Every time Google rings an update bell, webmasters go nuts. Small business owners and large ones both, whose 90% of income is based on organic search all suffer as a result of penalties. So whenever there’s an update, they are losing a part of their living.
I would say that you need not wait for an update to make you realize that shady link practices are not for the long term. The Google Disavow tool should be used before the penalty ensues and not after that.
What is a link audit?
Link audit is taking stock of the links that are built to your site.
A link audit can be used to find out the reason why a site is hit with a penalty or the potential of a site being hit with a penalty.
To start with you need to go Google Webmaster Tools and find out the links that are showing up. You need to understand and deal with the links that Google knows about first.
In the Webmaster Tools Dashboard on the left side, you will see an option called links to your site under Search traffic and you will get an idea of the most recent links that have been built to your site.
If your traffic drops especially around the dates surrounding a penalty then you need to see the links that were freshly built or the most recent in your list of links.
You can download a sample of the most recent links if your site has been hit with a penalty since the most recent links would give a clue about what actually happened, but if you want to perform a general site audit then you must download the full table.
The Webmaster tool however doesn’t give you all your links and you need use some back link analysis tool to download all your links.
It gives me a bunch of options and shows the list of bad links on the top right side. It also sends me mails whenever the site gains or looses links.
What you need to monitor?
A good back link analysis shows all these things to you in order that you make an informed decision on removing those links
The URL of the site linking to your site
The IP of the URL
The Percentage of Anchor text, long tail anchors
The follow/no follow status of the link, any 402 errors, redirects and also show the health of the link
This gives you an idea of why the penalty is hitting your site. If you have a lot of 402 errors then your links have been built from sites that have no trust.
Getting links from de indexed domains clearly shows that Google doesn’t trust those domains and that distrust is passed on to you.
The tool also allows you to sort the links as per their PR and you can see if someone is linking to your site from a high PR network and if so you should remove those links.
You should consider cleaning up your link profile to recover from any penalty and for doing that you need to know if the links can be removed easily. If lot of links are from wikis then those links can be easily removed.
Sometimes a site looses ranking not because of being hit with an explicit penalty but because of some other reason.
Consider this, if a site was part of large blog network that was de-indexed then there is a huge negative link velocity that swipes away all rankings.
While this is thought to be because of a penalty, it actually is not and the site has tanked only because of the removal of the de indexation of the blog network. If a few more links are built to the site it will regain its positions in the SERPs.
What causes a Penguin penalty?
The link profiles of a few thousand sites were analysed immediately after the Penguin penalty and there are few things that came out of the analysis:
Penguin doesn’t target how the links are built or where they’re coming from
If the money keyword/main keyword density was more than 60%, those were the sites that were hit with Penguin.
When making decisions regarding removing links remember that you need to bring the anchor text ratio of the money keywords to an acceptable level of around 30% to be safe in the future.
Guest posting on relevant blogs and participating in relevant forums is another way to build your healthy link profile.