Time and time again, studies demonstrate strong evidence that external links (links from other websites) have an impact on rankings (and therefore traffic). Whether that impact is positive, negative or neutral can depend on exactly what websites those links are from, what quantities of the links exist, how the links are configured, and how quickly the links are being acquired.

Google may not like to admit it, but the likelihood that they use links as a factor in deciding how high to rank a website or page is very high, in fact in their webmaster guidelines they state ‘Google understands that you’d like to let others know about the hard work you’ve put into your content. Effectively promoting your new content will lead to faster discovery by those who are interested in the same subject’. In this case, we can deduce ‘promoting’ means getting external websites to link you.

Whatever way you look at it, links are the lifeblood of the web and they are a crucial part of how users and search bits discover and judge the authority of your content.

Interested in learning more about links and how they can help your business? Get in contact with me


Numerous studies have looked at the efficacy of external links on how well sites rank in search engines. Time and time again, strong correlations between the number and quality of links, and the visibility of domains or pages in search results have been shown. Perhaps one of the most famous studies was carried out by Baclinko on over one million search results.

This graph demonstrates that the more referring domains a page has linking to it, the higher the position the search results is likely to be.

If this isn’t enough to demonstrate the importance of links, Google themselves confirmed that links were one of the two most important ranking factors (Alongside content). When asked in a live Q&A session, Andrey Lipattsev from Google said that the two most important ranking factors were;

“I can tell you what they are. It is content and links pointing to your site.”

Of course, anything Google says should be treated with a pinch of salt, but this should end any speculation or confusion as to how much links influence rankings; the answer is a lot!


Once we’ve established that having lots of good quality links is important in order to improve or maintain SEO performance, we need to know exactly how many links we should be aiming for and what kind of sites we should be looking to get them from. A link Audit will help uncover this information. Advanced backlink analysis tools such as Arefs (above) can reveal hundreds of useful data points about the quantity, type, and rate of link acquisition not only for your site, but also your competitor’s sites.

Once you have this information you can go about setting targets for link acquisition and undertake activities that will help you attain those links. While I don’t offer link-building as a service, I do offer link analysis which will inform the overall link acquisition strategy. Some of the aspects of your backlink profile I’ll assess include;

Total Number of Links

Total Number of Referring Domains

Ratio of Follow/No Follow Links

Ratio of Text/Image Links

Anchor Text Distribution

Number of Gov/Edu Links

Most Linked-To Pages

All of these metrics are important not just in isolation, but in relation to your competitors.


A manual penalty is applied to an entire site or a collection of pages that Google believes has a number of ‘unnatural links’ pointing at it. Unnatural links are links that Google deems to be purposefully built in order to manipulate rankings. There are many different aspects of a backlink profile that could trigger a manual review (by an actual person at Google), if they decide you have crossed a threshold in terms of unnatural links, they will apply a penalty which will suppress your rankings until the penalty has been lifted.

There are three ways to recover from a manual penalty;

  1. Remove links. This involves reaching out to the owners of the websites that you believe are linking to you in an unnatural manner and requesting they remove the link(s). Sometimes they’ll do this free of charge, sometimes they’ll charge a fee, but most of the time they won’t reply at all.
  2. Disavow links. Google have a tool that allows website owners to ‘disavow’ links. Essentially this involves reviewing all your links and adding a list of them to the Disavow Tool that you believe to be unnatural.
  3. Wait for the penalty to expire. Manual penalties usually expire after 2 years.

Once steps 2 and/or 3 are complete, a ‘reconsideration request’ can be submitted to Google, and they will review. Usually, this takes a few weeks. If they are happy with your efforts, the penalty will be lifted and you should regain some visibility, however, you may not rank exactly where you did before, for all the keywords you ranked for previously.

I have experience with manual penalty recoveries, so if you’ve been hit, get in touch with me and I’ll see what I can do to help.