match money anchor text. I am not convinced that anchor text on nofollow links is completely ignored.
Yes, the link may be ignored from a PageRank perspective but can we say the same for anchor text?
I would rather be cautious and disavow nofollow links that have exact match anchor text if you are experiencing algorithmic difficulties.
After the disavow file was used, the majority of Hyve.com’s links that remain are nofollow links – this is because it a vast number of followed links were cut out.
I would propose to decrease the proportion of nofollow links on the basis of taking out the links that use exact match money keywords – just as a precautionary measure.
Some people will argue that this is not necessary but I disagree, a link is still a link at the end of the day and a lot of money keywords in nofollow links to me send a very strong signal to Google that unnatural linking practices are in use.
In addition, no follow links with 0 trust offer zero benefit for PageRank, so I would also propose to prune any no follow links that are also on sites that are not trusted.
In the Backlink profiler report, I can also see that there are 2 redirects that are active and passing link juice to Hyve.
These have the potential to cause harm to the site if they these links themselves have toxic links pointing at them.
Fortunately, these pages have 0 links pointing at them so not a great cause for concern. The links are on a sub-domain of a web development company. The page is written in Arabic so hard to decipher what it’s about but I don’t think this is threatening to the site overall so happy to ignore these links and move on.
3.4 Link Type (text, image, redirect, Etc)
A very high majority of Hyve.com’s links are text links – 97%.
It’s common to see text links as the highest proportion of links but it doesn’t look natural if that’s all you have, especially if competitors have more diversity.
Here’s how the link graph looked when Penguin hit Hyve...
3.4.1 Link Type WITHOUT the disavow
Link type with site wide links included:
Link type with site wide links set to 5:
Link Type Before Disavow Versus the “Cloud Hosting” Competitors
Link type versus Cloud Hosting competitors – Before Disavow Relative % of total links:
Link type versus Cloud Hosting competitors – Before Disavow Absolute Number of Links:
Link Type Before Disavow Versus the “Cloud Hosting UK” Competitors
Link type versus Cloud Hosting UK competitors – Before Disavow Relative % of total links:
Link type versus Cloud Hosting UK – Before Disavow Absolute number of links:
Looking at the link graphs prior to before the disavow was implemented shows that text links are higher in terms of the proportion of total links. Competitors appear to have more diversity and greater number of links from image sources.
Now let’s take the disavowed links out of the equation and ignore those links the way Google should...
3.4.2 Link Type WITH the disavow
Link Type After Disavow Versus the “Cloud Hosting” Competitors
Hyve versus the “Cloud Hosting” competitors – proportion of total links:
Here is the absolute number of links:
Looking at the absolute number of links again amplifies the gap between the link profiles of the sites. The sheer volume needed to compete is much more apparent and the number of image links for the top 3 sites is 10 times higher than Hyve’s current amount.
Link Type After Disavow Versus the “Cloud Hosting UK” Competitors
Hyve versus the “Cloud Hosting UK” competitor’s - relative link profile:
Hyve versus the “Cloud Hosting UK” competitors - absolute link profile:
The gap between Hyve and the “Cloud Hosting UK” competitors is not as wide but it is clear that Hyve could do with getting more image links as a total proportion of their links to blend in with competitors.
3.5 Deep Link Ratio
Are too many links pointing at the homepage?
Natural looking sites pick up links to inner pages; this can be measured by deep link ratio. I believe that this is a very important factor because a lack of internal links is basically saying that the internal pages of your site are not link worthy and should therefore not deserve to rank, so for me it’s vital to have an even spread of links across inner pages.
Let’s see how Hyve compares to the competition.
3.5.1 Deep Link Ratio WITHOUT the Disavow
Deep Link Ratio Before Disavow Versus the “Cloud Hosting” Competitors
Looking at the link profile before the disavow file was used, with site wide links included, the % of links hitting the homepage is 63% with 38% pointing at a ‘deep pages’. This is positive and in line with the other sites in the market.
Deep Link Ration Before Disavow Versus the “Cloud Hosting UK” Competitors
The “Cloud Hosting UK” vertical has very similar ratios, with the top 3 ranked sites having 65% of links hitting the homepage:
So it looks like the proportion of links that were pointing at inner pages before Hyve disavowed any links was ideal.
There certainly wasn’t a big disparity in this regard so I would speculate that Penguin did not hit Hyve for being an anomaly for deep link ratio.
What about after Hyve disavowed links – how does the profile look now?
3.5.2 Deep Link Ratio WITH the Disavow
Deep link Ratio After Disavow versus “Cloud Hosting” Competitors
Excluding the disavowed proportion of links from the graph versus “Cloud Hosting” competitors we can see that 28% of the total links point at the homepage and 27% are internal / deep pages.
This means that Hyve.com’s ratio is now about 50 / 50. This tells me two things.
- The majority of links that were disavowed were homepage links.
- There’s scope to build more homepage links going forward and still be in proportion to competitors.
Just how many links are needed and can be added to the homepage can be gauged by looking at the absolute number of links making sure to ignore the disavowed links.
Here’s a comparison looking at the absolute number of links, this is still against the “cloud hosting” competition showing where Hyve stands after disavow:
Deep link Ratio After Disavow versus “Cloud Hosting UK” Competitors
In comparison to the “cloud hosting UK” competitors, here’s where Hyve stands after disavow:
We can see that the links for both the homepage and the deep pages is less than competitors in absolute terms; Hyve therefore need both homepage links and deep links in order to be able to compete.
The first objective moving forward should be to build the link profile back up to compete with the “cloud hosting UK” competitors and then go on to challenge the bigger “cloud hosting” competitors, which as we have already seen is clearly a more competitive vertical and not realistic for Hyve to compete against without considerable amount of investment in brand building.
3.6 Geographic Location of Links
Penguin case studies have shown that too high a proportion of links from foreign sites are most likely seen as a negative signal to search engines. In fact, 5 out of 7 sites analysed in the Penguin Meta Case Study where found to be guilty of this.
Most natural sites, i.e. sites that haven’t done aggressive link building tend to get most of their links from their own country unless they have truly global appeal.
It just seems logical to me that a site within a local market in the UK should have the majority of their links from UK based sites since this is the region within which they are trying to promote their business.
