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We know that backlinks represent the authority of a website. Without having them achieving a high search engine ranking position is nearly impossible. However, link building is only one part of an SEO campaign. It is not the end of our mission to have a powerful backlink profile.
Let me give you an example.
You can not plant an apple seed on the ground and leave it unattended if you’re planning to harvest apples from that tree. You will need to observe each and every stage of growth from the seed to the actual apple tree and take the necessary actions when it is required.
Building a healthy backlink profile is no different from growing an apple tree. You will need to monitor the growth of your backlink profile, act to speed it up, and prevent things that may have a negative impact on the process.
Many SEOs are purely focused on building up the maximum number of links while neglecting backlink maintenance.
What is Backlink Maintenance?
Backlink maintenance is the continuous monitoring and optimization of a backlink portfolio. It includes the regular verification of the quality and the number of backlinks, as well as the overall distribution of backlinks in a portfolio.
For example, having a backlink profile consists mostly of dofollow links, or being concentrated from a certain type of anchor text is not natural.
Your website may earn new backlinks that you may not even be aware of. Depending on the type of link you get, your SEO campaign may be affected either positively or negatively.
If someone likes your content and links to it from their website, that’s great. In fact, this is the most ideal link building scenario that can happen. However, sometimes your competitors may run negative SEO campaigns to outperform your website in SERP results.
All the reasons I have mentioned above indicate the importance of why you should perform a link analysis to audit your backlink profile on a regular basis.
We’re going to discuss today what are the important things to keep an eye on so that you can ensure a healthy link profile growth.
How Backlink Profile Audits can help your SEO?
Backlink analysis can help you find toxic backlinks that you may or may not be aware of. If you had sudden traffic drops, this may be due to the toxicity of your backlink profile. Don’t get paranoid though, there may be other reasons, such as Google algorithm updates, or a competitor outranked your website.
When you do auditing, you will not only analyze your own website, but also some of your competitor’s websites.
This can help you to strategize a competitive link building plan to better position yourself in SERP results. Truth be told, no matter what type of SEO you do, your work is always ranked in reference to what your competitors do.
So embrace the fact that you’re in a never-ending battle with the other websites in your niche to outrank them. You should be constantly sharpening your SEO skills and practicing them to be victorious for years to come.
How to do a Backlink Profile Audit?
So far we have discussed why would you need an audit without going in detail how to do it. Here we are going to break down the entire auditing process.
Define who are your competitors
You may have a mommy blog that you’re competing with other moms, or you may want to sell painting services in your local area. Before starting the backlink analysis, you should know who you’re competing with.
I remember a great quote from The Art of War, by Sun Tzu.
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.”
You can search your keywords in Google to find out your competitors. List the top SERP results for these keywords. If you rank # 7th, look at the other six websites ranking in front of you.
If you know the backlink profile, domain age, and authority of your competing websites, you can evaluate the type of keywords that you might consider targeting.
If there are very high authority websites with tons of backlinks for your targeted keyword, you may not get their level of authority, no matter what type of link building campaign you run.
At least for a while, you can pursue keyword gaps that allow you to steal traffic from places that your strong competitors have not yet tapped.
However, if you pursue a keyword and there are only a few domains with a low or equal authority to your website, you can compete and hopefully outrank them by simply creating a better type of content.
Select a Link Analysis Tool
Tools in our life to make the processes more efficient. You’ll need some kind of backlink analysis tool that reports what you need to know.
There are free and paid ones that you can choose from.
If you can not afford a paid tool yet, Ubersuggest can provide the essential information you need. However, paid tools are far superior to provide more in-depth and accurate data.
What to look for in an audit?
The results of a backlink audit can be confusing if you have never used these tools before. However, I’m going to show you what you need to look for so that you can assess the findings yourself.
I am using SEMrush for my audit, however, you can use your favorite tool for this goal. Let me show you what you need to look for in your audit.
Total number of links
The total number of links is the first metric you need to look at. Theoretically, the website has more links has more authority. In practice, it’s a bit more complicated than that. We’ll discuss how a healthy backlink profile looks like later in this post.
Number of referring domains
The number of referring domains is by far the most important metric search engines consider. It tells us how many different root domains are linking to our site.
Assuming random two websites have the same amount of backlinks, the website has more amount of referring domains has more authority. Ideally, we want our links to come from different domains. It’s not a bad thing to have a few links from a certain website.
However, having hundreds of links from a certain website is not a good thing. Although Google may not consider this to be a violation, it may omit the effect that you get from these links. Maybe all links coming from a single domain can be counted as one big link.
Referring domain’s authority
As I have said earlier, more links are better, and there’s no doubt about that. However, this assumption is made given that links come from high authority domains.
Many SEO experts argue that having a few links from high-authority domains can work much better than having a ton of links coming from mediocre power domains.
