It is not a secret that backlinks play a huge role in any website’s SEO. However, not all backlinks are good. Some might actually be hindering your site, and that’s why it’s important to run a backlink audit from time to time.
According to the latest link building stats, 37.3 percent of marketers judge a link’s quality by organic traffic.
A backlink audit is the process of analyzing your backlink profile more closely and eliminating “bad” links.
This can be done with the help of backlink monitoring software, like SEMrush or Ahrefs.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the most important steps of conducting such an audit.
Step 1 – Competitive Analysis
The first step actually includes looking at the backlink profiles of your competitors. Ahrefs has a neat function specifically for this called “Domain Comparison”.
With it, you will be able to reveal their:
- Domain Rating;
- Referring Domains;
- Referring Pages;
- The types of links they have.
By spotting the differences between your and your competitors’ link building strategies, you will be able to build a more cohesive, data-driven strategy.
For example, if they have considerably more referring domains, it means that you should put the gas on your link building pedal and dedicate some time and resources to building them.
Also take note of their link dynamics: is their number steadily growing, stagnating, or declining?
Another one of Ahrefs’ awesome features is called “Link Intersect”. It allows you to find websites that are linking to your competitors but not you. Use this as a chance to gather some prospects for your competitor backlinks strategy.
Step 2 – Check Your Link Dynamics
By “dynamics’, I mean two things specifically: velocity and churn. If translated to normal people’s words, it simply means growth and decline.
Of course, a decline in backlinks means bad business. If you see good backlinks getting removed for no apparent reason, you should reach out to those sites and see if you can get them added back.
A “good” link churn rate is considered to be around 2-3%. Every month, you will see that you have randomly gained and lost dozens, if not hundreds of random backlinks. This includes automated coupon sites and the like. You shouldn’t worry about these.
However, if the decline is greater than a couple of percent, it is very much worth looking into the reasons why.
Step 3 – Look For “Bad” Links
Good backlinks come from relevant, authoritative websites. But, unfortunately, toxic backlinks will eventually start showing up in your backlink profile, and it’s extremely important to spot these and deal with them in a timely fashion.
You can do this by checking your referring domains. A lot of the time, these will be fairly easy to spot: these links typically come from websites with weird or explicit names and very low Domain Rating, often zero.
How do you deal with these? While you can’t remove them yourself, what you can do is disavow them. This is done either through a disavow file, or Google’s Disavow tool.
Another good way to spot toxic backlinks is to look at their distribution by language, and country. If you see a number of backlinks that come from a random location that’s not part of your target audience, it is worth investigating (although it doesn’t necessarily mean that those are all bad).
The final advice I have for spotting bad links is to look for sudden spikes in your links number. I’m talking about hundreds of new links in a very short period – a day or two. These can indicate a potential attack on your SEO.
Step 4 – DoFollow Vs NoFollow Links
Backlinks can have dozens of different attributes, but arguably the most important two are DoFollow and NoFollow.
The “NoFollow” signal tells Google’s crawlers to “not follow” the link, which stops it from passing on any ranking signals. These are commonly found in various social media links.
DoFollow, or Follow links, on the other hand, do have a big impact on your SEO and pass on link equity, so, naturally, you want to have as many of these as you can.
A healthy backlink profile still has a number of NoFollow links, but they should be outnumbered by DoFollows at least two or three to one.
It may be a good idea to reach out to good websites that are linking to you but the backlink has the NoFollow tag and ask them to switch it to DoFollow. If they don’t want to do it for free, you can offer them an indirect link from one of your upcoming guest posts for other sites, for example.
Step 5 – Referring Pages Vs Referring Domains
The number of referring domains is more important than the number of referring pages or total backlinks. This is because links from unique websites are more weighty in the eyes of Google than multiple links from the same sites.
Keep this in mind when creating your link building campaigns. It is normal for referring pages to outnumber referring domains but it’s best if you can keep this ratio close to five to one.
Step 6 – External Backlinks
Linking out to external websites is perfectly normal and is encouraged. However, having too many external links coming from your site can really set your SEO back.
Think of your website as a bucket. Every new inbound link is like a droplet that falls into it. Every external link that you have is a little hole in that bucket through which the “link juice” flows out.
So, it is a good idea to limit the number of external links you have coming out from each one of your posts. For example, ten.
It is also a good idea to remove unnecessary outgoing backlinks from your site every 6 months or a year.
Step 7 – Internal Links
Interlinking your pages between each other is very good for your SEO. It makes your site easier to navigate both for people and Google’s crawlers.
If your site runs on WordPress, you can see the number of incoming internal links every blog post has in the “Posts” tab.
You should do your best to have at least five incoming internal links coming to every single one of your posts.
You can also use an internal linking plugin like Link Whisper to automate internal linking and free up time for more important tasks.
Step 8 – Broken Links And Redirects
The name of this step speaks for itself, really.
You really don’t want to have any 404s or in any other way broken links, as well as excessive redirects. Ahrefs does all of the searching for you, so all you need to do is take care of the links themselves.
To maintain a healthy backlink profile, it is crucial to keep performing these backlink audits regularly. You can do it every 6 months or a year, but it’s also a good idea to set up Ahrefs alerts and passively keep an eye of what’s happening to your backlinks.
If you need further support in getting you website to climb up the search rankings, get in touch with our experienced SEO Agency today!