What are backlinks? How do you analyze your site’s backlinks?
Why should you give your backlink profile your undivided attention?
How does this all tie in with SEO and my Social Media strategy?
What tools are out there to learn about this?
If you have a website or work with other people’s sites, you should know about how Google PageRank affects SEO. Essentially, your page rank score is dependent on the number and quality of followed and non-followed links to your site.
Backlink Profile Analysis
As stated by Chris Heiler in an article about Backlinking.
By now you should all understand that the <em>quantity</em> and <em>quality</em> of inbound links pointing back to your company’s website is a primary factor in how your website’s pages rank in organic search results.
― Here’s a Quick Way to Find Who’s Linking to Your Website (or to Your Competitors)
Your backlink profile gives you two important things: page-rank, and relevant visits.
Page Rank and Google’s Index
Your site has two kinds of backlinks, followed and not followed. When someone links to you, it is by default followed by search engine bots.
However, if someone wants to link to you but not pass “link juice” aka page-rank they use a non-followed link tag. The code looks like this:
<ahref "https://exampledomain.com/some-directory" rel="nofollow">Example of nofollow link</a>
The nofollow tag tells crawl bots to ignore the link and prevents page rank from being passed to the link destination.
Additionally, google doesn’t want you to pass PageRank to destinations which you make money from.
This is part of Google’s effort to provide relevant and high-quality links. In other words, they don’t want people paying others to link to them.
Matt Cutts even explicitly stated that you should add a nofollow link because you may be making money from that. (This is in reference to affiliate linking)
One Caveat – This Info Isn’t Completely Accurate
If you google around, you’ll see a lot of information stressing the need for follow links. While this is true, it can lead someone to assume that nofollow links don’t matter. This simply isn’t true.
There is a lot of controversy on the idea of nofollow and follow and many people like to over emphasize the importance of follow links.
Check out this detailed analysis on the difference between regular links and nofollow links affect on SEO.
You should be regularly engaging in link building activities.
These can include posting on social media, forums, comments, and guest blog posts.
After all that hard work, you want to analyze your progress and disavow spammy links.
How to Analyze your Back-link Profile
There are many tools to help analyze your website’s backlinks.
The following is a list of the tools discussed in this article. Click the one you want to learn about first, or just read straight through.
Google Search Console
This tools was formerly known as the Webmaster Console, but I guess that was too daunting and maybe the “Search Console” name is less intimidating.
If you haven’t yet set up your Search Console you can follow Google’s Search Console setup instructions.
Now that it’s up and running and you’ve given it some time to index your site, you’ll want to:
- Select Search Traffic in the left-hand menu
- Click Links to Your Site.
Once there, you’ll see three lists. Each list has with a more button.
When you select the more button, you can click the download button to get the data in either .csv format or in a Google SpreadSheet.
I prefer the latter, mainly because of the new feature called Instant Insights.
Who Links the Most
This is a very useful report because it answers four important questions.
- How many domains link to your content?
- For this site, the number is 78, for now.
- What are those domains?
- The Google SpreadSheet has all the domains in hyperlink format so you can quickly jump to the domain.
- How many links does this domain host, to your site?
- Frankly, this section is a bit confusing, and over-inflated number of links seem to be rampant.
- My assumption is an error on XML sitemap submission or some other crawl error.
- As an example, I posted a comment on aspie blog, ONCE. My name on the comment linked to this site’s home page, yet Google says there are 537 links on the aspire blog domain, and that simply doesn’t compute.
- How many different URL does this Domain link to?
- For example, I have answered three questions on Quora that included a link to a relevant article on this site.
- As a result, there are 3 linked pages from the Quora website.
Learning how to ask good questions is vital to continual learning, yet simply asking questions alone isn’t good enough. You have to know where to go to find the answers. I hope that these four questions are ones you will easily answer going forward.
TIP: If you want to find the exact URL that host a link, simply search for the anchor tag on the domain by using this URL bar trick.
Anchor Tag Text site:exampledomain.com
Google will return all the URLs on that domain that include the Anchor Tag Text on the page.
Your Most Linked Content
Essentially, this is a list of the pages on your domain that have inbound links. Inbound links are another way to say backlinks.
They’re sorted by the number of links that a URL has and the number of domains that host those links.
As an example, this site currently has 1,449 links to it’s home page from 61 domains but I think many of those links don’t actually exist, as in the example from the aspire blog.
How Your Data is Linked
When anyone creates a link they have to either use anchor text or the URL itself will be the anchor text.
The best practice is to use anchor text which gives the user information about the destination. Check out some of my links above as an example.
Ahrefs for Backlink Profile Analysis
Ahrefs is a modern set of tools for SEO and much more. A team of 16 and growing started by Dmitry Gerasimenko.
To get started using Ahrefs, simply enter the domain you want to analyze into their site explorer search bar.
Click the image below to measure the backlink profile of a domain.
Once you enter a domain, you will quickly see a variety of metrics that you can use to guide future link building strategy.
Ahref Site Explorer
Once you enter a domain, you quickly find out quite a bit of information:
- Total number of referring domains
- Total number of backlinks from those domains
- Domain rating
- URL Rating
- Global Rank
- Social Media Shares
- Note: When I signed in,the amount of social shares was different from when I wasn’t signed in. It turns out that social shares aren’t part of the free service.
Here is the result for this site, taken on Nov 23rd or 2015.
If you create a free “Newbie” account, you get change metrics along with a count of organic keywords and the ability to add your own keywords to track.
UPDATE: You probably have to set up a free trial to access the above info by now.
DoFollow vs NoFollow
As mentioned earlier in the article, DoFollow links contribute to your page rank much more significantly than nofollow links.
For this reason, it makes sense to track them separately. Additionally, if you are working on a website project, it also makes sense to analyze other site’s backlink profile to find DoFollow link opportunities.
Here is a screen grab from LearnInternetGrows site explorer results for Backlink Types.
Notice that the number of DoFollow links is a hyperlink to a list of the referring domains. This is a powerful research tool.
Unfortunately, the free “Newbie” account only gets to see 5 of these links, and this might be enough motivation to try out the service for a month.
Moz Open Site Explorer for LinkBuilding Research
SEO Moz offers a free service called the Open Site Explorer.
IMO the best thing about this tool is that you can look at DoFollow links only.
Although, you want a healthy combination of both followed and no followed links to point to your site, DoFollow links are important for SEO.
Once you type in a domain, click the link type drop down and select “only follow”. While Ahref only gives you 5 links, Moz Open Site Explorer gives you all of them.
When you click on the drop down, you’ll see a variety of options and it’s important to know the difference. Links can come in different shapes and sizes.
- Links with Equity
- Followed Links and 301 Redirects
- Links without Equity
- No-Follow Links and 302 Redirects
- Follow Links
- Pass link juice aka page rank
- No-Follow Links
- Do not pass link juice
- 301 Redirects (permanent)
- Pass link juice
- 302 Redirects (temporary)
- Do not pass link juice
However, like Ahref they only provide full details about the first 5 links. The suppressed information is:
- Link Anchor Text
- Spam Score
- Page Authority
- Domain Authority
If you have a premium subscription, you can use these metrics to sort followed links by these criteria. When it comes to links you want:
- High page and domain authority
- Low spam score
Once again, let’s take a look at the results for this site and compare with other sources of info.
The above two tools offer a lot to get you started on your SEO path.
Leave a comment if you have a linking practice you want to share or if you found a good follow link building strategy.