This is the first part of my guide to corporate SEO analytics and recognition. I am using this methods to support my offline corporate customers - it helps you to recognize if you are at risk of penalty, how to prevent it, how to deny negative SEO and keep your sites safe no matter the penalty Google have for you in future. The tool used in this guide is Ahrefs as it is one of the best link checkers out there - you can use it for free with daily limit. What do you want today is just a look at backlink number (total) vs referring domains. Those statistics are very important and even if Ahrefs will find only % of all your links on average, it is still great tool to recognize pre-penalty period and receive manual review alerts. Below are few examples of how we work with them: Drop - Dance - Recovery So as you can see here around 30th July there was an huge drop in backlinks numbers but no drop in referring domains. This can indicate few things - firstly the domain was banned from some site and around 300 links have been removed. Site that was doing link exchange/blogroll or footer links have been shut down (those indicator of many links lost as each page will count as 1 unique link from footer. Because of steady growth and referring domains and no further slip in backlink numbers we should be prepared for following scenario: Website drops because of backlink number drop. Then it start dancing as referring domains growth is steady and there is no further drop in SERPs but website still can maintain the same number of backlinks by building as many of them as many of them get removed. Because this is still naturally looking diagram manual review by Google wont be applied. Website will be re-analyzed by Google and will start rising slowly in SERPs again. Virality - dance and rise in SERPs: Around 6th August website become either viral or build huge amount of backlinks in just one day. Boiw by looking at referring domain diagram and not seeing any huge jump we can define this jump as becoming Viral on some social site. Number of backlinks indicates natural growth over days and re-posting of backlinks. Number of referring domains indicate slow spreading around more and more sites. There is small drop in links at the end of the "Virality" period but not big enough to indicate spam. The website will enter dance period after which it will recover with much stronger positions for its keywords. Stagnation or lost positions: The huge jump on 23rd of July can indicate SEO spam done to the domain. The number of backlinks are slipping day by day showing that possibly domain is creating low/medium quality spam that gets constantly deleted even when seeing effort of re-building them. Number of referring domains is slowing its rise indicating that SEO is done using same SEO package from 1 provider that do not rotate domains using same ones all the time. The constant drop in backlinks indicates that website will be unable to rank higher for its keywords (something often taken as penalty) or it will slowly slip in the rankings. The domain is good target for manual reviews and re-valuations done by Google. Drop and recovery. You can see constant drop in backlinks until around 2nd of August, then slow drop for few more days and recovery.The referring domains number is growing though and you can see huge jump in both referring domains and backlinks around 20th August. It looks like artificial SEO done to it. Even if website will start recovering after drop in rankings it is good target for manual review followed by unnatural links notification. Lost position - not recovered: Excellent example of poor link building strategy. You can see that some SEO is done to the domain, there is no indicator of going viral because of many backlinks/reffering domains lost. This site probably got SEO package done 2-3 months ago and now many profiles are getting deleted and site is getting banned. This website will lost its rankings and there is no chance it will recover using current strategy. The domain is vurnerable for manual reviews and unnatural links notification. Secure and safe rise in rankings: Here you have example of pretty good SEO strategy. You can see slow rise in backlinks and referring domains. Some backlinks are getting deleted which could be alert unless you will look at the backlinks build - they are being build constantly - almost every day. This indicates site is pretty popular in some circles. Some could say this site should slowly loose it rankings but because number of links remain the same, there is no spikes in total backlinks and the number of referring domains is on the rise - this site is secure against manual reviews and unnatural links notifications. Unnatural Rise - Black Hat SEO warning: You can see there is something wrong with this picture. The backlink count is rising every other day to large numbers and referring domains is unnaturally low. It seems like either domain is viral on few websites or it is spamming same and same domains with links. This website wont increase in rankings, it will remain at the same position and it will wait for manual review where real human will check it if this linking is done viral or using SEO tools. Penalty: As far as reffering domains count looks natural the backlinks numbers are in crazy dance. This is for sure unnatural indicator and it will be reviewed by Google ASAP. The website will be penalized (removed from rankings) while waiting for review. Remember, this is just indicator on what to look at while going through bakclink check. There is much, much more to determine penalty or rankings and it will be explained in next guide in few days. Perfect backlinking model for website will be where backlink number and reffering domains are on constant rise and there is no sudden jumps. Once domain will pass some age and/or authority - backlink number can stay the same/start slow drop, but referring domain number should be on rise to maintain positions (its natural for established websites to start loosing backlink numbers due to site dying). In next guide I will explain anchor and no-follow/do-follow ratios. Good Luck!