Analysis of 1 Million Backlinks: How Udemy, Airbnb, Heineken and More Get Millions of Site Visits Every Month

April 10, 2018

Search engine optimization is a crucial part of any company’s success, but the good news is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – you can borrow the strategies used by successful companies to gain millions of site visits a month.

We decided to look at seven major companies’ search strategies, particularly how they use backlinks to drive more search traffic. While Google uses over 200 ranking signals, backlinks are arguably the most important ranking factor. (Now when we say backlinks, we mean high-quality backlinks; Google has long ago learned to determine which links are spammy.)

Google wants to provide the best possible user experience, and backlinks are one way to establish trust with the search giant. If more sites link out to you, that shows Google that your site contains quality, relevant, authoritative content.

Though Google looks at the quantity of backlinks, there are two other factors that come into play:

  1. Link authority
  2. Link diversity

Link authority is determined by the quality and relevance of the backlinks. The general content of the linking site and article must be relevant to yours. The backlinks hitting your site should actually provide extra value to someone reading the article. And, of course, backlinks from high-domain sites with real traffic are always better.

What you want to avoid are backlinks from low-authority domains, backlinks with a thin (or nonexistent) relationship to your content, and spammy anchor text.

Link diversity means that you’ve earned backlinks from different types of sites, such as blogs, news sites and social media. It also shows that your anchor text isn’t always the same; sometimes it’s an exact match, sometimes it’s branded. The backlinks should go to different locations – some to your homepage, some to your blog and some to your resource section.

We audited the backlinks of seven companies – each that gets millions of site visits a month – using metrics from Majestic Citation Flow, Majestic Trust Flow, Moz Spam Score, Moz Domain Authority, and Ahrefs, and did some digging into how they used backlinks to drive online traffic.

The good news is that the techniques we used to audit their backlinks are available to you as well. Using platforms like Ahrefs, you can look for patterns, trends and commonalities among your own link metrics. Look at:

  • Majestic Citation Flow: Rates how influential a URL may be based on how many sites are linking to it, based on a 100-point scale.
  • Majestic Trust Flow: Predicts how trustworthy a page is based on the trustworthiness of those sites that are linking to it, based on a 100-point scale.
  • Moz Spam Score: Rates the level of penalization risk associated with a given URL, based on a scale of 0 – 17 where any rating of 11 or higher is likely to be spam.
  • Moz Domain Authority: An overall website rating that is calculated by metrics, such as linking domains, number of total links.
  • Ahrefs Referring IP C-Class Diversity: IP Addresses are divided into lettered blocks (AAA.BBB.CCC.DDD). The more referring C-Class Duplicates that exist within the link profile indicates that the site is likely to be engaging in link networking.
  • Ahrefs URL Rating: Prediction score for how well a page is likely to rank in organic search results, based on a 0-100 scale.

From here you can determine the quality of your links and what you should do with each type of link. We’ve included these link types:

  • Danger Links: Extremely likely to be unnatural and should be considered for disavowal.
  • Caution Links: These could be unnatural and must be manually audited to determine if they are safe or dangerous.
  • Safe Links: These are trustworthy, authoritative links that are most likely to be natural. Getting more of these will help boost organic visibility.
  • Link Schemes: These are large groups of similar links that are coming from the same source and are the most probable cause of site-wide links.
  • Link Opportunities: Some websites (especially popular brands) earn natural, high-quality links without knowing it. An audit will help you discover those sources so you can build relationships and earn more links.
  • Link Equity Consolidation: In almost every case, there are authoritative inbound links pointing to 404 pages on any given website. Those 404 pages should be revived by implementing 301 redirects to a live final destination URL to reclaim the lost link equity.

Building organic traffic can be difficult. Although these authoritative sites have gained online visibility through backlinking, we found ways that even they can improve! Through our own audit, we discovered their secrets that have brought in millions of visits per month so you can take them and implement them for your business.

Ready to run your own site audit?

Check out these seven case studies to learn how link building impacts SEO – and how you can improve your own site’s organic traffic. Access the case studies now.

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Eric Siu is the CEO of digital marketing agency <a href="">Single Grain</a>, which has helped venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies grow their revenues. He's also the founder of two marketing podcasts, Growth Everywhere and Marketing School.