If you have recently onboarded a new SEO client or taken up the SEO charge for your company’s website, you need to do a mandatory task–perform a backlink audit.
You might tend to ask why it is so important. And the answer is that it enables you to figure out whether the site is in good condition so that you can start working on it. In addition, you can regard the task as making sure that the website is free of spammy backlinks, which could hinder your SEO efforts or, in the worst case, trigger a Google penalty.
What is a Backlink Audit?
Before proceeding further, let us know what the backlink audit is all about. In simple terms, you can regard a backlink audit to examine all links pointing to your website. Meaning, you should find all the links and subsequently identify the good and bad links. The identification will help you formulate the right strategy to deal with the links on your website effectively.
To begin a backlink audit, download the existing backlinks from the Google search console and review all your backlinks manually. But things get challenging if your website is extensive with many referring domains. For such large websites, the manual process of backlink audits can take significant time.
So for it, there are effective ways out. You can accomplish the task in a lesser time if you use a backlink audit and analytics tool.
When Should You Do a Backlink Audit?
The answer is that you can do it even now. There is no specific time when you should carry out a backlink audit.
Best idea is to start auditing backlinks as soon as you get a new project. It will ensure that you know the spammy backlinks, dragging down your site’s SEO before they make your site invisible from search engine results.
After that you can track your backlinks, using any of the Backlink Analytics tools like Semrsuh, Ahrefs etc, every 30-90 days, depending on your domain’s SEO. The idea is to prevent bad backlinks from negatively impacting the search rankings. Therefore, you need to monitor who is linking to the domain.
If you see a drastic fall in search engine rankings, check out for poor backlinks, as they could be the reason behind the fall.
If your site is new, then backlinks will play a significant role in the search engine rankings. But, you cannot expect Google to control every link for large websites that get thousands of hits per day. Yet, you cannot disregard Google. It examines the domains that link to your website to decide your rankings.
How to Audit Backlinks?
You need a tool to audit backlinks. And, there are many tools, such as Semrush, CongnitiveSEO, Ahrefs, etc.
In this article, we are going to explain the backlink audit process using the Semrush tool although you can use any other as well as per your choice. The features offered in every tool are almost more or less the same. In Semrush tool, the backlink audit process involves the following steps:
#1.Assess Competitors’ Strategies
Although it is not a necessary step, it can give you a good insight into your competitors’ link building strategies. In addition, it will help you to evaluate your site better.
It is, however, a simple task. First, use the backlink analytics feature in the Semrush tool and type in your domain and one to four competitors’ domains. Subsequently, the Overview tab in the tool will show you whether you are moving in the right direction in your link building strategy.
You should look at:
- The number of backlinks, referring domains and referring IPs to figure out how big your backlink footprints areas are compared to those of your competitors.
- Authority scores that determine the attractiveness of your domain for link building prospects.
- Backlink types to find out the types of your competitors’ content that are most linked to.
- Link attributes to find out the weaknesses in your competitors’ profiles.
- The referring domains to figure out if you should be reaching out to more domains than you currently do.
#2.Examine Your Backlinks
After knowing the relevancy of your backlink portfolio to the competition, you should explore the main issues that are disabling you from beating them. You should start by finding the spammy links that can negatively impact your rankings. Also, you should keep an eye on many other things, like valuable links you might be losing or the gaps in your link building strategy you are missing.
Use the tool, and master how to find bad backlinks and analyze your backlinks.
Set up a project in the Backlink Audit section of the tool, and configure the section by entering your target keywords, categories, and competitors associated with your domain. With the configuration, the tool will understand the relevance of each link.
You should look at the following in the Overview tab:
- High Overall Toxic Score, indicating many harmful links pointing to your website
- The number of analyzed backlinks are very high or very low. If very high, you are not building links or creating much content, and there arises the possibility of a spam attack. You should master the art of how to create quality backlinks. On the contrary, if there are very low analyzed backlinks, your site could be perceived as toxic by the others on the web.
- Referring domains are small in number. If there are many links from one domain, it can arouse suspicion from Google.
- The Referring domains have a High Toxic Score, resulting from either poor link building or negative SEO.
- Prevalence of Money and Compound anchors, Google considers them as toxic.
#3.Determine Whether to Disavow or Remove Harmful Links
The next thing to do is to eliminate the toxic backlinks. You can do it in two ways. One, reach out to the referring website owner and ask them to delete the link. It is called Removal. Two, Send it to the disavow list and then export it to the Google Disavow tool. The process is called Disavow.
Do not waste time in contacting spammers and scammers. Instead, divide the toxic links into two parts: the ones you can get removed and those you cannot remove.
Whitelist all the links with a Toxic Score below 45 in the Audit tab of the Backlink Audit section of the Semrush tool. After that, filter the list to see the toxic links and group them based on the main issues. Suppose, if you get a high Toxic Score, you should spot the links that caused it. Usually, what happens is that such links come from domains of which the owners are not interested in removing the links.
You can also filter the list by Link Attribute or Anchors. It will give you some links that you can remove.
#4. Reorganize Your Backlink Portfolio
The next step is to reorganize your backlink portfolio. And the following are the two steps:
Go to the Remove tab in the Semrush tool and connect your email. You need to customize the constituent template to send emails requesting link removal. And to access the recipients’ email addresses, you need to rely either on automatic detection or find them out from the internet. Subsequently, you can monitor the responses through Semrush and your mailbox.
If you cannot find a link or cannot contact the owner, disavowing can be the only option. Go to the Disavow tab in the Semrush disavow tool and export its contents to .txt. After that, upload it to the Google Disavow tool for the appropriate domain.
A backlink audit is a crucial exercise for your website. It is not only about removing toxic backlinks but also getting high-quality links. Therefore, do not miss out on such audits.