Building backlinks for your website: this is an essential part of SEO. But it’s also one many business owners put off either because they don’t know where to start or don’t even realize they should be building backlinks in the first place.
The truth is, this practice can make a huge difference when it comes to whether or not your website ranks on search engine results pages (SERPs). In turn, this helps your desired audience find you. Those reasons alone should be enough for you to want to learn more about it along with the very important process of completing a backlink audit checklist.
What is a Backlink Audit?
To help get us warmed up, let’s start by defining what a backlink audit is. When put in its simplest terms, a backlink audit can be defined as the process of reviewing each of the links currently directed toward your website.
You’ll need to complete a comprehensive backlink audit checklist in order to ensure you’re getting great backlinks that help boost your SEO. However, you can generally expect an audit to look something like first, locating the backlinks. Then identify any quality or harmful backlinks and develop a strategy to properly manage them.
Why Should You Do a Backlink Audit?
Is this whole process really necessary? The quick answer to this question is YES!
It’s definitely something that’s necessary as backlinks are a huge factor when it comes to ranking. They’re something that’s often overlooked, but backlinks happen to be one of the top three ranking categories for search engines,
Backlink audits help search engines evaluate the domains that link to yours and take into account whether or not they are reputable sources. If you have backlinks from low quality, spammy type websites, then you’re likely going to be penalized for this when it comes to SEO.
Not only should you ensure you have a great backlink profile built up, you should also be taking the time to ensure those backlinks are high quality. They should be from authoritative sources who can help build your website’s credibility. That means a backlink audit checklist is going to be your best friend!
Speaking of audits, we also have your guide to a complete eCommerce Facebooks Ads audit right here.
Backlink Audit Checklist
While completing a backlink audit checklist might feel a bit overwhelming at first, we’ve done the work to keep it as simple and comprehensive for you. Check each of these things off your list and we’re certain you’ll have done everything possible to ensure your backlink profile is up and running to its best potential!
Complete a competitive analysis
The first thing you should do when getting started on your backlink audit is complete a competitive analysis. A competitive analysis will allow you to collect some of the websites that are similar to your own and then compare your backlink profile to theirs.
This process allows you to see very clearly what potential weaknesses you stand against and what could use fixing in terms of your backlinks. That way you don’t fall behind your competition, and can maybe even get ahead!
So, what are the steps to completing a successful competitive analysis? Let’s run through it!
Start by getting onto an SEO and backlink audit tool that provides a backlink checker specifically. Head to the section that says “Domain Comparison”. Plug in each of the competitor domains of your choosing so you can start to compare them to your own!
You should receive detailed information on each of the domains you’ve chosen. This commonly includes things like the number of backlinks they have and the referring domains. The domains that are stronger in certain aspects will usually be marked as well so you can see who your top competitors are
Here’s a quick summary of the common terms used when completing a domain comparison:
- Referring pages: This is the total number of unique pages that link back to a website.
- Referring domains: The total amount of unique domains that link back to a website.
- Backlinks: The number of links acquired from other websites that link back to a certain website
The number of backlinks isn’t necessarily something to focus on at this stage. What’s more important is the quality of the backlinks and whether or not they are from relevant sources. There are also a few other things you can look at to get the most out of your competitive analysis. Check these out!
Each and every website will have top-level domains (TLDs). The tool you use should be able to tell you what those domains are.
It’s common knowledge in the world of SEO that most search engines prefer diversity when it comes to the different types of domains a website contains. While it’s great to be diverse, it’s also preferred to use formats that are relevant to the country you’re in (eg. .co.uk, .com).
It’s also wise to look at the DoFollow to NoFollow link ratio. We’ll talk more about these types of links later on!
Referring domains and pages
Look for a section in your SEO tool that allows you to see the progress of each domain over the years in regard to referring pages, new-lost referring pages, and referring domains. You can see when your competitors have been successful with backlinks or when they fell behind.
You can then look at referring pages and see how much progress each of the domains has made in a particular area over the years. These are important details you can get and will give you a great idea of where you stand in the market. At least when it comes to your backlink profile!
Lastly in your competitive analysis process, is to look at link intersect. This option allows you to see which backlinks link back to your competitors, but not back to you. It’s a good way to see where any gaps and opportunities may lie.
It’s possible for thousands of domains to be linking back to your competitors, but not to your website. There’s also the option to see the number of competitors that share the same domain as a backlink to you.
This feature is super handy for allowing you to get an inside look at where gaps lie between you and your competitors. You can then know which websites to reach out to for link building purposes and help bridge the gaps that you found.
Complete each of these things as a part of your competitive analysis and you’ll have a good idea of where you stand as well as where you could improve.
Check your link velocity
Step number two in your backlink audit checklist is to check your link velocity. Link velocity is essentially the pace at which you get new links. It’s something you can commonly get from an SEO tool. You’ll usually find information about your DR, backlinks, URL Rating (UR), referring pages, organic keywords, etc.
