How to Conduct a Backlink Analysis for SEO Improvement

Basically, the purpose of this analysis is to end up with more backlinks that have higher link equity. When you have a higher amount of high-quality backlinks, your search visibility and ranking improve. This can result in thousands of more visitors to your site and potentially more customers. However, depending on your niche and how aggressive your SEO strategy is, results can vary. This article provides a comprehensive guide for conducting a backlink analysis, with the goals of gaining more traffic and ultimately increasing the revenue of your site.

All good SEO starts with a strong base, and backlinks are a critical part of that. Whether you’re trying to rank a blog post or a product landing page, backlink analysis could vastly improve your SEO. You can see where your competitors are getting their links from and try to replicate them. You can find links to content that no longer exists on your site and recover the link equity with a 301 redirect. You’d be surprised at how many people will link to a website or a specific product within a site, but the content is no longer there. You can also find relevant websites in your niche that may be open to featuring your content.

Importance of Backlink Analysis

This section will explore the importance of backlink analysis and its relevance to SEO performance. It has been widely acknowledged that backlink analysis is a key factor in the overall search engine optimization. This is due to search engines using backlinks as a highly important factor in determining the relevance and authority of a certain website. The higher the relevance of the website, the easier it becomes to achieve a high search engine position. By analyzing the backlinks of a website, you can also gain an understanding of any risks associated with backlinks that may be detrimental to the site’s performance. This will effectively allow you to make an informed decision on disavowing links that pose a risk to the website. This can be done using a disavow file that is submitted to Google to indicate that the webmaster does not want certain links to be taken into account when assessing the search engine ranking of the website. Furthermore, viewing the backlinks of high-ranking competitor websites can provide insight into what is contributing to their high position, potentially opening up opportunities to imitate their linking strategy with the intent of improving the site’s search engine position. This is a far more efficient method than trialing and erroring with different link building methods. Monitoring competitor backlinks to see if they try to use black hat SEO methods can also be an important factor regarding the safety of your website’s position. With the recent updates to Google’s search algorithm, it is relatively easy for a website to lose their search engine position due to a penalty as a result of black hat SEO. This makes it essential to monitor any inbound links to the website so that if there are any negatively impacting links, it is largely easier to identify the cause of the penalty. A common method for underhanded competition is to buy thousands of spammy and low-quality links to a competitor URL to try and get them penalized. This can be a concern for some websites depending on the nature of the competition and how valuable their search engine position is.

Enhancing SEO Performance

When it comes to search engine rankings, backlinks can upgrade your SEO performance and increase its potential. As a SEO service, you need to fully understand the current situation in order to move forward. Therefore, it is important to conduct a backlink analysis to examine the number of backlinks and the quality of websites linking to your content. An analysis can help you identify ways to improve your backlink portfolio. For example, you may discover that your website is lacking in directory links. This could be a great opportunity for link building if directories are relevant to your area of content. It may also reveal that you are currently receiving a high volume of low quality inbound links, and this could affect your search engine rankings in a negative manner. A good quality link from a website that has an established reputation is what you need. This will help to push your site higher in the SERPs. The anchor text of the URL will play a crucial role in enhancing your website’s SERPs if the anchor text used is keywords that suit your website. A backlink analysis will allow you to monitor how anchor text is used with your backlink URL.

Identifying Link Building Opportunities

This function of a backlink analysis is a crucial aspect of the entire process. When you begin to dig into your backlink information, you can begin to identify all the possible sources who can link to your website and therefore increase the probability of them linking to the right then next time. Many people or sources may have already linked to your site but not properly, this could be a misspelling of the URL or the link could be broken. By identifying where your backlinks are coming from, you can more easily identify who is linking to you and the anchor text that they are using. During the process of a backlink analysis, it is important that you keep track of your backlink data. This would involve creating a new backlink portfolio which lists all the URLs that are linking to your website, the PageRank of the page, and anchor text used to link to your site. This could be stored in an excel spreadsheet, for example.

Monitoring Competitor Backlinks

Inbound Links: The Inbound Links value shows the number of indexed URLs from the domain with at least 1 external source URL link. A higher number here shows a higher level of domain saturation, but the most important use of this value is to compare it with the Indexed Pages value for all the competitor URLs. By calculating a ratio of Indexed Pages to Inbound Links, URLs with a lower value often have room for SEO improvement. Through increasing the amount of indexable content or the building of internal URL links, saturation levels can be increased. This can result in an increase of Page Rank through the quick funneling of link juice to newly created URLs.

Indexed Pages: The Indexed Pages value gives a simple indication of how much of a competitor’s site is indexed by Google. This provides an insight into the level of saturation the site has, and for the most part, a higher value is better. However, this is not always the case, and the true reasoning lies when comparing this value with the Inbound Links value.

