What does your link profile currently look like? What is the ratio of high quality to low quality links that are pointing to your pages?
Most webmasters rarely perform link audits and often pay the price for it.
Google has made it increasingly clear that building backlinks with the intention to manipulate rankings could lead to ranking penalties. This means building low quality links or using other questionable tactics can potentially hurt your rankings. Webmasters would do better to focus on developing a high quality site.
Links continue to be a factor in terms of rankings but this also creates potential problems as it means that your competitors can create thousands of questionable links to your pages.
This is why conducting a link audit matters.
How to Check Your Links
There are several tools available where you can check your backlinks for free.
Webmasters can also view their backlinks using Google Webmaster Tools Registering for an account allows you to see invaluable information about your website including:
- Search queries
- Index status
- Content keywords
- Crawl stats
- Security issues
But one of the most useful features is being able to view backlinks to your website. Under Search Traffic click Links to Your Site for a list.
Then click Download latest links and you will be given an option to have the links downloaded to a CSV spreadsheet or Google Docs. This shows you your links in more detail including the exact page where they came from.
One thing to keep in mind is that Google only displays a small portion of links to your pages. Links may be indexed to your pages but you may not necessarily be able to see them right away using this tool.
How to Identify a Bad Link
Identifying a bad link is challenging as there are no set rules that determines a bad link from a good link. In other words, it’s difficult to know for sure whether a particular link is helping or penalizing your site. Backlink audits are better performed manually.
Here are things to look for:
- Blog comments with spammy anchor text
- Site wide links from questionable sites
- Directory links with low quality content
- Links from adult, drug or gambling sites
The next step is to carefully review the spreadsheet and mark each link with a rating based on a quality. You could also categorize them accordingly (i.e. blog comments, guest posts, etc.). Spammy links from irrelevant sources might be marked as a 1 while links from authority pages might be marked as a 5.
Then simply sort your list of links according to their ratings.
How to Remove Bad Links
You should now have a list of your backlinks. You should also have sorted them according to their quality rating. So what do you do now? You can choose to ignore the bad links but these could be affecting your links in a negative way.
A better option is to have them removed.
Even if your site is ranking well for relevant keywords, it’s still a good idea to remove bad links.
The best option is to contact webmasters directly of that particular site. Simply do a Whois check for contact information. Simply send a quick email explaining the situation and that you want a certain link removed. Some will comply while others may not respond at all.
Another option is to use the Disavow Tool inside Google Webmaster Tools. More details and instructions are available on the help page All you need to do is to create a text file of URLs you want to disavow and follow the instructions on the Disavow Tool page.
This tool should only be used with caution. Here is what Google has to say about the tool:
This is an advanced feature and should only be used with caution. If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your site’s performance in Google’s search results. We recommend that you disavow backlinks only if you believe you have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and if you are confident that the links are causing issues for you.
If your website is penalized and not ranking well in the search engines, a link audit is necessary. Links from questionable sources need to be addressed accordingly. An audit of the link profile to your websites should ideally be performed at least once a month but twice would be even better.
It can be easy to focus solely on having these links removed but it can also distract you from building quality links. If the proportion of bad links to good links is relatively low, chances are that those links are not affecting your site as much as you think.
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