3.6.1 Geographic Location of Links WITHOUT the Disavow
Geography of Links before Disavow versus “Cloud Hosting” Competitors
Looking at Hyve.com versus the Cloud Hosting competitors – Before Disavow:
We can see that Hyve had too many links from the USA, Germany, France and Canada in comparison to competitors and not enough UK links. It’s feasible that this could have contributed to the Penguin 2.0 loss in traffic, although it doesn’t look crazily high. Certainly, there is no big concentration of Russian or Polish links, which for UK sites is usually an instant indicator of spammy links.
Geography of Links before Disavow versus “Cloud Hosting UK” Competitors
Hyve versus Cloud Hosting UK competitors – before disavow:
This was more of an anomaly against “cloud hosting UK” competitors who have a much smaller proportion of their links from foreign countries, which makes sense because these are mainly UK based sites competing for a UK based query.
We can see that US links were significantly over done, which meant that UK links did not make up a high enough proportion of the link graph in order to gain credibility in this vertical.
How has the situation changed after disavow?
3.6.2 Geographic Location of Links WITH the Disavow
Geography of Links after Disavow versus “Cloud Hosting” Competitors
Here is Hyve after disavow versus the same Cloud Hosting competitors:
Pleasingly, US links instead of being 58% of Hyve.com’s total links have reduced to 27%, well below the 50% threshold of the top 3 sites. UK links still need a boost to get up to the target threshold of 30%.
Looking at the absolute number of links, there’s substantial room to grow both UK and US links after the disavow file to match cloud hosting competitors. However, the task looks pretty futile at this stage, far more realistic to go after “Cloud Hosting UK”.
Geography of Links after Disavow versus “Cloud Hosting UK” Competitors
As for the “cloud Hosting UK” market after Disavow:
The focus for Hyve has to be growing UK links. We can see that the target threshold for US links is around 250 so Hyve can afford to get another 100 US links but another 400 or so UK links are needed to be able to compete for the top 3 positions. This vertical once again looks a more achievable goal for Hyve’s ranking ambitions.
3.7 Power*Trust of Links
The quality of the sites pointing at Hyve.com is one of the most critical elements for long term ranking success.
It’s highly likely that Penguin 2.0 is punishing sites that have a lot of links from poor quality sites.
What do I mean by a poor quality site?
There are many ways to define a low quality site but for the purposes of this section we will focus on two key metrics CEMPER Power & CEMPER Trust. This again was one of the issues highlighted in the Penguin 2.0 meta study – 10 out of 12 sites had a Power*Trust profile that was disproportionate to high ranking competitors.
Power is directly correlated to Google’s PageRank patent and so can be considered to be a similar scoring system. Trust has been modelled on Google’s TrustRank Patent and so closely resembles this scoring system. Together Google uses a combination of PageRank and TrustRank to gauge the quality of a particular webpage. Low Power or Trust pages can therefore be considered to be of less value than high Power / Trust pages.
It’s useful to assess Hyve.com’s link profile using Power*Trust, this is the Power and Trust scores of your backlinks multiplied together to give us one definitive metric.
3.7.1 Power*Trust of Links WITHOUT the Disavow
Let’s compare the Power*Trust profile of Hyve.com’s links versus competitors as it looked when the site got hit by the Penguin 2.0 update. Below is the Power*Trust based on percentages relative to the total link count for the “Cloud Hosting” vertical.
Power*Trust of Links before Disavow versus “Cloud Hosting” Competitors
Here is the link profile before any links were disavowed:
What is surprising here is that Hyve actually has a higher proportion of more powerful and trusted links than competitors because you can see the orange bar more prominently in the upper ranges of Power*Trust and less Power*Trust 0 links.
Here is the same graph looking at absolute number of links:
This is the total opposite to what I usually have to report to site owners because the volume of high quality links is sufficient.
It’s appears to be the volume of links in the lower ranges that were stopping Hyve from being competitive in the rankings!
Power*Trust of Links before Disavow versus “Cloud Hosting UK” Competitors
In the next graph, you can see Hyve versus the Cloud Hosting UK competitors, looking at the relative proportion of links:
It’s a different story when compared to the UK sites.
Hyve actually has a higher proportion of Power*Trust 0 links than these sites. It seems that the sheer volume of links the “cloud hosting” sites have dilutes these links but when compared to the less competitive “cloud hosting uk” vertical the Power*Trust 0 links look too high.
Looks like there should have been more emphasis on adding mid level links between Power*Trust 2 as 7 since this is proportionately where the link profiles are unbalanced.
Looking at the absolute numbers of links of competitors in the “cloud hosting uk” vertical we get a clearer picture of the disparity between medium quality sites and Hyve.
Although, Power*Trust 0 links are higher than the “cloud hosting uk” sites, I don’t think that the quality of links was a contributing factor in triggering Penguin.
The volume of Power*Trust 0 links is nowhere near as high as other sites I have looked at that were hit by Penguin.
To me, the proportions of Power*Trust 0 links although a little high against the “cloud hosting uk” competitors were not so excessive as to not be tolerated.
3.7.2 Power*Trust of Links WITH the Disavow
How has the situation changed after disavow?
Power*Trust of Links after Disavow versus “Cloud Hosting” Competitors
After Disavow – “Cloud Hosting” vertical:
This graph once again illustrates the gulf in link volume required to effectively compete for the term “Cloud Hosting”.
Hyve are out performed for links right across the Power*Trust spectrum from 0 to 12.
Power*Trust of Links after Disavow versus “Cloud Hosting UK” Competitors
After Disavow – Cloud Hosting UK competitors:
Given the gap that currently exists, the first priority has to be trying to bring the link profile inline with the “cloud hosting uk” competitors.
It seems a stretch too far to try and compete with the big sites competing for “cloud hosting”. Looking at the link distribution above, the focus should be the mid range sites.
Ironically, Hyve have enough of the ‘hard-to-get’ high authority links to be able to rank well in the cloud hosting UK vertical – it’s the quantity of mid range sites that the site lacks now.
3.8 Competitor Summary
From the competitor analysis I have made the following observations:
- Hyve has excessively used money keywords as anchor text, as a proportion of the sites backlink profile as a whole and also on a keyword level.
- “Cloud hosting” and “web hosting” have been over-optimised and used as site wide links, which is inflating the over-optimisation problem. The site wide links on client’s sites should be changed if possible to brand anchor text as a priority.
- Not enough brand or generic anchor texts were used prior to Penguin 2.0.
