backlink audit

The Ultimate Backlink Audit Check List

A backlink audit is essential if you are to looking to ensure your SEO campaign is both effective and safe. Gone are the days of comment linking, paying for links & hidden links, these tactics will most likely get your site penalised in the long run.

 

This is one of the main reasons I advise those who are looking to gain visibility not to invest in super cheap SEO services. This is the exact tactics they will use. I am going to take you through how to complete a backlink audit and what changes you can make to add value to your overall website health.

 

The majority of businesses might not even have a backlink strategy and a lot of companies I know don’t even know about the negative links pointing to their site and the potential damage it can do to their business. I would advise all business owners who rely on their website to generate revenue, make sure you do this or invest in an SEO who will review this for you.

 

What is a backlink audit?

 

Before jumping into what you need to do, we need to understand why a backlink audit is needed. A link audit is essentially looking at your current backlink profile and evaluating the following.

 

  1. How good are these links for your website?
  2. Is this link natural?
  3. Is the link relevant to your brand?
  4. Is the content relevant?
  5. Is the source an authoritative website?

 

Link audit can take a very long time as the best way to achieve the best results is manually looking at each link. If you have got a site with thousands of links, this would take several hours. So, I’ll take you through some of the tools I use to complete a backlink audit.

 

Step 1: Finding Your Backlinks

 

The first step is finding your backlinks. Google Search Console is a great tool for this, and it’s free. Every webmaster should have this set up.

 

Search console 1

 

On the left-hand side, you will see the links section.

 

In the link section you see information around both internal links & external links as well as an insight into the most common anchor text for your links.

 

Search console will also give you a view of what websites link to you the most.

 

search console 2

 

Step 2: Analyse your backlinks

 

Once you can visualise your backlink and where they are coming from, you can start to analyse them against the criteria I mentioned at the beginning of the article.

 

Again there are a few we can do this.

 

  1. Check them manually

 

In most cases this is not going to be viable. The time it would take you to check all links manually would be far too long. However, if you have only had your site running a short amount of time with a limited amount of links. This might be ok for you. It is definitely the best way of checking a link as relevance can be hard for a tool to understand.

 

  1. Use a backlink audit tool

 

There are a few different tools you can use for this, they vary in the language they use but essentially you want a view of the following

 

  • Amount of backlinks
  • Number of referring domains
  • Quality of site (Domain authority/citation flow)

 

3.    Best tools for backlink audits

 

There are 2 tools that I think give the best overview in your backlink profile, both also have great features for those looking for opportunities to build links.

 

Majestic

 

Majestic is a tool that specliases in backlinks rather than being an all-in-one SEO tool. You’re not going to find any info or tools on keyword research or search volume ext. It’s essentially a huge link index. You crawl a site using the search bar, and you see specifics on the domains backlink profile.

 

 

Majestic 001

 

Once you enter your domain, this instance you’re going to want to view links across your domain like below.

 

majestic seo 3

 

You could crawl a specific URL in which you want to view backlinks for but we’re focusing on the whole site’s backlink profile here.

 

Majestic 4

 

The crawl will initially provide you with the following information.

 

  • Number of external backlinks

 

This is the total number of backlinks you have coming for all domains.

 

  • Referring domains

 

This looks at the exact number of domains that link to you, rather than the total number of links. For example, you could have 50 referring domain but those 50 domain links to you 2000 times, so the number of external backlinks would be 2000. I would advise keeping this as close to a 1:1 ratio as you can as in most cases it is natural to only links once rather than constantly getting links from the same source.

 

  • Referring IP

 

Amount of referring IP addresses are linking to you – again you want these to mostly be unique, rather than from the same IP address.

 

  • Referring Subnet

 

This is short for referring C-subnet – basically are the websites you are getting links from in the same network? Again, we don’t want this to be the case.

 

My site is new so the amount of data is quite low.

 

Majestic 6

 

The next step is to utilise the backlinks tab. This will help you drill down the links that don’t look as natural. Here you should be looking at:

 

  • The source of the link – is it a website that is relevant to what you do as a business.
  • The content on the page linking to you – again, is it relevant to you as a business?
  • Trust flow & citation flow – the higher the better, however, newer sites may have a lower score here but still be super relevant.
  • Anchor text & target link – is the page linking the most relevant page on your website with natural anchor text?

SEM Rush Backlink Audit

 

SEM Rush does the manual checking for you by giving a toxic score against links you have pointing to your domain. This is extremely handy if you have a large backlink profile as it can essentially act as a filter enabling you to review the links that come up as toxic.

 

SEM Rush 1

 

Some after manually checking might be ok to keep but it definitely speeds up the process.

 

SEM Rush Toxic Score

 

Another great feature that SEM Rush has is the fact you can link it with your Google search console account as per below. It’s relatively easy to sync and you just need to give them permission by adding their email as a user. This will help them generate further data needed for SEM rush to effectively audit your site.

 

SEM RUSH search console

 

4.      Fix & Plan Ahead

 

The last step is to fix any issues you see & plan ahead by creating a plan of how you’re going to add value to your back-link profile.

