- A backlink is a link that directs visitors from another website to yours.
- Obtaining backlinks is fundamental to improving your sites search engine ranking, the best ranking sites have thousands of backlinks.
- While backlinks are important, they are not easy to get and the outreach process can be timely and expensive.
- There are a common set of guidelines to follow when looking to obtain backlinks. However, these guidelines are often breached, impacting a sites ability to get more backlinks.
Anyone who knows anything about boosting a website’s SEO and earning the praise of the Google Gods knows the importance of backlinks. Not only do backlinks send more traffic to your site, but they help you gain notoriety as an authority in your industry.
Some backlinks are gained organically, which means one website stumbles upon the amazing content on your web page and links to it without you asking. Others are gained by paying, providing content, or begging and pleading.
Backlinks are not an easy job
Let’s be honest, earning backlinks as a newbie or start-up isn’t easy. It sometimes takes years to gain the type of authority and notoriety that makes other websites willingly backlink to you as a resource. So, while you’re gaining traction, building SEO, and working your way to the top, you may need to take a different approach.
This is where soliciting other websites for backlinks comes into play. With millions of websites crowding the internet, there are plenty in desperate need of quality content. So, what does that mean for you?
You offer to write a quality, content-driven article (more on this later) free of charge for a website to use on their blog. You might be thinking, “What? Why would I write an article for free?” Well, when you slip a backlink to your website into the article, you’re increasing the chances that you’ll see a boost in traffic and SEO.
But, as the old saying goes, nothing worth having in life is truly free.
This is why, in addition to the time it takes you to write the article, you may need to pay a publishing fee. Websites know how valuable backlinks are and they’re not afraid to charge you for them.
Not sure that jumping through all of these hoops is worth it? Well, it is and we’re about to tell you why.
What are backlinks?
Simply put, a backlink is a link that directs visitors from another website to yours. Think of it as a reference. Backlinks are mostly found in informative blog posts. If you’ve ever clicked on blue, highlighted words in an article, and found yourself redirected to another website, you just clicked on a backlink. And chances are, that website owner paid for that link.
You can get backlinks in a few different ways. The easiest way is to pay the publishing site to place a backlink in an existing article. This method is generally cheaper and requires less work on your part. But, you have less control over the anchor text or the article’s content. If you don’t care, great! But if you want more control over your backlinks, you’ll need to provide the content yourself.
That means writing a blog post with a link to your website embedded naturally and contextually. Some websites post the content with your backlink on their page free of charge. These are usually websites with low domain authority in need of content to fill their pages.
While these backlinks aren’t as valuable to your site, a backlink is a backlink and even ones from low ranking sites can help boost your SEO.
If you’re shooting for more high-profile websites with high domain authority, you’ll need to provide both the content and pay a publishing fee.
The fees are usually outlined in the publishing site’s guest post criteria and can range anywhere from $30 to hundreds, so be prepared to shell out some cold hard cash.
Why are backlinks important?
So, why do website owners pay money (or provide free content) to receive a backlink? Backlinks are actually a much more cost-effective way to advertise your business or website. By making a single investment, you could gain thousands of visitors that convert to sales.
Increased traffic on your website also helps boost your SEO and your ranking on the SERPs (search engine results page). But that’s not all. Backlinks are like a glowing recommendation from a well-known professional in your field. When a high-ranking website backlinks to yours it gives you more credibility. In time, this will increase your domain authority.
The number of referring domains is one of the first things Google considers when ranking your site. The more you have, the higher your site will rank on the SERPs.
Proof that backlinks work
Still not convinced that backlinks are worth your time or investment?
Websites with more than 300 referring domains are much more likely to rank in the number one spot than, let’s say, a website with only 50 backlinks.
The quality of your backlinks is just as important as the quantity. The higher the domain authority of the referring website, the better it is for your SEO and ranking. For example, if you’re someone designing a new sports beverage, you’re much more likely to gain traction with an endorsement from a professional athlete like Shaq than you would be from a high school basketball coach.
Major mistakes to avoid when contacting websites for backlinks
Now that we’ve covered the basics of what backlinks are and why they’re so important, you’re probably ready to run out and start contacting publishing websites, right? Not so fast.
Publishing sites are inundated every day with websites looking for backlinks. Not only does your article need to stand out from the crowd, but you need to follow some basic guidelines. Some guidelines are common sense etiquette and professionalism while others are specifically outlined by the publisher.
