How to conduct a quick backlink audit

Backlinks have a huge capability to improve SEO results for your website. They increase traffic to your website and improve rankings in Google. Because of their role in increasing the visibility of your website, you need to keep a close eye on them. With a quick backlink audit, you can discover the condition of your link profile and fix potential errors. Usually, it can be an intensive process involving a lot of data for analysis. And, depending on the size of the website, can take anywhere between 45 minutes to more than 10 hours. But, it’s also a great way to find more opportunities to improve your SEO overall, whether hiring professionals or doing it on your own.

Introduction to quick backlink audit

To explain the audit, we need to first understand backlinks and their role. Then, we’ll talk more about the backlink audit and highlight some of the most important steps and tools to use.

Chess figures on the chessboard.
SEO competition is like a constant game of chess.

What are backlinks?

Simply put, backlinks are links that point back from another place to your website. There are two types of backlinks. First, there are internal backlinks that point to from one page to another within your site. Second, there are external backlinks, that point from other sites to yours. In general, they are one of the more important SEO factors that influence your website ranking in search engines. The more high-quality backlinks you have, the more relevant and authoritative your website appears.

What is the backlink audit?

Now that you know the importance of backlinks, let’s see how the audit is helping. With the backlink audit, you evaluate how beneficial your current backlinks are. If you have a good and “healthy” link profile (list of links), the higher your website will rate. If there are any bad or “dead” links pointing to your website, the audit will certainly reveal them. Eventually, it gives you the opportunity to fix any errors and/or implement a better strategy. Many companies will charge for the service of the deep audit, and the price will depend on the size of your website. But, with a little knowledge and time, you should be able to do a basic audit by yourself. Of course, if you don’t have time or means to do it, you can always turn to professionals.

How to perform a quick backlink audit with a few steps

Here is a couple of steps you need to follow to perform a quick backlink audit:

  1. Research current backlinks on your website
  2. Compare with the competition
  3. Start looking for penalties and other issues
  4. Plan the replacement with quality links

Research current backlinks on your website

Before you are able to do anything, you will need a list of your backlinks. Once you have a complete list, you will be able to start evaluation and fix eventual errors. Whether you have just a few backlinks or thousands, the most competitive way to perform this is by using SEO tools.

A magnifying glass and a notebook.
Without the right tools, it could take forever.

There are many tools you can use to get the list, do an audit, and monitor your links. Some of them are free, some are partially free. And you can combine them for the best results. Here is a couple of most commonly used tools:

  • Google Search Console – a free and user-friendly option.
  • Majestic – with many in-depth features, it’s great for analysis and exploring your competitors’ backlinks.
  • SEMrush – with its backlink audit tool this platform is great for SEO and marketing, in general.
  • Moz – a quite powerful full platform for a complete SEO audit.

Any of these tools are good for generating backlink lists. And, depending on the features you plan to use, you should explore them in details. Especially before you start using a paid subscription, if available.

Compare with the competition

Before getting deeper with your audit, it’s a good idea to research your competition as well. It will give you a better insight and understanding of competitors’ strategies. Again, Majestic is a great tool for this. Within a short time, you will be able to see various data, like types of links, backlink history, etc. These are valuable pieces of information that you can use to benchmark your own results. And, eventually, use them as guidelines to improve your own strategy.

Start looking for penalties and other issues

Types of penalties

There are two types of penalties that can happen to your links:

  • Algorithmic penalty – a type of penalty when Google’s algorithm Penguin finds something alerting regarding your links.
  • Manual penalty – a type of penalty where the Google team checks your link profile and find something wrong.

Both types of penalties will cause a loss in ranking. With manual penalties, you will at least get the message or warning from Google. But, the algorithmic penalty is automated and without any alert. You can discover them if there is a drop in traffic shown within audit results.

An illustration of a penguin.
The Penguin algorithm focuses directly on the backlink profiles of websites.

Identify negative SEO attacks by looking for link spikes

When it comes to sudden drops in your organic traffic, they might be caused by negative SEO attacks. Not everyone in the SEO industry plays a fair game, and some use this to eliminate the competition. There are 4 common types of attacks that can cause damage to your website:

  • Content scraping
  • Spammy link building
  • False URL parameters
  • Fake link removal requests
  • Hacking

Generally, the sooner you notice suspicious signs, the sooner you will be able to react. That’s why you should keep a close eye on your traffic, backlinks, and changes in ranking.

Start fixing any issues

The audit is of no use if you do nothing with the results. Once you notice bad links you should start planning how to fix errors. First, you need to remove the bad links. If it’s a spam link or penalized site, send a professional request to website owners to remove the “unhealthy” links. The next option is to “disavow” these links. While it’s not as good as removing links, disavowing, or telling Google to remove them from indexing, is still better than leaving them. Many website owners were once paying for links. Since Google “has a special place” for those types of links, you should remove them. Google is leaning toward organic links and heavily penalize these types of paid links. Overall, keeping them is a risky move.

Plan the replacement with quality links

Finally, it’s time to replace all the bad links with good ones. If it’s your first audit, now is the right time to recreate your strategy. There are many ways to acquire high-quality links that will benefit your website. So, you can think of this removal of bad ones as freeing up slots for better links. In essence, keeping bad links will hurt ranking. Removing them will leave everything in the “status quo”. But, in the long run, it opens up the space for improvement.

Finally, you should conduct a quick backlink audit on a regular basis to keep everything clean. While things can get complex and time-consuming, there is no reason for panic. Meanwhile, start improving your SEO strategy and continue reaching out for those high-quality links. There are opportunities everywhere.

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