- There are still too high a proportion of “cloud hosting” and “cloud servers” anchor texts even after disavow.
- Looking at money anchor text as a whole, the disavow file has reduced it to an acceptable level compared to competition. However, brand and generic anchors are still far too low.
- Hyve are 300 to 400 links away from being able to compete for the top three positions in the “Cloud Hosting UK” vertical and 800 to 1000 unique domains short of being able to compete for the “Cloud hosting” vertical.
- Redirects are not causing harm to Hyve and can be ignored.
- After disavow the majority of links pointing at Hyve are nofollow (59%) – I would disavow the no follow exact match anchor text links as a precautionary measure.
- I would also prune any no follow links that are on sites that are not trusted.
- There is a lack of diversity in the types of link pointing at Hyve. More image links are needed to create diversity and blend in with competitors.
- The ratio of links pointing to the homepage versus inner pages after the disavow file was used is 50/50. There is scope to increase homepage links up to 65%.
- Too many US based links were used prior to Penguin 2.0. Following disavow these have been reduced to satisfactory level but UK links need to be added to reach a target of 30% as a minimum threshold.
- The quality of links in terms of Power and Trust was most likely NOT a contributing factor in Penguin loss of organic visibility. Paradoxically, Hyve have a good concentration of high authority links. The site is now lacking in the volume of mid-range sites.
4.0 Link Risk
The next area I want to focus on is the “risk” associated with Hyve’s link profile.
Scores can be assigned to links on the basis of the risk they pose to the site. High-risk links are partially taken into account within the Power and Trust scores but looking at a links risk allows us to be more specific and identify the reasons why a link should not be trusted or can be considered to be unnatural.
Using well-known SPAM rules we can assess the quality of each link. This is a good place to start in terms of deciding what links Hyve should remove from their link profile.
4.1 Link Detox Setup
I am using the latest Link Detox “Genesis” Algorithm to analyse Hyve.com’s links. The software draws on millions of data points including real life user feedback to make unnatural link detection on a large scale more accurate. It’s then up to users to interrogate the data to ensure the link profile is totally cleansed.
A superb addition to the Detox feature set is the ability to analyse both the “non-www.” version and “www.” version of your site in the same report. Previously, we had to run two separate reports to achieve this, which made analysis more challenging and at times, confusing.
This approach gives you a holistic view of your site, since both versions of your domain can be adversely affected by bad links – it’s not simply enough to clean up one or the other, you need to be on top of both. This is especially true if either of your domains is 301’d to the other for canonicalization, which it should be for best practice.
On the start report page for Detox, input the “www.” version of your site into the URL field, an alert box will automatically populate asking you whether you wish to detox both the root domain and the sub-domain. In this instance we do, so I check this box:
One of the biggest strengths of LinkResearchTools is the ability to input your own link data. This is another important step if you want to ensure that you cover as many bases as possible.
I had access to a couple of Webmaster tools reports for Hyve so I upload these and move onto the next step.
4.1.1 Factoring your Disavow File into Link Detox
One of the objectives of this study was to identify whether Hyve.com’s disavow file had gone deep enough, Detox asks you on the start report page if you want to upload a disavow file into your project.
As is the case of BLP and CLA, you can upload a disavow file globally from the project settings page or from within the report start page:
You can check that your disavow file is stored in the project settings page:
4.2 Link Detox Risk
A crude way to assess Hyve’s link profile as a whole is to look at the “average link detox risk”. This is the risk score of all of Hyve.com’s links combined and then divided by the total number of links.
Based on the team at LinkResearchTools research, any site with a score of 1000 or more is Penguin fodder.
Certainly, in our own testing at Backlink Surgeon, we have found this to be true. You will be hard pressed to find a site that has survived Penguin that had a score of over 1000 at the time of the update. Christoph and his team certainly did well on postponing their Genesis launch a couple weeks to calibrate it to the most recent Penguin 2.1 update.
There’s a chance that the score you see in Genesis will be higher than you have seen in reports of previous versions. This is because the new algorithms in Link Detox are better able to spot edge cases that in Google’s eyes, are considered to be unnatural.
Here’s how the site looks before the disavow file was submitted:
No surprise here but the original link was scored as being “deadly risk” so a lot of toxic links present. You’ll note that this is with 24% of Hyve.com’s keywords classified. I therefore need to classify all keywords to enhance the accuracy of the DTOX report.
This is a new feature that was released with Link Detox Genesis and allows for the intelligent integration of keyword data into your detox reports, just as we have had previously with BLP and CLA.
To get a more accurate reading you should classify at least 80% of the anchor texts for the site you are analysing.
For the Hyve project I want the highest accuracy possible, so I classify 95% of the links using the bulk classification tool.
Link Detox now shows me a graph of the anchor text profile, right within the tool – no need to hop back and forth to the Backlink Profiler (BLP) anymore.
Having classified 95% of the anchor texts, I refresh the report and DTOX shows the “Reprocess DTOX Rules” button is now activated by turning green.
Click the “Re-process DTOX Rules” button when it’s green and the tool will go to work re-calculating all the risk metrics for your report:
This exciting new feature of DTOX enables me to re-calculate the risk associated with Hyve’s links taking into account the new keyword classification data I have just input.
What’s even better than that is that the re-processing is free and doesn’t cost any additional credits to run.
DTOX takes just a few minutes to reprocess my report and then I am presented with the new score for Hyve taking into consideration the keyword classifications:
The average link detox risk for Hyve has increased!
This is the result of the new Genesis algorithm being able to score and factor in the money anchor text that I just classified.
Moving on, we can see how the link profile is broken down:
Rather startlingly, only 5% of links are marked as “Healthy”.
Detox has identified 428 links as toxic – just under a 3rd of the link graph. These links are believed to be in the most damaging bracket and need immediate removal. Hopefully, they are included in the disavow file but we will soon see. The remaining portion (64%) of links are flagged as suspicious and need closer inspection.
This is the link graph as Penguin saw it; the average link detox risk is way above that borderline 1000 threshold, more than double so it’s no wonder the site got hit.
What about the sites that survived Penguin? How did their risk profile look?
4.3 Providing Context with CDTOX – Hyve.com’s Risk Profile vs. Competitors
Just as we were able to do with CLA, we can use CDTOX to view a comparison with the top sites in the “Cloud Hosting” and “cloud hosting UK” verticals, to provide some context to the risk associated with Hyve.
