If you’re investing in SEO you should also be investing in making sure your efforts are working. Here’s how you can conduct a link analysis and audit to check.
You’ve done everything to SEO your website.
You’ve optimized images, mobile, site speed, and navigation. Your content is amazing. Thousands of websites are linking to yours.
But something’s not right. Or you know it could be better.
It’s time to pull back the curtains and take a closer look. Dig deeper with link analysis. Your link profile could make or break your SEO.
Let’s look at the effective way to complete this important part of SEO process.
Get Organized With Your Link Analysis
Disorganization can be a real-time killer when doing a link analysis.
You might pull a report up in one of your tools to find a certain piece of information. You have what you need, and everything seems to be going smoothly.
Then a little later, you find out you need something else from that report and may have to run it again or go back to find it.
Get it all together the first go-round, and you’ll find link analysis much less stressful and time-consuming.
To do this, create a spreadsheet onto which you’ll be importing all of this information. Save a blank copy for future use.
Here’s what you need to know to complete your audit.
- Domain — linking domain
- Type — no follow or do follow
- DA — domain authority
- Link count
- Anchor text
- Page title
List these as heading from A-I on your spreadsheet.
Round Up Your Tools
There are several tools available to complete link analysis.
For ease of explanation, I’ll refer to specific SEO tools. If you choose a different tool, the process should only be slightly different.
For this mission, should you choose to accept, you’ll need:
- Google Search Console (totally free!)
- AhRefs (you can get a free trial or purchase)
- SEO tools for Excel (paid tool, optional, but very helpful)
- Microsoft Excel (paid, but you probably have it)
I don’t want to be too partial so Moz Site Explorer and Majestic are also great tools for performing a more thorough link analysis. Note you can do this without paid tools, but you will only be getting half the picture.
Extract All Your Links
Go to AhRefs. Enter your domain. Hit explore. And wait for the magic to happen.
You’ll pull up some great information about your site like your current DR. This is the same as your DA or domain authority. Different tools call it different things.
It’s on a scale of 1-100. The higher your number, the easier it is for you to rank in search results.
You’ll be looking at this number within 4 contexts:
- Your domain’s DR/DA
- The DR/DA of domains linking to you
- Your competitors’ DR/DA
- The DR/Da of domains linking to your competitors
But for the purpose of this guide, we’re focused on the DA of the website linking to yours.
Now that you’ve had a moment to stand in awe of — or lament — your own DR score, it’s time to get down to business.
Click on backlinks on the left menu. And choose “do-follow.” Let’s look at why we’re choosing “do follow”.
Do Follow Vs No Follow
In a nutshell, do follow links are links that contribute to your DA. They might contribute positively or negatively, depending on whether the link is high quality.
All links are “do follow” by default.
But when a website links to a page on your website, they may choose to make the link a no follow link.
What?! Why would they do this?
They would do this for 2 important reasons.
1) A do-follow link is seen as an endorsement by search engines. A site might want to link to yours for some reason. But they’re not endorsing you. They make the link no follow.
2) Because people know that do-follow links can help their website rankings, sites that allow links from their websites to be do-follow might get bombarded with requests for links to their site. They limit most of their links to no follow to prevent this.
To bring this back around, we choose “do follow” in the drop-down because these are the links that contribute to the health of your website.
Export the file
Next, we’ll extract the file to an Excel spreadsheet to begin our link analysis. Adjust the columns if needed to match the spreadsheet you created, and copy/paste the data into your spreadsheet.
Gather Links from Other Sources
Unfortunately, no one program pulls every link. You can run with your AhRefs data. It’s a great tool. Or you can
You can run with your AhRefs data. It’s a great tool. Or you can pull your links from multiple sources like the others mentioned above.
We’d recommend that you also pull a spreadsheet from Google Search console. On the left menu, go to Search traffic > Links to Your Site > Most Linked Content > Download Latest Links
Export your spreadsheet, and we’re ready to take our next step.
