A link audit is the process of analyzing the links pointing at your website to find potential problems or opportunities in your backlink profile. Link an on page SEO audit for your website, a link audit evaluates your links to determine if they are optimized to help your site rank for your target keywords. Link audits look at the source URL, domain and anchor text and to gauge how much each link is helping, or hurting your SEO, both individually and as part of your overall backlink profile.
It’s always important to know what your link profile looks like, at least in a general sense. This is particularly true if you’ve got an older site or if you’ve hired in-house or agency SEO help; both of these things usually mean your site has built some low quality links along the way. Having low quality links isn’t as dangerous as it was before the release of Penguin 4.0, but the integration of Penguin into Google’s real-time core algorithm makes regular conducting link audits all the more important.
Besides helping you identify and remove spammy and/or low quality links, link audits will also allow you to find your most valuable links and find opportunities to incorporate into your link building strategy.
A link audit starts by consolidating all your link information into one place. Start with your Google Search Console data. Export your links by going to Links to Your Site under Search Traffic, clicking "More" under Who Links the Most and download the latest links. Open the .csv and convert the text to columns - it’s very important later to have separate columns for source domain, anchor text and . Keep this spreadsheet as your link audit spreadsheet, or copy and paste it into a new one, depending on how you prefer to work.
Since Google Search Console will only give you the linking URL, you will need a second tool crawl these pages to find the link information. There are free crawlers out there like Screaming Frog, or paid ones such as Kerboo.
A second option for consolidating your link data is to use a link audit tool such as Majestic or Ahrefs. You can look up a few links on Majestic but you’ll need to subscribe in order to export your data.
You also have the option use all three in tandem, and then remove duplicate links from the list.
As mentioned above, there are three main criteria to judge when evaluating the value of your links: anchor text and the quality of the linking URL and domains. To grade these three criteria, look at these factors:
Anchor text: This is the clickable text of a link, and an easy way to spot link spam. Be on the lookout for anchor text that is over optimized with multiple keywords, keywords that are irrelevant to the on page content and keywords that are unrelated to your page content. On a macro level, check to see how much of your site’s overall link profile is made up of keyword anchor text. It’s important to maintain a distribution of anchor text containing keywords, your brand name/URL and generic phrases like "click here" and “learn more”. Having too many links with keyword anchor text will look unnatural to search engines.
Domain quality: Check out the linking site’s pages. What sort of topic does it cover? Not all linking domains need to be related to your niche, but you don’t want links from sites that host adult content, illegal streams or knock off drugs. Does it have high quality content and is it generally well-designed? Or does it host a lot of thin content on pages covered in spammy ads? Do you see a lot of pop-ups when you visit the site?
Page quality: Like domain quality, this is somewhat subjective. There are a few objectively right and wrong things here, though: spelling, grammar and natural language usage is important. The website should provide a positive user experience, or at least look like it’s trying with a good design and unobtrusive ads. There’s no minimum word count for good content, but read through it. Does it cover the topic in-depth, or is it thing and over optimized with keywords? Pay close attention to the words surrounding the anchor text - if you have a large number of links that have the same anchor text and surrounding words, there’s a chance you’re on the receiving end of negative SEO. This is rare, but it does happen.
While it shouldn’t be a deciding factor when evaluating a link, the IP address of the linking site should receive some scrutiny. Spend a little extra time, and look a little closer, at links if you have a large number of them from countries known for sending spam, like Russia or India, if you business doesn’t operate there.
If you don’t want to evaluate each link yourself, use a tool to score them for you. WooRank’s Advanced Review will give you a good idea of the quality of your links, as well as the overall health of your profile. WooRank looks at a variety of signals to score your links, and you’ll be able to see how you measure up to your competitors.
If you used Majestic to gather your links, the evaluation has been done for you in the form of Trust Flow and Citation Flow, two proprietary metrics developed to measure the trustworthiness of a site.
In your spreadsheet, tag any link spam that might incur a manual penalty from Google, as well as your most valuable links - those that are passing your site the most link juice.
One reason you do a link audit: identify unnatural links (or attempts at negative SEO) in your profile to target for removal or disavowal.
Don’t jump right to disavowing links - Google advises that this isn’t enough to prove that you’re trying to clean up your link profile. Contact the site owners manually asking them to remove links to your site. Keep a record of these attempts and the response you receive (or don’t receive) for your disavowal file and, if you wind up with a manual penalty, your reconsideration request.
If all your attempts at removal fail, submit your links for disavowal via the Disavow Links Tool in Google Search Console. Copy and paste the links you want removed into a simple text file and include notes on how you went about having the link removed, and why you failed.
Your disavow file should look like this:
# example.com removed most links, but missed some http://spam.com/stuff/blog-network.html http://spam.com/stuff/paid-links.html http://spam.com/stuff/negative-seo-links.html # Contacted owner of spam.com on 7/1/2016 to # ask for link removal but got no response domain:spam.com
Only disavow the links that could get you a manual penalty. According to Google, Penguin 4.0 merely devalues low quality links, instead of penalizes sites that have them. As long as it doesn’t violate Google’s webmaster guidelines, a low quality link is still going to pass at least a small amount of link juice.
Knowing who is already linking to your content will make building links in the future easier. Past links are a good indicator that a person is interested in your site’s topic, finds your content valuable and useful, and has an audience that’s relevant to your site. Knowing that a publisher is both relevant to your niche and attract an audience interested in your topic are very valuable when it comes to building links, as these two aspects of a website play a large role in determining the value passed by a link.
When doing your link building outreach, spend a little extra time crafting your targeted messaging to these publishers. You’re building not only links but also a foundation of a relationship for future linking as well.