Do your research before pitching to a website. In addition, avoid these nine mistakes.
1. Don’t haggle over the price
There’s nothing more insulting to a blogger than having someone try to beat down their posting price. Some blogs advertise a specific price for getting a backlink on their website. Others welcome free content and give you a link as a “thank you”. For those that charge a flat fee, be careful how much haggling you do. If the price is $100 to post, don’t offer them $50. You won’t get very far and you may burn some bridges along the way.
That’s not to say that asking for a small discount is always out of line. If it feels appropriate, ask for 5 or 10% off the price – but don’t be surprised if they decline.
Remember, you aren’t the only person willing to pay for backlinks and you won’t be the last. You’re a dime a dozen. Don’t blow your chances for getting a backlink on a reputable site with a high-domain over a few dollars. If your link successfully posts, the investment will pay for itself ten-fold.
2. Don’t create over promotional content
There’s no denying that backlinks are a form of self-promotion, but when your content is over-promotional, both the blogger and the readers will pick up on it right away. No one likes to read an article riddled with countless links.
They’re an eyesore and take away from the content’s value. When creating a post to pitch to a publishing site, focus on the customer experience, not your own agenda.
What are the customer’s pain points and how does your content address them? Are you providing valuable, credible content that answers your reader’s burning questions? There are countless ways to include your backlink in the article without hitting the reader over the head with it. Publishers want content-driven submissions, not a sales pitch.
3. Don’t ignore the blogger’s criteria
Rules were made for a reason – and the guidelines bloggers have for guest post submissions have a purpose. If the website you’re pitching to has specific criteria for submitting, follow it.
Similar to a job application, provide all the required information and follow the structured guidelines. It’s hard enough for bloggers to weed through countless emails and pitches – if yours breaks even one rule, it’ll get tossed aside without a second thought.
The most common guidelines surround the length of the article, what to include in the initial email (bio, headshot, and other details), the format (Google Doc, PDF file), and the submission process.
Read all of these guidelines before submitting your work. Not doing so will be a waste of time for both you and the blogger you’re pitching to.
4. Adhere to the word count
Another important guideline that many publishing sites will give you is the word count of the articles. The average length of a blog post is about 2,000. This isn’t just a number that the bloggers pulled out of thin air.
Google prefers blog posts over 2,000 pages. New data suggests that 2,100 to 2,400 words is the ideal length for boosting SEO. They often provide the most value to readers. But that’s not to say that posts between 500 and 2,000 words have no place on the Internet. There are plenty of readers who prefer a short, concise, and to-the-point article that’s only 1,000 words or less.
Trust that the blogger you’re pitching to have done their research and selected a specific length of all submissions for a reason. Don’t disregard their request. Avoid submitting articles that are way over or way under the word count. Also, avoid adding useless information (fluff) just to reach the word count. Publishing websites will see right through this and likely reject your article, costing you a backlink and much-needed exposure.
5. Stuffing your content with backlinks
One per customer – that’s the theory behind including backlinks in an article. If you successfully pitch your idea or article to a publishing website, most allow one backlink to a page on your site. Not four, five, or ten. Don’t stuff your article with backlinks. Not only does it look sloppy and unprofessional, but it hurts your credibility and the legitimacy of the article.
Remember, you should be creating content-driven articles that include helpful information. Backlinks should be included in a discrete and meaningful way. When an article is riddled with links, readers are much less likely to read the entire thing and it’s even more unlikely that they’ll click on any of the links. A few links scattered throughout an article are much more attractive and won’t overwhelm the reader (or annoy the blogger you’re pitching to).
6. Pitching to irrelevant websites
Not staying in your lane is another major mistake to avoid when contacting bloggers for a backlink. When you approach a blogger in an industry that’s not relevant to yours, it shows carelessness. You clearly didn’t research the publishing site. It appears as if you’ve just mass-emailed a list of websites that accept guest posts. And you can guarantee that the publishing website will give you as much time and attention as you gave the research process. Zero.
If you’re a property management company, you shouldn’t be contacting bloggers in the fashion or beauty industry. Stick with real estate websites or even companies that offer financial or loan advice. Make sure that the relationship makes sense before contacting the websites.
