Link Building and Development Mistakes – Treetrunks and Houses on Stilts


When someone asks me to look at their backlinks there are two problems that continually popup, websites supported by lots of tiny weak links, or websites supported by one single overwhelming link. Neither case is pretty, and if your website is like the house pictured above it’s easy to see what a precarious position you’re putting yourself in.

First lets talk about link data, what types of data should you be looking at and how do you get it. Most pro/expert linkbuilders have their own set of in-house tools, and they aren’t for sale or rent. However as a newbie or intermediate SEO with a limited budget and resources you shouldn’t despair, there are options. Aaron Wall has a backlink analyzer he offers for free, Greg Boser has another free tool eSpion. There are numerous commercial applications, I like and still use SEO Spyglass (see my review of SEO Spy Glass) and since you’ll ask, yes I did pay for my copy, and no that’s not an aff link.

The types of information you’re going to want should included but not be limited to are:

  • Domain link comes from
  • URL link comes from
  • Anchor text
  • IP of domain
  • Pagerank of domain
  • Pagerank of Page
  • Alexa Score of domain
  • Title of Page
  • Meta Descrption of Page
  • Age of Domain
  • Domain in DMOZ
  • Domain in Yahoo Directory

As you can see gathering all this data by hand could take a tremendous amount of time, so it’s a perfect time for a mechanical grunt, to do the heavy lifting for you.


Once you’ve got all this data you want to analyze it, one of the easiest problems to spot, is the treetrunk problem. Imagine if your website was like a tree house sitting firmly nestled in the branches of a mighty oak. As strong as the oak may be, that doesn’t mean it’s going to last forever, and when it falls down it’s going to take your house/website with it.

Characteristics of this type of “treetrunk” problem can be:

  • A majority of links that come from one domain
  • A majority of links from one IP/C-Class
  • A majority of links with identical anchor text/surrounding text
  • A majority of the links coming to a single page

Now no website is ever supported entirely by another single website/IP/anchor text but when you start to have upwards of 50%, 60%, 70%, 80% or more it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out something is amiss, and this isn’t “natural linking pattern”. The same is true for your pages that are being linked to. Goofy linking policies aside, if 100% of your inbound links come only to your home page, you are in trouble.

The “house on stilts” flaw is almost as easy to spot. The primary characteristic of this condition is nothing but low quality inbound links. There may be a extreme diversity of anchor text, IP’s, and destination URL’s however, like a Buy One get One Free sale at Payless Shoes, the quality is often lacking. This type of linking pattern can have hundreds or even thousands of links from PR0-PR3 pages, from sites with poor alexa rankings, no quality directory support for the originating website, and domain ages of 2 years or less. Some of the causes for this condition can range from the MSSA penalty to a lack of sophistication or web savvy from the site owner/webmaster.

So what’s the solution?

You want to build as many quality links, from as many trusted sources as possible, with as much differentiating anchor text, to as many different pages, over a prolonged period of time. While concise that was probably about as helpful as Sams “How to Build a Nuclear Reactor in 24 Hours” book, so here are some slightly more instructional links:

One of the things that I think is important to take notice of is that almost everyone who’s a strong link builder is an advocate of high quality content/copy, I don’t think that’s by accident or purely coincidental either, links and content go hand in hand for any successful website.

Photo credit: Collin McMillan and skampy runs on the Genesis Framework

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