Anyone familiar with SEO will know that one of the ranking factors that Google takes into account is both the number and quality of backlinks to your website.
Indeed, it is commonly seen as one of Google’s top 3 search ranking factors.
And so it is therefore generally considered a good strategy to try to get credible and related backlinks – the more the better!
However, not all backlinks are created equal.
As well as relevancy and authority, the search engines also look at the quality of the linking site – and some sites are just downright spammy.
We take a quick look at how a backlink audit can help you look into your backlink profile plus give you some insights as to what you can do to improve it.
What is a backlink audit?
A backlink audit is an SEO task which evaluates all of the links which currently point to your website.
During your audit, you will identify the good and bad ones and develop a strategy to improve or maintain your backlink profile.
A bad backlink profile can be the result of poor link building tactics in the past and this is not uncommon, since SEO is constantly changing and evolving.
Think link directories, forum spam and poorly written guest blog posts – they have all been used as SEO tactics in the past but are now quite rightly frowned upon.
How do you perform a backlink audit?
1. Analyse your competitors
Before you start your backlink audit, you should take a look at your competitors.
You can do a free search on Majestic, where you will be able to see the number of external backlinks, referring domains and types of links that your competitor has.
You can then use this as a benchmark to help you understand and rate your own backlink profile.
2. Find and download all of your backlinks
You can find and download a list of all of your referring domains on Google Search Console.
Simply log in and navigate to Search Traffic and then Links to your site.
You can then use this to review all of your backlinks manually.
3. Consider using a tool to help
If you have a large site which is content heavy, then it is likely to have a lot of referring domains.
This means that a manual process is likely to take a long time and so you may wish to consider whether there is an SEO tool which can do this for you, or at least save you some time.
An SEO tool is likely to automatically identify toxic backlinks and help you easily create a disavow file to upload to Google Search Console (more on that later!).
What should you look for when checking backlinks?
As you go through your backlinks, you should be looking for any toxic, or spam links, as well as any which are no longer working.
Click on each link and have a quick look at the site.
It should be easy to tell if it is a genuine, quality site or not.
If the website is just a long list of links, looks like it was last updated in the 1990s or has absolutely no relevance to your website, then it is likely that it will be seen as spam by the search engines.
Sometimes, you can tell just by looking at the referring URL: if the URL includes a lot of numbers then it is most likely to be spam.
If you have too many spam sites linking back to your site, Google is likely to view your site as spammy too. And your content will be penalised too.
Actions you can take from a backlink audit
Now that you have completed your backlink audit, it is time to set some actions. After all, this is the part that is really useful!
Monitor good quality backlinks
It is important to monitor and nurture any great quality backlinks you have managed to achieve, as losing one of these links could have a detrimental effect on your SEO.
These good quality links are likely to be from high authority websites such as news sites and tech sites.
Add a note to your monthly SEO to-do list to check that these links still exist and find a contact at the site, in case your link should ever be removed.
Find similar sites to approach
Have a look at the good quality sites that you have a link on already.
Is this an article that you could rewrite and send to another similar site? If it is a blog, you could offer a guest posting service to similar blogs or repurpose content which has proven popular.
You can use your backlink audit to inform your digital PR and link building strategy. More good quality links will help to improve both your domain authority and your SEO.
Remove bad links
When it comes to bad links, there are a couple of ways to get rid of these. You can choose to either get them removed or ‘disavow’ them.
To get them removed, simply reach out to the website owner and ask them to remove the link.
If you get no joy with this, you can disavow the link. Disavowing is basically letting Google know that you think the link is a threat to your site.
Be 100% sure of the links that you want to disavow – you would not want to accidentally add one which is beneficial for your SEO.
Once you know which links you want to disavow, you will need to create a Notepad file with a list of the links in before uploading this to Google Search Console.
Remember that the disavow links tool is only a signal to Google to ignore these links – it may not choose to do so.
How to chase down good quality backlinks
Setting a strategy to obtain credible and relevant backlinks is easier said than done. And it is important to understand that there is no quick, overnight fix.
That said, it is absolutely worth pursuing. Creating fresh, relevant and unique content on your own site, which reinforces your expertise, authority and trust, remains the most important starting point.
Thereafter, your strategy might include elements such as broken link building; chasing up links where your brand has been mentioned; getting added to relevant listicles and investing in digital PR.