A website’s link profile is the array and characteristics of the various inbound links pointing to that website. It’s a key ranking factor for search engines, and a good link profile greatly increases the chances that visitors will find their way to your site. Your link profile therefore serves as a source of both direct and indirect website traffic.
While the total number of links is one of the most important metrics of your link profile, quality is essential. Other important aspects include:
When it comes to inbound links, quality is of utmost importance. Your links should come from sources that are legitimate and authoritative (meaning they have high standing and a trustworthy reputation themselves). It’s also important that your inbound link sources are relevant to your website and its content. This means they make sense within the linking page’s context.
Although it’s easiest and fastest to acquire links from low-quality, irrelevant websites - this link juice could wind up hurting more than helping you. Search engines like Google find out quickly that your links are fishy, and you could end up with a ranking penalty.
To build a trustworthy link profile, play the long game. You’ll build a lot of high-quality links from relevant sites while avoiding links from spammy websites. This will be much better for your website in the long run.
“Anchor text” is the clickable text of a link, often blue or somehow visually distinct from the rest of the text. This text is usually a keyword, brand name, or URL, but it can really be just about anything.
Anchor text serves an important purpose; it tells search engines what the linked page is about. For instance, you might expect a link with “Samsung” anchor text to take you to the Samsung website, while a link with “camping mugs” anchor text would take you to a page about camping mugs.
Brian Dean of Backlinko analyzed one million Google search results, concluding that "exact match anchor text" correlates strongly with higher rankings. However, using anchor text carelessly can lead to negative consequences.
If your link profile includes too many inbound links that have keyword-rich anchor text, your website could look spammy or “unnatural” to Google. Since Google is cracking down on sites with low quality link profiles like this, an excessive amount of keyword-rich anchor text links could lead to eventual penalties down the road. One true exception to this is branded anchor text - meaning the link points to a branded page, and the anchor text is the exact brand name. This is considered to be natural and will not be penalized by Google.
Google’s aversion to too much keyword-rich anchor text stems from the fact that natural links will generally fit with the flow of a sentence. This results in anchor text with some words that are directly relevant and others that are not - leading to “diluted anchor text.”
So, generally speaking - it’s best to aim for a good range of diversity in the anchor text of your inbound links. Some exact-match, keyword-rich anchor text is great, but a mix of branded anchor text, diluted anchor text, URL anchor text should also make up a percentage of your link profile. Greater variety in your anchor text means a more natural-looking link profile.
Google isn't a fan of paid links - they've made that clear in their quality guidelines. In reference to "linking schemes" that could negatively affect your site's ranking, they mention buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This is mainly exchanging money links or posts with links, exchanging goods or services for links, or sending "free" products in exchange for writing about it and including a link.
If you don't plan on paying for the links, you have no worries here.
However, if you are planning to pay for links, be discreet, clever, and don't make it obvious. Start by building natural links and creating good content, then shift to buying links. If your link profile suddenly expands into tens, hundreds or thousands of new links, it will be suspicious.
Buying links isn't always bad, but ultimately your goal should still align with a meaningful purpose: creating value for users. Do you expect legitimate, relevant referral traffic from this link, or is it only to benefit your search engine rankings?
There are several places to analyze your link profile.
For each tool, enter the URL of the website you are analyzing the link profile for - this can be your own, a client’s, or your competition. The tool will then return a preview of the backlink profile.
To analyze your link profile results:
You’ll see a total number of links; this is not the most important number. A high number of links alone does not necessarily equate to a strong link profile. As we’ve mentioned, the quality of your inbound links is most important.
An important metric is the ratio of linking domains to total number of links - it should be fairly even. For example, if the inbound link total is 2,000 but there are two linking domains, then only two websites are referring to you on average 1,000 times each. This is not a natural linking arrangement, and could result in a red flag from Google.
You’ll also see the anchor text for each inbound link. The anchor text for the range of links should be a healthy mix of keyword-rich, URL, brand, and diluted anchor text. Checking your link profile regularly will keep you up to date on your recently created links and help you quickly identify suspicious behavior, resolving it before it becomes problematic. For instance, if thousands of links suddenly appear in your link profile, you can investigate how and why this happened.
Monitoring this data will help you keep track of your site performance, as well as how all your individual pages are performing. It enables you to maintain high backlink quality as you track:
Analyzing your link profile properly helps you avoid substantial difficulties with spammy backlinks. If you carefully plan your link building strategy and regularly monitor your link profile progression, you can avoid website fines while boosting your search engine rankings.