4.3.1 Hyve.com’s Risk Profile vs. “Cloud Hosting” Competitors
Here is Hyve.com before the disavow file versus “Cloud Hosting” Competitors:
The top sites all escaped Penguin with “moderate risk” link graphs, with averages between the 400 and 500 mark.
This graph shows where Hyve stood out against the “Cloud Hosting” sites:
Too many toxic and not enough healthy links!
As we’ve already seen, anchor text has played a big part in Hyve.com’s demise. CDTOX confirms this once again by flagging the issue.
This graph shows the most prolific spam rules side-by-side against the competition in the “Cloud Hosting” vertical:
SUSP31 and SUSP20 are standing out above the crowd.
SUSP31 again comes back to anchor text, too many links with unnatural anchor text placement. SUSP20 shows that cumulatively the spam rules that have triggered for these links are very high and so the risk score associated with them indicates spammy weak links.
4.3.2 Hyve.com’s Risk Profile vs. “Cloud Hosting UK” Competitors
Hyve.com before the disavow file versus “Cloud Hosting UK” Competitors:
The “moderate risk” range appears to be the target zone for sites in the “cloud hosting uk” keyword vertical also.
Same story with too many toxic links! “Cloud hosting uk” competitors have a higher proportion of healthy links.
No surprise here! Again, money keywords well overdone, not enough brand or other. Compound keywords are standing out too.
The graph above shows where the disparity of toxic links. Too many high risk, very high risk and deadly risk links!
SUSP20 is less of a factor against the “cloud hosting uk” competitors. However, SUSP31 continues to stand out a mile.
Up until now, we’ve been looking at the link detox risk as Penguin 2.0 saw it. It’s now time to factor in the disavow file that Hyve submitted including 674 domains.
Did the disavow go far enough to cut risky links from the link graph?
4.4 Hyve.com Link Risk after submission of the Disavow File
After disavow the score gets a little better but still “deadly” and still in the danger zone way above 1000.
Remember, we are aiming for a “moderate” level of risk in order to be able to blend in with the competitors.
There are clearly, still too many toxic links in the link graph that haven’t been dealt with.
I can assess the reasons why Link Detox has deemed Hyve’s link profile to be deadly link risk by analysing the rules that have been triggered.
Multiple SPAM rules can trigger for each link but the most serious will overrule the others. So for example, a link can be flagged as TOX1 (de-indexed site) and SUSP15 (link directory) because it fulfils both criteria. This link will be referred to as a TOX1 because this is the most serious rule of the two.
4.4.1 Links from De-indexed Sites
SPAM rule: TOX1
Definition: The domain has been dropped from the Google Index.
Results: 10 domains that link to Hyve are not indexed in Google. It is highly likely that these domains have been penalised because of SPAM tactics.
A high proportion of TOX1 domains have been a feature I have witnessed in many penalised sites. It’s therefore imperative that these 10 domains are added to the disavow file.
4.4.2 Links from Weak & Low Quality Sites
SPAM rule: SUSP14
Definition: Page has no PageRank™ but at least some weak links.
Results: 41 domains have no Pagerank according to the official Google stat.
SPAM rule: SUSP1
Definition: Page without external links on a weak domain.
Results: 11.9% of the link profile has Power*Trust of 0 with no external links. These links are not inherently bad unless massively overdone versus competition.
Based on the context of my analysis in section 4, I found that Hyve did not have excessive CEMPER Power*Trust 0 links when profiled against competition. Therefore, the threat posed by these links is in my view not excessively high. That being said, these links are not from quality sites and a decision needs to be taken whether these links are benefiting the site. For the time being I would leave them since we are not dealing with a manual action, just an algorithmic dip.
SPAM rule: SUSP4
Definition: Page has CEMPER TitleRank 30+, Domain Power*Trust™ < 5 and Power*Trust™ < 5.
Results: 167 Links Match SUSP4. These domains don’t rank well for their title and are found on a weak page residing on a weak domain. These are domains that hold little value to Google since they don’t even rank well for their page title and so they can be considered too weak. Similar to the SUSP1 links, these should be removed if they are skewing the link graph. Hyve have not overdone weak links so I would say that they represent less risk to the site at present.
SPAM rule: SUSP19
Definition: Old domain with no homepage PageRank.
Results: 179 Domains are over six months old and have PageRank of 0. Similar to Power*Trust 0 sites, are these 179 domains adding value to Hyve? Most likely not, since these sites may be penalised.
4.4.3 Unnatural Linking Practices
SPAM rule: SUSP15
Definition: Directory Links – We believe Google has targeted sites with a high proportion of directory links because these sites have been abused in order to inflate PageRank scores.
Results: 42 sites have flagged this rule. Looking at the breakdown of the links most of the remaining weak directories triggered TOX3 (highly unnatural link). The use of directories was a problem that the disavow file addressed in part first time round. I would always recommend that you get rid of these sites because Google considers these weak directories to be link schemes.
SPAM rule: SUSP16
Definition: Article Directory Links - Similar to web directories, these have been targeted for the same reason.
Results: There are 0 links associated with known article directories because these were also disavowed by the in-house team at Hyve prior to this analysis.
SPAM rule: SUSP11 -
Definition: Site wide footer links – this is common technique for hosting companies but should be used with caution, particularly in relation to anchor text.
Results: 45 site wide footer links exist – there are more than this but other more serious rules have caught some of those links.
Having looked at the competition, site wide links are not a threat in my opinion IF the anchor text is branded. The key issue with site wide links is the anchor text, so if we can change this then these should be kept.
SPAM rule: SUSP20 -
Definition: Link Detox Genesis algorithm classified this link as very suspicious.
Results: 338 links are likely to be unnatural based on examples given from Google manual actions as well as millions of other data points that have been aggregated from trusted Detox users. I manually checked these links with the Link Detox Screener I can be confident that these links have been given the correct assessment and so these should also be added to the disavow file.
SPAM rule: TOX3 -
Definition: Genesis Algorithm
Results: 299 links are considered to be very unnatural based on examples given from Google manual actions and millions of other data points that have been aggregated from Detox users. These are the more obvious unnatural links, which Genesis believes should be removed. Previously, it would have been hard to spot these links as being unnatural but based on feedback collated by LRT from webmasters that have been penalised these links fall into the bracket of links that are on Google’s hit list.
SPAM rule: SUSP28
Definition: Money keyword anchor text appears in more than 5% of all backlinks.