7. Hounding the blogger
There’s something to be said about following up with a website after pitching your article idea. Follow-up emails show responsibility, eagerness, and a certain level of professionalism. Contacting the blogger more than two times or hounding them for a response, on the other hand, screams desperation.
Once you initially make contact with the website, wait a few days before sending a follow-up email. When you do, indicate that you just want to confirm that they received your submission or ask if there’s any additional information they’d like. If they don’t answer after this second attempt, give it up and move on. It either means your article idea wasn’t a good fit at this time, the content wasn’t up to snuff, or perhaps they’re not interested in backlinking to your website.
All of these reasons are legitimate. Don’t take it personally. Accept that it’s a dead-end and start pitching to other websites.
8. Rambling in the initial email
We get it. You’re excited for the opportunity to post on a blogger’s site. You want that backlink. But it’s important to remain calm, cool, and collected – and that means avoiding overly long emails that ramble on about how honored you’d be if they’d publish your article and backlink.
The blogger doesn’t need or want your life story. Keep it short, simple, and to the point.
Not only do overly long emails annoy bloggers but your intended message will get lost in the shuffle. Check the blogger’s criteria once again. What specific details do they ask for? Be sure to include all of these, without going overboard. Most bloggers want a short synopsis of what your business is about, who you are, and what you want (aka a backlink).
In some cases, you can briefly touch on your budget, but this isn’t always a good approach. If their criteria already outline a price, remember not to haggle too much. If they don’t mention a price, you don’t want to offer more than they normally charge and end up spending too much. When in doubt, avoid talking costs until you get a response.
9. Submitting unoriginal content
This is SEO no-no number one. Never, ever, ever submit duplicate content to a website for publication. Not only does this teeter on breaking copyright rules and possibly plagiarism, but it hurts the host site’s SEO.
The last thing you want to do is offend or negatively impact the business that you’re pitching to. Not only will it put a bad taste in their mouth about you and your website, but it’ll downright piss them off. It also shows that you know very little about how backlinking works.
The content you submit should be unique and written specifically for the publishing site’s target audience. Even if you have the perfect article already written for your niche, avoid pitching it to multiple websites at once. Then, you’ll find yourself in a pickle if more than one blogger accepts it. Instead, try pitching blog post ideas or outlines where you can create original, unique content for each website.
Backlinks are an important part of the SEO puzzle. As your website climbs the Google ranks to claim a spot at the top, you may need a little boost. Backlinks are one way to get this boost without spending a fortune.
You won’t get a response from every blogger you pitch to. In fact, you may only hear from a handful out of hundreds. And of that handful, you may only succeed in posting one or two backlinks. So, while you’ll win some and lose some, the most important thing to remember is to always play by the rules.
A 301 Redirect: SEO Impacts – The Ultimate Guide for 2020
Understanding how to execute a 301 redirect is one of the top 10 fundamental skills for search engine optimization. That’s what this guide is all about. Make sure you read until the end because I’m going to show you two of my favorite 301 redirect tactics (that produce massive results). Let’s jump in: What is …
Top 10 Best Atlanta SEO Companies
Looking for the best Atlanta SEO companies for 2020?
Keep reading because we’ve compiled the top companies based on unbiased data.
Let’s jump right in.
Top 10 SEO Companies in Atlanta
- Lyfe Marketing (34 points)
- Cardinal Digital Marketing (32 points)
- M16 Marketing (28 points)
- Atlanta SEO Pro (24 points)
- Captivate Search Marketing (23 points)
- Propellant Media (23 points)
- FindLocal Company (22 points)
- MediaLinkers (22 points)
- Shiftweb Solutions (22 points)
- Yeah! Local (20 points)
1. Lyfe Marketing: #1 Atlanta SEO Agency
Lyfe Marketing is the top dog under our scoring system. Not only did it have more website traffic than its competitors combined, but it also had an average Google review score of 4.5 across a total of 148 reviews, making it the market leader in Atlanta by quite some distance.
Part of its success comes down to strategy. Unlike some, the company focuses on providing its clients with quality website traffic, not just volume. Like other sophisticated SEO companies, it understands that the key to digital marketing success is to give clients the tools they need to generate leads. This digital marketing agency provides an efficient link building and keyword research strategy. They also highly qualified with local SEO services. You can count on this marketing agency with both on and off-page SEO needs.
On top of that, Lyfe Marketing agency focuses heavily on achieving measurable search engine results. Every month, it sends its clients a breakdown of relevant SEO and how its efforts are helping to improve visibility and ranking – helpful for an industry in which trust can be an issue.
