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.
Here’s a step-by-step process:
- Login & Dashboard: Sign in to your Ahrefs account and enter your website URL into the ‘Site Explorer’ tool.
- Overview: Once your site is loaded, navigate to the ‘Backlink profile’ section. Here, you’ll get a snapshot of your site’s overall backlink health, including the number of referring domains, backlinks, and domain rating (DR).
- Referring Domains: Click on ‘Referring Domains’ to see a list of all domains linking to your site. Prioritize domains with a high DR, as they can significantly influence your site’s ranking.
- Backlinks: Navigate to the ‘Backlinks’ section to view individual links. Look for any suspicious or low-quality links.
- Analyze Anchor Text: Under the ‘Anchors’ tab, review the anchor texts used for your backlinks. This can give insights into the relevance of the links and if there’s any over-optimized anchor text that might appear spammy.
- Lost & New Backlinks: Monitor the ‘Lost’ and ‘New’ backlinks sections to track recent changes in your backlink profile. This can help identify any lost valuable links or gain potentially harmful ones.
- Disavow Harmful Links: If you identify any toxic or spammy backlinks, consider disavowing them using Google’s Disavow Tool. While Ahrefs doesn’t directly disavow links, it can help you identify which ones might need disavowing.
- Regular Audits: Regularly conduct backlink audits to maintain a healthy link profile and promptly address any issues.
Remember, while the quantity of backlinks is important, the quality and relevance of those links play a crucial role in your site’s SEO health. Regular audits in Ahrefs ensure you maintain a robust and clean backlink profile.
- Log in to SEMrush: If you don’t have an account, you’ll need to create one. If you already have an account, simply log in.
- Navigate to the Dashboard: Once logged in, you should find yourself on the dashboard or main page.
- Find the Backlink Audit Tool: Look for a section related to backlinks, SEO, or link building. The exact location might vary depending on the current design of the site, but it’s often found under the “SEO” or “Link Building” section.
- Start a New Audit: Once you’ve found the Backlink Audit Tool, you may need to start a new audit or select a project if you’ve already set one up. Follow the on-screen instructions to begin analyzing your backlinks.
- Configure the Audit: You may need to enter specific information about the site you want to audit, such as the domain name. Follow the prompts to configure the audit to your needs.
- Analyze the Results: Once the audit is complete, you can analyze the results, filter them, and take action based on the insights provided.
Please note that some features, including the Backlink Audit Tool, may require a paid subscription to SEMrush.
Step 1: Choose Your Tool First things first, you’ve got to pick your weapon of choice. Tools like Ahrefs, SEMRush, Moz, or even Google’s Search Console can do the job. It’s like choosing the right tool for a DIY project – pick the one that fits your needs and budget.
Step 2: Dive into Your Backlink Profile Once you’ve got your tool, it’s time to dive into your backlink profile. You’ll want to look at things like the number of backlinks, referring domains, anchor text, and more. It’s like taking a magnifying glass to the fine print of your site’s SEO.
Step 3: Spot the Bad Apples Now, you’ve got to look for any toxic or low-quality backlinks. These are the ones that can drag your site down. Most tools will have features that help you spot these bad apples, so keep an eye out for any red flags.
Step 4: Reach Out to Site Owners If you find any toxic backlinks, try reaching out to the site owners to ask them to remove the link. Be polite and professional. It’s like asking a neighbor to turn down their music – a little courtesy goes a long way.
Step 5: Use Google’s Disavow Tool if Needed If you can’t get the toxic backlinks removed, you can use Google’s Disavow Tool. This tells Google to ignore these links when assessing your site. It’s like putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on those bad backlinks.
Step 6: Keep an Eye on Things A backlink audit isn’t a one-and-done deal. You’ll want to keep an eye on your backlink profile and regularly check for any new toxic backlinks. It’s like regular maintenance on your car – it keeps things running smoothly.
Step 7: Analyze Competitors if You Want Extra Insights Want to go the extra mile? Consider analyzing your competitors’ backlinks as well. It can give you insights into potential link-building opportunities and help you understand the competitive landscape.
So there you have it, a step-by-step guide to running a backlink audit on your website. It’s like giving your site a regular check-up to make sure everything’s in working order. Happy auditing!
1. Ahrefs: Ahrefs is like the Swiss Army knife of SEO tools. It’s got everything you need to audit backlinks, from a comprehensive backlink profile to a handy “toxic link” flagging feature. It’s a favorite among many SEO pros, and for good reason.
2. SEMRush: SEMRush is another big player in the game. With its Backlink Audit Tool, you can analyze your backlinks, spot potential problems, and even reach out to site owners right from the platform. It’s like having your own personal backlink detective agency.
3. Moz: Moz’s Link Explorer is a great tool for digging into your backlink profile. It gives you insights into your linking domains, anchor text, and more. It’s like having a microscope to examine the DNA of your backlinks.
4. Majestic: Majestic is all about the links. With its Site Explorer, you can get a detailed look at your backlinks, including a Trust Flow and Citation Flow score. It’s like having a weather report for the climate of your backlink profile.
5. Google Search Console: Don’t overlook Google’s own Search Console. It’s a free tool that gives you insights into your backlinks straight from the horse’s mouth. It might not have all the bells and whistles of the other tools, but it’s a solid choice for a basic backlink audit.