Blog Post

New Feature Demo - Toxic Link Audit and Disavow Feature Software Release


Here at HubShout it's Penguin Awareness month as we are gearing up for Google's much anticipated Penguin 4.0 update. Given that it could happen on any day and at any time now, we have an exciting new software release for our resellers to help them prepare for this update as well. We have added a brand new toxic link audit feature to our dashboard, allowing us and our resellers to disavow any toxic links that could potentially hurt their websites when the Penguin update rolls out. Check out this Daily Brown Bag to see how it works and what it can do for you to get your websites in shape for Penguin.

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TRANSCRIPTION:

Hello and welcome to The Daily Brown Bag. Today we're going to be talking about Penguin Awareness Month and some new software that we've rolled out to help you with link audits. I'm Chad Hill and I'm joined by Adam Stetzer.

Great, Chad, this is a cool topic. Good afternoon everybody. It is Penguin Awareness Month here at HubShout. And the reason for that obviously is that if you've been following the SEO news, there's going to be a large Penguin release coming up. They said originally it was going to be in the bottom half of last year, but the months slipped by and 2015 has left us. And now Google is giving us guidance that it's going to be in the first quarter of 2016.

Now this is noteworthy because there has not been a Penguin update since October, I believe, Chad, of 2014. So it's been about 16 months, which is a long time. And these are confusing topics. First and foremost because Penguin and Panda are two different shadow algorithms or refreshes that target different things. We've got other videos. There's lots of resources if you need to understand the difference. I would encourage you to read up on them.

Once you understand the difference between Panda and Penguin, then it gets even further confused by the fact that you've got Google and its core algorithm that is constantly in a recursive and iterative way looking at lots of different signals and making daily adjustments to who ranks on what keyword. And then you have these refreshes, which sometimes we call shadow algorithms. And in addition to applying these, they're now telling us that these are going to join the core algorithm and be updating in real time.

So this is just a ton of information. We can unpack some of it for you here. We also want to tell you about software tools that we're bringing out that will help you make some sense of this. So Chad, what have we got for our folks today to help demystify all this?

Good question, Adam. And I think that's a great intro to Penguin and the length of time it's been since the last refresh. I think we want to first introduce some of the ideas behind, what can you do? What are some of the mitigation tools that Google has advised webmasters to take in order to prevent the issues that Penguin's looking for? Namely low-quality and manipulative backlinks to your website. And so they've really given webmasters two tools. One tool is to essentially find those links and then contact the webmaster on the other site, the publisher, and say, "Hey, I don't really want you linking to me."

But in many cases, that's not practical so they've given webmasters this other tool, which is called the disavow, which allows webmasters to proactively look at their backlinks to their websites. So this is the person's website looking at who's linking to them, which is a whole debate onto itself of how much someone has to police the links to their own website. But once you take that on and you're looking at those links, you then have the ability to upload a file to Google with a lot of disclosures and whatnot at Google's side to say, "Hey Google, don't count or disavow these links."

So let's talk about what a disavow really means. Or at least what our philosophy and approach has been on disavows. So generally speaking, we think what you're essentially telling Google when you load that disavow file is that you want Google to treat that link to your website, from another website, as a no-follow link. It doesn't really get rid of the link a hundred percent, right? If you want to get rid of the link, you need to contact that webmaster...and potentially many, many webmasters...and say, "Hey, you're a low-quality website. Don't link to me." So the disavow is basically just a way of saying, "Don't credit that link towards my rankings and my movement."

The risk here is that we don't always know which links are the links that are helping your website's rankings and which ones don't. So you might look at a link linked to your website and say, "Looks good to me." But Google could actually be, "It could ultimately hurt you," and vice versa. So the thing you have to realize is that when you upload these disavow files, you need to be very careful because there is a chance that you could actually hurt your own rankings in the short run. And who knows whether or not that link would have impacted you when this new Penguin roll-out comes down the road?

So what we've done is we've taken some steps to help people, guide them through this process, and find the links that we think really are bad. And should give you tools to disavow those and also to do some other analysis. So the screen you're seeing in front of you right now is our new link audit screen. And this has been rolled out to all of our resellers' dashboards for any program that's in one of our managed SEO plans. And what you see on the screen, at the very top, is a history of all the link audits performed on your client's campaign.

A couple of real high-level stats here. You're going to see the number of referring domains. So this is the number of websites linking to you. It's not the number of pages linking to you because you could have multiple pages on a single website. Those will count as multiple links, backlinks, but one referring domain link. So it shows the number of websites linking to you. And then shows you the number of unique IPs linking to you. And the reason this is important is because sometimes you might see that you have a lot of root domains, but only a few IPs. Or even Class C IPs.

