Since negative SEO by creating certain link profiles became more and more popular during the last years, it is important to have a possibility to monitor day to day changes in your linkprofile. Commercial providers of link data do share day to day insights, but without any analyzing options. Getting a warning in the updated Google Webmaster Tools is often too late, so I started thinking about a solution. The system needs to be scalable, so I can use it for tens of websites at once and I want to get e-mail notifications when there is something suspicious happening.
Step 1: collecting data – Which data source can you use?
Most link intelligence databases like Majestic SEO, Ahrefs and Open Site Explorer have the possibility of checking daily updated new / lost backlinks. The Just Discovered section by MOZ is not that great in terms of data quality and freshness and besides that we will need API access for that data to develop a standalone toolset, so Ahrefs also isn’t a good solution because they don’t offer an API call to collect the New / Lost linkdata.
For some people, using commercial Linkdata solutions is a problem. Luckily Google does share some data. You can base your analysis on Google Webmaster Tools data too, by downloading the top 1000 domains Google gives you through WMT. Please read the documentation by Google on their WMT API: How do I start using the Webmaster Tools Data API?
Step 2: structuring the tool and analyzing the data
I am extracting the link data on a daily basis. Once all the new data is uploaded in the database, you can have the tool do some interesting data comparisons. Some specific thresholds I compare for example:
- The relative increase of the number of linking foreign URLs and domains (e.g. when I’m tracking a German domain, only .de are domestic) I have included an option to “disavow” specific domains, once the domain is targeting multiple languages and countries.
- The relative increase of certain specific domains like .pl, .ru, .info etcetera which are known for their use by spammers.
- Link velocity: the simplest parameter, but it says a lot about the development of a specific link profile. Once you have data from multiple days or even months, you can easily compare the data per week / month.
- Heavy use of keyword focused anchor texts. Take the total number of links that are new and you can calculate the number of recurring anchor texts within a specific data set.
- The relative increase of links to a specific page. It is quite easy to order a bunch of deep links. For most niches, the homepage will have the most back links, so once this balance is affected, let the alarm bells jingle!
- Since I make use of the Majestic SEO data, I can easily use their TrustFlow metric to determine the quality of the new links. Taking the total number of links that were found on a specific day and calculate average TrustFlow numbers or the relative decrease or increase of specific pages. Again: the minimum level depends on the country, language and multiple other factors per niche your website is targeting.
It is really important to know what you want to compare in specific markets and always compare ratios. Like I described in a previous article about Detecting suspicious / unnatural link profiles, be aware of the fact that in porn niches the borders are less easy to cross than in certain insurance niches. Don’t forget you can also use negative growth as an indication of suspicious activities. Old School Negative SEO tactics include contacting webmasters to remove links to your competitor or even changes it to your own favorable URL.
Based on these daily comparisons, the tool will send me an e-mail with all the suspicious growing or shrinking link profiles and I can take action wherever needed.
How do you track suspicious behavior for your clients or privately owned websites?