Link building

The Link Building Tactic You Don’t Use: Shallow Links


You’ve built your fantastic website and filled it with amazing content. What is left to make it a sensation in the search engines?

Inbound links!

No matter how well you optimize your HTML or how well you write your content, your web pages won’t see the first page of search engine results unless you get those inbound links.

Wait, do I mean “backlinks?” No, because it’s not the 90s. I mean inbound links (or just “links”).

You may have read some information on how to do public relations type outreach to other relevant websites or scan your competition’s links.

Still, you’re probably missing a link building strategy that can make all the difference in the world to how your content appears in Google search results – the fix. shallow links.

What are Shallow Links?

Shallow links are inbound links that should point to specific, deeper pages on your site, but should simply point back to your home page.

Why is this a problem?

To understand why shallow linking can prevent your content from appearing on the first page of search results, we need to agree on one thing: Google ranks web pages, not websites.

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I know this might go against everything you’ve heard about the existence of “domain level” ranking signals.

Yet, unfortunately, as Google and many others will tell you, Google does not take the authority of your entire website into account when determining the ranking of a single page (there are, of course, many other domain level events for Google, but authority is not one of them).

It’s just not how search engines like Google work.

What does this have to do with shallow links? Well, when a webpage links to your homepage, all the authority of that link goes straight to the homepage.

If a website uses a smart internal linking strategy, some of that authority spills over to the lower pages, but like Trickle-Down Economics, the lower pages don’t get much to survive.

The fact that Google ranks web pages and not websites means that for your inbound links to be the most powerful, they need to link directly to the most relevant content on your website.

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For example, let’s say you’re a shoe maker – all kinds of shoes – running shoes, work shoes, kids’ shoes, fancy shoes. And a very influential blogger reviews your new pair of cross trainers.

But instead of linking to the product page of these new ellipticals, they link to your home page.

Hope your homepage links to these new kicks. But if not, that blogger’s link authority will only help your homepage, not the product page.

How do superficial links happen? Most of the time, it’s just because a well-meaning writer didn’t take the time to research your website for the right content to link to, or your publicists don’t know it’s a problem when they do their outreach. .

How often does this link building tragedy happen?

A lot.

In preparation for this article, I worked with the OnCrawl and Majestic teams to extract data on the topic, but it’s such a overlooked issue that we couldn’t even easily retrieve data on the issue. .

No, this is something that you are going to have to figure out for your website.

However, as someone who has performed hundreds (if not thousands) of SEO audits in their career, I can tell you that this is a widespread phenomenon.

Find shallow links

Before we can fix all of these shallow links, we need to find them.

Unfortunately, shallow linking is not available in your best SEO tools as a checkbox based option. It takes a little research and patience.

Almost all of the SEO tools available today allow you to build an inbound link profile for your website.

For this exercise, you will need a complete list of your inbound link sources, the web pages they refer to, and the anchor text associated with each link.

In addition, if it is available in the system you are using, you can also add information on:

  • The type of links (text vs image).
  • Whether the links are nofollow or not (we’ll talk about that later).
  • And anything that will help you narrow your target list down to something less scary.
Screenshot from Majestic.com, October 2021

I have found that the best way to keep all the hair on your head during this process is to download your link profile and open it in the spreadsheet of your choice.

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I’m an Excel user myself, but any spreadsheet that lets you filter your data will work fine.

Download this link data into something more manageable.Screenshot of Excel, October 2021

After you’ve imported your inbound links profile, filter your links column to only include links to your home page.

To do this, you will need to set the filter so that the cell is EQUAL to your exact home page, with and without a backslash, if this is a problem with your source data.

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Some SEO tools allow you to extract the report to include only the homepage, which I highly recommend if it’s available.

Sort this link data using filters.Screenshot of Excel, October 2021

(Note: I have rearranged the columns of this data from the original download based on the data needed.)

You will now have a list of all the links on your home page. However, not all of them are superficial links (like when someone writes something about your whole business etc), so you will need to do some extra filtering in the anchor text column.

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Usually I’ve found that if you filter this column to hide all mentions of your business name, you’ll end up with a much more manageable list, but that’s not always the case.

To be on the safe side, run a filter to show only the anchor text with your company name, then copy this list to another worksheet for review later, then hide them again so you can focus. job.

This is also when it is essential to know your brand (or that of your client) well. For example, in this example from All Birds, you can see that I left a few mentions of the company name on this list, but only because they also include the word ‘shoes’.

Indeed, All Birds makes more than just shoes. Therefore, anchor text that says “allbirds shoes” is a possible target for a fix to a more specific URL on their website.

Excel sheet with completely filtered data.Screenshot of Excel, October 2021

One final optional note: If you want to further refine your list, you can focus your efforts on links that don’t use the nofollow attribute.

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The idea here is that since it’s for SEO purposes, if the link doesn’t share authority anyway, there’s no need to make it more specific.

However, if your list isn’t huge, you might want to tackle those links anyway. After all, links aren’t just used by search engine crawlers.

Repairing shallow links

Now that you have your shallow link to fix, the real fun begins.

And by “fun” I mean not at all fun.

It is at best a long and time consuming process. But the payoff is well worth the effort.

First, you will need to add contact information to your shallow link list.

If you’re lucky, you or your publicist will already have contact details for some of the more important publications. But if not, that means visiting every link and finding the author of that content.

There are many guides out there on the web for doing outreach research, so I won’t spend too much time on it here, but I will say this is one of those great jobs for interns and virtual assistants.

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Once you have your content list, it’s time to follow up.

Here are some tips for writing your awareness emails:

  • I suggest you start your email (and subject line) with a big thank you for the link to your website before you start requesting changes.
  • Next, explain that you noticed that the link points to your business home page instead of your product or other web pages.
  • Then tell them why you are requesting the update. It could be something like “As you may know, Google likes links as specific as possible, which means so do we!” ” works well.
  • Finally, let them know where you want them to connect.
  • Don’t forget to thank them again! Remember, they don’t have to.

Again, this process can take a bit of time, so perhaps enlist the help of your interns or a virtual assistant.

As with all outreach efforts, be prepared for disappointment in the form of authors telling you they don’t have the time or access to the page, rejected emails, or just outright rejection ( hope they are friendly about it).

The good news, once you’ve made that first round of edits, subsequent requests will be much smaller as you attack them as they happen.

All that remains is to watch for changes in the ranking of these subpages!

More resources:

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Featured Image: Sammby / Shutterstock