Weekly Wisdom with Ross Tavendale: Evaluating Links

Ross Tavendale

Aug 27, 20195 min read
Evaluating Links for SEO
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Modified Transcript

We all know that building links is the key to our SEO success, but with so many people out there offering link services, we need to be able to know what is a good link and what is a bad link.

A lot of people used to go by the old page rank toolbar to work out if a link is good or bad. Then Google killed that off. And then Moz came up with DA as a metric, and the industry kind of widely used that for quite a while with things like Majestics Trustflow, or maybe even Ahrefs Domain Rank to work out the link quality.

The thing is, those metrics are really only half of the story. In today's Weekly Wisdom, I am going to show you exactly how to decide if a website is a good place to get a link from or not. And then I will show you some tricks to kind of bulk analyze this, so if you get lots and lots of them, you can very quickly put it into your workflow.

Visual Comparison

Someone has just sent me a bunch of URLs asking, "Should I get a guest post on these or not?" The two URLs are Icy Violets and My Beautiful Adventures. Now, looking at them, I think you can already tell that one is good and one is bad, but let me take you through some actual processes that you would use to work out if it is a good or a bad site.

First of all, let's have a quick look at it. When you have things like "Submit Guest Posts" and "Write For Us" in your core top-level navigation, it tends to suggest is just some article site that is designed just for this. So this is probably not what you want to be getting links from anyway.


Indexation and Domain Age

It says about home improvement, and this is the person who likes the smell of coffee in the morning. Sure you do, pal. First and foremost, how do we appraise this domain? I am just going to see if it is even indexed? Yep, it is. It has got 197 pages in the index.


Next, I want to see if it is changed hands a lot recently. Typically if the domain has expired and then been repurchased, someone could buy it to sell links on it. It was updated in 2019, literally just a couple months ago. Probably this domain has expired, and then someone went in, bought it, and put something else on.


But that is just an opinion. Let me actually see what it used to look like back in the day. So I am going to go into the Wayback Machine and have a little look and see. 2011 was the last time it was super active, and then there has been not a lot of activity.

Let's see what it used to look like back in the day. And if it looks considerably different, then we know. So this is what it used to look like when someone was running it. It looks like someone's personal food blog.


Now it is about home improvement, and it is a completely different person. Although this can be legitimate, sometimes, it is looking more and more like this is probably someone's let their domain drop, and it is now someone's PBN that they are selling links on.

Hosting and Images

Another thing I quite like to do is a reverse IP lookup. I am going drop my domain name into here and hit go. It is saying there are 1,297 domains on the server. While that is not a bad thing per se, typically we want something that has got its own properties on some sort of dedicated hosting. 

You really want to check for things like sex, pills, porn, and casinos. In this case, the server has got a bunch of casino stuff and a bunch of porn stuff on it. Not only does it look like it is a PBN, and it is low quality, it also looks like it is in a bad neighborhood.


We almost definitely do not want you anywhere near this. The last thing that is kind of sticking with me is visuals because I think this is stock imagery and typically if they are a particularly lazy PBN builder, they will use the same stuff over and over again. If a search brings up many similar images, they might have taken it as stock imagery from someone else's website, and it is on multiple websites.


There are loads of them. It appears that the same person's built tons and tons of websites, but just used the same person's image to do it, which is one of the dumber footprints, I think, in terms of PBNs.

And lastly, if you are not convinced that it is probably not a good domain to go for, I like to run it through SEMrush to see what the traffic's like. It says it is getting about 43 clicks from organic search.


Hilariously, it is ranking for things like "submitting guest posts for home improvement," not actually about any home improvement subjects at all. And as we can see here, something pretty severe happened in 2017. Let's have a look and see what happened around then... quality update, boom. So they were killed by a quality update.


So this is absolutely a website we want to stay a million miles away from, with regards to link building.

Now let's take "My Beautiful Adventures" as well, and give it the same treatment. The first thing I noticed is the owner is from Charlotte, North Carolina; this is her picture here. Let's do a quick look to see if that is a real person, or if it has just been cropped from somewhere. Looks like she is real. Her image can be found on her own blog, and it looks like she contributed to a blogger roundup post on another travel website.


This is starting to look a lot more legitimate, so I am already liking this one quite a bit. Let's see if it is actually indexed and all that good stuff. It is indexed with 3,400 URLs on it, so that is excellent.


We now want to actually see if she is sharing a server with anyone. Probably yes, because typically bloggers are not going to spend loads and loads of money on hosting and it is usually shared. Still, no pills, porn or casino can be found on the server, and instead of it being 1200 people she is sharing it with only 56. This is looking a lot more legitimate.


Let's have a little look and see what her traffic is like as well. For 3000 pages indexed, I would expect something. Traffic is okay, but not amazing. Looks like she was maybe hit with an update and has started to recover.


She is ranking for things that are not related to guest posting and things that are in the local area. In this instance, you would probably approach them and pitch them some content to get a link.

I hope you find it useful, comparing what is potentially a spam PBN to an actual legitimate place to get a link. That is everything for this week's Weekly Wisdom. Please do comment down below if you have any questions, but until next time, we will see you later. 

Author Photo
Ross is the Managing Director at Type A Media, an independent search agency that work with FTSE250 companies and mid-sized brands to help them find the optimal way to talk to more people online. When not obsessing over his clients rankings, he hosts the Canonical Chronicle, a weekly web show watched by 100k people every month. If you want to ask him a direct question you can find him @rtavs on Twitter.