There’s nothing like a good backlink. Not only do you get a shiny vote of confidence from that site, but Google weighs backlinks heavily into its ranking algorithm.
But just as much as high-quality links help your site, low-quality links can hurt your site. Plus, getting quality backlinks is no walk in the park.
A backlink audit can help you with all of these things. So in this post, I’m going to walk you through how to do a backlink audit so you can:
Let’s get started!
A backlink audit shows you a detailed report and analysis of all of the links that are pointing to your website from other websites (these are called backlinks). This includes which domains and pages are linking to your site, which specific pages are getting the links, as well as details to help you assess the quality of those links like the IP addresses, categories, anchor text, types (follow vs. no follow) and authority scores of those referring links.
Most, if not all backlink audit tools will surface these insights and provide action items that you can complete right in the report, like whitelisting or disavowing.
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Given that backlinks are one of the top Google ranking factors, a backlink audit is a must for anyone trying to maintain the highest ranking possible. But let’s go one layer deeper into why this practice is so good for SEO:
Here’s an easy five-step process you can use to assess the backlinks on your website.
There are two main ways to do a backlink audit for your site. The first is through Google Search Console. This method is free, but since it does not provide granular details, it’s best for just a basic overview or for carrying out a specific objective for a smaller site.
The second is through an SEO tool like Ahrefs or Semrush. Though these tools are paid, you’ll get the granular insights you need to fix mistakes, harness opportunities, troubleshoot anomalies, and optimize for the results you want. I’ll share the process for both of these methods later in the post.
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Without an understanding of backlink lingo, even the most basic of audit reports will put your head in a spin. Here are some of the key data points to look for in a backlink audit:
A healthy backlink profile has a mix of anchor text types (branded and non-branded, keyword and non-keyword, for example) and a mix of Authority Scores from referring domains. This indicates that you’ve earned these links ethically and naturally over time. And despite your best efforts, the internet is a wild, wild world—so you need to go in and assess the quality of your links to make sure they are a reflection of your efforts and trustworthiness.
Several action items can result from your backlink assessment, but here are some key examples.
Once you’ve completed your action items, run your audit tool again to see if your scores change. And be sure to schedule regular backlink crawls and set up notifications for new, broken, and/or lost backlinks.
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To do a backlink audit with Google Search Console, follow these steps:
Here’s a closer look at each of those lists:
This is a list of your website pages ordered by how many backlinks they have (incoming links), as well as linking sites. The reason these two numbers are different is that one site can link out to one of your pages multiple times.
In the example below, you can see that the Hatch homepage gets the most backlinks by far (17,040) from a total of 328 sites.
You can also click on any one page and see which sites are linking to it. It’s helpful to see your top referrers for many reasons:
While top linked pages will rank your pages by how many backlinks they have, this list will show you the sites that link to you the most. In this analysis, we can see that the top three sites are Woodfordbros.com, Pellabranch.com, and sunshinecontractingcorp.com. Depending on your knowledge of these sites and relationship with those businesses, you may or may not want to look into exactly what they’re linking to and where.
The top linking text list shows you a list of the anchor text used to link to your site. There aren’t specific metrics here, just a ranking. Our top three linked text includes “powered by hatch” which makes sense since we offer a chat widget on customer websites, “hatch,” and “www.usehatchapp.com.”
Top linked pages (internal) orders your website pages by how many links they have from other pages on your site. Internal linking is essential for SEO and user experience.
Just like with the external link analysis, you can click into any one target link and look at the pages that are linking to it.
As mentioned above, the second way to do a backlink audit is to use an SEO tool. Ahrefs is known for having the best backlink analysis capabilities, as it originated as a backlink tool. But for any standard backlink analysis, any tool should do. In this example, I’m going to use Semrush.
Here’s how to do a backlink audit with Semrush (you can find more detailed steps on Semrush’s page):
Backlinks are a key factor in Google’s algorithm, but merely producing content worthy of backlinks is not enough. You need to have an informed, proactive strategy that keeps quality at the forefront, and you can’t have this without regular backlink audits. Use the steps, tips, and tools outlined in this post to keep your site’s health, reputation, and rankings high.
Here’s how to do a backlink audit in five steps:
Kristen is the Senior Managing Editor at WordStream, where she helps businesses to make sense of their online marketing and advertising. She specializes in SEO and copywriting and finds life to be exponentially more delightful on a bicycle.
See other posts by Kristen McCormick
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