Backlinks are an essential aspect of any SEO strategy. They help search engines determine the authority and relevance of a website, and can have a significant impact on its ranking. However, not all backlinks are created equal. Some may be spammy, low-quality, or even harmful to a website’s ranking.
That’s where a backlink audit comes in. A backlink audit involves analyzing the backlinks to your website and identifying any spammy or low-quality links that may be hurting your website’s ranking. In this blog post, we will discuss how to conduct a backlink audit for your website.
Step 1: Gather backlink data
The first step in conducting a backlink audit is to gather backlink data. There are several tools available that can help you do this, such as Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Moz. These tools provide a comprehensive analysis of your backlink profile, including the number of backlinks, the quality of the backlinks, and the anchor text used in the links.
Once you have chosen a tool, enter your website’s URL and wait for the tool to gather the backlink data. This may take a few minutes, depending on the size of your website and the number of backlinks it has.
Step 2: Analyze the data
Once you have gathered the backlink data, it’s time to analyze it. Look for any spammy or low-quality links that may be hurting your website’s ranking. Some signs of spammy or low-quality links include:
- Links from irrelevant websites or pages
- Links from websites with low domain authority
- Links from websites with a high number of outbound links
- Links with irrelevant or spammy anchor text
- Links from websites that are flagged as spammy or malicious
Make a list of all the backlinks that you suspect may be spammy or low-quality.
Step 3: Identify the source of the spammy links
Once you have identified the spammy links, it’s time to identify the source of the links. This will help you determine whether the links were created intentionally to harm your website’s ranking or whether they are a result of a mistake or oversight.
Some common sources of spammy links include:
- Low-quality directory websites
- Paid links
- Link exchanges
- Blog comments with links
- Spammy guest posts
Make a note of the source of each spammy link.
Step 4: Remove or disavow the spammy links
The final step in conducting a backlink audit is to remove or disavow the spammy links. Removing the links involves reaching out to the webmasters of the websites that are linking to your website and asking them to remove the links. This can be a time-consuming process, but it’s worth it to improve the health of your backlink profile.
If you are unable to remove the links, you can disavow them. Disavowing a link means telling Google that you do not want the link to be considered when calculating your website’s ranking. To disavow a link, create a file that lists all the links you want to disavow and submit it to Google.
In conclusion, conducting a backlink audit is an essential part of any SEO strategy. It helps identify spammy or low-quality links that may be harming your website’s ranking and allows you to remove or disavow them. By following the steps outlined in this blog post, you can conduct a thorough backlink audit and improve the health of your backlink profile.
1. What do you think about sponsored blogs (sponsored links) vs guest blogs (unpaid links)? Does Google punish you for “link buying”?
Yes. Google will punish sites that are caught selling links, buying links, or paid links agencies/service providers. Manual action usually occurs when it’s done on a substantial scale. Of course, Matt Cutts posted the following today, which might help clear up some confusion about punishment by association (hat tip to Barry over at SERoundtable for sharing this).
2. Do you think guest blogs will be ignored by Google in the future as they are often fairly thin content-wise?
I’ll answer both questions here. No, I don’t see guest posts as a whole being devalued by Google. The Whitehouse.gov accepts guest posts and so does every craptastic exact-match Blogspot. Google isn’t going to devalue content from the Whitehouse, just like they won’t devalue Blogspot, which also hosts incredibly authoritative communities and blogs like Google’s own Google Webmaster Central blog. Basically, we create spam websites, but that doesn’t mean Google devalues websites. The responsibility lies with search engines to develop an algorithm that determines qualitative sites vs spam. The same is now true of individual content on those sites and if my blog is hosting guest posts from payday loan, online college degree, and shoe retailer sites, it’s probably not a great blog. If the blog hosts guest posts only from wedding planners, bridal stores, and party favor sites, it’s probably still very valuable to that industry.
3. Is broken link building still effective? Is broken link building with other relevant websites in your industry still effective?
Yes. However, I think this is a practice that is relied on too heavily. When done as a primary form of link development, I think the bigger issue is why you’ve hit a creative wall and don’t have other methods in rotation. Is this because of a lack of resources, internal/client approval, new ideas, etc.? Do broken link building, but don’t put all your eggs in this basket, because you aren’t investing the development of your brand at all.
4. Do you think outreach is the future of link building? Should SEOs spend more time in this area?
Yes. It’s also the past and present of link building just like content is king, has been, and always will be. This is almost like saying, “Will communicating a message to someone be the best way to market your brand?” YES! Outreach is fundamentally about establishing a relationship with someone. The method and tools you take to achieve that may be different from season to season, but this will never go away.
5. Besides themed guest posting, does social bookmarking still help vary your link profile?
I’ll answer both questions here. There are still a lot of active social bookmarking sites that range from generic to special interests. Many have nofollowed backlinks at this point, but some remain followed. My recommendation isn’t to find those followed social bookmarking sites and spam them, but to recognize that if the community is active, you’re spreading your visibility and reach and that’s a good thing. This will often result in the discovery of your content that may lead to a backlink.
Personally, I don’t encourage my team to go after social bookmarks as a backlink for client work because we’re being held to a higher standard for link quality. Unless we know that link has the potential to get picked up by the community, seeding it through social channels doesn’t make a lot of sense.
When it comes to directories, these are still effective, but yes, they’re over-saturated. This means that your competitors will probably be able to easily acquire the same backlinks and the directory may have been devalued for linking out to an unusually high number of questionable domains. There are still many great directories out there though, especially industry-specific directories, so don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. When I talk to my team I look at directories in this way:
- Get good web directories.
- Get good social media and blog directories.
- Get good local directories.
Directories are still a great way to find reputable websites, social profiles, blogs, and local business listings. Not being included in them is just silly and a bad business practice. You should determine your own metrics for assigning value and authority to the directories. I’m probably more picky than most would be!
6. How do we do a backlink audit? Is it by using Fresh Web Explorer, or something else?
We usually start Google Webmaster Tools, the client’s analytics solution, Majestic SEO/Open Site Explorer, and a crawler like Screaming Frog. Most important: Excel. You don’t need a whole lot more than that!