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Balancing the Link Equation

Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 15 years and 265 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.

At the WMW conference in New Orleans, I had the privilege of speaking on the “linking on a dime” panel (presentation here), and learned that public speaking most certainly cannot kill you (or at least it didn’t this particular time). The opportunity gave me a chance to step back and evaluate my personal strategy on link development, and how it could all tie together as a a cohesive plan of action. I think I tricked Barry and made coverage a bit difficult, by using pictures instead of bulletpoints a la Seth Godin in “Really Bad Powerpoint”, so I’d like to re-introduce some of the ideas that I introduced sputtering and stuttering in my major public speaking debut.

My over-riding theme for the presentation was “balancing the link equation”, to which I would like to write a bit today. My thesis here being that there is most certainly definite guidelines and thresholds to maximize the value of your linkage data. An early example of this was using optimal anchor text and a lot of it. As this technique became abused, SE’s implemented some types of filters for this technique. If you went over this threshhold your link equation was out of balance and your rankings suffered accordingly.

There are lots of instances where balancing this link equation can be of extreme benefit to the website in question. Being out of balance for one backlink variable can throw your rankings all out of wack. I’ll relate this to having one bone in your spine out of place…if you don’t have the chiropractor adjust it back in place, you’re gonna be in some pain. The value of having your back adjusted is incredible (believe me) as is the value of having your link equation balanced. Establishing the problem areas is the first step to balancing the equation. Most problem areas are fairly easily identified and are of varying degrees of difficulty to remedy.

Examples of Link Equation Balancing:

(or If your site has….You should:)

  • 1000 IBL’s from 500 unique IP’s…
    …consider buying a run of site text link with your targeted text
  • 70% reciprocal link…
    …only get one-way links and slowly dispose of your reciprocal links
  • 10k IBL’s from 10 unique IP’s…
    …get many more one-off links
  • 90% deeplinks to the homepage…
    …compartmentalize your site and get more deep links
  • 80% identical anchor text…
    …use synonymous terms and switch your anchor text

    These are just some of a few examples where knowing which types of links you will be targeting on your link hunts will be of much more assistance to your search rankings. Know which types of links you need to balance your link equation, and your time will be much better spent in acheiving your higher goal of high rankings.

    Another important idea to remember is that the balance of an equation will be relative to the industry itself. I remember hearing stories from a gentleman a year or so ago that claimed every time he hit a PR7 with an adult site it got banned. Needless to say he learned that lesson pretty quick of what was “flying over the radar”. Don’t hunt squirrels with an elephant gun. Your site about ice sculpting is not going to need a run of site PR7 link. It is NOT NATURAL. It will need topically relevant links from a host of different IP ranges using a lot of varied anchor text. Build your site up using “long-tail” phrases from the onset for optimal growth. If your term is “ice sculpting” then go after “wedding ice sculpting” and “ice carving sculptures” to start with. The more of the long-tail phrases you hit your rankings goals for, the more likely you will hit that big term that you’re lusting after.

    Understanding the value of each type of link, and the relative weight that it holds in the eyes of the search engine is essential to achieving rankings these days. Emulating the natural growth patterns of the web is the optimal approach, but when a site has been around for some time, it is often necessary to supplement and expedite the link growth in certain areas. Since this is a somewhat risky proposition, it is very important to understand the history and equation of your linkage data for both your sites, the site’s surrounding yours, and your competitors.

    Quality of links can very widely. Here’s my list of my top choices if I were in a “link draft” (inversely relative to the difficulty of obtaining these types of links)

    The link draft

  • One way authority link in the body copy with targeted text
  • One way authority link in the body copy
  • “Advertising” link on an authority site with surrounding body copy around targeted text
  • Highly relevant presell page with several deep links to your site in targeted text
  • “Advertising” link on authority site with 30 characters of targeted link text
  • One way link from a highly relevant site with your target anchor text in body copy
  • Link on authority site with your non-keyword domain name
  • One way link from a somewhat related site with targeted text
  • One way link from a somewhat related site with your domain name as anchor text
  • Links with targeted anchor text in a sentence on a links page
  • Title/Description style link on a links page
  • Forum Signatures
  • Reciprocal link on a links page
  • Blog *cough* signing

