Checking on things on a regular basis to fix them when necessary saves you from getting into big trouble. Doing the improvements on a consistent basis applies to all sorts of things: your business car, your team performance, and even your backlink profile.
Reviewing your backlink profile regularly gives you the right sort of information that you can leverage to position your website and brand as an authority in your niche. Interpreting the findings revealed through evaluating the referring domains helps you take the right steps to improve your off-site strategy, and consequently rank better on search engine result pages. And if you play it right, you may even outrank your closest competitors, directing their organic traffic over to your website.
So, if you’re asking yourself one of the following questions:
How to determine my current backlink profile health state?
How to get the information necessary to revamp my off-site strategy?
How to rank better in SERP?
The answer is: Run an SEO backlink audit.
Now, when you understand how much advantage a backlink audit can give you, let’s check what actually is hidden behind this term.
What Is a Backlink Audit?
A backlink audit is a process of evaluating the links that point back to your website. The findings help you realize which backlinks work to your advantage and which ones actually may have a negative impact on your backlink profile.
Trust me, you don’t want your backlink profile to be low, as it constitutes your website’s overall ranking.
Why Is a Backlink Audit Important?
Simply put, getting your backlinks audited regularly is crucial to nail your off-site SEO game. The insights you manage to collect facilitate improving your current link building strategy. If you have a go at running a bit advanced form of backlink audit (more on that below), you will also spot the ample opportunities – meaning, the websites – that can help you:
- get more quality traffic
- build a recognizable brand
- assert brand authority
- develop a relationship with your audience
- build a following
Here’s another issue to address: Sometimes a website underperforms even though the number of referral links of doubtful quality is pretty low. In such a case, a backlink audit helps you understand the scale of the link gap between you and your competitors. This insight allows you to take the right steps to narrow the distance between theirs and your website ranking.
Furthermore, getting your backlink profile audited is absolutely crucial when you have your link building strategy run by an external vendor that doesn’t belong to your in-house team. There is no other way for you to check if they did a great job unless you run a backlink profile audit.
Of course, you may be assured that they acquired 1,000, 2,000, or even 3,000 new external links directing back to your website, which could be great granted that all of those backlinks are legit and pass so-called link juice to your website.
Now, let’s think for a while about what qualities make a backlink legit. Well, I’ll elaborate on that a bit later, but for now, you need to understand that such a legit link is described with two adjectives: high-quality and relevant.
The first one focuses on increasing your Domain Authority which, obviously, the higher, the better. However, high DA alone won’t help you achieve the above-mentioned benefits when the acquired links aren’t relevant to your niche.
Let’s imagine you sell coffee but the high-quality links referring users back to your website are placed on pages devoted to the automotive industry. Gaining links from an authoritative yet completely irrelevant website won’t help you much – it’s highly doubtful that people reading about car parts would be interested in going to a website devoted to this delicious beverage – especially when they’re doing their best to find the right elements for their broken vehicle. A coffee enthusiast’s blog would be a far better place to leave a backlink, wouldn’t it?
Moreover, it’s worth realizing that even though it’s rare to be hit by Google Link Penalty, it’s better to do everything to avoid it. To stay safe, and not sorry, you must be sure there aren’t too many spammy links leading back to your website. The only way to do so is by getting a backlink profile audited on a regular basis, obviously.
So now, let’s find out…
How To Do a Backlink Profile Audit in 4 Simple Steps
Doing a backlink profile audit may take you some time, especially if you’re about to conduct it for the first time. Don’t get discouraged though because the findings help you determine the current state of your off-site strategy. Only in this way can you localize the weak points of your backlink strategy and come up with new solutions to fix them.
This is how you start conducting your own SEO backlink audit: You pick one (or all if you want to) methods from the ones mentioned below:
- Backlink Audit Method #1: Check your backlinks manually
To do this, you need access to Google Webmaster Tools, better known as Google Search Console. The whole process is simple and costs you nothing.
Log on to your GSC account. Then, scroll down and click Links – you can find it on the left sidebar. Next, you see data concerning your external and internal links: the total number of links, top linked pages, and top linking sites.
The thing is that Google Webmaster Tools allows you to check only the top 1,000 sites that link to you. In some cases that suffice, however, if your website is a large one, you may consider the second option.
- Backlink Audit Method #2: Use advanced SEO tools
First, you need to get yourself at least one of the following link building tools: Ahrefs, Moz, Majestic, SEO Spy Glass, or SEMrush.
Why did I say “at least one”? The thing is that analytical tools have access to various databases, and therefore the results shown by each one may differ. That’s why you need a couple of analytical tools to compare the statistics and get the full picture of your backlink profile status.
Naturally, to use any of the advanced SEO tools, you need to pay for the license, which may be pretty costly for some people (e.g. Ahrefs is $399 per month, Moz is $99 per month, and Majestic $49 per month). In such a case, you need to check whether hiring an SEO agency offering link building services, including SEO backlink audit, appears to be a better option for your business.
