A Guide to Link Audits: Cleaning Up Your Backlink Profile

Every time a new Penguin update hits, online marketers and webmasters go on a frenzy to clean their campaigns’ link profiles. Last week was no exception – we’ve received many calls from new and returning clients asking us to do link audits for their websites after the Penguin 2.1 update hit. Today, I want to walk you through some of the things we do when auditing your links and give you an idea what you should to get started on checking your link profile before coming to us.

When to Audit Your Link Profile

The number of times you clean up your link profile depends on how fast you get new links, how big your website is, and how many updates have affected your rankings and traffic. You’ll need to do it at least once at the very least. Here are some instances when you should do a link audit:

  • At the start of your campaign, before doing any SEO work if you are new to search engine optimization
  • At the start of your campaign, if you are switching to us from another SEO provider
  • If you hear about an algorithm update release and you are not sure about your older links
  • If Google updates their definitions of spam, and some of your older links may no longer qualify as quality links

A screenshot of our website audit showing the “Backlinks” section, where you find out the health of your link profileA screenshot of our website audit showing the “Backlinks” section, where you find out the health of your link profile

It helps to schedule regular link audits, whether it’s a comprehensive one done by us or a basic one done by you, to ensure that your website’s link profile is healthy.

Examining Your Links

Before you come to us for a comprehensive link detox and link building, you’ll need to examine your own link profile and determine its health. If you’ve gained any new links over the past few months, lost some that you would like to reach out to, or if you just want to clean up your link profile for Google, then it’s time to examine your backlink profile. You’ll need to watch out for the usual suspects:

  • Too much anchor text
  • Paid links (you’ll know if you have this, obviously, and you’ll know how to take them down, but if you’ve had another SEO company handle your website, make sure to check for this just in case)
  • Not enough link diversity
  • Spam links from sites that used to be high-quality, but have since been taken down and replaced by low-quality content (this happens more for much older links)

It’s best to do your research or consult us regarding Google’s guidelines and Penguin updates to make sure you’re looking at the right links. Don’t have them taken down yet when you find them.

Analyzing Suspicious Links

When you do find suspicious-looking links in your profile, you’ll need to look into it at a deeper level before making a move to have it removed. This is the stage where we tell you to get in touch with us and have us look at your link profile – it’s best to be careful when dealing with removing your links, because one mistake can hurt your rankings greatly. Itamar has written a blog last week detailing what we do to clean your links, but here’s something you can do before coming to us:

1. List down all suspicious links you find in your initial examination.
2. If the links are obviously spam, or they obviously fall into Google’s definition of link schemes, then you’ll need to have these removed. However, do not remove them all at once — you’ll need to do it by batches to avoid sudden dips in your rankings.
3. You can get a quick link detox report by using the Link Detox tool (or we can do it for you).
4. Take note of all the links you have had removed, and all correspondences you may have had with webmasters of links you want taken down – you need to document everything for future reference. More importantly, you need to know how many links you’ve lost in order to plan an effective promotion strategy that gets you better links. We’ll also need this documentation when we analyze your link profile and do an in-depth cleanse.

A screenshot from the Link Detox Tool website showing their system for checking high-risk linksA screenshot from the Link Detox Tool website showing their system for checking high-risk links

Leave the Disavow Tool to the Experts

While Google’s Disavow Tool is an effective way to have bad links taken down, you need to use this very carefully. Even Google gives a warning to use it at your own risk, because done improperly, the disavow tool can tank your rankings drastically. If you’re not familiar with how to use it, or if you’re not sure that your links should be disavowed, let your account manager know and we will handle it for you.

Correcting Your Link Portfolio

If you find any problems with your link profile, you’ll need to do the following:

  • If you received a penalty, you’ll need to take down all the bad links you have, even those that you think are only partly suspicious. It will take awhile for the results of your reconsideration request to take effect, so do this as early as possible.
  • Carefully plan a link building strategy over the next few months in line with your overall marketing strategy. This will work if all you have is an unbalanced link profile that needs a little more anchor text and link diversity.
  • If you suspect any malicious links from your competitors, have us look into it. We will report it to Google and try to find footprints, contact the person behind it, and have the links taken down.

Contact us today to have your link portfolio audited. We’d be happy to explain our process further and help you take down those unwanted links in preparation for future algorithm updates.

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Clayton Wood

Clayton Wood

Clayton Wood is passionate about communicating the impact that technology has in online marketing, and how inbound marketing helps small and large businesses achieve their goals for themselves, their families and their communities. He’s managed thousands of online marketing campaigns across the globe, helped start ups be profitable in three different countries for over 6 years.
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