 

You should be looking at fixing dead links or links that do not go to the correct URL. Don’t be scared to email the webmaster and ask them to change the anchor or the URL the links pointing to.

 

Disavow links that are not natural and could be causing harm to your site.

 

In terms of planning ahead, look at your competitor's backlink profile for inspiration on where there are getting their links and how.

 

Conclusion

 

I hope this was an easy enough guide to follow. Completing a backlink audit can be a daunting task and might be at the bottom of your list, however, it’s vital to ensure your backlink profile is natural as it can undo good work you’ve already done.

 

Author: Michael Ryan SEO limited is an SEO agency in Essex that role focus is to boost ROI for his clients.


How to conduct a thorough technical SEO site audit that makes an impact in 4 steps

You might be asking yourself, why do I need to do undertake and SEO audit on my site?

 

Well the competition to stand out on search engines is increasing every single year as business owners become more tech-savvy with their approach.

 

It is more vital than ever before to be more visible than your competitors online. One way of doing this is through SEO.

 

Ensuring your website is technically sound from an SEO perspective will make it easier for Google to understand your website and rank you in front of your audience. Bingo – more traffic – more leads & sales.

 

You can spend thousands creating an aesthetically appealing site but if there is no focus on SEO you’re going struggle to receive any organic traffic.

What Will Affect Your Websites SEO Performance?

 

Before diving into your audit, you need to understand what factors are affecting the performance of your website. Once you know this, it is easier to find the necessary changes needed.

 

Another point is Google has moved to mobile-first indexing, so you should perform your crawl with this in mind. Check your analytics to see what device your users tend to use to view your website, this will help you amend your audit where needed.

 

These factors can be split into 3 categories.

 

  • Technical factors: This includes elements such as site speed, site indexing & hosting.
  • On-site factors: This looks at how your pages are optimised. Title tag, H1’s & content.
  • Off-site factors: This is in reference to your backlink profile

 

Now we know what we are looking for. It is time to get stuck into auditing your site.

 

1.    Crawl your website

The Tecfirst step is to crawl your website. There are plenty of different tools you can use to do this.

 

I provide a free SEO audit myself which is sent to your inbox 24 hours. Unlike automated crawl’s I will manually give tips on how to improve your site based on the crawl.

 

You can also crawl your site through google by using site:domain.com. Examples below.

 

 

The pages that don’t show will give an indication of any issues on the site.

 

Another great tool to use is screaming frog. It’s free to use if your site has less than 500HTML pages. I would say it is the best tool for crawling, it gives you a complete overview of your site layered by HTML, java, CSS & images. As well as external data.

 

 

It would also be wise to make sure you check our google search console. Here you can submit your XML sitemap to see if google finds any issues. You can also check your crawl budget and frequently the site is crawled.

 

 

You want to make sure your site is being crawled as efficiently as possible to be sure to check out the following.

Make sure there is only one version of the website

 

You want to ensure there is only one version of the website being crawled. Duplication will essentially split the authority to each duplicated page making is increasingly hard for you to rank. If your site is on https:// make sure the http version redirect to this.

 

You may all use URL parameters to track marketing activity, make sure you notify google of this through search console.

 

Deal with any errors

 

If you have any 404 pages, redirect the user to the more relevant page. Google does not like sending users to pages with no content.

 

Update broken or 301 links

 

Once you have redirected the necessary page on your site. Update your internal link to the new pages. This will stop google having to crawl between the redirects.

 

Update your indexing

 

There might be a few pages that you do not necessarily need the search engine to see. For example, terms & conditions or privacy pages, noindex these to save crawl budget.

2.    Conduct On-Site Checks

 

The next part to look at how your pages are optimised. You can have a technically sound site but if you are not telling the search engine or the user what is on the page, you simply will not rank for the keywords you desire. So, here is how you start.

URL structure / Website Sitemap

 

The first part of this is looking into your URL structure & the website hierarchy. This is vital in search engines crawling and understanding your services or products.

So as a rough guide you should be looking for a nice silo structure:

http://www.example.com/SERVICE

http://www.example.com/PRODUCT

 

 

Title Tags

 

‘Page titles should appear uniform and consistent across the whole website. There should be no duplicates, and there should be none that exceed 70 characters.’ These are the basic guidelines.

The page titles should follow the format of KEYWORD – COMPANY NAME

Take my site for example: https://www.mr-seo.co.uk/free-seo-audit/

The URL slug is relevant to the keyword - 'Free SEO Audit'

The title tag is ‘Free SEO Audit | Michael Ryan SEO’

 

H1 & Heading Structure

 

Heading tags should flow in order from H1 to H4 on each page. Each page should have only one H1 and this should contain the primary keyword for that page.

So to use my free SEO audit page. My H1 is ‘Free SEO Audit’

 

Content

 

You want to make sure your content is created firstly for the users in mind and secondly the search engine. I cannot help but cringe when I see a page optimised for ‘cheap shoes’ that says ‘cheap shoes’ 100 times in the first paragraph.

