Post Panda and Penguin, SEOs need to be aware of where their links are coming from, they need an in-depth idea about their link profile. This will help them identify unnatural links, if any, and get rid of them, to ensure that they aren’t slapped with an unnatural links over optimization penalty.
For this, you need to take your website through a link profile audit. Let’s take a look at how you can go about performing this audit.
Before we begin, let’s understand that link audit is a fluid process, there is nothing cut and dried about it. There is varied link information that you might want to find out, so at one time you might want to know about your over optimized anchor text and at another, you might want to know about your linking neighborhood. So, the process that you need to follow depends on what you want to find out. Also, there are plenty of tools that you can use for this purpose, and if one doesn’t offer all the information that you need, you can always choose another.
Here we have given an overview of a general process that needs to be followed for performing a link audit.
Step 1: Why do you want to perform a link audit?
Be very clear about the purpose of your link audit. Are you conducting it because your site’s been penalized, or you find a sudden dip in your rankings on SERPs? Or you want to improve your link building efforts? Do you want to compare your link building profile with that of your competitors and identify its strengths or weaknesses? Do you want cleanup bad links? Why is it that you want to perform a link audit?
Step 2: Choose the Tool
When you know why you want to perform the link audit, you will know what information you want while auditing your site. So, the next step is to zero in on the tools of the trade; there are plenty of options on offer including, but not limited to, Open Site Explorer, Google Webmaster Tools etc. Your choice is dependent on whether you want to make use of free or paid tools and the features that you want.
Use something that you find simple to use and which allows you to get the link information you need quickly.
Step 3: Generate Reports
The first thing you must do is find out the number of inbound links pointing to your site; this gives you an idea of the number of quality links that are pointing to your site and also those links that are coming from irrelevant sites. Look for link quality as opposed to link quantity; this metric plays an important role in determining your rank on SERPs.
Anchor text distribution is something else that you need to look at; find out whether your site is suffering from over optimization of anchor text and which are the links that have been over optimized.
Another important metric that you need to look at is the quality of sites that are linking to you. Find out whether you are living in a good link neighborhood or not. The reputation of the domain linking to you is an important ranking factor as well.
The whole idea behind generating reports is identifying unnatural links to help remove them.
Step 4: Competitive Link Analysis
You have now got a clear idea about where your links are coming from and the amount of high quality and/or poor quality link juice that you have created for your website, but what are your competitors up to. Taking a look at your competitors link acquisition strategy, will help your own link building efforts. This will help you identify potential link targets. This helps you revamp your link strategy and it also gives you a time frame within which you need to improve your link profile (if there is something majorly wrong with it).
Step 5: How does your Site Look?
Now that you have all the info you want, find out where your site stands from the link building perspective. How is your anchor text distribution? How are your home page and deep page links, do you have enough links pointing to them? What’s the status of your image links?
Say, if you find that your anchor text distribution focuses more on targeted keywords and less on branded keywords; and you competitor’s distribution balance in this regard is around 50-50, and its working for them, you can follow their footsteps.
Step 6: Digging Deeper
You now have the option of doing a microscopic analysis of your link profile. So, breakdown your top level domains, consider the amount of Class C block analysis that you need do, and also take a closer look at the hosting location of the sites that are linking to you and take a look at anything and everything that helps you analyze your link profile better.
Step 7: Course Correction
Now, that you have a list of toxic links that either need to be corrected or removed, get started on it. Don’t wait. What’s more, if you remove unnatural links then you also need to build natural links. As can be imagined, this isn’t a quick fix kind of job. You will need to put all the information that you have gleaned as a part of the link profile audit, to good use.
There is a chance that your link profile audit can turn into an SEO audit and that’s not a bad thing. After all, the foundation of SEO rests on link building, so it makes sense to go the whole hog and conduct an SEO audit. The time that you spend doing it will be truly worth it.