What that usually means is that you're somehow mixed up in potentially a link network or something where there's a bunch of websites all hosted on the same IP address or Class C IP address, that is a good signal that maybe there's a problem. So you want that ratio...you want to be as close to one as one as possible. You're not always going to get that, but as close to one to one as possible.

You then will see two other pieces of information on the screen here. You're going to see the number of toxic links. So in this particular case we're looking at, there are 22 toxic links, which is 23% of the total root domains or referring domains. And then you also see that there's five that are in this twenty to thirty range. And I should stop right there and make sure we explain some stuff. So the way we're identifying toxic links is any link whose Ahrefs domain rating is less than 20. Those are toxic links. And we've looked at a lot of these links and they are not good websites. So we've just made a wholesale cut and said, "Anything below 20, you should just disavow." You can always look at it, but just disavow it.

The next group, 20 to 30, we're saying you need to review. And so you would want to actually proactively look at those and make a determination for yourself, is this good or not good? So let's take a look at, in this particular case, where this client benchmarks against all of the campaigns at HubShout. What you're going to see is that the vast majority of the campaigns that are currently using us for SEO services have less than 7% low domain rating backlinks.

Okay, so when you look at this curve or the distribution of all of our accounts, you see there's a whole bunch, like a hundred or so, that have zero low domain rating backlinks or toxic links. And then there's this next group here, all the way up to around 7%, which is the vast majority. And then there's this long tail. And this particular campaign that we're looking at fits in...it's pretty, it's midway down the tail here, where they have 23% of their backlinks are low domain rating.
If you keep scrolling down this new screen we built, you'll then see a list of all of those websites, sorted from lowest domain rating to highest. So if you wanted to then again just check it out and see, what do these websites look like? You can always right-click on these, go check those websites out and see for yourself. Do these look like high-quality domains or not? So you have the ability to check that out.

But again once you come to conclusion we have...which is, in the vast majority of cases, anything below 20, you should disavow...we then give you the ability to just click "Add Disavow File." And this is really cool because we now give you a text file that's in the format that Google wants for a disavow. And again, we're disavowing at the domain level in all these cases. So you would simply grab this text file, put it in a Notepad editor, and then save it as a text file and upload it to Google's Disavow Center. So very slick.

And then what we're going to be doing as well on the screen is then remembering which links and domains you've disavowed so that when you come back and get a new link audit, we'll actually know, are there any new low domain rating websites versus ones that we know you've already disavowed?

So pretty slick that we're building this altogether because this kind of functionality that remembers exactly which disavows you've put in place and then is able to scan going forward, it's a great idea. It's something that we don't think there are many other tools that are doing it at this particular...as part of your ongoing SEO program. There are standalone audit capabilities, but this is a very nice ongoing monitoring feature that we've built in. And we think that it's going to be an awesome feature for people going forward.

One final point here before we end this video. I do want to also bring your attention to another feature that we've added, which is the ability to analyze your anchor text backlink ratios. This is another signal for Penguin that if you use the same anchor text over and over and over again, Google will see that as a manipulative signal and potentially you could be caught up in this Penguin refresh coming out or update that they're doing. And so again, you want to be on top of this.

And you can see, in this particular case with this client, a lot of their anchors are on exact match anchor text. A normal client that you might see would have...usually their first couple highest anchor text ratios are going to be the name of their company and the URL of their website. And then you might start getting into a couple that target keywords that they're working on from an SEO standpoint. But this particular one, you can see here, really you can see that the top several anchors are all keywords that they're trying to optimize their website on, which is a clear signal that, in this particular case, there's over-optimization and this would need to be addressed.

So Adam, I think that's a quick overview. We're doing a webinar next week and we'll have a full hour on this. That's it for now.

Chad, that's awesome. Tons of information in there. So if you're confused by any of these things, what you need to do right now is stop, rewind, and watch this video again. If you're in our reseller program today, we view it as your responsibility to be talking to your clients about these things. We'll reiterate again, these are our best shots at understanding these things. Nobody really knows, aside from Google.

But being experts in the field, we think it's really important that you're transparent, that you do solid analysis, and that you follow industry practices. And it is a best practice if you see really crappy links, really toxic links, that you talk to your client and get their consent to get them out of their backlink profile. The quickest way to do that is through the disavow process that we've presented here today.

So a lot of terms. Panda, Penguin, real-time updates, shadow algorithms, refreshes. It's important you have a handle on these and we're trying very hard with our software to give you very strong guidance on what we think is best. But ultimately you and your client have to make that decision and then you need to act fast because Penguin is coming. It's been 14 months in the making but it's on its way. And that's our coverage for Penguin Awareness Month. Thanks for joining us and of course we hope to see you back here real soon.