Anyway, those advanced SEO tools allow you to get more backlink-related data than the above-mentioned Google Webmaster Tools.
Afrefs, for example, gives you information about Domain Ranking and estimated organic traffic coming from each referring domain. Moz provides you with metrics like Page Authority, Domain Authority, and Spam Score. SEMrush, in turn, informs you about the toxicity level of the links that point back to your website.
- Backlink Audit Method #3: Check Referrals in Google Analytics
This method may be the least precise, yet it can still give you some insight. The thing with Referrals in Google Analytics is that it shows you only the number of visitors who go to your site simply because another website referred them to you. Even though such a piece of information is super valuable – it helps you understand how some visitors find your website – you miss the data on backlinks that don’t bring you any traffic.
Why would that matter to you? Well, such links may effectively lower your backlink score as the probability they are placed on spammy websites is high. This issue may be pretty problematic if your brand is well-recognizable.
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Find and Evaluate All the Backlinks You Have
When you get your hands on the chosen tool, it’s time to check your backlink profile. Here is how to do it in Ahrefs.
STEP 1 Click Site Explorer and insert your website URL.
STEP 2 You see the number of links that point back to your website and the number of referring domains. Scroll down to see more information on your backlinks.
STEP 3 In here you can check the pace at which your website has been gaining new backlinks.
When you make sure the number of referring domains is increasing steadily (more on that below), you may want to inspect the backlinks.
STEP 4 Go to the left sidebar and click Backlinks. What you see is a list of all your incoming links that can be found on other websites. This is the exact place where you can evaluate the backlinks individually: whether they are nofollow or follow links, what is their Domain Ranking (0-100), and check the Page traffic.
Basically, this is where you see who is linking to you and how strong the backlinks are.
Here’s a checklist compiling things you should analyze while evaluating your backlinks:
✅ number & quality of backlinks – naturally, the more, the better unless the links that point back to your website are of doubtful quality. How can you assess the link quality? I advise you to click on the link you want to examine and see how the website look, I mean: Does it look spammy? However, if you notice a website that isn’t spammy but its DA is somewhere around 50, don’t be discouraged – it may actually be profitable for your website as having a diversified source of backlinks works to your advantage.
✅ backlink growth – the growth should be steady. You don’t want it to be rapid not to send “warning” signals to Google that there is something shady happening with your website. In other words, when the backlink growth is steady, you don’t seem suspicious to Goole for using black-hat SEO.
✅ website link profile – acquiring backlinks from 90+ DA websites is just half the battle. For a backlink profile to be strong, it should be composed of diversified links. This means that lower-authority websites that are related to your niche may actually contribute to increasing your website link profile. This way you build a more “natural-looking” backlink profile.
✅ overall page relevance – even though a general theme of a referral domain may not really correspond with your business, some of its individual pages may revolve around a topic that is relevant to your niche. Acquiring backlinks from such pages work to your advantage.
✅ anchor text relevance – check the piece of content your link is inserted in. Getting exact match anchors is great, obviously, but like with the backlink profile, you need to strive for diversity. Having your brand mentioned in statistic citations, image citations, and quotes, you steer clear of Google penalties – the backlinks seem to be earned naturally and rightly. Also, make sure the websites linking back to you don’t use non-descriptive anchor texts, such as “learn more” or “click here”. Those don’t provide much context, meaning their impact on the ranking is marginal.
✅ most-linked pages – ideally, your service/product pages should be the ones that get the highest number of referral links.
Once you go through that checklist, you will get a general idea of how your backlink situation is going.
However, what should you do if some of the backlinks look fishy to you? You may…
Find and Remove Spammy Links
The good news is that Google is impressively good at identifying and assessing which links are trustworthy and which are spammy – it simply ignores the latter. This means you don’t need to bother much about removing the fishy backlinks.
However, if you don’t feel fine knowing that there is a bunch of questionable backlinks leading to your website, you may try doing the following:
- contact the website owner and simply ask them to remove the link that directs their visitors to your website (which may happen to be pretty difficult, but still worth trying), or
- send the URLs that seem to originate from spammy websites to the disavow list in Google Search Console – here is how to disavow links to your side.
Do you remember me mentioning the “a bit advanced form of backlink audit”? Here is what I had in mind:
Check Your Competition’s Backlinks
Doing a backlink audit wouldn’t be complete without running a competitive link analysis, also known as a link gap analysis. You may want to devote time to doing so in order to find out one extremely crucial thing – the exact websites that backlink to your competitors, but not to your website.
Why should you care? Because acquiring links from the same websites your rivals already “planted” their links in helps you narrow the gap between you and your competitors. In other words, it increases your chances of ranking higher.
To help you find new link building opportunities, open Ahrefs or Majestic. Later go through the entire process, which we already described in detail in How to Do a Competitive Link Analysis to Boost Visibility – be sure to read this article if you’d like to access the step-by-step tutorial.