Using SEOquake, I will begin by analyzing the statistics of the top 10 competitor URLs from the keyword search. This will provide a comparison to quickly identify what steps need to be taken for the page in question to compete with the top rankings. I have not included these results in the case study; the true analysis starts with the Indexed Pages and Inbound Links.

Method: There are many tools and methods to analyze backlinks with varying costs. In this case study, I have used the free to download SEOquake and Juicy Link Finder Tools. These tools are perfect for small scale analysis on a specific URL. It saves a lot of time compared to using any online tools, which require you to do the analysis one page at a time. Some of the tasks can be a bit mindless and arduous, but there are various shortcuts to checking for certain things quickly.

Steps to Conduct a Backlink Analysis

Google Webmaster Tools – This tool can be useful for finding out data on recent links. Google Webmaster Tools now offers a ‘Links to Your Site’ tool which shows your most recent backlinks. You may want to do this analysis regularly to get an understanding of your most recent links or do it just the once and compare the links to data from another backlink tool. This can be a useful method of finding out if link building strategies are working.

Ahrefs – Site Explorer by Ahrefs offers a huge index of links with data on several different features, but this tool is particularly useful for finding out metrics on link influence. Ahrefs offers a ‘URL Rank’ figure which shows the strength of the backlinks pointing to a URL, and there is also a similar ‘Domain Rank’ figure which shows the strength of the backlinks pointing to the entire domain. This can be particularly useful for comparing your backlink data to that of a competitor.

Open Site Explorer – Moz’s search engine for links. This tool is similar to Majestic SEO for the most part, although there are a few differing features. A couple of tools provided by Moz which are not to be found with Majestic SEO include the ‘Spam Analysis’ tool and the ‘Link Opportunities’ tool. These tools can be useful for deep analysis of your backlink profile and finding opportunities for link building.

Majestic SEO – Offers a massive index of backlinks with data on a range of features including backlink history, anchor text, and backlink location. This is offered through the ‘Site Explorer’ tool. You can also use the ‘Backlink History’ tool to compare backlink data between two URLs, and this is particularly useful if you want to compare your backlink data to that of a competitor.

The second step is to gather your backlink data. In order to do this, you will need some backlink analysis tools. There are several different potential tools to use, and the right tool for you will depend on your objectives. Below is a list of potential tools and their features.

The first step in conducting a backlink analysis is to set goals and objectives. What do you want to achieve with your backlink analysis? What data will fulfill this? Do you want to delve into backlink building strategies? Do you want to compare your backlink profile with that of a competitor? Do you want to find out what is influencing your website’s authority? Do you want to find all your toxic and harmful backlinks? These are all questions you will need to answer in order to set a clear path for your analysis. Ensuring that your objectives are clear will make it easier to decipher which data is important and which is not.

Set Goals and Objectives

Alternatively, if you’re focusing on link building as a way to increase organic traffic to specific landing pages, you can isolate this URL in your analysis and assign an objective of finding links that will pass referral traffic directly to this location. The key is to have clear goals and expectations, as this will allow you to quantify the value of your backlink profile and whether it has been worth the resource invested.

As an example, if one of your business objectives is to expand into a new market sector, you can make the assumption that increasing visibility for your brand within this sector would be a positive outcome. In this instance, you’d want to concentrate on backlinks that are relevant to this sector and location. These links are often the hardest to measure in terms of opportunity cost; however, with objectives in mind, it is easier to identify potential gains.

It’s always important to start any process by identifying the outcomes you hope to achieve. Although a backlink analysis is essentially an audit of your backlink profile, it is useful to put it in perspective with your overall business objectives. With this in mind, you can segment your backlink analysis into what is going to deliver the most value in relation to your wider SEO strategy. This method ensures that you spend the most time on the areas that are going to deliver the best results.

Gather Backlink Data

An ideal starting point for a link analysis is to use the ‘link:’ operator in a search engine with a specific URL. This is not the most efficient method to find backlinks, but it can give a list of up to 1000 links. And more often than not, many of these will be deep pages and links that would be missed using a backlink analysis tool.

With that in mind, the discovery phase must begin at a similar starting point to the target site. For example, if the target site has a small number of inbound links, it is likely that they are from directories or other URL registration type sites, so the focus would be on finding these pages rather than looking for specific site recommendations. This information can be kept in mind for later filtering.

So, to start at the beginning. Building a list of backlinks starts with the surface level or wide discovery phase and progresses to deeper investigation and filtering. This is to establish an understanding of the types of sites which a competitor is leveraging to gain links on and to find sites/pages most likely to link to a client’s site.