Lyfe Marketing currently has more than 300 local and national first-page rankings for its clients’ pages. Not bad.
2. Cardinal Digital Marketing: Boosted Search Engine Results
Coming in at number two on our list Cardinal Digital Marketing, an Atlanta-based SEO agency that writes for Forbes, The Business Journals, Entrepreneur, WSJ, and the American Marketing Institute.
The company came in second for two main reasons: the quality of its website and its average Google review score. Its website loaded pages in under three seconds, was mobile-friendly, and had a valid SSL certification. And clients rated the service an impressive 4.7 out of 5 stars across 77 reviews.
The agency’s primary focus is on helping multi-location companies expand across different local markets. And under the leadership of its CEO, Alex Membrillo, it has expanded its operations impressively fast over the last couple of years. So much so, in fact, that Inc. magazine named it one of its 5,000 fastest growing privately-held US companies.
The firm boasts a 97 percent client retention rate and offers clients, on average, a 28 percent client lead monthly growth rate. You just can’t ignore figures like those.
3. M16 Marketing: Advanced Search Engine Optimization
Third on our list is M16 Marketing, the number one SEO agency as voted by UpCity. The company focuses almost exclusively on rankings, deploying a five-step strategy to help clients get to number one. It all begins with keyword research and then evolves into content development, technical SEO, and link building.
The company came in third on our ranking for two reasons: it’s 4.9 out of 5-star review score, and its snappy website. It also has the best feedback of any in this list.
M16 believes that combining art and science is the best way to create value, and it deploys its expertise to dazzling effect. The company claims to offer month-on-month of more than 250 percent, according to its marketing. And its impressive customer review scores seem to back that up.
The firm focuses intently on building relationships with its customers from the start. It doesn’t do things in a boilerplate fashion. Instead, it gets to know the brands with which it works, and internalizes them, thereby challenging old ideas and breaking new ground. If you’re looking for an SEO in Atlanta, this one is certainly one to consider.
4. Atlanta SEO Pro: Full-service Digital Marketing
Atlanta SEO Pro focuses on pay per click (PPC), web design, web presence management, and search engine optimization. This Atlanta SEO company claims that it is “not just another Atlanta SEO company” but one that provides genuine value, retaining nearly 100 percent of its clients.
We were impressed by the overall quality of their operation – something that shone through across our metrics. The website passed our test with flying colors, and their review score was an impressive 4.8 out of 5 on external review sites. What hurt their score (and why they didn’t rank higher here) was their low monthly search traffic – just 260 unique visits to their website per month, according to Ahrefs metrics.
Thus, Atlanta SEO Pro is a quality SEO firm but has low visibility – a tad ironic, you might say.
Fundamentally, Atlanta Pro SEO is for companies looking for something a little different to get themselves noticed in search engines. The firm is self-admittedly “sometimes-quirky” and fun-loving, so expect uniquely creative approaches to content marketing. Founder James Bell has experience in search engine optimization, local SEO social media, and hyper-local marketing strategies.
5. Captivate Search Marketing: #5 of the Best SEO Companies in Atlanta
Captivate Search Marketing came in fifth according to our scoring system. While it did well in the review segment, it was hampered, like Atlanta SEO Pro, by a lack of website traffic. Current traffic sits well below five hundred unique visitors per month.
The company likes to focus on producing what it calls “pure value content” for its clients. In other words, it is not in the business of spamming search engines and hitting keyword quotas. It wants to give its customers genuine insights and artistic content that generates search engine traffic that converts to value.
The firm quite admirably focuses on generating high quality leads for its customers. What’s interesting about its approach, though, is that it doesn’t just try to incent relevant traffic; it also focuses on pre-qualified leads and sales.
While generic Ahrefs data paints the company as a small-time operation, it works with a variety of prestigious clients across the state, including WIFII, Georgia Natural Gas, and Park ‘n Fly. Customers like how the company always delivers in a “time-sensitive” manner, providing content, just when they need it.
6. Propellant Media: Atlanta SEO Agency
Propellant Media’s story began several years ago when the company realized that midsize companies didn’t have access to enterprise-level SEO solutions. The firm, therefore, began developing a host of proprietary techniques, enabling smaller firms to gain access to the same regimes that help the big boys hit the top spot.
