A backlink audit is the evaluation of all backlinks pointing to your website. It is therefore necessary to find these links, to identify the good ones and the bad ones, and to develop a sustainable netlinking development strategy to optimize your natural referencing. It is essential to analyze your profile before even considering a creative campaign.
This way, you can weed out any that might threaten your rankings, and then start cleaning up by creating new, better ones.
One of the essential levers is the popularity , induced by the number and the quality of incoming links which are made towards your site. One of the main tips to get higher rankings in Google results and more online traffic is therefore to build backlinks. This part of SEO is called netlinking or linkbuilding strategy .
Backlinks have lost none of their power and remain a reliable indicator of the quality of a website. It is therefore important to be able to observe in depth your netlinking strategy and observe that of your competitors.
Backlink analysis and auditing is the foundation of any successful SEO campaign . How to benefit from the audit? What metrics to observe, how to follow the competition, what tools to use?
A backlink audit has several functions:
- Audit your site to make an inventory, plan its strategy and avoid over-optimization.
- Spy on the competition and identify the difficulties in your industry.
- Prospect for link building opportunities in the same semantic fields.
- Fix errors by looking for dead links or nofollow.
What is a backlink and netlinking strategy?
In order to start on a good basis, here are two definitions.
- A backlink is a link made by another site to a page on yours . They are part of Google's algorithm ranking factors. Receiving a large number of links from sites dealing with similar themes increases the popularity of a site and therefore its credibility with Google. The popularity of a site is an essential factor of positioning.
- Netlinking is a discipline that consists of stimulating the creation of links. These strategies are aimed at increasing the popularity of a site and can be very different from one SEO specialist to another. All these strategies do not respect the rules imposed by Google and may be subject to penalties.
Why monitor and audit backlinks?
The benefits of link analysis and auditing are numerous and can really bring a clearer view to your strategy. This must be an integral part of your SEO audits and regular SEO optimization actions to be implemented. Here are some tips on the usefulness of this analysis and the methods to obtain authority backlinks.
By auditing the quality of new links created and trying to find correlations with positive changes in Google rankings, you will be able to identify those that are positive for your site and try to find other equivalent sources.
Find the right partners
Before establishing partnerships with other sites or buying from them, it is important to assess whether these actions will potentially be positive for your SEO or not. It is important to observe the metrics of the sites and pages that will link to yours in order to assess their potential relevance.
Analyzing the sites also evolving in your field of activity can also make it possible to list potential partners to contact by making a selection upstream using the criteria of relevance of your choice.
Targeting quality ones on relevant sites, on pages with similar semantic fields, is a strategy that brings better results than focusing on volume.
Identify underused links
Your site may be getting great links to pages on your site that are underutilized and not getting their full potential. By monitoring, you can identify these shortcomings and remedy them.
Monitor overoptimized anchor texts
Since the arrival of Google penalties sanctioning abusive optimizations , it is essential not to use over-optimized link anchors in order not to attract the wrath of the search engine. The anchor job optimized for the target page's keyword should be used tactfully and in moderation.
Analysis of the profile and the anchors pointing to your pages will give you important indications to re-evaluate your strategy and possibly dilute urgently.
Fix the broken
Some links may be broken and lead to 404 error pages . Analyze thus makes it possible to contact webmasters to change an obsolete URL, to recreate a page or to set up a 310 redirect to overcome the problems of dead links.
Earning it is not easy, so avoiding not exploiting existing ones is an obligation.
Over the years, what worked for linking in the past can harm a site in the future. Google's tolerance and ability to identify dubious link profiles is also changing. You will therefore need to analyze your linking strategy constantly to adjust to the most appropriate optimization policy at the time.
If you're worried about being penalized by a Google algorithm penalty or seem to be losing rankings without knowing why, it might be a good idea to conduct an external link audit to identify possible causes.
Use data to remove potentially toxic ones and avoid over-optimization penalties. Poor quality unnatural links should be avoided or removed from your netlinking strategy.
If you identify any of poor quality , use the tool made available by Google to disavow them and ensure that they will not be counted by Google's algorithms.
It's also important to review any bad ones that you might want removed or disavowed. An analysis will help you find the most toxic to help you maintain the most qualitative and natural profile possible.
Constantly reassess your Netlinking strategy
SEO work must be maintained over time . Links appear, others are deleted, Google changes. Your strategy must evolve over time, as new algorithms appear and adapt to them. The regular study of your link profile will allow you to redirect your strategy of acquiring external links to stick to your objectives.
Why audit your competitors?
Observing and auditing all of your challengers will allow you to better assess the efforts you will have to make to reach them and will give you fundamental information to better understand the origin of their success and inspire you to guide your acquisition policy.