 

Instead you want to write useful content including the keyword you have optimised the page for, but don’t force it in, it has to be natural.

FAQ content & reviews are a good way to provide further content for pages while potentially increasing conversion rates.

 

Ensure that all content is unique, and you do not duplicate across pages. This will confuse the search engine and affect your rankings. You can use the following tool to check any duplication.

 

Meta Descriptions

 

Google announced in 2009 that meta descriptions do not directly affect your rankings. However, this does not mean they're not important.

 

 

Meta descriptions affect your CTR (Click-Through-Rate) which is a ranking factor.

 

 

Guidelines: There should be no duplicates and none above 160 characters.

 

 

 

 

The meta description is the description users will see when they find your website via a search engine, so it is important to capture this audience. Explain what the user will find on the page and ask potential customers to get in touch!

 

3.    Review your site speed

 

The speed of your site is becoming increasingly vital as google looks to mature its algorithm. Google as a company main goal is to provide the most relevant result for a user’s search. Users prefer sites that load quickly, hence why speed is such an important ranking factor.

 

Google released some guidelines in regards to speed back in 2018, specifically mobile, it’s well worth a read.

 

The slower your website, the higher the bounce rate your site will have. You will essentially be losing out on traffic.

 

 

There are a couple of different tools I would suggest for analysing your speed.

 

Firstly submit your URL through Googles page speed insight tool.

 

Page speeds insights will give you a view into speed across mobile & desktop. As well as load page speed the tool will breakdown at what is slowing down your site across the following.

 

  • First Contentful Paint
  • Speed Index
  • Time to Interactive
  • First Meaningful Paint
  • First CPU Idle
  • Input Latency

 

Fixing this is more of a development task and is down to how your website has been designed. If you score low, speak to your developer about how you can improve this.

 

4.    Analyse your backlink profile

 

The next part is to ensure your website is also generating authority off-page through natural links. You can have the most technically sound website & perfectly optimised pages with content, but if you have no links, you are going to struggle to compete against the most authoritative websites.

 

Google uses backlinks to understand the quality of your website through how many times and from what sources your site is being mentioned.

 

I use Majestic to view my backlink profile, you want to generate as many unique links as possible instead of getting links from the same source. Search engines will see this as spammy and could devalue your site, or even worse penalise you.

 

 

Through tools such as majestic you can export your backlinks to understand the following opportunities.

 

  • Fix Broken External links

Find links that are not linking to the correct page or are broken and ask the webmaster to update these.

 

  • Unnatural links

If there are any links that don’t look natural, consider disavowing these.

 

  • Competitor analysis

Submit your competitor’s website and export their backlink profile also. This will give you inspiration for what types of websites you should be sourcing partnerships with. Example below.

 

 

I am currently working on another post looking at all the areas businesses should be looking at to generate links. I will update this post with a link once done!

Conclusion

 

Whether you have got someone looking after your SEO or you are doing this yourself, make sure you investigate these 4 areas when conducting your technical SEO audit. If you are making significant changes across your site, then push the changes through google fetch and render tool via search console. You could see an instant impact.

 

Let me know what else you cover in your technical SEO audits.

 

Author: Michael Ryan is a transparent & ROI focused SEO consultant from Essex.


May Core 2020 Google Update – What Webmasters need to know?

 

Google announced that it rolled out there a new core update yesterday (May 4th). The first core update we saw this year was in January 2020.

 

Their announcement below ‘Google said “Later today, we are releasing a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year. It is called the May 2020 Core Update. Our guidance about such updates remains as we’ve covered before.”

Key points from this update;

  • Google said it will take around one to two weeks to fully roll out.

As a webmaster make sure you keep an eye on your traffic over the next 2 weeks to see if you have been affected. If you track your keyword positions, keep an eye on this.

  • What do previous updates tell us?

If previous updates are anything to go by, then this could either make significant changes to a lot of results or it will not do a lot. The January update seemed to make significant changes, searchengineland provided some great insight to this, whereas the general feel from the September 2019 core update was that not a lot changed.

  • What to do if you are penalised

Don’t panic, a negative impact by a core update doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing anything wrong. Google gives a brief indication into what you should be looking at but essentially the core update seems to almost a ‘business as usual’ update to ensure Google results are as relevant to the user as possible. Here are the questions they provide.

 

Content and quality questions

  • Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
  • Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
  • Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
  • Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?

 

Expertise questions

  • Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
  • If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with the impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic?
  • Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
  • Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
  • Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?

 

Presentation and production questions

  • Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
  • Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?

 

Comparative questions

  • Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

 

These questions are pretty straight forward and there are probably changes we can all make to our site to adhere to these guidelines as much as possible, in some cases, it won’t be possible to hit all sections perfectly. Essentially make sure your content is of the highest quality and is providing value to the user.

 

If you’re struggling to make the necessary changes to increase your organic traffic, get in touch today, I’m happy to provide an initial Free SEO audit to those looking to discuss how I can increase there traffic long term. I am also offering free Seo consultancy advice to any business in Essex who is struggling during the current pandemic.