De-Dupe Your Domains
Now it’s time to extract domains. Why? Because you might have hundreds of links from one domain. It might take you years to analyze. For our purposes, we really only need the domain on there once.
Save a master copy before you begin this step.
Then paste =LEFT(B2,FIND(“/”,B2,9)-1) into A2 on your spreadsheet or whichever cell is right under your A column heading.
Excel will now go to work, sifting through all of these repeat domains and listing the domain in that A column.
Once you have all of the domains, you can use excel’s “remove duplicates” feature to remove duplicate domains.
Identify Low-Quality Links
You can do this in 2 primary ways — the hard way or the way that will cost you some money. It all comes down to whether the time is more valuable than money or vice versa.
To understand whether the links are high quality or not, you need to know the following:
- The domain’s authority (DA)
- Title- What the Domain’s about
- Anchor text
Let’s establish our criteria for a low-quality link.
- Low DA
- Low Relevance (based upon title)
- Have spammy looking anchor text
- Have spammy looking website titles
- Are clearly from a different country (can be bad)
SEO Tools For Excel will allow you to pull this information directly into your spreadsheet.
Otherwise, you can look this up for each domain to save money. If you don’t have many links, this may be your best option.
Oh, almost forgot. You could also hire someone who has and uses these kinds of tools daily to save time and money.
The Low-Quality Link Dilemma
Be careful not to throw the “baby out with the bathwater” regarding relevance.
The domain may look unrelated to the spreadsheet. But it may have pages that are very relevant to your pages.
Search engines are getting smarter.
They’re more concerned about context than something as high level as a domain. You may need to pull up the page being linked to and compare it to the page linking to it to establish relevance truly.
Look at the paragraphs around the link. If the link makes sense within its context, it’s a great link. If it seems forced or wouldn’t happen naturally, it’s a low-quality link.
Here you’ll want to develop a micro-process and standards when conducting a link analysis for your unique website.
There will be blaring links that should be disavowed immediately to avoid damage to your rankings. But there will also be the questionable.
Only you know what is too low-quality for you.
Evaluate the Overall Health of Your Link Profile
Also, take this time to evaluate the overall health of your link profile. A healthy profile includes:
- Do follow links
- Deep links — past the home page.
- Links from high DA websites
- Links from many different sites
- Not too many links from one site
- Links that are from relevant pages
- Anchor text that’s relevant
- Anchor text that’s not over-optimized
If you’re lacking in any of these areas, it’s time to create a healthier link profile.
Create a Disavow File
Improving your link profile is what a link analysis is all about. To do this, you’ll need to disavow any links that you identified as low quality. Completing the task periodically should be part of your overall SEO strategy.
We recommend that you disavow links in both Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster. While Google is definitely the top dog, most websites get enough traffic from Bing to pay attention to what it’s doing to your rankings.
Beyond those 2, you get a lesser impact on your traffic.
You will now create a .txt file that will list all of the links that you to disavow. Call this file disavow.txt. Each line in this file will be either a domain name that you want to disavow or just a specific URL.
Domains should be entered “domain:baddomain.com”. Of course, you replace bad domain.com with the actual domain name.
Upload Your File to Google
On the disavow links page in the Google Search Console, upload the file. They’ll ask you several times to verify that you know what you’re doing and warn you that you could harm your site by disavowing a link that was actually helping your site.
Proceed with caution.
Repeat the process for Bing.
Link Analysis & Audit
Link analysis and audit take some time and the right tools. But it gives you incredible insight into the health of your link profile.
Backlinks can make or break your SEO efforts.
If you are in doubt, you may want to opt to hire a link-building company to conduct the link audit for you. There are many diverse ones in the market specializing in different aspects of link building: outreach, Digital PR, Haro techniques, content marketing, building assets, etc. However, most of them carry out link audits too.
What would you add to the link analysis process? Comment below.