Link Development Best Practices:

Quality Control

  1. a href=””>Check the cache date
    2.Check the inbound links to the page
    3.Check the theme of the links to the page
    4.Check the other links on the page
    5.Check the title of the page
    6.Make sure it is not in the supplemental index

Be consistent with your growth Continue to get links at a reasonable pace. Acquire links as possible, and never stop doin’ it (at least until you hit the top)

Vary your anchor text
If you are still using the same three title and descriptions for your link acquisitions you are really spinning your wheels. STOP! You will reach a level of diminishing returns very quickly using the same anchor text these days. Use the thesaurus and ontology tools to find synonymous terms and keyword co-occurrence. It’s very easy to get overoptimized on anchor text. If you are much higher for allinanchor searches than you are for normal search results, it’s definitely worth doin’ some investigation on what type of anchor text ratios you currently have to your site.

Deep links
It isn’t just about your homepage anymore (if it ever was). It’s even more important these days to have those links pointing into theme pyramid areas of your site. It takes a bit longer initially to rank for multiple phrases when you take this approach, but on a site that has semantically related “compartments” it will result in much stronger more consistent site rankings.

I guess these are becoming link development basics, but I also think they are worth visiting on occasion for those that may be missing a variable in their link equation. Establishing and isolating all potential problem areas help to balance the equation and maximize the time and money spent on SEO efforts. SEO is becoming less about brute force, and more about knowing all the aspects and trying to keep them in harmony. Balancing the variables of SEO relative to all other variables with a site/ subset of serps will be vital in avoiding filters and maintaining high search rankings moving forward.

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  • Christoph Cemper

    Hey Todd,

    what a great linking primer this is… just mentioned it on my linking guidelines summary as well…


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  • Stephan Miller

    There is more information in your entries than most books you can buy on the subject. This a great breakdown of building a good link profile

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  • seopractices

    Hi stuntdubl, I found this article through a recent Aaron Walls post, is excellent, it gave me good ideas to start the linking campaign in my new site, thanks.

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  • Ken Savage

    It’s hard to pull a part an old project site that I had that literally has 600+ reciprocal links. I wonder if I should just sell it or rip it apart and start over.

  • Natural Linking Strategies

    This is good

    I like your link equation and stats of link with best practices.

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  • Bert Baldassarra

    Great information, especially about the importance of CACHE DATA! Thanks!

  • Steve Exley

    Just found this and bookmarked it. I thought Google were ditching their supplemental cache?

    Nice post, balancing links is something I don’t see many people talking about.

  • Los Angeles Blog

    Great article on balancing your link profile. The Quality Control tips in Link Development Best Practices are extremely useful.

  • ecommerce marketing

    i disagree about the deep linking. I have ncountered some sites recently ranked for some of the most competative phrases on the web (insurance, mass audience). They have only 3 pages on the whole site, and 99% ofthe links point to the homepage. They rank for several phrases as well, not just one or two. Their domain does not have keyword in it either.

  • m360 in Nottingham

    I wish I’d found this site earlier – I think the threshold has been passed for me using the same anchor text words and hit with huge drop in rankings :(

  • designer services

    I have a quick question – say for example, I have just dropped suddenly as one of these thresholds has been exceeded, the time spent building up links isn’t wasted is it? I just need to spend a bit more time balancing teh 80% identical anchor text with varied anchor text?


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  • Italienischkurs Muenchen

    Hi Todd, thanks for the great article,
    how can I check if my page is in the supplemental index?
    is there a way to remove from it?

  • Zaheer Babar

    very confusing, you should use some pictures to make your points clear, you have use some words like IBL;s which are difficult to understand like me who is learning SEO, I am trying to rank on keyword Web Design Ireland but my keyword ranking is fluctuating between 8 and 9 since one month.