I don’t completely agree with this assumption. Because the number of referring domains is no surprise a part of Google’s algorithm. You should look for having as many links as possible from the highest authority websites. So, aim both for quality and quantity when it comes to link building.
If your website is about roof repair, you should look for having links from the websites about roof repair. If this is not the case, your referring domain should in one of the niches about construction.
Having backlinks from a website in the organic farming niche doesn’t pass authority to your website.
Is it something bad having links from the websites that are not in your niche?
It is not something you should worry about. A natural backlink profile should have links from the websites in other niches. Remember, a backlink profile is natural if only you don’t control the link building process.
However, if you have a serious percentage of your link profile consist of topically irrelevant links, you may not be going to build authority.
Referring domain’s reputation
“You are the people you surround yourself with.”
If your links are coming from spammy websites, and they have a high percentage in your overall link profile then you are in trouble.
Look at the below image, the type of toxic link build for a website.
Avoid building these types of links for your website. I don’t think you would intentionally do it. However, if you get caught having a few of them, you may seriously harm your domain reputation.
How to avoid toxic links?
If you buy an expired domain, always check for these types of links. Even if you see there is one of them, just skip it to find another domain.
If your website didn’t have this type of link beforehand, but somehow you have got it, reach out to webmasters and ask for removal. You may be surprised how many times these links are created through hacking attempts without knowledge of the site owner.
If you cannot contact the site owner, or can’t get any response. Make a list of links that you believe toxic. Go to Google Webmaster Console to disavow these links. What disavowing links mean, denying responsibility for the effect of these links pointing to your website.
Anchor text distribution
Anchor text is the clickable text portion of a link. If your website is about roof repair, having links with the anchor text “roof repair” is ideal. However, it is not as simple to be summarized like this.
In fact, anchor text distribution can be a subject of whole another post. But I am going to summarize a few key points you need to pay attention to.
You will need a combination of different types of anchor texts.
- Generic ( this one, that link, check this out, etc.)
- Naked (https://example.com the anchor text is the destination URL by itself.)
- Exact match (“red shoes” if you are targeting red shoes as your keyword.)
- Partial match (“red winter shoe designs” is the partial match if you target “red shoes as your main keyword)
- Image anchor (A clickable image created to link your website.)
Having an exact match, or partial match anchors too often may cause a link penalty. Visit very high authority websites to understand what a normal anchor text distribution looks like.
Type of your backlinks
Links can be in different forms. Having a versatile distribution of links is something you should aim for. All text links or all image links are kind of suspicious, and not a feature of a natural link profile.
Another important thing is the link attribute by itself. There are four types of link attributes:
You can do your own research to find out what they are. However, I’m going to mention the first two (dofollow and nofollow link attributes) of them. Since the last two are just nofollow link attributes, carry more information for search engines.
Dofollow links parse PageRank and authority to your website, while nofollow links cannot. You want your backlinks to be dofollow, but it’s not natural to have all dofollow links. You will need to maintain a good dofollow/nofollow link ratio for your link portfolio.
Link location is often overlooked by SEOs. Let’s say you have two dofollow backlinks. Both are coming from the same authority website. One link is coming from the content and the other one from the author’s bio section.
Which one would help your SEO more?
The response is very obvious. Link coming from content is more powerful. We want to have text above and below our backlink. Google can algorithmically scan webpages to detect from what part of the page link is coming from.
If your link is contextual then it is great. If your link is at the bottom of the page in the resources section, it may not have an equal effect on your website.
Linking Websites Country Distribution
If your website is in English and targeted audience in the US, then most of your links should come from the US websites. If you get most of your links from Japanese websites then it may be something wrong with your backlink profile.
Most link analysis tools can tell today from what country links are coming from by looking at IP addresses of referring sites.
Link profile growth
Link profile growth refers to the rate you build links over time. Most analysis tools should give you a chart plotting the data of your backlink progress. You should target having a constant growth in your link profile without having big spikes.
Because spikes in the link profile can signal an artificial link building behavior to the search engines. However, at certain times, you may post more content and naturally get more links. It is not every time possible to get a link growth flat like a pancake.
How does your backlink profile compare to your competitors?
We have discussed so far how you should audit your backlink profile. However, ignoring your competitors you can not go very far in SEO.
If you use a high-quality link building tool like SEMrush, you can compare your link profile to your competitors. It even recommends you from what domains you should get links to compete with the other sites in front of you.
If your competitor published a guest post on a certain website, you may also consider reaching out to that website for a guest posting opportunity.
A backlink audit is a key step in verifying the health of your website. It allows you to detect if your website is at risk of having a penalty, and identifies weak and valuable links. It also helps to find link building opportunities by checking the link profile of your competitor.
If you want to succeed in a competitive sphere like SEO, site audits should be part of your regular activities. Remember, If you can’t measure your website, you can’t improve it.