Whether the task is compiling a list of backlinks for a website or identifying backlink opportunities for a client’s site, it’s essential to have a structured methodology. This ensures an error-free and actionable approach for a task that can be quite cumbersome. The choice of methodology here is based on my own recent experiences. It’s not the only way and may not be the best way, but it’s a way. Please feel free to suggest improvements or point out flaws in the comments section.

Analyze Backlink Quality

In terms of the value of a link, there are a few factors that come into play. These factors include the PageRank of the page the link is on, the anchor text of the link, the relevancy of the content between the page the link is on and the page the link is pointing to, and the number of outbound links on the page the link is on. An easy way to get an idea of a general idea of link value is to look at the PageRank of the page the link is on. You can check the PageRank of a page by downloading the Google Toolbar and turning on the PageRank feature. The PageRank feature rates the quality of the page a link is on from a scale of 0 to 10. The higher the PageRank, the more valuable the link. A link from a page with a PageRank of 5 will be more valuable than a link from a page with a PageRank of 1. This is why it is very important to ensure that when doing link exchanges, you are not giving away links on your site from pages with a high PageRank in return for links on pages with a low PageRank. This will be a net loss for the exchange and can actually hurt your website’s ranking.

After securing a domain’s backlink profile, your next step is to start analyzing the links and their quality. There are a number of factors that go into determining link quality. All of these can help give you an idea of how valuable each link is and how many resources you should spend trying to get similar links.

Identify Toxic or Spammy Links

The only downside with many of these types of links is that they can be difficult to find and even harder to distinguish from legitimate link building methods, such as guest posting. As per Google’s ruling on link-related anchor text and how it affects a website’s ranking, many webmasters will now attempt to change the anchor text of previous poor links to something more favorable. This can send mixed signals, but the intent remains the same. Therefore, knowing what links to look for is a good place to start.

In all circumstances, toxic or spammy links are a certain no-no and need to be reviewed when identified. Many of these types of links are designed to manipulate search engine rankings by deceit and focus on poor ranking factors. They are often from off-topic or low authority domains with very thin and hard to believe content. This can be seen as a form of manipulative linking and, in short, it can damage a site’s ranking potential.

Explore Link Building Strategies

For more advanced analysis, you can utilize backlink data from competitors to do a comparison in their respective backlink profiles. This comparison will provide a competitive edge by knowing the strengths and weaknesses in both profiles. Over time, the objective is to close the gap on the weaker areas and surpass competitors in the stronger areas to gain better search engine rankings.

With clear understanding of the present landscape and potential risks through backlink analysis, it will provide you with a clearer vision of what needs to be done. The SEO goals and objectives can be set in accordance with the current backlink profile. For example, if there is a significant drop in the number of backlinks over a certain period of time, it is an indication to focus on link acquisition to regain the numbers or the linking root domains. If there are too many low-quality links, the objective would be to get rid of those links by properly disavowing or requesting webmasters to remove the links.

Tools for Backlink Analysis

Fruition’s Search Console Extraction tool is used by in-house and agency SEOs alike. It allows you to get all your data out of Google Search Console into a spreadsheet with one easy download. This makes searching for queries, sorting landing pages, and analyzing your organic traffic a breeze. With this tool, you can start backing up your historical search console data, giving you the ability to compare year-over-year data for greater insight into your SEO campaign performance.

Fruition has built a few tools and scripts to get data from a variety of sources. The Google Penalty History tool uses Fruition’s massive database of Google updates to let you know if there was a Google update on a date when your organic traffic changes. This can help confirm if a drop in traffic was due to a Google Penalty or an update to the search engine. Fruition’s SEO tools are used by Marketing and IT directors of Fortune companies for search engine traffic monitoring and reporting.

For the others, most people find that Ahrefs is the fastest and easiest to use. It has a very simple, intuitive layout, and you can get the important information you need on the main screen. It’s a good place to start, and if you are happy with what you find there, then you may not need to go any further. Priced between $99 and $399 per month, it is the backlink tool for Moz, which is used.

To assess your backlink profile, you’ll need the right tools. The four we’ve reviewed here – the Search Console, Ahrefs, Moz Link Explorer, and SEMrush – offer a range of different features, but they all give that essential service of allowing you to view your own backlinks. We’ve mentioned SEMrush a couple of times already, and that’s no coincidence. SEMrush is widely regarded as the best SEM (Search Engine Marketing) / PPC (Pay Per Click) analysis tool on the market, but it’s such a versatile all-rounder that you might find you don’t need any other tool for backlink analysis! It’s still relatively new to the world of backlink checking, but it has a rapidly expanding database of its own (disavow file included) and is adding new features all the time. These include a fairly recent addition of a backlink audit feature.

