What is a Backlink Audit?
If you’re looking to improve your online visibility via Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the number and quality of backlinks pointing to your website is a key metric.
In fact, backlinks are commonly accepted as one of Google’s most important factors when determining organic rankings in search.
So it goes without saying that creating a strategy to build and maintain trustworthy and related backlinks should be the first port of call for website owners.
And it all begins right here, with conducting a backlink audit.
Remember, not all backlinks have the same power or value to your website. For example, a link from an extremely reputable news website is going to be much more valuable to your site than a link from a spammy, unrelated blog.
Let’s explore backlink audits, looking at what they are, who needs them and ultimately finishing with how to conduct one.
In a nutshell, a backlink audit encompasses finding every backlink pointing to your website, individually analyzing them and then planning a future path for the backlink profile of your site.
As we touched upon above, not all backlinks you receive are of equal value.
For this reason, conducting a backlink audit to discover where the true value lies and where you could source improvement is paramount.
SEO is a constantly changing and evolving field.
Consequently, not all tactics that worked and were deemed acceptable by Google in the past, remain relevant today.
Past SEO tactics include using link directories, spamming forums and writing poorly written guest posts. All of which are now rightly considered unacceptable.
As we write this, we can literally feel the dread you’re feeling about the link building tactics your website has engaged in in the past.
But stop right there, you can relax. Not only can we help you clean up your website’s backlink profile and remove any penalties coming from Google, we will ultimately be able to devise a link building strategy that will put you in good stead for the future.
This all starts by conducting a backlink audit.
Who Needs a Backlink Audit?
We can’t stress enough that conducting a backlink audit is so much more than simply finding good and bad links to your site.
Backlink audits actually can and should form the basis for not only your website’s link building strategy, but your entire SEO strategy going forward.
Yes, they’re really that important.
For this reason, every website both old and new should conduct a backlink audit to ensure they’re on the right path moving forward.
If you think that you may not need to conduct a backlink audit, stop for a second and consider the following scenario.
Maybe your site saw a great deal online with a cheap freelancer offering their link building services at a rate that you just couldn’t refuse.
On the surface, it seemed like your site received a ton of backlinks. Happy days, right?
Well after conducting a backlink audit, it was discovered that the majority of those backlinks were extremely toxic to your site.
The audit meant you were quickly able to spot the problem, remove the toxic backlinks and move forward with a clear strategy in mind.
You see, natural links from domains related to your niche is the key to a healthy link profile. Just going for volume won’t cut it anymore, especially if they’re coming from low quality sites under downright spammy anchor text.
This type of behavior will actually harm your SEO and could result in a manual penalty, causing your web pages to disappear from Google’s search results.
Without a backlink audit, you would never have been aware of the issue and certainly not been presented with a clear plan on how to progress.
Every website needs to conduct a backlink audit.
How to Do a Backlink Audit
There are a number of different ways to conduct a backlink audit, but as the old saying goes – The devil is always in the detail.
We’ve broken down how to do a link audit by implementing the following four step process.
Step 1 – Evaluate your backlink profile against competitors
The first step when conducting a backlink audit is to research how you compare to your competitors in the landscape of your niche.
Compare yourself with the following:
- Number of links from different domains.
- Their authority scores.
- The types of backlinks.
- Any attributes that they contain.
You want to understand where they’re strong, where they’re weak and overall, be able to get an overview of their own backlink building strategy.
From this research, you’ll know where to focus the most attention to get maximum value out of your links compared to those you’re trying to outrank.
Step 2 – Find and analyze all of your current backlinks
Now it’s time to divert the attention from your competitors to your own website and analyze your own current list of backlinks.
Semrush’s backlink audit tool can be extremely handy for completing this step and is something we go over in much more detail within the following backlink audit tools section of this guide.
Start with low hanging fruit like removing spammy links that hurt your rankings and go from there.
Step 3 – Check for penalties and clean up harmful links
Next up comes checking to make sure none of your links have received either manual or algorithmic penalties from Google.
You will need to find all of your bad backlinks such as those from spammy sites that you or a past regime has paid for and other already penalized sources.
The first thing you’ll need to do is request for those links to be removed via email.
If your links are from spammy sites, then most likely your request will be ignored so you’ll have to disavow the bad backlinks yourself.
The Disavow tool found within Google Search Console will help you prevent link-based penalties, allowing you to discount the value of any inbound link.
Step 4 – Identify new opportunities and move forward with a plan
This key final step involves comparing what you have with your competitors and figuring out where you’re going to be able to see the best results.
Whether that’s in filling gaps that your competitors don’t rank for, or simply ensuring you’re not investing time and money into strengthening areas where you already rank well for.
After conducting your backlink audit, the outcome needs to be a clear plan around the link building strategy your website must employ in order to improve.
Backlink Audit Tools
When it comes to undertaking an effective backlink audit, there are a number of tools available to make your life a whole lot easier.
Let’s go over three of the most important tools you need to be familiar with.
- Semrush backlink audit tool
The Semrush backlink audit tool is an all in one tool that allows you to find and analyze your backlinks.
It allows you to set up a project and make configurations using your target keywords, categories, and competitors associated with your domain.
The Semrush backlink audit tool outputs a full report featuring your website’s health score and a prioritized list of errors, warnings and notices about your site’s issues.
Information designed to help the tool understand how relevant each backlink is.
- Ahrefs backlink audit tool
Boasting the second most active web crawler after Google, the Ahrefs backlink audit tool is another popular option for finding and analyzing backlinks.
With a staggering backlink database, Ahrefs’ backlink audit tool is a comprehensive tool that will more than get the job done.
With access to both tools, we more than have our bases covered when it comes to conducting effective backlink audits.
- Disavow Tool in Google Search Console
As part of Google Search Console, the Disavow tool allows you to discount the value of an inbound link.
Google’s war on link spam puts some online businesses at risk of receiving an organic search penalty, thus making the tool’s ultimate goal of preventing link-based penalties more important than ever.
As we discussed above when checking for penalties and cleaning up harmful links, Google’s Disavow Tool is key to protecting your site from harmful, spammy links that are hurting your rankings in organic search.
Final Thoughts on Backlink Audits
After having explored backlink audits in detail, you should now have an understanding of what they are, who needs them and ultimately how to go about conducting one.
Having low quality links isn’t as dangerous as it was before the release of the Penguin update into Google’s real-time core algorithm.
But even in today’s SEO landscape, conducting a backlink audit is imperative.
We can’t stress the importance of getting your link building strategy correct and conducting a link audit is a logical starting point.
Backlink Audit Service
If you’re looking for high-quality backlink audit services, then get in touch with our experienced team today.