For the purposes of checking link velocity, we’ll look most closely at referring domains and referring pages.
As your reminder, referring domains is what tells you what unique domains are currently linking back to your website. These can grow quickly or slowly depending on your website and how strong your backlink strategy is.
When it comes to referring pages however, these show how many web pages are linking back to your website. Referring domains and referring pages usually go hand in hand and will grow at relatively the same pace.
Once you’ve taken a look at these two metrics you can decide if it’s time to take a look at your link-building campaign or not. If it’s time to re-evaluate then you might look at ways to bring in more high quality backlinks
How exactly do you do that? You’ll have to reach out to authoritative websites that are relevant to yours. You should ensure they are a website that would be interested in using your content or your website as a part of their content. Or that they would be able to link back to you and have it make sense. This is something that’s usually looked at during the development of a content marketing strategy.
Content marketing is a super effective way to bring in leads and grow your business as a result. It can help get valuable customers to your website so they can see your products or services. If this is something you would like to learn more about or if you would like some help with developing your content marketing strategy, click here!
Last in the second step of our checklist is new backlinks. You can check to see how many backlinks you’ve acquired since getting started. This can help you to see if you are making progress or not.
Go back in your history using your SEO tool to see just how far you’ve come and how many new links you’re bringing in each and every month. This is also a good time to check the quality of the backlinks. There might be some that are low quality which is definitely something you’re going to want to fix!
Look at your link churn
Now you know more about the new links you’re getting. Now it’s time to think about the links you might have lost and if you have lost them, how many of them there are over different periods of time.
You can usually find “Lost” backlinks using your SEO tool which will allow you to select a certain time period. That way you can see how many links you might have lost during that time period.
The hope is that your gains will be more than your losses. And that any losses would be from low quality websites where you don’t want the backlink to begin with.
It’s smart to calculate the churn rate of your links. This is essentially the domains that were removed compared to the new ones that you got as a percentage. You can do this using the formula: Lost links / (links at the beginning of the period + new links).
Whether or not your churn rate is considered good will depend on your unique situation. However, it’s generally known that a churn rate of somewhere between 2-3% is a good range to be in.
In general, it’s a great idea to evaluate your links and how they’re performing over time. If you have more or less links than you normally do then you might take action in trying to figure out why that may be. It could be that your backlinks strategy is doing its job to help you get the backlinks you’ve been looking for.
It could also be that your efforts to remove spammy, low quality backlinks are working, and you’re seeing a significant drop as a result.
Identify any low-quality backlinks
You might think right off the bat that more backlinks are better. But this isn’t necessarily true! There’s lots of potential for your website to have low quality or “toxic” backlinks that can actually end up hurting your authority.
When a low quality website links back to you, search engines will actually end up using that information to help identify how your website should rank as well. Therefore, those backlinks aren’t going to help when it comes to ranking.
While this isn’t something you can always control, at least you can do the work to identify them and then develop a strategy for getting rid of them.
Now, we’ll run through some tips on how you can identify which backlinks are toxic.
Check your referring domains
We discussed a little bit earlier how you can check your referring domains. As you’re doing it, check to see which domains link back to you. You can usually find information about the domains here as well that will help you to evaluate whether or not the website is giving you a toxic backlink.
If you find you have many referring domains, then chances are probably higher than some of those domains are low quality. Check to see if your SEO tool is able to help you identify the quality of the linking domains and sort them accordingly if so. This is a super easy way to see whether or not a domain’s backlink is going to be toxic to your website.
Lower metrics commonly indicate the link isn’t going to be of value. Sometimes you can look at it and plainly see that a domain isn’t going to have content that’s relevant to yours. Use these key indicators as well as your own knowledge to determine if the backlinks are potentially harmful.
While it can be tedious, it’s always a good idea to check each domain individually before taking action to get them removed.
Check anchor texts
Okay, anchor text is probably not the type of anchor you have in mind…but once you understand how anchor texts work, you’ll see where they got their name.
Anchor text is the hyperlinked piece of text on a website a user might click in order to be sent to another webpage. Another great way to audit your backlinks is to look specifically at the anchor text that’s used to link back to your own website. Your SEO tool will likely have a section dedicated to anchors specifically and will tell you what anchor text your referring pages are using.
If the anchor text isn’t relevant to your website then it’s likely safe to say the backlink isn’t high quality and can be removed. Think about what kinds of anchor text you are willing to accept before you start going through the list. That way you’ll be clearer on what should or shouldn’t be kept.
Do the work to discover what anchor text is being used and you’ll be that much closer to ensuring you keep the toxic backlinks away!
CTLDs distribution refers to the countries you get backlinks from – particularly the ones you get the most from!
Looking at this information allows you to better understand if the majority of the backlinking domains are spammy or not. If the countries are not relevant to your audience then it’s a lot more likely that the backlinks aren’t going to be super valuable to you.
