Why Auditing Backlinks for your Website is Important
Your website’s backlinks are extremely important; you can use them to your benefit or they can work against you when it comes to Search Engine rankings. In the not so distant past, it was generally accepted that backlinks could not adversely affect your website, however that changed in 2012. Ever since Google introduced the “Penguin Update” in 2012, thousands of websites incurred serious penalties due to their backlinks. It is crucial that you conduct regular audits of your backlinks to maintain a clean profile and eliminate any possible threats.
Executing a negative SEO attack is a shady practice that has become widespread within highly competitive niches. The basic idea is to use spam links, sometimes hundreds or even thousands at a time, to target a specific website to decrease a competitor’s ranking. This directly harms any SEO strategies you have in place by diminishing your website’s presence among search results. In the most severe instances, Google may even remove the website from its search index which will effectively terminate all traffic to your site.
Even if your website isn’t being targeted, your backlinks may contain sites that can result in an unnatural links warning. If you receive this notification from Google, it means that you may have a suspicious or toxic link in your backlinks. This could result in a manual penalty initiated by the Google staff.
There are a greater number of websites that suffer due to algorithm updates. In order to recover your ranking after an update went live, webmasters and site owners must remove spam tactics such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, and link exchanges that the update affected. If you have done everything correctly, your site should return to its previous ranking after Google recrawls and processes the pages and site.
How to Audit your Backlinks
There are a variety of tools out there that will automate this process for you, but the basic process will be the same.
- Collect Data – First, you collect the backlinks data through Google Webmaster Tools. You can receive even more detailed information using backlink analysis tools such as Majestic SEO or Open Site Explorer.
- Collate, Organize, Filter Links – This step requires you to assemble all of your website’s backlinks data, delete duplicates, and then group them by domains.
- Highlighting and Extracting “Bad Links” – This last step will require a bit more experience since many people don’t know what to look for. A few things to watch for are links that are completely irrelevant, low quality directory links, and sites for selling links.
It is important to be cautious in the final step to avoid incorrect labeling of links. You should also realize that the process listed above is just the beginning; there is a multitude of other metrics to consider such as anchor text ratio, site-wide links ratio, deep linking ratio, and link velocity to name a few. This may all seem a bit too technical, but the good news is that there are numerous backlinks analysis tools that will provide these metrics. A good way to ascertain what ratios you want to maintain is by comparing your averages with those of leading competitors that appear in the top search rankings.
Once you have a concrete list of backlinks you want to remove from your website or discredit, you have two options:
- Link Removal Request – You can ask the webmaster to remove the links in question.
- Disavow Links – Google has created a new tool that allows you to tell them what links that you want disassociated from your website. Make sure to document the entire process just in case you need evidence for a reconsideration request.
As you can see, it is important that you audit your backlinks and maintain control of your site since search engines are now penalizing websites with high spam content. Backlink audits are just as important as other SEO tactics to ensure your strategy has maximum effect on your rankings. If this all seems a bit too technical, you can always hire professional web designers to help improve your rankings and avoid any potential negative consequences.
Written by Gene Beach of AWOA providing professional web design and marketing. You can follow their business ramblings on Twitter at @DavidNagle