May 2, 2017 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
When bloggers first start out, they typically collect links passively when other people find and enjoy their content. As they advance, they might start reaching out to influencers to mention them or ask for links when they’re mentioned by high-authority sites. This link-building process is a great way to boost visibility and increase traffic from search rankings. However, the wrong links can actually hurt your SEO profile and damage all of your outreach efforts. Here’s what you need to know about running a backlink profile analysis and how you can improve the links surrounding your website.
As you analyze your backlink profile, you need to know what to look for to identify the health of your website. Jon Ball at Search Engine Watch created a useful guide for the basics of backlinks, and listed exactly what you should analyze during this process:
Total number of links
Number of unique domains
Linking domains vs. total links
Anchor text variance
Link age and quality
Remember, SEO is all about balance. There are some people who say you can’t link to the same place twice and insist on complete diversity in their linking. While this is well-meaning, it’s also inaccurate. It’s okay if you have multiple links to one domain, and even multiple links to one blog post in the domain, but you shouldn’t have an overwhelming number that distracts from the rest of your portfolio.
Similarly, all of your links don’t have to be brand new. It’s good to have history to prove that your blog is reputable, but you don’t want your blog to go stale and essentially shut down without new links building around the content.
There are multiple tools that you can work with to analyze your SEO value. Many search engine specialists will recommend their favorites and defend them fervently, but it’s really up to you to determine which one has the best interface and is easiest to work with. A few popular options include Ahrefs, Raven Tools, and Cognitive SEO.
Majestic is another popular SEO choice for checking backlinks. This tool allows you to see the number of external backlinks and referring domains of a particular website or blog post. While these numbers are useful, Majestic takes its information a step further by ranking the content’s citation flow and trust flow. Citation flow represents the total quantity of backlinks, while trust flow represents the quality of the links. The higher the trust flow, the higher the authority of the domains that link to the content.
When it comes to SEO, the quality of your website is determined by the company you keep. If your backlinks are filled with low-quality spammers and websites, then your website will be filed into that category. By ensuring that high-quality pages link to your website, you’ll be able to join the ranks of the internet’s “upper crust.”
Your backlink analysis will produce certain vanity metrics that can convince you that your blog is on the right track. Do you have a steady flow of fresh links? Great. Do you have hundreds of domains linking to your content? Awesome! But that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels and let your site continue to passively collect links. Here are a few goals you can set for backlink improvement:
Identify a few keywords on your website that you would expect to perform well but aren’t. For example, a plumbing company that isn’t ranking for local terms like “plumbing in Plano,” or specialty services like “24-hour plumbing services,” can start optimizing for these keywords by link building to local pages or service menus. By identifying a few easy wins you can increase your traffic and rankings for these terms.
As you identify top blogs and websites that link to your pages, make a chart of potential opportunities to develop relationships with new publishers. For example, Search Engine Land is one of the most widely-read SEO publishers on the web. If that website is regularly linking to you or referencing your content, then you could easily start getting links on similar-caliber websites like Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Watch. When you identify a website with rankings that you would like to add to your backlink profile, create a strategy to work with them.
Backlink analysis isn’t just for your website; it’s also an effective tool for analyzing your competitors. As you check their content, identify topics that you can cover better and generate more links to. You can also identify poorly-performing keywords that you can develop ahead of them. Their weaknesses are your opportunities for increased exposure, and therefore increased sales.
If you’re not in the habit of routinely checking your links to make sure they match the quality of your website, then a backlink analysis could be an overwhelming experience. What if there are hundreds of spammy backlinks that you would rather not be associated with? While cleaning your link profile can be an arduous process initially, once you’re happy with the links on your website, it’s a fairly easy task to keep up with.
The team at Bruce Clay created a flowchart to easily identify backlinks. All you have to do is answer a few simple questions (like, “Is the link relevant to the page?” and “Is the link on the page or in the source code?”) to determine whether you should ignore the link, ask the site managers to change the anchor text, or ask for it to be removed entirely. If you can check the new links pointing to your website for a few minutes each day, you can ensure that your backlink profile will remain clean and strong.
While backlinking seems like a technical aspect of SEO, it’s actually a roadmap for improvement. When you use it correctly, you can see exactly how the internet views your website and create goals for improvement.
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