While backlinks from another country won’t necessarily mean for sure the backlinks aren’t valuable, it can help you to narrow things down and take action where appropriate.
Find negative SEO attacks
Check the progress of your referring domains and pages. As you do, you might find some anomalies in the charts which can help identify a negative SEO attack.
A big spike followed by a big drop is a good indicator you have an unhealthy backlinks profile and the spikes could mean there was a flood of spammy backlinks. All you need to do is simply be aware of the links schemes that search engines define when it comes to manipulating links.
After you’ve identified any toxic backlinks, take the time to track them. This is something you can submit to search engines to help support your case in telling them you would like for those backlinks to be ignored.
Look into your DoFollow to NoFollow ratio
Your next step is to look into your DoFollow to NoFollow ratio. But what exactly are these?
Simply put, a DoFollow is a type of link that search engine bots can follow. They’re able to easily find the source page of the link. NoFollow links on the other hand will actually keep search engine crawlers from following it. This is done by applying an HTML tag.
Your goal is to have more DoFollow links on your website than NoFollow links. NoFollow links are usually the spammy ones you don’t want. So, how do you measure the ratio of the two?
You can usually find this information by looking at the referring domains on your SEO tool. This is where you can see the DoFollow and NoFollow links your website has. If your DoFollow numbers are higher than your NoFollow ones then you’re in great shape!
Check your referring pages to referring domains ratio
The final thing to check off your backlink audit checklist is to look at your referring pages to referring domains ratio. Why is this important? Well, your website may have a larger number of domains from one particular website which doesn’t usually point toward having a healthy backlink profile,
Search engines favor websites that have more of a variety of domains that link back to them. Check to see the number of referring domains you have and the number of backlinks that are coming from each one. If the number of backlinks is higher than the referring domains by a lot, then it’s likely you also have a lot of backlinks coming from referring domains
This is something to look into further so you can discover if it’s true that certain domains are giving an unreasonable amount of backlinks. If so, then this is something to investigate when it comes to developing your backlink strategy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we send you on your way, let’s quickly run through answers to some of our most frequently asked questions!
How long does a backlink audit take?
The answer to this question will likely depend on you and how experienced you are with the SEO tool you’re choosing to use. However, a quick and simple audit should take no more than 30 minutes or so if you know how to use and navigate the program.
What takes a little bit longer is figuring out how to make the appropriate improvements and changes to your backlinks and developing an effective backlink strategy.
What is the difference between a link and a backlink?
Links are what connect just about everything on the internet. You can think of internal links as the ones that are placed throughout your website and link to other parts of your website. They are usually there to help someone navigate your website with ease.
External links on the other hand are links that connect to other domains. They can help do a number of things such as give more context, support certain claims, help with recommendations, increase authenticity, and so much more. Links in general are there to help provide value to the user and help create a better user experience for them. They also help when it comes to ranking on search engines and improving your website’s SEO.
What is domain authority?
We talked about this a little bit already. But to help make things extra clear, domain authority is essentially the networks of links that exist on your website along with external links.
Those with links from bigger, more credible websites will have greater domain authority than those without. The more authoritative websites that link to you, the more your own domain authority will increase. That’s why it pays to be linked to domains that are at the top of the chain and also why bigger brands often dominate when it comes to ranking.
The best thing you can do is slowly start to work your way up when it comes to backlinks. This will help increase your domain authority and help your website thrive as a result
Summing It All Up
There you have it! Our most comprehensive and detailed backlink audit checklist!
We hope this checklist is helpful as you step into your journey toward conducting your own backlink audit of your website. While it might be a somewhat challenging process, we strongly believe that taking the time and paying attention to the details we’ve provided will help you to be successful in completing your audit and ensuring your website performs to its best potential.
Remember, that not all backlinks are good backlinks! Low quality backlinks from sources that aren’t credible can end up hurting your ability to rank well on search engines and may stunt the ability of your customers to find your website. If they can’t find it, they won’t be able to learn more about you or make a purchase from your eCommerce store.
Take the time to ensure your backlinks are high quality and you’ll never have to worry about that becoming the case.
Over to You
Are you itching to get started and bursting with ideas? A good place to start is by discovering where your backlinks are coming from. If they’re not what you hoped for then it’s definitely time to build a link outreach strategy. This improves your ability to rank.
If that feels like a somewhat overwhelming process, Blue Water Marketing has you covered! We understand SEO is complex and that it takes time and energy to ensure it’s done properly. We also happen to be SEO experts and can either help guide the way or take on your backlink strategy altogether.
Working with our team means you can take the task off your plate. You will also be confident in knowing that your backlinking has been done with the utmost care and attention to detail. In fact, our experts can’t wait to help you get started!
Ready to dive into the process and get the help you’ve been looking for? Get in touch with us today!