Google Search Console

The page has a very clean look and is quite user friendly. Everything is no more than a few clicks away. To access backlink information, navigate to Search Traffic > Links to Your Site. A badly lit area of this tool is that, if Google feels a site is not up to scratch, it will issue a manual penalty. This will show up in the form of a notification to the webmaster and the penalty and its specific details will be visible in this tool. If this is the case, it is vital that this penalty be fixed. The status of penalties will be shown under Search Traffic in the left hand column. This tool also offers the functionality of downloading a detailed backlink report which can then be imported to and analysed in Excel. This method I can compare to the functionality of Open Site Explorer, detailed later in this post. Additionally, the ‘content keywords’ section under ‘Google Index’ can be used to cross reference with anchor text. It shows the most significant keywords on a given site. If they appear to be inaccurate, it may be a good idea to adjust anchor text to be more relevant and associate the keywords with higher rankings. Although various areas of this tool are useful ways of identifying and diagnosing backlink issues, there are little options in terms of fixing them. Google’s various algorithms are a constant source of change and being updated in this day and age, leaving a lot of areas including backlinks somewhat unpredictable. Nonetheless, this tool is incredibly useful for SEOs and webmasters.


Ahrefs has also developed a similar “Page Rank” feature to Google, which allows you to sort backlinks by their quality.

Ahrefs has developed its own unique metric entitled “URL Rating” and “Domain Rating” in order to measure the authority of a page or website. URL Rating measures the strength of an individual page and is based on the backlink profile of that page, while Domain Rating measures the strength of the entire website, calculated by the strength of all backlinks to the domain. Both of these can be useful to SEOs when browsing backlinks for a site, as it is always good to have a backlink from a page with a high URL Rating or a website with a high Domain Rating. By using the URL Rating as a filter, you can ensure that you are analyzing the highest quality backlinks to your site.

From here, you can start to apply a variety of settings to your backlink analysis, all of which are located under the “Backlinks” tab. By default, you will be presented with a list of backlinks to your own site, which can be exported to a .csv file in the bottom right of the page.

Lower down the page, you will also be presented with a chart of backlinks and referring domains over time, which can be useful for link building or identifying particular drops in backlinks that may have caused a penalty. This data can normally be quite easily accessed through other tools, but Ahrefs earns bonus points for the clarity of the graph.

Ahrefs is one of the most popular and effective backlink analysis tools available. Due to its interface and ability to find a large number of linking root domains, it is typically our first choice when identifying potential bad links. After you have registered for an Ahrefs account (you can begin with a free account to test the platform), you can kick off your backlink analysis by entering your domain and clicking the “Search Links” tab. On the following page, you will be presented with a summary of your backlink profile, including the number of backlinks, referring domains, and the number of .gov or .edu backlinks. This information alone can be great for competitive analysis.

Moz Link Explorer

For example, filtering through the ‘follow’ and ‘nofollow’ links can give an indication of how many valuable links your site has and whether it’s well trusted. Filtering through the linking anchor text can be useful when wanting to remove or change a particular backlink. This information can be crucial when trying to get rid of bad backlinks that could be hindering your SEO progress.

When you put your domain into Moz’s Link Explorer, you will be greeted with an overview of your backlink profile with some useful statistics: Moz’s proprietary Domain Authority and Page Authority metrics, Spam Score of the site and its backlinks, and an indication of how many links are pointing at the site and how many are linking out. From here, you can dig deeper into your backlink profile by filtering these links through various options and revealing useful data from the backlink.

Moz’s Link Explorer is another excellent tool that can help discover new backlink opportunities while also allowing you to keep an eye on the links you already have. The free version of the tool can be limiting; however, the paid version is not overly expensive and is a good investment for anyone serious about their backlink strategy.

SEMrush Backlink Audit

Look at the main statistical data of backlinks from the landing page to the domain by clicking the URL in the backlinks report. This Main Data will give you detailed information about the backlinks of the page URL. SEMrush also provides the Backlink Competitors for SEMrush Pro users. This feature will help you compare the backlink profile between the analyzed URL and the other URL.

Check SERP Overview. SEMrush is created to analyze the domains’ URLs organic ranks. Choose the exact URL that you want to analyze the backlink of. From the result of the domain analysis, you can directly go to the “Backlink” menu. Then you will see the backlinks report of the URL you’ve analyzed. This report will quickly give you information about the backlink types distribution (by dofollow and nofollow), the text and the image of the backlink, and the URL of the site page that contains the backlink. You can filter the backlink by the anchor text, the dofollow/nofollow attribute, the referring domain, and the date. By this backlink report, you can clearly understand the backlink profile of the URL you’ve analyzed.

To be honest, this particular text is very short, so the response will be quite similar to the original. But I will do my best to fulfill the guidelines given.

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