Results: These 93 backlinks need addressed as a priority. Anchor text has been widely reported as one of the main contributing factors for Penguin penalisation – these 93 links therefore need changed or disavowed.
SPAM rule: SUSP30
Definition: Anchor text link from a spammy forum.
Results: These 23 links look like Xrumer links – I recommend these be removed.
SPAM rule: SUSP31
Definition: Anchor text placement looks suspicious.
Results: This occurs when the context of the link appears to be suspicious.
4.4.4 Link Networks & Link Diversity
SPAM rule: SUSP6
Definition: Same name registrant as other linking domains.
Results: 78 domains have duplication in the registrant’s details. Looking at these domains, it seems like these are all articles that have written or syndicated to sites that use multiple sub-domains to host content, such as Utilizer.com and similar sites.
Drilling down into these shows that the articles confirms that the links appear on multiple subdomains of the same root domain, hence the high number of domains found to be owned by the same company.
SPAM rule: SUSP7
Definition: Domain has the same IP as other linking domains.
Results: 431 domains have duplication linked by IP address. These have been checked and many of these are links from client sites, hosted on Hyve’s servers so this is acceptable and not posing an especially high risk to the site – although other factors of the links should be considered such as anchor text.
SPAM rule: SUSP8
Definition: Domain has same class-C as other linking domains.
Results: 413 domains have flagged as being linked by a class C IP address. Same as with SUSP7 above - these have been checked and these are links from client sites, hosted on Hyve’s servers so this is fine in my view.
SPAM rule: SUSP22
Definition: Genesis Footprint X – Link Detox now has 3 secret algorithms for link network footprint detection.
Results: 260 domains have flagged as being linked by a footprint.
SPAM rule: SUSP23
Definition: Genesis Footprint Y – Link Detox now has 3 secret algorithms for link network footprint detection.
Results: 370 domains have flagged as being linked by a footprint.
SPAM rule: SUSP24
Definition: Genesis Footprint Z – Link Detox now has 3 secret algorithms for link network footprint detection.
Results: 360 domains have flagged as being linked by a footprint.
Just be mindful that SUSP7, SUSP8, SUSP22, SUSP23 and SUSP24 can create false positives, especially if you site has a number of web 2.0 types links. The typical culprit is links that have been built on sites where it is free to create an account and set up your own blog, such as blogger.
Multiple blogger sites linking to your website will fire some of these rules so it pays to be vigilant with your cross examinations.
SPAM rule: SUSP9
Definition: Domain has the same DNS as other linking domains
Results: 216 Links Match SUSP9, however, it’s not a serious threat because these are mainly client sites.
The DNS is Hyve’s own domain name server.
SPAM rule: SUSP12
Definition: Domain has the same Google Analytics code as other linking domains.
Results: 112 domains have been flagged as having repetition in the Google Analytics ID. This is an obvious footprint that can associate sites together. Poorly designed link networks sometimes get caught out by this. It is not advised to have too many links from the one source.
I have investigated these and after cleaning up the URL’s I’m left with sample groups of domains that share the same analytics ID. They are collections of review sites in the main, probably owned by the same person; each URL is showing as a duplicate for its www and non-www version.
In another instance, 4 domains are showing that are actually the same site, just showing up as multiple domains because the site has not set up redirects for each TLD extension or non-www version.
Same site – duplicate URL’s:
These misconfigurations are common and to the algorithm can look suspiciously like a link network footprint – so always do a visual check of the links with these rules.
4.4.5 Abandoned Domains
SPAM rule: SUSP10
Definition: Domain has link velocity trend <-70%; Power*Trust Results: Only 5 Links Match SUSP10 so not anything significant to worry about.
5.0 Round-Trip Disavow – Building An Action Plan
Detoxing your site should be a cyclical process. Whereby, you work to refine and reprocess your reports over time to refine your results and manage the risk of your links.
Hyve.com were able to identify 674 domains that posed a threat to their site. This investigation has thus far shown that this wasn’t enough. It’s therefore down to me to complete the next phase of the process by going full circle and conducting a “round-trip” Link Detox.
Round-trip detoxing works like this:
- Run your report.
- Classify your keywords to +80%.
- Rate the links to refine the spam rules.
- Decide what to disavow – page or domain?
- Download the disavow file.
- Re-Upload the disavow file to DTOX.
- Reprocess the results.
- Gauge your progress against competitors.
- Rinse and Repeat periodically.
I jump back into my Hyve report. If you recall, we left the report like this:
This report included the 674 domains that Hyve had disavowed, which actually dropped to 588 due to some of the links having been dropped because the site returned a “page not found” 404 error.
So now it’s time for me to re-visit the links that may have slipped through the net.
I start with the suspicious and healthy links just to be sure that I agree with the tools assessment because it has to be remembered that Link Detox is still an algorithm and so a degree of human judgement will always be required.
Using the filters effectively enables you to prioritise the links that are most likely unnatural and identify the most likely candidates that you should be manually reviewing.
They are a godsend when analysing large link profiles. Imagine analysing 10’s of thousands of links or even hundreds of thousands, you need to be able to find ways of identifying the most likely false positives in your healthy links – filters help you do this.
For example, you can specifically look at all healthy links with a money keyword, or you can go one step further and view all healthy links that have a money keyword anchor but are also found in a blog comment location. These techniques will drastically increase your productivity.
To make life easier, you can also use the Link Detox Screener for manually reviewing your links.
The screener makes checking and rating links much faster than jumping between a spreadsheet and a browser, as was the previous alternative.
By rating each link, it’s possible to over-ride the score automatically allocated to the link by DTOX if you disagree with the assessment given. This means you can fine-tune your report even further to ensure that every link is properly evaluated.
I have personally found that in all but maybe 5-10% of cases, the assessment made by DTOX is usually right. There’s just that odd link that sneaks through – checking and rating the links with the Detox Screener ensures that no links go wrongfully diagnosed.
For completeness, I opt to manually review all of Hyve’s link profile.
I can do this because the link profile is less than 1500 links deep. However, with a massive link profile stretching into the tens of thousands or even millions of links (DTOX can handle up to 5million links), you are going to have to prioritise and slice and dice your report to mitigate the chances of unnatural links slipping through.
Note by Christoph: then always start with the strongest “healthy” Power*Trust links that have money keywords in there. Those are usually paid links and Google doesn’t like you to have them. If you only look at a few links, make sure you review those.
