Link building is, and will continue to be, an important ranking factor. Google has stated time and time again that they look at links when they determine a site’s ranking ability. So, if you want to stay competitive, a link building strategy should be part of your routine.
But how do you know which backlinks to go after? You must first analyze where your site currently stands link-wise. That’s where a backlink analysis comes into play. Analyzing your backlink profile can help you discover what links you are missing and where your competitors are getting their backlinks.
As a link building agency, we first look through backlink profiles with new clients. This helps us understand the client’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities before implementing a link building strategy.
In this article, we’ll discuss why a backlink analysis is important, how to perform one, and what you should do after the analysis.
What Is a Backlink Analysis?
Conducting a backlink analysis involves a comprehensive assessment of your website's backlink profile. This in-depth review provides valuable insights into your backlinks' performance, their relevance, quality, and contextual significance.
By analyzing your backlinks, you can gain a better understanding of their impact on your search engine rankings, allowing you to devise effective link building strategies. Careful evaluation of your backlink profile can help you identify areas for improvement in your search engine optimization (SEO) and take corrective measures to enhance your website's online visibility.
Overall, a thorough backlink analysis is vital in optimizing your website's online presence, enabling you to stay ahead of the competition and achieve sustained success in the ever-evolving digital landscape.
Why is a Backlink Analysis Important for Link Building?
The success of link building depends on obtaining relevant links. It's not about having the most links but rather about finding the most relevant links from authoritative websites that demonstrate your authority in your online niche. Inbound links help drive traffic by expanding your target audience and reaching people who may not know enough about your site to search for it.
Conducting a backlink analysis can help you assess your backlink profile's strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities — vital information to understand before undergoing a link building project.
You can also analyze your competitor’s backlink profile. By doing so, you can gain valuable insights into where they are obtaining links and the opportunity to outperform them with higher-quality content.
Furthermore, analyzing the number of sites that link to your content can indicate how useful people find your content. The more sites that link to your content, the more valuable it is considered to be. Assessing your backlink profile can help you determine how to move forward with your content creation strategy.
When to Perform a Backlink Analysis
Completing a backlink analysis is the best way to understand your site’s online performance. Like other SEO aspects, you should conduct an analysis regularly to ensure everything is in working order. However, there are some extenuating circumstances that call for a backlink analysis. These include:
- A dip in rankings
- A loss of traffic
- Underperforming content
- Algorithm updates
- Before starting a link building campaign
- After receiving a manual penalty
By conducting a backlink analysis on a regular basis, you can gain insights into the quality and quantity of your backlinks and determine how to improve your SEO performance.
Tools You Need for a Backlink Analysis
Wading through thousands of backlinks manually is daunting. Luckily, there are many third-party tools that can do the heavy lifting for you. These include:
All of these tools can analyze links in some capacity. It’s important to explore each tool to understand which is right for your needs. You may even consider using more than one tool to ensure you’re extracting as much information as possible.
How to Conduct a Backlink Analysis
After you’ve chosen your tool, it’s time to conduct your backlink analysis. There are many ways to complete an analysis depending on your goals, but every report should include:
- Referring domains
- Total number of links from each domain
- Quality metrics
- Anchor text
- Linking page
- Index and URL status
These core components are vital to understanding your backlink profile. Extracting the right link data can ensure you gain the most insights into your profile. We will use Majestic SEO as an example throughout these next sections.
Step One: Identify Your Backlinks
To determine your website's total number of backlinks, simply input the domain into an SEO tool such as Majestic SEO. The tool will display the number of backlinks directed towards the site, which is an essential metric for assessing the website's authority.
Here is a screenshot from Majestic SEO:
However, it is important to note that this number alone does not provide much value without context. To better understand your site's performance, compare the total number of referring domains and backlinks to your competitors.
Furthermore, you can segment your website's pages to identify which pages are the most valuable. For instance, by filtering blog posts, you can evaluate the performance of your content. Alternatively, you can segment your target pages for a more detailed analysis of their performance. It is crucial to note that determining the total number of backlinks is only the first step in assessing your website's performance, regardless of your goals.
Step Two: Analyze Unique Domains
Your SEO tool will either tell you how many unique domains are linking to your site, or you can manually look at each backlink to know where it’s linking from.
