Backlinks – pitfalls to avoid!

One of the most common topics that we get asked about in our meetings is regarding backlinks and advertising on other companies’ websites. As with many things on the internet…

Nervous wide-eye Caucasian woman in front of a computer  keyboard

One of the most common topics that we get asked about in our meetings is regarding backlinks and advertising on other companies’ websites. As with many things on the internet – it’s not exactly complicated but you really do need to know what pitfalls to avoid and how to go about finding a partner that really compliments you.

In this week’s post we will be covering;

Appraisals of potential websites

This post is based on sites that an accountant or similar businesses might use to appraise for advertising and backlink purposes. The same criteria that we discuss below also works for a multitude of other sectors.

There are a variety of ways that you need to appraise a site before deciding whether or not to buy advertising on a site and the main reason for this is the Google advice around the purchasing of links. The penalties can destroy your search rankings if you are found to be in breach of Google’s rules. They are extremely strict on you not:

“exchanging money for links or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a ‘free’ product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.”

This is why link building takes a bit of time and negotiation because you are not exchanging money for them linking back to you. In the case of banner ads you are generally OK, but “sponsored” posts are a muddy area and it must always be made clear that the post is sponsored by you and any links in it should be “nofollow”.

Before we head into the next part – It is up to you to do the due diligence rather than relying on what the site owner or site manager tells you because after all, they are just there to sell you advertising space.

It is important to make sure that the site you are looking to place your ads on are up to part with the following criteria.

Criteria 1 – Do they have traffic going to their website?

You’ll want to use a tool, or several like we do, to make sure that the website you are looking to place your ads on actually gets traffic.

Let’s look at Bytestart as an example.
They have a reasonable amount of monthly organic traffic of around 11,000 visitors. this is of course versus the 35,000 monthly organic visitors they were attracting in 2017-2018. They were obviously significantly hit by an algorithm update or they’ve culled a lot of content to focus on a particular set of topics.

It is still a reasonable number of visitors.

Let’s look at in the context of how that works with your website.

How many visitors could you get?

You need to answer this one by looking at your own stats and at their stats. For example, look at the amount of traffic they receive based on organic keywords and PPC keywords, then you can estimate that 1% of that traffic may click through. This is a paper napkin maths and just gives you an idea of what you could achieve and whether its worth investing your money in that advertising. 

What is your standard conversion rate?

Work this out from your stats, if you have 100 visitors and you make 5 sales or get 5 inquiries, that’s a conversion rate of 5%.  

What is the benchmark?

So, you now know what you expect their traffic to your site to be and you know how many conversions you could achieve. Now you know whether or not it’s a viable proposition. 

Now let’s look at a different startup related website. Let’s look a Startacus on the same basis to see what you might achieve.

They receive between 1,000 to 2,000 organic visits per month.

Is that less than you? If it is you could potentially receive a visit or two from a banner ad taking into account ad blindness* and ad blockers.

*Ad blindness is where people no longer notice or see banner ads on websites because they’ve become accustomed to adverts being there, so they naturally skip over them. 

Criteria 2 – Is their traffic relevant

The next criterion is to look at the types of keywords they are ranking for to make sure that you’ll receive relevant traffic. Conversion being a very important part of the equation.

Let’s start with Bytstart again to get a feel for where they are positioned.

They have reasonable keyword coverage in the UK, USA and Australia. They rank for 15.2K keywords in the UK. 234 of which are in the top 1-3 positions with another 750 in the 4-10 slots.

The search engines believe their top competitors are:


Now you have the research you need to make sure that their website is in alignment with your business personas and share the same types of markets. Make sure that they rank for plenty of keywords that you are attempting to get traffic from, bare in mind that if they are ranking for topics that you don’t currently rank for (of course you are helping them to rank for some by writing content for them) and there is some opportunity there.

Looking at Startacus again, they rank in the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and Ireland. In the UK they rank for 2.6K keywords with around 170 keywords in the top 10.

Their top ten competitors are:


The list is OK. A little too diverse and it is obvious that the search engines are not quite sure what the site is necessarily targeted towards. Niche content placed there could be an option.

Criteria 3 – What are the website’s domain and page ranks?

Domain rankings and page rankings are just a guide to the site’s authority from a search engine’s perspective. It mainly has to do with the site’s link profile and the number of relevant quality backlinks there are leading back to their website.

You want a mixture of authority levels linking back to you to make sure that your link profile is as diverse and as natural looking as possible (hence generating organic links through great content, social media and outreach is vital) for the purposes of building traffic from their site to yours you are just looking to make sure that they are authoritative and not spammy.

Use the domain rank to evaluate the site as a whole. However, if you can see that only certain topics or pages on the site actually receive traffic and that’s the traffic you are looking for, then use the relevant page rank.

This is a judgement call lower than 50 can be OK sometimes if you are looking for something specific. This is only something you’ll get a feel for over time.

Bystart’s domain ranking sits at 69 – their overall URL ranking is quite low and could account for their loss of traffic.

Startacus’s domain ranking is at 46, but their overall URL ranking is a lot higher than Bystestart’s. 

Although Startacus also lost a huge amount of rankings last year.

Criteria 4 – Is the site itself spammy?

A lot of these sites are built on an advertising model and they are only there to serve ads to the traffic they receive. You need to look at whether the site has too many ads on the page. Is all their content sponsored or guest articles that are obviously paid for. Is there a page on the site that clearly offers these packages of service (a big negative signal to the search engines).

There’s a lot to consider and it is not simple.


In conclusion, you need to protect your website and your online reputation by carrying out the above due diligence before deciding how and where to place your advertising budget or to seek backlinks. If you need any assistance please reach out to us at or give us a call on 01628 421661.

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