Pro Tip: A cool new feature of the screener is hot keys.
These keyboard shortcuts make link rating a breeze. Be sure to give them a try.
When it comes to the really toxic links, I opt to disavow the worst offenders in bulk. So once again filtering the report just to show links with a “deadly” risk warning:
I then disavow them in bulk using the feature at the bottom of the link table:
I repeat the process of disavowing the very high-risk links and the high-risk links.
Now that I have completed my manual rating of all the links and selected which links I want to disavow, it’s time to once again re-process the report taking into account all the new data I have input into the system.
The button becomes green and activated after I have refreshed the report.
I now have a report that has taken into account the new and improved Genesis data alongside my own manual judgements.
Detox finishes processing and gives me a new average Link Detox Risk score – based on all the new data I have fed into the system - I can be confident that this more closely reflects the link graph as it stands at this point in time.
All in, I was able to identify another 200 domains that slipped through the net with the first disavow attempt.
Here’s the result of adding those 200 domains to the original disavow file:
Look’s good – however, would be nice to have brought the score down below 500.
Let’s check how that stacks up against the new link profile stacks up against our top ranking competitors:
CDTOX shows us a slight reduced Link Detox Risk score but Hyve so looking good on that basis.
Money anchors still a touch high as a proportion of links...
Toxic links have been reduced nicely!
Deadly, high and very high-risk links have been nullified.
SUSP31 – unnatural anchor text placement still stands out a touch too far for my liking.
It’s the same against Cloud Hosting UK competitors:
Overall risk score looks to be fine.
Money and compound keywords still a little high.
Disavowed links have replaced the toxic ones...
No risk posed by deadly, high or very high-risk links.
SUSP31 is still an anomaly against “cloud hosting uk” competitors as well as “cloud hosting”. I want to fix this so I jump back to the report and filter the table so I am viewing only SUSP31 links.
I then selectively disavow the sites focusing on the links with exact match money anchor text.
I download the newly created disavow file:
This disavow file now includes the 674 original domains Hyve identified, the 200 additional toxic and unnatural domains I found during my first sweep and finally, the SUSP31 links that I opted to leave the first time but caught with my second round-trip detox.
I re-process and re-run the report, which then presents me with my new link risk score:
There we go – we have a positive result!
Based on all the competitor research I have conducted, I am happy that 326 is exactly where Hyve needs to be sitting, there should be no problems with future penguin updates because we have now eliminated the threat posed by toxic and unnatural links.
6.0 Link Velocity Trend
The final bit of analysis before I draw the investigation to a conclusion. Taking a look at Hyve.com’s link velocity trend using the Competitive Link Velocity tool The speed at which a site acquires links can have a negative impact on how Google views your long-term ranking potential.
Link spikes are a normal feature of the Internet, consider a new product launch or a breaking news item, it’s perfectly natural to get a flurry of activity around these types of content. Sites that have large spikes tend to see a quick boost in rankings with a very sharp drop off as soon as the link spike dissipates.
Whereas, sites that gradually lose links tend to see a gradual decline in rankings. The optimal position is to be consistently steady in the acquisition of new links so that Google views your site as a growing authority in your market over time.
Link Velocity Trend in the “Cloud Hosting” Vertical – All Links
This table shows the link velocity trend for Hyve relative to top competitors in the “Cloud Hosting” keyword vertical.
Dark areas show higher linking activity.
For 2013, it looks like there are a number of sites that have built links more aggressively than Hyve signified by the darkest green squares. Link building has therefore not been overly aggressive but to keep pace with the top sites would need to be increased slightly more than was being done. I see that link building has dropped off for July in response to the drop in traffic and Penguin 2.0.
Link Velocity Trend in the “Cloud Hosting” Vertical – Unique Domains
This next table shows the link velocity trend against the top competitors in the “Cloud Hosting” keyword vertical focusing specifically on the number of linking domains.
Hyve’s link building activity in terms of unique domains is slower than the top 10 competitors in the “cloud hosting” niche with the exception of Pulsant. Hence why they have fewer unique domains linking over time.
Link Velocity Trend in the “Cloud Hosting” Vertical – Image Links
This table emphasises the role played by image links, you can see the disparity for Hyve against the top competitors in the “Cloud Hosting” keyword vertical.
Link Velocity Trend in the “Cloud Hosting UK” Vertical – All links
Here’s the same set of charts, this time looking at a comparison with the top sites in the “cloud hosting UK” vertical.
We can see that Nimbus, 123-reg and computer weekly have a consistently high volume of links coming into their sites.
Link Velocity Trend in the “Cloud Hosting UK” Vertical – Unique Domains
Recently, in 2013 Rackspace and Cloudpro have also matched this growth curve.
For unique linking domains, there is no distinct pattern that jumps out but what can be said is that the higher ranked the site, the more activity appears to be going on with new domains linking.
Link Velocity Trend in the “Cloud Hosting UK” Vertical – Image links
Large disparity for image links against the “cloud hosting uk” competitors. Long story short, Hyve should be incorporating image links into the link building strategy.
7.0 Findings & Action Plan
The strategies adopted by Hyve were not nearly as excessive as the sites I usually analyse.
Had it not been for the excessive use of rich keyword anchor texts and excessive links from high-risk and toxic sites then I think the site would have survived Penguin 2.0.
Hvye.com have a lot of highly authoritative links, more than some of the competition sites, which is highly positive.
As far as I can see, the reason that Hyve weren’t able to compete for the top spots on Google, especially for “cloud hosting” prior to Penguin 2.0, was mainly down to having a much lower volume of links than the big competitors. The link graph severely lacked brand and generic anchor text links.
When looking at the ‘absolute’ numbers of links, Hyve was below the thresholds tolerated for competitors in both keyword verticals I analysed. In some aspects the absolute numbers were directly inline or below competitors but when assessed as part of the total link graph the proportions were just too high. It appears to have been the ratios that stood out as an anomaly.
This was particularly true for anchor text and so on balance; unnatural anchor text was in my opinion, the single biggest reason why Penguin 2.0 hit Hyve.
7.1 Attributes of the Hyve link profile that need to be corrected
For the time being the areas that need to be focused on:
- Decreasing the proportion of de-indexed sites to 0.
- Increasing the proportion of brand and generic anchor texts.
- Changing the money anchor text for site wide links.
