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Understanding Link Diversity

What Is Link Diversity?

Link diversity refers to the diversity of the sites that are linking to your site. If you want to rank high, it is important to have a diverse variety of sites linking to you.

Your link profile is basically the overall makeup of all the links that are pointing to your website. Generally speaking, it is just a list of all of the backlinks that are currently pointing to your site, including those you earned with great content or that you distribute through various means such as guest posting, email prospecting, etc. When analyzing your site, search engines will use the quantity and quality of your link profile to determine the authority and importance of your website.

As you start to build your backlink profile, you’ll want to analyze and understand the value of your backlink profile so you can see just how well you are doing in your quest to develop a popular, trustworthy and authoritative website, as far as the search engines are concerned.

Google wants to see a wide, diverse range of links: its part of the algorithm. And the bigger the site, the more important it is that you should have links from a diverse variety of platforms.

Link Diversity is Critically Important for High Search Rankings

Even if your site is relatively small, Google needs to see some diversity.

If the majority of your links come from just blogs or just forums or just web directories, it won’t look natural. Your link profile will be viewed as spammy and manipulative, and even if you’re not penalized, you won’t rank high with a profile like that.

This emphasizes the importance of acquiring links from a diverse range of sources, and not just from one source.

A natural link profile will include all types of links. This includes as blogs, articles, high quality directory listings, news sites, blog comments, social bookmarks, Q & A sites, press releases, social media profiles, forum postings, etc.

Furthermore, a natural link profile will typically include a large percentage of low PageRank, nofollow and unanchored links. You cannot have just high PageRank, dofollow links. That is highly unnatural.

Google has designed its algorithms to penalize sites with artificial or manufactured backlink profiles, and they highlighted this in their How Search Works interactive infographic, explaining that they may penalize a site if they find “a pattern of unnatural artificial, deceptive or manipulative links pointing to [it].”

A good backlink profile will have a diverse range of link anchor texts, a balanced mix of links from both high and lower quality domains and contain as few artificial signals as possible. This will help deliver a more natural looking link profile.

graph featuring various link sources

Domain Diversity

Domain diversity simply relates to the overall number of unique domains (also known as the linking root domains) you have pointing to your web pages. This concept considers a wide range of link attributes including the linking page types, content types, domain names, IP address, anchor usage, PageRank, degree of relevancy, dofollow/nofollow, and more.

Consider the Following Example:

Assume you have two sites in the same industry with the following link profiles:

Site A
– 5,000 backlinks from 80 unique domains
– PageRank 6

Site B
– 2,000 backlinks from 400 unique domains
– PageRank 4

If someone were to ask you which of the two websites would rank higher on the SERPs, you would be forgiven for thinking that Site A would be the dominant site out of the two simply. After all, it has a higher number of backlinks and higher PageRank than site B. However, the reality is that site B is ranking much higher in the search results pages for the same keywords.

Why is site A not dominating?

It comes down to one simple fact: site A has 5,000 links from 80 unique domains. This means on average, there are around 60 links coming from each domain. On the other hand, site B has 2,000 links from 400 high quality domains. Therein lies the reason why site B is the dominant site. Domain diversity is a very strong ranking signal. In fact, it is one of the strongest ranking signals, because, all things being equal, it is really hard to get links from such a diverse range of sites. Google understands this.

When you have many backlinks from the same domain, Google does not count all of them as valid for the purposes of ranking. A site with 10,000 links from 100 domains is never going to rank as high as a site with 500 links from 300 domains – all things being equal. This is because in the eyes of the search engine spider, the second domain is obviously much more natural.

A natural link profile will include many types of sources of links, and it is this diversity that helps to naturalize your link profile and insulate your site rankings from algorithm changes or link devaluation. It is very important to keep this in mind when building links to your site, because a backlink profile that looks manufactured or manipulated will not be trusted by Google.

The IP Address Factor

A link profile with links from multiple domains that are all hosted on the same IP address does not look natural. The IP address factor means that if you have a lot of links from the same IP address block, they will be valued far less than links from multiple IP addresses.

In fact, it could actually trigger a penalty because a link profile with majority of links from one IP address block looks like a manipulative private block network (PBN). For example, 217.301.54.21 may be considered to be the same IP as 217.301.54.99 (for link evaluation purposes) since they are both part of the same C-block (217.301.54.x).

Anchor Text Optimization

When analysing your link profile, the search engines will look at anchor text optimization. In the past, having exact match anchor text links pointing to inner pages of your site was considered to be a strong ranking signal. However, keyword-based anchor text was abused as a key ranking strategy. In early 2012, Google released the Penguin update, and anchor text over-optimization was a key target of the algorithm. This update completely changed the game as far as anchor text optimization, and websites that over-used keyword-rich anchor text were severely penalized.

Today, it is important for Google to see a rich and diverse variety of anchor text pointing to your site.