Once you get the entire list of URLs, go through each backlink to find the websites that are relevant to your business. Check if any of their pages cover topics that are directly connected with your niche or industry. Also, take a closer look at the anchor texts because this may help you spark new content ideas, too.
When you finally create a list of worthy websites, you may try some digital PR and link building tactics to acquire more quality backlinks, and thus rank higher. Remember though to pick and choose only those websites that make a good place for your brand to be featured in. The fact that your competitor is mentioned on a given website doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good fit for your brand too. Be smart, be selective.
Actually, there is yet another thing that you should bear in mind while checking your competitor’s backlinks. Do you remember when I mentioned anchor text and most-linked pages – two elements included on your backlink audit guide checklist? I hope you do because you may want to take a closer look at those two elements again.
This time, however, check what keywords are used in anchor texts and what types of content are linked back to your competition. Also, try to figure out what makes a given page attract so many mentions – is it an eye-catching infographic, is it some kind of bald statistics, or maybe is it just a good piece of storytelling? When you realize what that is, you may apply a similar tactic to your web content.
Repeat Every Now and Again
The very last step is to keep your hand on a pulse by regularly monitoring the number and quality of your backlinks. Here is why you may want to do that.
First, there is a chance you lose some backlinks due to various reasons. Sometimes it’s that the referring website has been deleted or redesigned. Sometimes it’s an internal server error that deprives you of the precious backlink. Other times, however, it may be a webmaster that removed your link from their pages.
By performing a backlink profile audit every few weeks you are faster to spot that lost mentions, and thus react promptly, e.g. contact the website and ask about the reasons for removing your URL. You may also ask them to replace a broken link if that’s the case.
Truth be told, broken links are a huge waste of the backlink potential. It’s as if somebody pointed your customers to your store’s entryway. The thing, though, is that the door is locked for good, with no chances to get in. A real bummer, isn’t it?
Second, running the above-mentioned competitive link analysis every now and then helps you identify untapped websites that are likely to mention your brand in some of their articles. Just think about it – since they have just linked to one of your rivals, it means they are keen on talking about your niche.
Doing link gap analyses periodically should be an obligatory part of link building strategy and backlink audit.
How Do You Evaluate Backlinks?
As you may have already guessed, there is no single value or metric that tells you that the backlink you acquired is either fine or poor. Truth be told, there are at least 5 factors that determine the usefulness of the mentions your brand received. So, let’s see…
What Is a Quality Backlink in SEO?
Actually, there are two major and three contributory factors that make a backlink quality high:
FACTOR #1 First and foremost, check if it’s a follow backlink.
❌ nofollow link isn’t a quality backlink.
If the inbound link passes the so-called link juice, you may go on to the next step.
FACTOR #2 Backlinks work as kudos that in a sense praise and show you respect, and therefore tell search engines that your website is credible. This means that quality backlink helps you improve your rankings – this is as simple as that.
✔️ A quality backlink helps you strengthen the position of keywords you want to rank for.
FACTOR #3 Check the article the link is placed in for relevancy. If the web content revolves around topics that are connected with or important to your niche and brand, it means the backlink is okay. It also makes sense to verify if the anchor text is worked into the content correctly and if the sentence reads normally – you don’t want your link to be just stuffed into the paragraph, as it doesn’t make a quality backlink.
✔️ If the web content is relevant, the backlink’s quality rises.
FACTOR #4 Check the backlink metrics. Depending on the tool you use, you should look for: Domain Rating – Ahrefs, Domain Authority – Moz, Authority Score – Semrush, Flow Metric Scores – Majestic. In general, the closer to 100 the score is, the better. However, bear in mind that some backlinks may be highly beneficial for your website, even if their metric is around 50 or 60 – such websites can be strong enough to help you outrank some of your closest rivals.
✔️ If the backlink metric isn’t drastically low, the backlink’s quality rises.
FACTOR #5 Check if the website linking back to you isn’t spammy. If a website you noticed your URL on doesn’t look legit or when you see some obvious red flags, you may try to disavow the backlink. Even though Google is good at ignoring such links, it won’t go amiss if you “ignore” it yourself.
❌ If the referring domain looks spammy, the quality of backlink is low – or even equals zero.
Backlink Profile Audit – The Takeaway
Whether you do a backlink audit yourself or ask an SEO agency to inspect your inbound links for you – you’re way ahead of those website owners from your niche that simply ignore the importance of this process.
The findings revealed by the backlink profile audit show you a direction you need to follow to make your brand more authoritative, credible, and recognizable. Once your website achieves this level of recognition, organic traffic will follow.
Use Delante’s Backlink Audit Guide to run the backlink profile audit regularly. Set a date (e.g. every third Monday of each quarter) and stick to the schedule. Make the most out of the insights and revamp your off-site strategy accordingly.
However, if you happen to need the assistance of an Off-Site Specialist, be sure you can find them at Delante. Just let us know if you’d like to consult your findings with a professional, or if you would like us to conduct a link building audit for you – we will arrange a meeting and help you improve your backlink profile.