The company achieves sixth place on our list. It has the second-highest traffic of any Atlanta SEO company we analyzed – just one place behind Lyfe Marketing. But, unfortunately, problems with the website loading speed and local SEO – lack of Google reviews (we could only find three), meant that the company missed out on a place in the top five. With that said, Propellant Media certainly has the legs to feature higher in our list in the coming years.
The company is headquartered at Tech Square Labs, a widely-renowned hub for innovation and technological web development in Atlanta. It leverages this unique environment to develop new expertise at the frontiers of SEO, offering clients profound insight.
7. FindLocal Company: Find Them in Atlanta, GA
FindLocal Company is an Atlanta-based SEO firm that focuses on both SEO and creating ADA-friendly websites that help its clients avoid unnecessary lawsuits. The site comes in seventh on our list. The average review score across 31 reviews was an impressive 5 out of 5. But the total number of monthly visitors was less than one hundred, meaning that this is still very much a company in development.
Part of this has to do with the fact that FindLocal Company doesn’t rank in the top ten websites for frequent searches. You have to go onto the second or third page to find it, dramatically reducing organic traffic. Again, FindLocal suffers the same problem as Atlanta Pro SEO. Being hard to find is never a good look for an SEO company.
8. MediaLinkers: Web Design with the Right SEO
MediaLinkers is a bit of an old hand in the Atlanta GA SEO market. It first set up shop in 2002 back in the dot-com era and helped dozens of companies create a web design for their online businesses. Today, it has more than sixty employees and specializes in web design and search engine optimization services.
MediaLinkers did well in our SEO best practices test, earning full marks in that segment. It also did well on Ahrefs domain rating score, thanks to its expansive network of do-follow links. The company, however, fell down considerably on total website visits, serving less than ten people per month at the time of our analysis.
Nonetheless, it boasts a top design team on its staff. It creates professional, aesthetically pleasant websites, even if its own company’s website needs a bit of work.
9. Shiftweb Solutions: Helps You Being Found in Search Engines
Shiftweb Solutions is an Atlanta-based SEO company founded in 2011 by Sinoun Chea that focuses heavily on providing support to small businesses. Chea believes that her clients are the backbone of local economies and communities, and so is keen on helping them gain visibility online in whatever way she can.
We found no issues with the review scores or the quality of the website experience. (The company has an average Google Review score of 5 out of 5 stars across 37 reviews). The main letdown was the quality of the domain. The small number of do-follow links and the relatively sparse monthly traffic pulled down the number of points we could award the firm.
Shiftweb Solutions serves a wide variety of companies in the local community, including artists, attorneys, and nonprofits. It has a reputation for working diligently and honestly.
10. Yeah! Local: Free SEO Audit
Finally, Yeah! Local rounds out our list of the top ten best Atlanta SEO companies in 2020. The firm is the brainchild of Justin Herring and wants to help businesses in the local area get access to non-sleazy local SEO services that offer genuine value.
Herring saw first-hand how some SEO companies ripped off their customers, failed to provide them with updates, and ignored their emails. So he set up Yeah! Local as a boutique SEO service to solve the problem, and has been going ever since.
Yeah! Local’s average review score was 5 out of 5 across 41 reviews, but there were a couple of reasons why Herring didn’t rank higher. First, total traffic to the site is less than 500 per month – which isn’t a great deal for a local SEO agency. And second, some pages on Yeah! Local did not load within the three-second time limit. That hurt their score.
We think it is essential to be able to point to data whenever ranking companies instead of just relying on opinion. That’s why we’ve taken a multi-faceted approach, using multiple sources of information to create our scoring regime.
Scoring a firm on the quality of its website is okay, but it tells you nothing about the quality of the customer experience, or how well the firm markets its own digital storefront. We, therefore, delved deep, using Ahrefs metrics as well as data from publicly-available Google Reviews.
Our final scores take into account the following:
- Whether the site has a valid SSL Certificate
- Whether the website is mobile-friendly
- If the loading speed is under three seconds
- If the site ranks in the top ten on Google
- The Ahrefs domain ranking score,
- The number of links from third-party websites
- The volume of traffic
- The number of Google Reviews
- The average rating on Google Reviews
Each parameter above carries a maximum score of 5 points. Thus, agencies earn 5 points for ranking in the top ten on Google, a further 5 for higher domain rankings, and so on down the list.