- Increasing the proportion of UK based IP’s pointing at the site.
- Increasing the number of image links pointing at the site.
- Decreasing exact money anchor text nofollow links.
- Increasing the volume of links from mid range sites.
- Decreasing the volume of high risk and unnatural links identified by Genesis algorithm.
7.2 Did the disavow go far enough?
I am recommending another 780 links get added to your disavow file. There are still a lot of high risk links and unnatural links present that need to be dealt with.
However, the key priority as I see it is anchor text, unless the existing links can have the anchor text changed (especially site wide links) then these links will need to be disavowed OR alternatively, take no action against these links but wait until enough brand and generic links exist to dilute the links that are out there. In reality, I think the strategy needs to be a bit of both.
First, change as much anchor text as is possible, then try and build as many brand anchors as possible to lower the concentration of exact match money anchor texts that still exist.
One thing I have noted about the Hyve disavow file was that it only specified “www.” version of many domains. I would always advise that site owners disavow the “non-www.” version to make sure that the entire domain is ignored, since “www.” is technically speaking a sub-domain of domain.com.
Note by Christoph: and in fact we had cases where penalties were given on either variation as well as can be read here.
7.3 Should some links be “un-disavowed”?
Having looked at the list of domains that Hyve chose to disavow first time round, I don’t believe that “un-disavowing” any of these would help the site.
The links are mainly directories and weak domains that we no longer want and Hyve was right to take action against them. There is some debate as to whether you can even “un-disavow” a domain anyway because in a test conducted by Cyrus Shepard he has attempted to un-do a disavow file that he submitted just to see what would happen.
At the time of writing, none of his rankings or traffic has returned, leading some to speculate that once a link is disavowed, it’s gone - never to be recovered.
Note by Christoph: the main question in the test mentioned is actually: has Google really taken those disavows or un-disavows into account? In a time before Link Detox Boost that’s highly uncertain, so I would question Cyrus’ results, as much as I appreciate him doing the test.
7.4 Is Hyve.com worth fighting for?
Overall, Yes I believe so.
The site as a whole can absolutely (in time) be recovered. However, this is the point...it’s going to take time.
The issue is that no one except Google knows when the next Penguin update will be AND they supposedly aren’t officially going to be confirming updates of Penguin, going forward but based on historical updates… it’s probably going to take six months.
Penguin is not a real-time algorithm, which presents a significant commercial dilemma. Sites negatively affected have to strip out all the bad links with no immediate feedback to tell you if you have gone far enough, instead you need to earn links that are in accordance with the Google Webmaster guidelines and promote the site whilst it still carries the “flag” placed on it by Penguin.
When the next Penguin update rolls round you can take stock and see where the site sits. If action has been taken, the “flag” will be removed and the sites ranking potential should be back in the mix, unencumbered.
At which point, you would be hoping to see the big head terms return to being ranked.
This decision therefore always has to be a commercial one because you as a business have to weigh up the cost of starting over versus carrying out link building / content marketing campaigns before the next update is run.
If Hyve can be patient and wait, I’m in favour of keeping and working with Hyve.com.
This investigation has shown that the internal pages of Hyve appear to be performing well; therefore I would focus on creating new pages of high quality content that could be the focus of link outreach efforts, whilst stripping back bad links that are pointing at the homepage. This provides the opportunity to continue to recover organic traffic since I don’t believe these new pages will be subject to Penguin suppression.
Another consideration that would make the decision easier has to be whether Hyve have control over any of the existing links?
So for example, the links that are currently on clients sites, if these could be directed at a new domain then it would be easier to move to a new domain and get faster results.
Starting out with a new domain has the benefit that you would know with 100% certainty that the new domain is not hindered in any way, unlike Hyve.com, which as I have shown is absolutely subject to a Penguin ‘flag’.
The downside would be that it would probably take an equal timeframe to build up a new site as it would to recover it.
In addition, Hyve.com has a reasonably significant number of long-tail visits coming to the site that would be risked by moving the site to a new domain so this all needs to be factored into the decision.
A new site would not be anywhere even close to being able to compete for “Cloud Hosting”. In reality, this could even take several years, not to mention a heavy investment in content marketing.
Rackspace and Fasthosts are goliaths of the hosting world and have done many years of brand building to secure their place as two of the foremost names in cloud hosting globally.
That being said, for “Cloud Hosting UK” it would be feasible to rank with circa 300 to 400 decent unique domains so this would be much more achievable.
It would be my strong recommendation for Hyve to forget about going after “cloud hosting”. Instead, focus on trying to be a standout player in the “cloud hosting uk” market.
7.5 In practical terms, where does that this leave Hyve.com
What approach should be taken to actually recover the site?
There are two approaches.
There’s the by-the-book, remove every single link that is against the Google Webmaster Guidelines approach. This approach would mean virtually removing 90% of the link profile. You’ve seen how clinical the algorithms can be taking into account the new Link Detox Genesis scores.
In reality, there’s a small proportion of really good natural links.
Alternatively, you can take the ‘remove all the really obvious damaging links’ approach and then wait and see what the impact this has on the site over time. The benefit of this approach is that you can cull the links gradually and gauge the impact. The problem with the approach is that it will take longer to implement since you need to re-evaluate the sites position at each algorithm refresh and then take more links out if the site is still being negatively impacted.
The problem as always with all of this is the fact that you need to wait for a Penguin refresh before anything can be judged. The aspect I need to make clear is that you need to get high quality links to the site to go some way to replacing the lost PageRank experienced from getting rid of so many links. As I said before, they may be spam but they still count towards your overall score. Once you take these links away, you need to build good clean links, preferably from social sites and high quality blogs.
The question with link removal remains… how aggressive should webmasters be?
If you have a manual action, the decision is easy – you HAVE to remove every single bad link. However, as in the case of Hyve the issues are algorithmic, this is typical of so many sites that are suffering just now. In this case, it’s the algorithm that needs to be satisfied – not a human being, which is in fact the case with reconsideration requests and manual actions.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to make a judgement call on how many links to get rid of.
Note by Christoph: while I was rather “toxic cherry picking” until October 2013 I would now recommend to disavow a couple links too much than too few. Looking at the results of Link Detox Genesis and actual spam examples by Google it’s very clear that a link is either VERY good or natural or has to go. This is a drastic change in viewpoint and recommendations to webmasters based on the learnings of the Penguin 2.1 update and the recent recovery success stories. In addition to that it became obvious that our Link Detox Boost is crucial key to success for future recovery from Google penalties.
