I love new tools that make online marketing easier, and I have always been a fan of SEO. So when Monitor Backlinks was released, of course I had to review it.
CAVEAT: I am not a fan of automation for content creation or for link-building, as I have often said. But I am a great fan of automation for form filling and for research. And this is all about putting research on Steroids.
This review will not be a step-by-step walk-through of the interface, nor a pros-and-cons type of review, for three reasons:
- This tool is mostly self-evident and easy to use – I love it when that happens!
- There are already several reviews of this kind, such as here and here and here – and I am sure many more will appear.
- These guys bend over backwards to help you figure it out (Hello Big Brands who don’t want to keep getting bashed on Twitter – are you paying attention?). Here is a message I got from founder Razvan Girmacea when I signed up:
“Got any questions about our software? Want to get a second opinion on your SEO tactics? Just reply to this email.
“I like helping people to get the most out of Monitor Backlinks and I like talking to people interested in SEO in general.”
Instead of walking through the interface, let me run through seven juicy ways I have discovered this tool can be harnessed to boost your business, some of which you will find “du-uh” obvious, others of which you’ll find “Hey, that’s refreshing!” (like cantaloupe with vanilla ice cream – go ahead and try it)
KEEPING LINK PARTNERS HONEST
This is not the most original or the most exciting way to use Monitor Backlinks, but it is the most obvious and the most traditional – plus it allows me to easily introduce how Monitor Backlinks works at the most basic level, so let’s start with it.
The “SEO Auto Discover” function tracks all your backlinks, which new ones you get and which old ones disappear. So if a linking partner removes your link, you will be alerted in the change log. Or if you choose to be alerted by email on your account page, you will receive an email alert.
To be frank, keeping reciprocal linkers honest has never been a priority of mine, and I will not use it this way. Most link partners are honest anyway, and a natural backlink profile does not include a high degree of reciprocation in backlinks…or in the timing of backlink removal. But I know that some readers will want to keep track of this.
But it’s not just link partners you might want to monitor, as Razvan Girmacea pointed out when I interviewed him:
“Think how hard is to get a baklink and then think how easy is to inform a webmaster about a link with a problem (nofollow, 302 redirect, robots.txt blocked, removed because changed theme, meta noindex/nofolllow, server errors …). This is exactly why I’ve built Monitor Backlinks, to make sure you keep your current links when it’s possible.
“About 10 to 20% of the links that have problems can be recovered with a simple notice to the website owner.”
I have been helping websites clean up their backlinks for a couple years, ever since Google’s bloodthirsty Penguin has been ravishing the Internet. When a website gets the infamous “unnatural backlinks” letter from Google, it means not hours, but days of tedious work:
- Tracking down backlinks
- Deciding which ones to try to eliminate
- Seeking webmaster contact info
- Requesting link removal
- Keeping track of which links are being removed
- Re-contacting the webmaster
- Disavowing links that do not get removed
Sorry, but Monitor Backlinks won’t do all this work for you. But it will help you keep track, which can save you days of work. To put this to use, you need to first create a list of all the backlinks you want removed, and load it up…
I know that a Penguin Penalty and an “unnatural backlinks” letter are not the same thing, but there is a very strong correlation, probably in the vicinity of 95 percent. And if you have been hit by Penguin and not “yet” received the dreaded letter, best to start cleaning up your backlinks quickly to avoid getting the letter. It is my observation that this is a situation where an ounce of prevention can save you a pounding headache of cure.
RELATED ARTICLE: How Google interprets your backlinks
Another innovative way to use Monitor Backlinks is to keep track of competitors. I know I have always said to ignore what the competition is doing and just focus on being the best you can be, but there are some useful reasons to monitor competitor backlinks.
When a competitor wins a new backlink, it just might be from a website that you can also approach for a backlink.
When a competitor wins a new backlink, the linking website might not be one that will link to two competitors, but you might be able to look for a similar link from one of that website’s competitors. For instance, a local bar might make a taxi company its “preferred supplier” and link to it. Oh yeah? Well, you can go out and get other bars to link to your taxi company website.
When a competitor gets a spammy link, you can see it right away. And perhaps you will want to report it to somebody. I will warn you to be very careful about this. Once you start a food fight on the Internet, it can get out of control.
This approach can be useful for any website, not just local SEO. But it especially useful for local SEO where linking opportunities might be more limited and truly useful links should mostly come from local sources.
