When it comes to SEO, one of the most important elements of optimising your website is obtaining relevant, organic backlinks. Google frowns on paying for backlinks; that’s part of what we call “black hat SEO”, and you want to avoid that at any cost. With that in mind, what you want to do ideally is to build a level of authority that means websites will link to you organically because your content is relevant and educational.
Of course, sometimes, you’ll find that websites’ links to your page aren’t the ones you want, or that the wrong sites are linking to you. When that happens – or, indeed, when you just want to make sure all of your backlinks are present and correct – it’s a good idea to conduct a link audit. How do you go about doing that, though? Here’s our beginner’s guide on how you can do a link audit of your website, no matter what kind of site you’re running.
Download a backlinks audit tool
Manually sifting through the kind of data you need to analyse when it comes to link audits is time-consuming and tedious. That’s why you should download a backlinks audit tool. There are plenty out there; sites like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and others offer great backlink audit tools for you to use, so pick the one you like the most and download it.
Once you’ve got the software you want, use its domain analysis tool to see how many backlinks your site is attracting, trends over time, and other statistics. You can then extrapolate what you should be doing to increase your backlink authority based on the data you’re given!
Figure out how many backlinks you have and from where
Your backlink analysis should show you how many backlinks your site has and where they’re coming from. These are important statistics, because you don’t want to be linked by suspect or dubious domains that might impact your authority. While you might initially think that a high number of backlinks is good, this might not necessarily be the case; for example, if you have a lot of backlinks but they’re all linked to undesirable keywords (more on which in a moment), then you may need to pry deeper into that.
Check backlink keywords
Backlink keywords should be mainly natural and related to the subject your site is about. For instance, let’s say you run a gym called Mike’s Fitness. You should see lots of backlinks with keywords like “such as Mike’s Fitness”, “mikesfitness.com”, or other natural-looking links. If you’re seeing a lot of spammy link names like “mikesfitness gym equipment fitness running”, though, that indicates that you’re getting backlinks from spammy websites that you need to prune. These backlinks can actually harm your SEO in the end, because they can lower your overall authority.
Backlinks from sites with low domain authority are bad for you. This is because poor-quality sites backlinking to you offer no benefits in terms of SEO; nobody is going to read those sites and nobody is going to click through to your site from them, so you’re not really benefiting from having the backlink. It’s a good idea to make sure all of your backlinks – or most of them, anyway – are from sites with an Ahrefs Domain Rating (DR) of 50 or above, as this indicates a reputable, authoritative website that people are actually reading.
Make sure the sites are relevant
When sites link to you and their content isn’t relevant to yours, this can also be harmful to you in terms of SEO. Google likes to see sites linking to one another when they share common interests or subject matters, but if you’re seeing links from sites that have nothing to do with you, then this could be a red flag.
As well as link relevance, you also want to make sure that the pages linking to you are getting organic traffic. If you’re noticing massive spikes in traffic on the pages linking to you, that might indicate that they’re getting bot traffic, which isn’t good. Again, a good backlink audit tool will identify all of this data for you, so you don’t need to sift through it manually.
Look out for location-based domains
Let’s say that your Mike’s Fitness website is based in the UK. It would, therefore, be natural to expect plenty of traffic from .co.uk website domains, as well as other English-speaking countries; lots of .com, .com.au, or .ca websites would also be expected.
However, if you’re seeing a lot of traffic and backlinks from sites with .ru, .cn, or other domains that you might not necessarily expect given that you’re a business based in an English-speaking country, that might be cause for concern. It’s not necessarily a problem in and of itself, but it does warrant further investigation.
Conduct competitor research
One of the best ways you can understand how your backlink audit will shake out is to conduct research on your competitors. What kind of backlinks do they have? Is their domain authority higher than yours? What about the sites linking to them? As you can tell, it’s going to take a little while to assemble this data, but it will be worth it in the end.
Once again, you can use any of the tools we linked above (we like Ahrefs’ tool) to conduct a batch analysis and figure out how your site compares to a competitor’s site. Using this data, and the data you gathered earlier during your own backlink audit, you can compile a backlink strategy that’s going to work for you.
Build a backlink plan
Armed with the data above, it’s time to start building a plan to figure out how you’re going to fix up your backlinks and improve your game. Only you can know how to do this; maybe you need to improve your site’s authority, or maybe you need to fix some broken pages so that sites aren’t linking to them anymore. Whatever you need to do, writing a robust, clear plan is the first step to achieving it!