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How to Conduct Backlink Analysis
By Robert Reeve, Feb 03, 2014
Admittedly, backlink analysis is not the most exciting or glamorous of tasks, but considering the impact it can have on your website performance and SEO in general, it is something that has to be done. There are no shortcuts you can take or easy ways to look at your backlink profile, you simply need to go through it yourself and pick out the problems.
Several link analysis tools are available to help you bring all of your inbound links together in one place. Yes, you still have to go through them yourself, but at least you can get an in-depth idea of the types of links you have pointing to your site, and importantly what Google’s problem with your site is.
No link analysis tools are currently available to analyse every single link pointing at a website, but the best ones come close.
We recommend using the following platforms to build an understanding of your link profile:
- Google Webmaster Tools is something you will already be using, not just for backlink analysis but also to assess the overall health of your site.
- Majestic SEO is a brilliant tool that offers a wide range of reports surrounding your link profile, with free and premium versions available.
- Link Detox goes further than the others as it rates links as “Toxic,” “Suspicious,” or “Healthy.”Although a fully paid tool, these ratings can potentially save a lot of time checking links yourself, so it worth trying.
Before you start analysing your data you need to get it all into one place. What you should do is export your link data from each platform as a CSV file, put it into Microsoft Excel, and then go from there.
Here is how to do it in each of our suggested platforms:
- In Google Webmaster Tools, you need to export “more sample links.”
- In Majestic SEO, you need to download backlinks and export “Ref domains.”
- In Link Detox, you need to “export CSV for all links.”
Put each exported file into a separate Excel tab (within the same document) at first, and then compile it all into one tab. Finally, use the “Remove Duplicates” function within the “Data” tab of Excel to remove additional links that have been pulled from each platform; you only need to see each link once!
You can then start to look at your links one at a time; this might not take as long if you have used the Link Detox tool and taken actions based on links they have rated as “Toxic” or “Suspicious,” but we will run through the whole process for your full understanding.
The most important aspect of analysing your links is to understand what Google is handing out algorithmic and manual penalties for.
This is not an exhaustive list, but targeting these links will make a huge difference to your SEO:
- Syndicated articles, advertorials, and sponsored guest posts.
- Blog networks, link networks, and link schemes.
- Partner pages.
- Automated programs and links generated from these.
- Paid links.
- Text advertisements.
- Links from low quality bookmarking sites.
- Low quality generic directory listings.
- Press Release links that are not your brand name or URL.
- Site-wide links and widgets.
- Irrelevant and low quality forum and blog comments.
- SEO directories.
- Keyword rich anchor text, especially exact match anchor text links.
The first thing to then do is to go to the page where the link is and consider how it ended up there. Did you build it yourself, or is it a link from a spam site you know nothing about?
Signs the link is unnatural and potentially a problem include:
- You paid for the link to be there.
- You gave a link in return for that one.
- You built a link just to gain ‘link juice’ for SEO purposes; the site is not relevant to you and the link probably doesn’t deliver any traffic to your site.
If any of these reasons spring to mind, mark the link in Excel for removal or disavowing. If you know you have been guilty of spammy link building tactics in the past, organise your links in Excel by anchor text, and immediately mark those that have obvious exact match anchor text for removal or disavowing, too.
The final big step you can take is to look at the quality of the website you got the link from.
- Is all the content featured on their website guest post submissions?
- Does the website link out to authority sites or to a collection of low quality ones?
- You should even consider looking at the inbound link profile of that site; if they have low quality inbound links they could be damaging you with the link to your site!
- If you were building a link today, would you be happy to be associated with that site?
Answering those questions will tell you whether you should be removing or disavowing a link. Bad links can be catastrophic for your site; if you are in doubt about any links and their quality, just get rid of them.
Bough Digital can help if you need assistance with backlink analysis and potential removal, as well as helping you to build high quality backlinks that will help you to achieve your SEO goals.
Image Author: Flickr / andercismo
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