Linking Means Moving Backwards Too : Link History

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Link development doesn’t just move forward…many times, a bit of digging into the past is in order unless you want to continue to paint over mold on the wall. You have to (ahem) become a link history detective. You may even get your own show.

I haven’t got time to worry about the future when I’m busy covering up my past.” Marc Almond

It’s really lovely when you begin link development for a site that has previously done little or no work in this area. Starting from scratch ensures that you don’t have to worry about someone else’s past mistakes coming up to bite you. However, this isn’t always what you get…and sometimes the past mistakes may, actually, be yours, even if you’re the only link builder to have touched the site.

As everyone in the industry knows, what works one day may hurt (or at least stop helping) you the next, regardless of whether it violates a guideline at one point in time. So, even if you’ve done all the link building for a site, you do still need to review your work periodically. I was thinking about this recently, when I started remembering a large amount of content that I’d written for a site years ago. Would it still be performing well now? Maybe, but I’m no longer working with that site, and am powerless to adapt it. Nothing that I did would violate any guidelines BUT just because it worked well then certainly doesn’t mean it’s working well now. I suppose I could check the rankings…but it’s out of my hands. As with content, links need to be reviewed every now and then.

With link building, if you’re doing things the “right” way, you probably won’t have to worry about fixing massive mistakes, but you do need to keep an eye on things to make sure that you don’t have issues such as the following:

  • Old inbound links pointing to pages that no longer exist on your site. Maybe you’ve decided to condense five major pages into one, but you’ve undertaken fairly extensive link building for all five pages. Without proper redirects, this has the potential for disaster, and as you all know, people are fairly likely to screw up a redirect. It might be easier to contact the sites that are sending links to your non-existent pages, actually. I suppose that depends upon whether you have a sweet sys admin.
  • Links that were built based on services/products that you no longer offer. Maybe you once sold dancing cat socks as well as t-shirts, but you’ve decided that most sane people don’t want socks with dancing cats on them, so you stop (and thanks.) If you have 50 inbounds that were optimized with anchor text designed to help you sell dancing cat socks, you’re going to have some mad cat people on your trail and that is NEVER a good thing.
  • Links from sites that no longer exist or have changed hands. In checking some old inbounds for a site recently, I discovered that around 25% of them had been built on sites that were now down for a variety of reasons. Whether this will harm my site is debatable, but it’s untidy. This didn’t bother me nearly as much as the approximately 15% of inbounds that were now residing on sites that had changed hands and become much spammier than I remembered. In short, those 15% were no longer links that I would have considered at this point, and it’s worth my time to have them taken down


In short, don’t forget about the old links…they can easily come back to haunt you, especially if you’ve inherited a linking campaign. It’s worth taking the time to analyze your link profile every now and again, just to prevent future issues.

Julie Joyce owns the link development agency Link Fish Media, is one of SEO Chicks, and contributes to Search Engine Land and Search Marketing Gurus.

Julie Joyce
Julie Joyce owns the link development agency Link Fish Media, is one of SEO Chicks, and contributes to Search Engine Land and Search Marketing Gurus.
Julie Joyce

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  • Jeremy Rivera

    Can you suggest a resource website where you can securely store your link history for your site? I haven’t found anything…

  • Julie Joyce

    Hi Jeremy,

    That’s a great question actually…in terms of security, nothing comes to mind. Obviously SEOMoz has the tool that tells you how many backlinks you had at specific points in time ( but in terms of the actual links themselves, we just keep up with that in lowly little spreadsheets. That would be a seriously nice tool though!

  • Jeremy Rivera

    What would be fantastic would be if you could safely record your links, and have a tool that checked for dead links, no follow, cache date, pr, and other seo metrics. I mean, “discovering” what search engines have found is important, but recording what you’ve created seems AS/MORE important.

  • Julie Joyce

    Yes discovering inbounds that have changed in any way would be invaluable actually…

  • Jay

    Keeping a watch on old links can turn out to be positive too especially if some of the links which have been earlier neglected by you have achieved higher PRs.

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    We know that the Internet has become the enterprises to promote products, increase the visibility of the necessary means to their business information in BtoB’s Web site to log into a lot of business after the Internet will do; At the same time, relatively well-known site in order to enrich their own Data resources, has been the find this kind of enterprise customer base continued to increase their visibility.

  • Jabz

    Have you ever recognized that some linkbuilder worked on your site to make it lose a good ranking? Happened to me once,…that’s a different kind of funny to see what other’s do to harm your site.

  • BK

    Wow, some good ideas here for things to keep track of … just like we all need to take some more notes right? I, like everyone else it seems, keeps track of this type of thing in a spreadsheet. Not the greatest way to do things, but of course clicking the link to go visit the link to verify it is possible. Hmmm … gotta think about this some.

    Thanks for good ideas here regarding linking.


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