This includes

  • Branded Anchor Text: This includes the brand name of the company. For example, if the name of the company is Good Guys Electronics Ltd, the anchor text would be Good Guys Electronics Ltd, and it would point to your site from wherever you’re getting the link from.
  • Naked URLs: A naked URL is a link for which the anchor text is the URL itself. Here, the URL is fully visible. These types of anchor text are powerful signals to Google of a “natural” inbound link profile. Examples include: http://microsoft.com, http:// microsoft.com, and www.microsoft.com.
  • LSI Keywords Anchor Text: LSI keywords are keywords that are semantically related. With LSI keywords, Google can return search results that don’t contain the keyword that was searched for as long as the webpages are semantically related to the query. A natural link profile will include semantically related anchor text. For example, if your target keyword is blue jeans, a semantically related keyword would be denim pants.
  • Zero Match Anchor Text: This type of anchor text is a statement that contains none of your target keywords when referring to your page in the link anchor text. For example, if your webpage is about temporary buildings, a zero match anchor text could be: an alternative solution to conventional buildings. Other examples include terms such as “click here“, “learn more“, “more info“, “read more here“, “this website“, etc.
  • Exact Match Based Anchor Text: Exact match anchor text are those where the anchor text exactly matches the keyword a particular webpage is trying to rank for. They should form no more than 5 to 10% of your link profile.
  • Title Tag Anchor Text: This type of anchor text occurs when the linking site uses the title tag of the site it is linking to as anchor text.
  • Named Anchor Text: This type of anchor text occurs when the linking page uses the author of a particular article as the anchor text.

Deep Linking

Deep linking is linking to a specific interior page on a website. The deeper a link goes into a particular website’s architecture, the more valuable it becomes. Building links to your homepage will increase the site’s domain authority over time. However, it is more natural to build links to your inner pages including your About Us page, Contact page, Blog, etc. The home page is also irrelevant to what a particular user is searching for.

Co-citations

Co-citations are effectively “mentions” across the web. A mention occurs when an article or blog post refers to your site in the article in relation to a particular product or service, but doesn’t actually establish a link to your site.

For example, if you provide computer repair services and your site is reviewed in an article as a “leading computer repair firm in London” without actually linking to it, that is a co-citation or mention. If a number of articles on well-established websites also refer to your site in the same terms, this will be a strong social signal to Google. Value will be passed to your site as a result of the mention.

Importance and Authority

A natural link profile will have a diverse range of links from pages that have varying importance and popularity values. The more editorial backlinks you are able to receive from high authority sites in your niche, the higher the value that will be accorded to your site. However, for SEO benefits, the link must be a dofollow link from a relevant webpage on the site. It’s more natural and common occurrence to see a variety of new and more established sites linking in, acquired naturally over time rather than instantaneously.

Relevance

A relevant link is a link that comes from a page that is effectively the same or similar topic as the page that the link points to. For example, it would be natural for a website that is about dogs to receive links from webpages about dog training. However, even the highest ranking, most trusted sites have a certain percentage of their backlinks that do not come from relevant pages, and this is also considered to be natural.

NoFollow

By default, a link is “dofollow” meaning it is a normal link. Sometimes webmasters and site owners deliberately block a link from being indexed by Google through the use of the rel=“nofollow” tag. Natural link profiles will usually contain a high number of nofollow links. A link profile with hundreds of links that are all dofollow links will not look natural to the search engine spiders as it will be too perfect.

A balanced backlink profile would naturally include a large amount of nofollow links (even though the vast majority of links on the internet are dofollow. It is important to note that even though it doesn’t pass authority, nofollow anchor text links do pass relevance through the anchor of the link.

Top-Level Country Domains

Sites with a top-level domain (for example, .de for Germany, .fr for France, and so on) need to focus on obtaining links from other sites with the same top-level domain (TLD) designation. Getting links from sites that are hosted in the country that is associated with that top-level domain will have more value than getting links from sites with different top level domains in different countries.

Now, this is not to say that links from other top level domains would not be beneficial. However, your site will rank higher if you are able to successfully get links from sites that are hosted in the same country as your top level domain.

Geo-Location & Language

If your site is in the USA and written in English, getting a few links from foreign sites or sites written in other languages will not hurt, as long as this percentage is considered normal. If a too-high percentage of your links, for example, come from non-English speaking countries, this may be a problem unless it is considered normal for your niche. For example, many links from other countries to a USA site geared towards immigration or visas could be considered natural since most sites in that niche will likely have a similar link profile.

If your site is for a local business, then geo-targeting is particularly applicable to the content surrounding the link, where you should emphasize the location. Also, it’s best to get some links from sites that are “local” to your area.

Content Quality

There is room for diversity from low quality web sites, although search engines are fully aware that you cannot control who links to you. Although it is preferable that the pages who link to you should be quality pages of original, well written content, links from sites with low quality pages is inevitable. However, too many links from these types of pages can be potentially dangerous to your search engine ranking.

Spammy Links

This is an area where there is no room for diversity. If you get links from a site that is linked to from shady websites, then the link you get is from a site in a bad neighbourhood. This lowers the value of the link. If there is more than 20% of such links in your link profile, this will affect the ability of your site to rank high in Google’s search results. In addition, if you get links from sites that rent links, it’s only a matter of time before the rental site, along with their clients, get penalized. 0% of your links should be rented links.

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