You can view the scoring criteria here.
Send Inquiries Today
If you’re looking to hire an SEO company in Atlanta, then this guide should help inform your decision. Our objective scoring system means that our ranking isn’t just a matter of opinion; it is a consequence of what the data say.
Check out these SEO company websites and decide for yourself which one can most closely meet your business goals.
How to get more from your links
- SEO strategists focused on link building often forget that it’s much easier to optimize their existing link equity than it is to build more.
- Large enterprise and ecommerce websites with thousands of landing pages often spread PageRank too thin, sending link equity to pages that are unlikely to ever rank.
- SEO strategists can achieve dramatic ranking improvements by changing the internal linking profile of their websites to concentrate more PageRank on their highest-value landing pages.
- An iterative approach to internal link edits with a crawler, A/B testing, and site rollbacks allows webmasters to make adjustments until they get their PageRank distribution right.
Over the past decade, some SEOs have loudly proclaimed that the art of PageRank sculpting is dead. As is often true when armchair technologists voice their opinions with clickbait headlines, they got it dead wrong. In fact, the larger the site and the more PageRank it has, the more effective PageRank sculpting can be.
PageRank-driven link algorithms are Google’s original authority metrics. They are still the fundamental basis for how authority is evaluated on a per-page and per-domain basis. PageRank even underlies the PA/DA metrics from Moz and UR/DR from Ahrefs. Google uses its PageRank algorithms to separate the signal from the noise in its massive 30 trillion page index and provide high-quality search results.
Call me a traditionalist, but one of the reasons I love experimenting with PageRank is because it is an onsite strategy that I have 100% control over. Earning new links is great, but it’s time-consuming work. Maximizing the value of my existing links is much easier than building new ones. For websites with large existing backlink profiles, it’s often more immediately impactful.
Not trying to use PageRank to your advantage is a major missed opportunity, particularly for enterprise-level or e-commerce sites with hundreds to thousands of landing pages. This post will break down three powerful PageRank strategies that I use with my clients to improve their rankings. But first — some history.
How PageRank sculpting died and why it should come back
Once upon a time, Google offered full transparency about their PageRank calculations for any page on the internet directly from their database. SEOs knew which pages had more PageRank and did everything they could to capitalize on it.
One of the ways SEOs used to do PageRank sculpting was by using nofollow tags to direct more link juice to specific pages. Google responded by making it so that all links on a page transfer the same amount of equity, regardless of nofollows. Also, Google decided to deprecate and later fully shutter their PageRank API endpoints.
Although we no longer have a window into PageRank metrics, it is still being distributed across our sites, so thinking about where we are sending it is really important. I regularly see large websites with multiple landing pages that target too many competitive keywords. Ninety-five percent of their pages get no traffic, but their PageRank is being stretched across all of them.
Some ecommerce sites have a product page for every SKU in their catalog, resulting in too much PageRank being sent to inventory that’s low-value, out-of-stock, or unlikely to rank on Google. Those ecommerce sites that dynamically create new pages from a template for every city or state often only rank for keywords with low search volume. Those kinds of pages usually don’t have enough unique content for Google to see them as valuable, so sending link equity there is a complete waste of precious PageRank.
New ecommerce sites with thousands of product SKUs right off-the-bat never work because they’ve spread their site authority across too many pages and don’t have enough PageRank for the pages that matter. When you look at successful large sites like Amazon (which has over 300 million landing pages), they put their most important product segments into the navigation menu, so they can direct their domain’s PageRank where they want it for SEO purposes.
So how do you shift your page PageRank in a way that actually has an impact? You do it through internal links. Internal links spread around your link equity from one page of your site to another. Here are some of the internal linking strategies that I’ve used to shift PageRank and produce dramatic results for large websites.
#1: Reclaim lost PageRank by redirecting broken internal pages
A page that is 404-ing cannot rank in search results and doesn’t pass PageRank to other pages. One of the first ways you can get more out of your links is by redirecting those broken internal links to your highest-value landing pages.
As we build our websites over time, site structure changes, and URL permalinks can change too. This is especially true for older websites with a lot of history, as well as larger websites with lots of web pages. The links that point to your site are static, so it’s very common for older backlinks to point to broken pages. It’s also common that old internal links in blog posts or other content regions of our site point to pages that no longer exist. Google’s crawlers see all of this, and it reflects the poorly on-site quality.
