Every good cook knows that now and then you need to take stock of what’s in your pantry. Otherwise, items can go bad and when used could ruin a dish and possibly make someone sick. Or, you keep buying ingredients when you already have them, which is a waste of space and money.

The same thing holds true with the backlinks to your website. Every now and then you need to do an inventory and review, as websites and algorithms are constantly changing. There could be links you didn’t know about and links that have gone bad. These bad links should be dealt with as they could be hurting the flavor of your site.

Depending on the size of your “pantry,” this might seem like a daunting task. But there are tools that can be used. For pulling the list of backlinks you can try Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO Site Explorer. The links can then be put through a tool to rate them, but manually reviewing them gets you to stick your nose right in and get a good sniff. Even the best tools can be fooled and you could wind up getting rid of a really beneficial link. Or you might leave a really bad one to fester and contribute to a possible penalty. Cooking without tasting isn’t a good practice.

When you’re “tasting” your backlinks, how do you know what a quality link is? (Recipe follows.)

Quality Link Recipe

What does a quality link consist of?


  • 5 heaping Cups of relevancy (of the site, the page and the link anchor text/landing page, all of these should align)
  • 5 Cups indexed in Google (if the site is no longer indexed in Google this could mean it was penalized; check to see how many pages are indexed in Google and when the last cache date was)
  • 4 Cups quality content (does the content on the page and across the site have good grammar, spelling, fresh ideas without articles about pills, porn, casino and payday loans? – use the site’s search feature or Google search [ payday loan] for example, especially no linking out to these types of sites)
  • 3 Cups solid metrics (PR and DA of home page; PR and PA of the page – keeping in mind that as of the date of this post, Google has not updated the PR in the toolbar since February 2013)
  • 3 Cups good link placement (ideally the link to your site should be in content and towards the top of the post; side-bar, footer and site-wide links can spell disaster)
  • 3 Cups longtail anchor text (overall your links should use longtail anchor text instead of exact match along with some brand mentions and raw URLs – too many exact match can spell a penalty)
  • 2 Cups dofollow link (be aware that sites are sometimes not just putting a nofollow tag on your link but instead putting a nofollow tag at the top of the page which makes all the links on the page nofollow)
  • 2 Cups decent traffic to the site
  • 2 Cups limited amount of adds above the fold
  • 1 Cup visibility of your link (this goes along with the traffic to the site; if visitors don’t see the link, they won’t know to click on it)
  • 1 Cup limited amount of other links on the page (there shouldn’t be a long list of sidebar or footer links or links in the comments; links shouldn’t go to spammy sites)
  • 1 Cup no disclosures that say something like “We take cash for links.”

Icing (optional)qualty-link-recipe

Sometimes even after checking the above, you can still be on the fence about the quality of a link. There are some additional items you can review that will take some extra time but may be well worth it. Here is some icing you can spread on:

  • 1/2 Cup potential to be a good link (use to take a look at the site and see how old it is or what the site used to be – maybe it’s too new to have good metrics, etc.)
  • 1/2 Cup social shares and signals (the site and posts should have social sharing buttons and the site should have a good amount of friends and followers – it could be that the social platforms were set up but are just sitting there inactive)
  • 2 Tablespoons trust factors (there should be an About Us page or other factors that show there is an actual person that runs the site)
  • 1 Tablespoon active blog (there should be consistency in the blog posts with recent articles being posted)


First you need to do your mise en place (a French term used in professional kitchens meaning “putting in place”) and get everything set up.

  1. Pull the list of links and export into a spreadsheet you can use to makes notes and mark which links you need to get rid of
  2. Install a tool that you can view domain and page authority with, such as the MOZ toolbar
  3. Install a tool that you can use to view Pagerank, traffic, Google cache date, etc. SEO Site Tools is a good one
  4. Have the “nofollow” highlighter turned on in one of the tools mentioned above

Go down the list checking each link and notating on the list which links are okay and which links should be removed. For the bad links you will start by contacting the webmasters and requesting them to take the links down. Note when you sent requests and if the link has been removed to keep track. After several requests, if the link hasn’t been removed, you can use the Disavow Tool on these.

This recipe may seem complicated, but after you’ve done it a few times you’ll get hang of it and it won’t take long to prepare the finished list.

Are there other attributes you look for in a backlink? Do you have any tips for the process of reviewing backlinks? Please share those with us in the comments.

Bon Appétit!