You likely already know that backlinks are key to good SEO rankings for your website. They drive new visitors to your site and boost your rankings in Google.
But have you ever considered the importance of a doing a backlink audit?
Backlinks boost your site only if they are high quality. Harmful backlinks can actually lower your site’s SEO rankings, doing the opposite of what you want.
You might even be penalized by Google for having too many unnatural or unhealthy backlinks. That would mean you have to work extra hard to recover from the penalty and get your SEO back on track.
Avoid these backlink pitfalls by doing an audit. Don’t wait until you’ve received warnings in your inbox: start right now.
In fact, a backlink audit can even open up new opportunities for your site. You will easily see how you can get more high-quality links to your site once you learn how to do a backlink audit.
In this simple, step-by-step guide, we’ll show you how.
Conducting a Backlink Audit
1. Understand the link audit
Many people don’t fully understand the power and purpose of backlinks, much less how a backlink audit works.
That’s fine: we’re here to show you what you need to know.
The first step is understanding what the link audit does.
A link audit will evaluate how well your current backlinks (or link profile) are working for your site. If there are any bad links to your site, they will be revealed by the audit.
Many companies charge a lot of money to get this valuable information for you. However, it is possible to do a link audit yourself with these next steps.
2. Find current backlinks
You need to know what links are bringing people to your site when you get ready to do your backlink audit.
Fortunately, Google Search Console makes this task easy. Sign into Google, go to your Dashboard, and click on “Search Traffic” in the lefthand sidebar.
Under “Search Traffic,” click on “Links to Your Site.”
This will give you a total number of backlinks, as well as other helpful information, like what anchor text was used and which sites link to yours the most.
3. Perform the analysis
If you think you have the time for it, you can do this, the hefty part of the audit, by hand.
This means you would click on each link and evaluate it yourself. If there are only a few links to look at, this is reasonable. However, you might have large numbers of backlinks to go through.
If this is the case, use a link analysis tool instead. There are several free online link analysis sites, so choose one that works for you to make the work faster.
If you evaluate your links by hand, you’ll want to make sure they work and aren’t “dead,” and come from real, reliable websites.
4. Look for penalties
It’s important to make sure none of your backlinks have received penalties when you do your backlink audit.
The link penalties you might get come in two forms: algorithmic and manual.
An algorithmic penalty happens when Google’s algorithm, Penguin, catches something in your link profile that shouldn’t be there.
A manual penalty happens when a person on the Google team was manually reviewing your link profile and found an issue.
Either one of these penalties will cause a Google ranking loss for your site.
You will usually be alerted to manual penalties with a message from Google Webmasters. An algorithmic penalty comes from an automated system, so there is no alert.
However, if you see a sudden drop in organic traffic to your site, there’s a good chance the cause was an algorithmic penalty.
5. Fix any issues
If your backlink audit showed that you have problematic backlinks, it’s time to make a plan to fix them.
Maybe just a few of the backlinks were bad. Maybe all of them were. Either way, it’s important to do something about it, and add quality links in their place.
Remember: the best audit in the world is worthless if you don’t act on that information.
First, figure out how to remove the bad links you found. Links that don’t work or links to spam sites or penalized sites should be removed.
If the link is to a spam or penalized a site, reach out to the website’s owner with a friendly, professional request to remove the bad links.
If the link is dead (or doesn’t work), you can disavow that link. Deadlinkchecker.com is a free resource that can help you do this.
6. Replace with quality links
Once you’ve removed the bad, it’s time to add in the good. Quality backlinks will be relevant to your site and should come from another relevant site.
They also should offer value to anyone who clicks through. If someone is reading about architecture, a backlink to your page about cooking probably won’t be of interest to them.
Seek out these high-quality links. More backlinks aren’t necessarily better if they go to bad or irrelevant sites. It may take more work to get the good links, but it’s worth it.
You will want to perform audits regularly to get the most use out of this information.
The more often you do a backlink audit, the less time each audit will take. Doing this work every six months is a good plan for most websites.
If your link profile had issues, there’s no need to panic. The solution is easy: get rid of the bad links and add in good ones.
There are many creative ways to get those good links. Maybe you’ll use social media sites like YouTube as a way to get more links. Maybe you’ll find other strategies that work for you.
It’s important to have a link building strategy. But if that strategy doesn’t address what to do with bad links, you’re not doing your site any favors.
Look at the places where you removed bad links. Now you can see the potential for good backlinks there. Reach out for those high-quality links, weed out the bad ones, and know that you won’t have too many surprises when it’s time for your next backlink audit.