I contacted Gerald Weber, a friend who I knew was using this tool (see the “here” links above), and he told me: “My wife has recently launched a new phone screen repair business (www.houstoniphonescreenrepair.com) and with all of the craziness that has been going on in Google these days we want to know immediately if we get some weird or spammy looking links. It’s also extremely cool that we can always see when we are getting new and powerful links as well.”
A little bird told me that Monitor Backlinks might soon be adding a “local citation” feature, so you will know not only what sites link to your site, but what sites mention your company (and your competitors). Here is a good post on the importance of citations to local SEO. I am not sure how far advanced this is, as I have yet to come across any studies on local citation (please feel free to identify any in the comments below), but it appears to be something that has begun. And, I might add, it is a good reason why your local website should be well optimized for your company name and area code.
You might have heard a lot about negative SEO, especially now that Google will penguin-slap you for too many unnatural backlinks.
Many webmasters are afraid that a competitor will pay an offshore “link building” service to create 1000 forum backlinks and 1000 spammy, keyword-specific-anchor-text blog comments to their sites and get them in trouble. The scary thing is that there is precious little that you can do about this.
But if you see them coming, which is where Monitor Backlinks comes in handy, you might be able to throw them all into a Disavow file with a note about being bombarded by negative SEO, and upload it to Google’s Disavow tool. Will that protect you? I don’t know. But you will have a MUCH better case to make if you report the links proactively as soon as they appear than if you respond only after Google finds them.
For those who don’t think negative SEO is possible, I was a victim. In my case, it was not a competitor who hit me, just some black hat SEO “genius” using my blog to try to boost rankings. They posted spam comments here. Those comments were never approved, but they still had specific URLs. The spammer was linking from garbage websites using random images and anchor text to the exact URL of their comments, hoping to boost the SEO value of their comment links. Although the comment-specific URLs never went live, the spam links still pointed to this domain. Had I been monitoring those backlinks, I might have taken pre-emptive action to avoid the mess of a full-fledged backlinks clean-up.
JUICE UP YOUR CURRENT BACKLINKS
Monitor Backlinks gives some great analytics about each link. Here is a partial slice from a few of my backlinks…
What you see is the domain for each link, to and from. You have to move your cursor over the domains to see the exact URL and click on that to open the link in a new window. Then comes the MozRank of the domain. Move your cursor over it and see the Page Authority. Next comes the social sharing tally. Move your cursor over that and view specific counts for Twitter, FaceBook, Google+, LinkedIn and Delicious.
What I cut off to keep the image manageable on this narrow blog space are:
Number of external links on each linking page, the tag representing the source of the data (in this case, all from the “autodiscover from Google Analytics” function), the button to edit the data, the current status of the link and the date the link was added to the Monitor Backlinks database.
So, how does this help me leverage my backlinks. Well, in this example you see that I have some nice links from some authoritative websites. That is good. But the pages themselves lack much authority, and no wonder when you look at the social sharing numbers. So that tells me that I should social share some of those pages, where appropriate, and perhaps ask some friends to do so, too.
Or there might be opportunities to build in some links to those pages. For instance, one is a company profile. There might be a way to work that into a blog post or a forum post at some point. Or there might be a blog post mentioning your site that you were unaware of. After reading the post, you might find that there is a follow-up that you can do to cement a relationship and maybe get mentioned in another way. Or write a guest post for them…
NEW GUEST POSTING IDEAS
An even better way to find guest post opportunities is to keep an eye on where competitors are guest posting. If a blog is keen to accept a guest post from one of your pet supply competitors, chances are good that they will be interested in a post from your pet supply website, too.
A quick check at the MozRank of the site and the amount of shares that your competitor’s guest post garners will give you ample data to decide if you want to approach the blogmaster to also contribute a guest post.
AS SEEN IN…
Oh, looky here…
Maybe you will be so lucky as to see a link come in from Forbes or Inc. or CNN. These are valuable for much more than SEO and a short burst of traffic. Set up an “As seen on” graphic for your website to create amazing social proof that will impress visitors and help you increase sales. Here is an example from my friends over at Client Attraction:
I am getting hungry (why did I have to mention cantaloupe and ice cream?), so that’s enough writing for now. Feel free to suggest in the comments below other ideas for using Monitor Backlinks, or other features they could include so that it could be used in even more innovative ways.