A link audit is the process of analyzing the links pointing at your website to find potential problems or opportunities in your backlink profile. Much like 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 while determining whether link juice is being passed, 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.
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.