Improve Your Rankings by Removing Links

In the last couple weeks we've seen the introduction of Google Instant results and subsequently a heap of excited blog posts about the impact it will have on the industry, SEO, and clients the world over. As often happens, the news became a trending topic on the media industry-heavy Twitter, and the impact of Google Instant on people who actually use Google for something other than their job was slightly lost in the noise.

Early results suggest it hasn't actually changed anything to any large degree. Certainly my mother still doesn't know what it is and my wife found it irritating and switched it off as soon as I showed her how. I'll stick my neck on the line (hey, why not?) and bet that it will have disappeared by February.

While the impact of Google Instant is interesting for SEOs, there are plenty of other interesting strategies to discuss that can actually have an "instant" impact. Today.

How about a website ranking number one for [car insurance” with only four links pointing to it with "car insurance" as the anchor text? Pretty interesting, right? For such a competitive keyword you might expect somewhat more volume than this, out of a total number of inbound links less than any other site on the first page...

Last time, we discussed why you shouldn't be afraid of URL links, and why they're actually more likely to suggest a natural link profile. There have also been some other more detailed posts looking further into this and so it wasn't much of a surprise seeing that a number of sites with very spammy-looking backlink profiles were penalized -- it's not like Google hasn't been warning people about this for a while.

Right now we have instances of clients who are well-known within their markets -- good websites providing useful content -- but they aren't ranking precisely because they have too many site-wide links, too many links that are dofollow, and too many contextual links (remember I said last month a good link looks like this -- cheap viagra? -- well forget it).

By "too many," I mean as a percentage of overall links, all adding up to a link profile that is completely unnatural. We're improving their positions by actively removing links, and the only links coming in are branded, URL links from highly relevant sites.

The challenge this poses for some SEO agencies is that they have got their approach to link building so ingrained that they haven't spotted some of these trends. Instead, they put more effort into building the wrong kind of links, making the situation worse for their clients.

This means that SEOs and agencies need to consider not just how to build quality links for clients but how to actively manage the link profile and ensure that the right links are being built.

For some, this will mean the normal contextual links, derivatives of them, and a few branded, long tail and URL links as well. For others, it will be weeding out site-wide contextual links, replacing them with higher quality branded and URL links, and even building some nofollowed links from social media and PR sites.

In short, it will pay to be able to take a step back from what you're doing and analyze what the client needs in a bit more detail.

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About the author

Gareth Owen, Head of Natural Search, Steak, began his career in SEO at ChoiceQuote Insurance based in Liverpool in 2004. Responsible for the full marketing function for insurance products in motorcycle, taxi, van and haulage, he oversaw sizeable increases in ROI from online marketing spend.

He then moved to The Search Works where, as European Account Director, he worked on a range of large client brands, pioneered studies into the measurable effects of TV advertising on search volumes, and generated over £1 million in revenue through integrated search offerings in 2009. While in this role he also successfully created an integrated PPC/SEO/Affiliate offering for the parent company.

As well as being responsible for the SEO offering at Steak, Gareth also sits on IAB and IPA Search Councils and has spoken at IAB, IMRG and Econsultancy conferences.