To reclaim that PageRank, you just need to create redirects from the 404ing page to the appropriate landing page. Here are a few strategies for finding your broken backlinks and 404ing pages:
- Google Search Console: Check your 404 logs to see a list of broken links and pages
- Audit your incoming backlinks: Use a backlink analysis tool to test the pages where the incoming links are going to make sure they are resolving. If you know how to code, you can build a simple Python script to do this for you.
- Analyze server logfiles: If you’re tech-savvy, check your apache or Nginx log files to find 404ing pages, especially those crawled by Googlebot.
It’s a good idea to do this regularly, especially for dynamic sites with a lot of content. I like to run my crawler across our sites every month to make sure all of the internal links are pointing to valid landing pages without any 301 redirects or 404ing broken pages. This is a signal to Google that there’s a webmaster looking after the site and the site is high-quality.
It’s important to think about whether the content of your redirected pages is topically relevant to the old page. Universally redirecting 404s back to your homepage is lazy and not a great idea. Once you identify the broken links pointing to your site, find landing pages that would make sense to redirect them to.
Also, keep in mind that the PageRank algorithm has a “damping factor”. Each time PageRank transfers from page to page, it incurs a 15% loss, including across redirects. For internal links, there’s no reason to be losing 15% of your internal PageRank. For external links, a 301 redirect lets you capture 85% of the link equity, which is much better than getting 0% with a 404.
#2: Concentrate the PageRank of your domain onto the pages that really matter
Google uses the internal linking structure of your website to calculate the amount of PageRank on each page. Most sites have the bulk of their PageRank on their home page, which then passes link juice through to the rest of the site. Pages that are closer to the homepage, like those linked to in a navigation menu and footer, or pages that are internally linked to frequently, will always have more PageRank.
Image source: Linkgraph.io
To identify which pages on your site you should remove or push deeper, check Google Analytics to see which of your landing pages aren’t getting organic traffic. It helps to build a list of the pages you want to take PageRank away from, as well as the highest opportunity landing pages on your site that you want to push more PageRank towards. Here are a few strategies for how to concentrate PageRank where you want it to go.
- Use your header and footer: They serve as a kind of buoy for PageRank across your domain, so linking the most important pages on your site in them concentrates your PageRank onto those important pages.
- Remove the worst performing pages: To make your internal linking more effective, don’t have pages in the header and footer that don’t get traffic or rank well. Remove links to them from the home page, nest them deeper into your site, merge pages, or remove them altogether.
- Create category pages: Category pages are a great way to build silos of PageRank that you can concentrate on select pages. Prioritize the items on these pages, and link to pages that matter the most near the top of the page.
- Use a site:search on Google: The order in which your pages appear will help you understand which pages that search engines see as the most important by PageRank.
- Use Blog Content: Blog content allows you to link to your high-value landing pages in a way that is contextually relevant. This helps reinforce topical relevance, depth, and authority for your most important pages.
#3: A/B test your PageRank sculpting
For those who want to attempt some heavy PageRank shifting, it’s important to take an iterative approach to your internal link edits. It helps to use a version control system (like Git) or site snapshots that you can deploy and crawl in a staging environment. As I make my edits, I recrawl my site in the staging environment each time to see how much more PageRank I’m getting on the pages that matter.
Once I’m ready, I’ll deploy the new version live and then monitor my keyword rankings for the affected pages over the course of a week or two. If you’ve picked the right pages to prune and promote, you should see a nice lift in keyword rankings where it matters. If not, you can easily rollback.
PageRank sculpting works best when used on a site with high-quality landing pages with good UI/UX and strong core web vitals. As with all SEO strategies, they work best when combined. If your primary pages are not high quality or have poor UI/UX, no amount of PageRank shifting is going to get them onto page one.
Overall, larger websites run a greater risk of spreading link equity too thin simply due to their size. But for those that have quality pages, PageRank sculpting is an ideal strategy for helping Google recognize the pages that matter most.
What are your thoughts on PageRank sculpting? Have you ever tried your hand at it? Feel free to share your thoughts and queries in the comments section.
Manick Bhan is the founder and CTO of LinkGraph, an award-winning digital marketing and SEO agency that provides SEO, paid media, and content marketing services. He is also the founder and CEO of SearchAtlas, a software suite of free SEO tools. You can find Manick on Twitter @madmanick.
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