Segmenting your backlinks by unique domains helps you understand how many of your backlinks are from different websites.
Here’s how to segment by unique domains in Majestic SEO:
And here is what that screen looks like:
As stated before, search engines don’t reward sites for having a high number of backlinks, especially ones that come from spammy sites. Rather, search engines reward sites for having quality backlinks. Additionally, thousands of backlinks from one site may look unnatural — a red flag for search engines.
Instead, you want to make sure you have backlinks from various reputable, relevant pages to show search engines your site is also authoritative. So, discovering which sites are already linking to yours can help refine your link building strategy and uncover other link opportunities.
Step Three: Inspect Link Quality
The next component you’ll want to analyze is link quality. Search engines look for page-to-page relevance of links. However, third-party tools look at these link metrics when determining a site’s ranking, including:
Third-party metrics are generally decent metrics to consider when assessing backlink quality. However, you should take these metrics with a grain of salt, as they never tell the whole story. The two most important aspects of a high-quality link are relevancy and human value.
Search engines use relevancy to sift through spammy links and eliminate websites that do not match the profile of your desired backlinks. This helps streamline the search process and ensure that your backlink profile only includes websites that fit your needs well.
On the other hand, incorporating human value into your link building strategy helps ensure that the backlinks you have enhance your site's user experience. You’ll also ensure you gain backlinks from sites with regular human engagement rather than spammy sites that only look good on the surface.
What Are Toxic Links?
A toxic backlink is a link from another site that can harm your SEO and affect your website's rankings. These links are considered spammy or manipulative. Additionally, Google reports that,
"Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site."
These links include:
- Link networks
- Links in the footer of a webpage
- Web directory links
- Links in blog comments
- Article directory links
- Exact-match anchor text
- Paid links
- Excessive link exchanges
- Links from automated programs
- Sponsored links
Step Four: Assess Anchor Text
Anchor text shows you how sites are linking to yours. It serves as another signal of relevance for search engines. Your SEO tool should show you every backlink’s anchor text.
In Majestic SEO, navigate to the anchor text using the left-side menu:
And here’s what that screen looks like:
When looking at anchor text, keep these best practices in mind:
- Use partial match anchor text: This is an effective way to indicate context and target long-tail keywords.
- Set expectations for the reader: Good anchor text should tell the reader what the content is about without clicking on it.
- Diversify the anchor text: Use different keywords to target similar pages.
- Change what you can, accept what you can’t: You can ask others to change the anchor text they use to link to your site, but most times, you have to accept what you’re given.
By analyzing your anchor text, you’re ensuring all backlink avenues are optimized to bring the most value to your site.
Step Five: Compare Competitors
Now that you have a clear understanding of your website's performance, it's important to compare it with your competitors. Tools like Ahrefs and Semrush allow you to conduct a backlink gap analysis, showing you the domains linking to your competitors.
In Majestic SEO, you can compare competitor backlinks by clicking “compare” in the left-side menu. You can then choose what you would like to compare, including a summary, backlink history, flow metric history, and topics.
You should see a screen like this, where you can compare up to 10 different root domains:
If you don't have the option of a gap analysis, you can still analyze your competitor's backlink profile by entering their URL into your SEO tool. Use the same process you used for your own website. By analyzing your competitor's backlink profile, you can gain valuable insights such as:
- Identifying top-performing content
- Discovering websites that link to your competitors but not to you.
After the Backlink Analysis
You’ve gone through the backlink analysis process — now what? Receiving all that data could be daunting if you don’t know your next steps. Below are a few actions you can take after learning about your backlink profile.
- Monitor your backlinks regularly.
- Conduct manual outreach strategies with more precision.
- Create content based on what performs well.
- Outsource link building with a targeted audience.
- Check for link spam.
- Submit a Disavow file.
In conclusion, a backlink analysis is essential to any successful link-building strategy. By analyzing your backlink profile, you can gain valuable insights into the quality and quantity of your backlinks, identify areas for improvement, and take corrective measures to enhance your website's online visibility.
Regularly conducting a backlink analysis can help you stay ahead of the competition and achieve sustained success in the ever-evolving digital landscape. So, if you haven't done so already, it's time to start analyzing your backlink profile and take your link building game to the next level.