Backlinks are an essential component of a successful SEO strategy because they are highly effective ranking factors that enhance your website’s credibility.
When someone links to your website, they are putting out a signal for search engines to recognize you as a reliable source of content. This makes them especially valuable for SEO because they represent trust and confidence in a website.
A 2018 Ahrefs study that analyzed 920 million websites revealed a key insight into how Google’s search engine algorithm works. The survey revealed that while other factors do weigh in considerably, backlinks were the most influential factor that affected SERP rankings.
Among the websites surveyed, an increase in organic traffic directly correlated with the number of backlinks. As the number of backlinks increased, so did the organic traffic recorded by the website.
In the early days of the search engine, backlinks were used as the primary ranking factor. However, that led to the people using black-hat SEO strategies to boost SERP ranking artificially through pseudo-links.
When Google caught on to these antics, they updated the algorithm to assess more on the ‘quality’ of the link more than the quantity of backlinks.
Now, backlinks only enhance your SEO efforts if they come from high-quality websites with respectable domain authority. That explains why modern SEO best practices emphasize more on the quality of the backlinks instead of their quantity.
To have a comprehensive overview of the quality of backlinks to your website and of that of your competitors – you need to conduct a backlink analysis. This involves carefully reviewing the pages and domains linking to a website and optimizing your backlink portfolio to climb up the SERP rank.
Let’s take a deeper look at backlink analysis.
What Is Backlink Analysis?
Backlink analysis is the foundation of a successful link building strategy. Without it, you are essentially ignoring one of the most effective off-page SEO optimization strategies.
If your website has authoritative backlinks, they can help you build authority in your niche and also improve your ranks in search engine results pages. But, how do you analyze the quality of the websites that link out to you?
That is where a backlink analysis comes in. Not only will it allow you to see which sites are linking to your content, but a backlink analysis also assists in identifying spammy links that can affect the performance of your website.
It’s also a good idea to check backlinks that your competitor sites get to find new ideas and opportunities. It could help uncover some new target domains that you haven’t worked with yet, and these could help out during your link building campaigns.
Now that you know why backlinks are great for SEO, let’s find out how to integrate a backlink analysis strategy into your website’s technical SEO workflow.
Incorporating Backlink Analysis In Your SEO Strategy
To perform accurate backlink analysis, you need to take the following steps:
Scrutinize All Your Website’s Links
Access and inspect all the outgoing links of your website. You’ll need a backlink analytical tool to do that. OnCrawl offers a highly advanced SEO dashboard that displays all your backlink information on a centralized control panel. On the other hand, its InRank feature lets you gain a better understanding of your website’s internal links as you evaluate the popularity of each link.
With OnCrawl, you can gather all this and other crawl data as well as log files to assess the correlation between your backlinks and organic visits. Then you can use the export feature to move your link data without any volume restriction.
Assess The Backlink Profile
Once you have gathered all your backlink data in one place, analyze the links as a whole to determine the potency and weaknesses of your entire backlink profile.
In addition to telling you where your links are coming from, a backlink analysis can also help you predict link issues, and manage your backlink profiles.
With this information, you can easily identify the domain authority of the backlinks and evenly distribute them through the website. It is better to have domains of high authority combined with domains of lower authority levels link back to your site –ignore ones with no influence at all.
Larry Kim, the founder of WordStream, says that although targeting sites with strong influence is a smart move, but it’s always better to dig a little deeper before moving on to the next step. Simply put, a natural backlink profile can include links from both low and medium influence sites to create trust and credibility for your website.
You must also check the Link Velocity to observe any surges or drops in links and referring domains.
Detect Unnatural Links
Unnatural links will get you a Google penalty before you can even figure out what happened!
These bad or spam links connect your site to low-quality directories, or they could be injected links that you integrate into your content without the webmaster’s approval.
Now, to detect unnatural links, you can either manually review the sites or sift the backlinks through an analytical tool. If your site has unnatural backlinks, you will come across some irrelevant or spam sites that offer no real content and contain irrelevant pages.
Also, you can observe the anchor text distribution for any suspicious anchor texts that indicate links that do not relate to your website’s niche.
Evaluate The Penalty Risks
At this point, it would be best to clean your backlinks profile to remove any traces of black-hat SEO that might affect the ranking and credibility of your website.
According to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, any link that tampers with a site’s Google ranking will be considered a part of a link scheme and in violation of the prescribed rules.
Following Google’s guidelines, if the linked website is using any of the following strategies, it must be termed as an unnatural link and weeded out:
- Link schemes
- Hidden texts
- Inauthentic content
- Keyword stuffing
- Malicious software
Keep in mind all these directives to ensure that your website isn’t at risk of getting a penalty.
Disavow Bad Links
The best way to deal with spammy backlinks is to remove them from your website and report them.
Gather these bad links in a file and send it to Google directly, so your rank remains unaffected when they are penalized by the search engine.
This is an example of a list that you can create to sort through the unnatural backlinks by dividing them into sections to make your work easier.
This strategy works very well for sites that want to rank higher, as the experts at Marie Haynes Consulting will tell you.
In one of their projects, they recommended that their client disavow 50% of their link profile. And despite the fact that the client had spent a lot of time and money building those links, they decided to listen to the experts.
The result was in an impressive increase in their website traffic, consequently benefitting their SERP rank.
Conduct A Competitor Backlink Analysis
To start with, research your competitors and make a list with their names on it. Next, analyze the number of backlinks each site has using a backlink analytical tool.
Once you have all the information, identify the sites that hold the most extensive link portfolio so that you can leverage massive link-building opportunities.
After this, you need to check the domain authority of each backlink and find sites that are contributing high bouts of traffic to your competitors’ site.
This way, you can find the link with the strongest influence and target it for your link-building tactics.
Build Valuable Links With A Clean Backlink Profile
Now that you have all the information on your competitors’ backlinks, cash in on the new-found opportunities and enhance your SEO strategy.
Also, compare your backlink information with the competitors’ backlinks profile and find common links or domains between them.
Pro tip – find unique links in your competitor’s backlink profile as they hold the most potential for untapped opportunities once you acquire them for your website. Check the domain authority of such links and boost your SERP rankings by incorporating them into your website’s SEO strategy.
All in all, backlink analysis is a vital aspect of your SEO strategy that must be performed periodically to ensure your rankings remain consistently high in search engine results.
For a successful analysis, you need to make sure that you abide by all the rules set by Google Webmaster’s Guidelines. Additionally, find the right analytical tools that offer you streamlined information, and use them to conduct industry research and identify potential opportunities.
But, if you’ve got your hands full with other business issues that demand your attention, you could always hire an agency that offers outsource marketing services with a proven track record to accomplish your SEO objectives.