Assess the competition
Popularity being a fundamental pillar of SEO , it will be essential in a competitive environment to develop this part to match the efforts made by the competition. By analyzing the power of other sites, you will therefore have an idea of the work to be done and the direction to take to obtain the best results.
Monitor competitors netlinking strategy
Analyzing competitor backlinks allows you to identify fundamental elements to guide your strategy and find good opportunities to create inbound links to your site while avoiding the risk of penalties.
- Quickly find themed partner sites.
- Identify those on which it is possible to obtain links for free.
- Identify potential partners who would also be willing to work with you.
- Identify what works for each other.
- Identify those common to all.
- The types of content attracting the most citations (linkbaiting).
- The specific strategies and tactics used.
- Growth and dedicated efforts.
- Identify viable strategies within your business.
The various SEO tools make it possible to push these analyzes very far and to obtain a gold mine of information to guide your SEO actions. A competitive analysis will give you a lot of information and this knowledge will give you a solid starting point for your own project.
What metrics to use to audit backlinks?
These link analyzes can be done both at the overall level of the site, but also page by page.
Trust Flow and Quote Flow
Trust and Citation Flow are often used by SEO specialists to evaluate a website. These metrics are given by the Majestic Seo tool.
Citation and Trust are scores between 0 and 100. Both relate to links.
- CF stands for "Citation Flow" and indicates the amount of "links" a site has. The Citation score is based solely on the number of links to a page or site. It has nothing to do with quality. It reproduces the original formula of Google's Pagerank algorithm.
- TF, for the Trust Flow, is quality-oriented and emphasizes the degree of “trust” of your site, which is based on the reliability of the sites and URLs that give you backlinks. Simply put, Citation Flow Influence measures influence based on quantity, while Trust Flow Influence is based on quality.
It is very common for a site to have a higher citation flow than the Trust. This will depend on the backlink profile and the quality/quantity ratio. The Trust will increase when you have more qualitative backlinks.
The Topical Trust Flow
The Topical Trust Flow is also a metric evaluated by the Majestic Seo tool, a competitor tool of Semrush and Ahrefs.
It provides information on how authoritative a domain or page is in its industry/topic at the site and page content level. The theme of the sites and pages making links makes it possible to determine the flow of thematic trust.
Also rated from 0 to 100, the Topical Trust measures a domain's authority in a certain area across nearly 1,000 different categories.
How can you use these metrics to your advantage?
- Determine the authority of your site in its sector.
- Identify the most relevant pages.
- Determine the most qualitative backlinks.
- Find the best theme pages for trading.
- Compare the performance of other sites in your industry.
Number of referring domains per domain
Calculating the total number of external backlinks is a good start to knowing how competitive a site is . However quantity does not always rhyme with relevance and high referencing.
The number of unique domains is usually a better metric than the number of total links, because multiple from the same domain are generally considered much lower quality.
Other factors come into play, such as website relevance, anchor text, placement, and context…
Total number of different Class C IP addresses
Receiving links from sites with the same or similar IPs can send a negative signal to Google, which can identify this as exchanges with the same publishers, site networks, etc.
Distribution of anchors
When you examine an anchor text , also called a link anchor in netlinking , you can determine which keywords have been optimized (and potentially over-optimized). Diversity is the key to staying under the radar of Google's algorithms.
It is extremely important to regularly analyze the profile of the anchor texts of your website in order to constantly adapt the strategy to be adopted for the new links to be created.
Keeping an eye on new link acquisition is important in deciphering the success of current and recent link building strategies. This can also allow in some cases to identify penalties by making correlations between the recent acquisition of links and possible losses of traffic on Google.
The quality of netlinking links
Beyond the various metrics exposed above, it is then important to carry out manual checks to evaluate links from a contextual point of view.
The more good links you have, the more your link profile will be seen as natural in the eyes of Google, avoiding possible penalties.
You can therefore check these elements to determine the final quality of the link:
- Relevance of the website and page to the subject of the linked page.
- Site and page authority, page rank on Google.
- Placement of the link in the editorial content.
- Anchor text used.
- Overall credibility of the link in the content.
- Attribute of the nofollow or follow link.
The velocity of backlink acquisition
A netlinking strategy is built over time, in a linear fashion. Anomalies in the speed of acquisition of incoming links can arouse the suspicions of Google and its algorithms.
The speed of acquisition of links must be regular, without overdoing it over short periods by adding too many backlinks.
The 3 best monitoring tools or Backlink Checker
To observe your competitors and follow your inbound link acquisition strategy, you must use specialized SEO tools that allow you to list the backlinks that exist.
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