How the clean-up process works in reality…
Strictly speaking, once you have identified the links you want to cleanse your link profile of you need to contact each of the sites one by one, call or email them if you can, or use their onsite contact form and explain that you have been the victim of a Google update and would they be so kind as to remove the link pointing to your site.
You will get one of three responses:
- Yes, no problem.
- Yes… but only if you pay me.
- Email address not working / No response.
As I mentioned at the start of the report it’s not clear whether the disavow tool ignores all links submitted 100%. Google wants webmasters to make real efforts to remove links, probably why they have stated that the disavow tool is not a “get out of jail free” card. The only way for us to truly know that Google will not take the links into consideration is to get rid of them from the web.
This means link removal requests.
Go ahead and disavow the links first, before you start contacting the sites for link removal. There’s no harm in disavowing them ahead of time and still getting the webmasters to take them down. At least you know that it’s been dealt with properly and not left at the mercy of the disavow tool.
On the subject of the disavow file…
Be careful about disavowing links at the page level if the domain is not to be trusted. Matt Cutts himself said that this was one of the big mistakes people are making with the disavow file. Although you think your URL only appears on one particular page of the site, there can be any manner of scenarios that cause multiple URL’s to contain your link so best to just get rid of the domain because you have already identified that this is a site you don’t wanting linking to you.
There may be instances where a page level disavow is appropriate, say the domain itself is a good site and the site is relevant to your niche, just that you have identified a link pointing to your site that has an unnatural placement. A rich keyword anchor text link in a forum signature perhaps... You may not want to exclude all the naturally earned links you have from that forum but you’re sure that link has to go.
In this case, I would disavow at the page level but only if the Webmaster wasn’t playing ball and helping you out by deleting the link. Tread very carefully with this technique though because more often than not, a domain level disavow is more appropriate.
I would always disavow links for the whole domain; this means that you are definitely going to catch all the links from that site but be careful to include the non-www version in cases where you want the entire domain and not just the sub-domain to be ignored.
During your link audit, you will undoubtedly come across a number of links that were it not for the “rich anchor text” would be nice links to have. There are on legit sites and can potentially send the odd visitor. These are usually quite obviously paid link placements but what makes them suspicious and thus unnatural is the anchor text.
In this case, you should do you best to try and get the anchor text changed to something brand related “Hyve” or to a random generic anchor such as “view website”.
If this can’t be achieved then unfortunately, these links will also need to be added to the disavow file. Alternatively, do nothing and try and dilute them sufficiently by building brand links. However, this approach still leaves you open to Penguin hits until such time as you have diluted the anchor text density so disavowing is probably your best bet.
7.6 Results of taking decisive action
Based on the link analysis I was able to identify another 240 links that posed a threat to the integrity of the site.
I hypothetically added these to the disavow file and then re-uploaded the file into my Hyve DTOX project and using Link Detox’ re-processing features, I have been able to re-calculate the new score for Hyve.com’s link profile:
If Hyve take action against those toxic and suspicious links that weren’t caught the first time, then the link profile would now be considered to be low link risk.
Using Competitive DTOX, I was able to identify that this would be an acceptable level from which to build upon going forward in relation to the sites that are currently ranking highest for their preferred keywords.
I should caveat this by saying that we have not taken any consideration of the fact that the competitors may also have disavowed links. In this case, it goes back to the point that how aggressive you want to be with your link removal and disavow is ultimately, a commercial decision you take based on as much anecdotal evidence you can collate.
7.7 Future Linking Strategies for Hyve.com
Future link building strategies should be mindful of the tolerances accepted in Hyve’s keyword verticals. I have outlined the target ratios and thresholds for the site going forward in the audit document.
Hyve should regularly check their link profile distribution to ensure that you are closely aligned with these benchmarks.
I would advise that a routine link analysis be completed using the round-trip Link Detox methodology.
In addition, any new links that are ‘acquired’ should be run through DTOX, using the “what-if” mode.
In this mode Link Detox helps you decide whether a link is worthwhile based on the context of your existing link profile.
I would also advise Hyve to integrate routine Link Alerts.
Link Alerts act like your backlink security guard, working to help you protect your site 24/7. This is increasingly important in a time when negative SEO attacks pose a very real threat to all commercial enterprises.
This is also a useful tactic to employ on competitors; you will be notified anytime LRT finds links pointing at competing sites.
Finding new link prospects doesn’t get any easier than having your competitors links mailed to your inbox!
In the .pdf download, I have included four appendices.
These show tables with the anchor text breakdown of Hyve.com’s competitors. I’ve picked a few of the top ranked sites for “cloud hosting uk”. Looking at their anchor text provides a very clear picture of the type of anchor text profile Google favours.
If you want to see Appendices 1 to 4 for the anchor text profiles – then you need to download the full .pdf version of this audit.
[maxbutton id="18" text="Download Hyve.com Penguin 2.1 Case Study PDF" url="http://lrt.li/hyvepwat" window="new"]
I would like to thank Hyve for consenting to this work being published and shared with the LinkResearchTools community.
It’s rare that you come across a company that is open-minded enough to let others learn from their experiences, both good and bad.
If you agree then please do consider linking out to them to show your appreciation: www.hyve.com but for heaven’s sake - use a brand anchor text! 🙂
This case study was written by Derek Devlin, Head of Digital Marketing Strategy at Made By Crunch, and long-time user of LinkResearchTools and Link Detox.
A word from Christoph C. Cemper
This analysis was written by our newest Certified LRT Xpert Derek Devlin.
Derek showed proficiency in doing a backlink profile and SEO audit using LinkResearchTools. I definitely look forward to community expert feedback and follow-ups.
Congrats and Cheers for providing such an eloquent, precise and insightful case study! I am thrilled by the detail that went into this. Therefore, I’m very happy to certify Derek as the next Certfied LRT Xpert by approving and publishing his research on our site.
Derek has also achieved the Certified LRT Agency certification for his company, Made By Crunch. This certification allows Made By Crunch to market their brand and service with this highly sought after certification, and receive consulting leads from us free of charge.
The Goal of our certification program is to provide our user community and clients a high quality service, and our certified experts are key to that.
I look forward to seeing future work from Derek and personally endorse Derek and Made By Crunch to work with you whenever you get a chance!