Obtaining backlinks from authoritative, relevant sources can prove essential in boosting the search ranking of a website. But did you know that low-quality backlinks can have the opposite effect by lowering a website's search ranking - or worse, having the website removed from Google's index altogether? To avoid this problem, webmasters should take a proactive approach by conducting regular backlink audits.
What is a Backlink Audit?
A backlink audit is exactly what it sounds like: analyzing the overall quality of your website's backlinks. With this information on hand, you can attempt to remove the bad links so they won't negatively impact your site's search ranking.
Check Your Backlinks
To begin, you'll need to create a list of all backlinks pointing to your website. Assuming you only have a handful of links, this shouldn't be a difficult task. If you have hundreds or even thousands of backlinks, however, you'll probably need to use a third-party tool or program. Google Webmaster Tools has a built-in link checker, which can be found by logging into your GMT account and choosing Search Traffic > Links to Your Site > and click "More" underneath "Who links the most."
Unfortunately, WMT does not provide a complete list of site that link to yours. In order to get a complete and detailed report of inbound links you will need to use a paid service like; Link Research Tools, Open Site Explorer, Moz, Majestic SEO, and Ahrefs. Each of these tools (including Webmaster Tools) will create a list of backlinks and provide some helpful metrics.
Separate the Good and Bad Links
The next step in conducting a backlink audit is to separate the good links from the bad links. Any link that blatantly violated Google's Webmaster Guidelines is bad. This may include links that were purchased; links that were generated using automated software; and links that were designed strictly for SEO purposes. Other "bad" links may include those found on pages riddled with spam, as well as links that were created by a competitor in an attempt to harm the webmaster's search ranking.
Contact the Websites
Before you resort to using Google's disavow tool, you should first attempt to remove the bad links by contacting the websites on which they are posted. There's no easy way to do this, as you must email each and every website to request your link to be removed. Keep in mind that only a small portion of users will respond to your email, and even fewer will remove your links. However, this is still a critical step in the link audit process.
The final step is to place your remaining "bad" links - the ones you couldn't remove by contacting the website - into Google's disavow tool. Located at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main, this tool essentially tells Google to ignore certain links. You can either enter the bad links manually into the disavow tool, or you can upload a plain text file containing the links with one URL per line.
Even if you feel that your site is not suffering from bad links, it's a good practice to run an audit and understand your website's link profile. Doing so can help you recognize manipulative or inorganic links much quicker.
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