In this guide, we go through how to conduct backlink analysis to help improve your search engine ranking and visibility.
Link building is one of the factors search engines use to determine your website ranking. There are approximately 200 factors that Google looks at before they decide on your web page rankings. However, not all factors have equal weight and importance. Some SEO factors are more important than others.
In the past, backlinks had a big focus. Many SEO specialists believed it was the most important ranking factor. However, over the last couple of years, and with the latest Google Search guidelines like E.A.T and Y.MY.L, there’s been a shift in focus.
In saying that, backlinks remain a significant factor in today’s SEO landscape.
So, without further ado, here’s what you need to know to conduct backlink analysis.
What is backlink analysis?
Backlink analysis is a complete evaluation of a website’s backlinks to understand the site’s performance, quality and quantity of a backlink, and identify potential issues that could affect its search engine ranking.
When you do backlink analysis, you learn more about the authority and trust of your website compared to your competitors. You also learn about opportunities to acquire more backlinks and which links could be harming your website, and what to do about them.
It’s important to conduct backlink analysis on a regular basis. For large websites, backlink analysis could be done every day or every other day. For small and medium websites, backlink analysis can be done once a week or once a fortnight. Some SEO platforms allow you to create automated rules to notify you when your backlinks change; for example, a link is lost, gained, etc.
Lastly, backlink analysis will help you understand what strategies your competitors are using and which winning strategies you can adopt from them.
Understanding Key Metrics & KPIs
Like any other digital marketing function, it’s important to understand the key metrics and KPIs you should be measuring.
There are many metrics and KPIs to track. However, the below are a great starting point and is enough for you to get a solid idea of how your website backlinks are tracking.
Domain Authority (DA)
Domain authority is a great ranking factor developed by MOZ. This metric combines all of the MOZ metrics into one domain-wide metric that tells you how ‘authoritative’ or ‘trustworthy’ this domain is. DA is a 100-point scale score. The higher the score, the stronger your domain is.
Page Authority (PA)
Similar to DA, page authority is a metric developed by MOZ. The difference is it measure the authority of a specific website page instead of the whole domain. Also, similar to DA, page authority is DA is a 100-point scale score. The higher the score, the stronger that page is.
MozRank is a metric that represents link popularity. It determines the importance of any given web page on the internet. Website pages receive MozRank by the quantity and quality of other pages linking to them. The higher the quality of the backlinks, the higher the MozRank.
Domain Rating (DR)
DR is a metric created by ahrefs. Similar to DA, a Domain Rating tells you how much authority a domain has based on its backlink profile. According to ahres themselves, Domain Rating (DR) shows the strength of a target website’s backlink profile compared to the others in their database on a 100-point scale.
URL Rating (UR)
Similar to DR, a URL rating shows the strength of a target page’s link profile on a 100-point scale. UR is a page-level metric. The scale is logarithmic, which means that it’s a lot easier for a page to go from UR 20 to UR 30 than it is to go from UR 70 to UR 80.
Trust Flow (TF)
Trust flow is a metric created by Majestic. It’s based on a data set of hand-curated domains that reflect trust. The metric is calculated by analysing the connection between the target page and the domains in that data set.
Number of Referring Domains
Another important metric to measure is the number of domains linking to your site vs. your competitors. Generally speaking, the higher the number of domains the better. However, quantity is only 50% of the equation. The quality of these links is just as important. For example, the DR of a domain is calculated by the number of the domains linking to you but factoring the DR of each domain. So, if you have 3 links with a DR of 5 and 1 link with DR of 70, the latter carries more weight.
If you have quality pages and domains linking to your website, the chances are they will have link traffic which will increase your own website traffic. And that will help improve your SEO. Your focus should be on quality websites and pages that have real traffic rather than websites that just have a high DA or DR.
Dofollow vs. Nofollow
Whilst many SEO experts say that Nofollow links are still important, Dofollow links indeed carry more weight and power. A very low ratio of Dofollow vs. Nofollow links means that only a few websites trust your website. Your goal is to increase the ratio of Dofollow vs. Nofollow links.
How to conduct backlink analysis?
Now that you know more about some of the important metrics you need to measure let’s jump into how you can conduct your backlink analysis.
One of my favourite tools to do backlink analysis is ahrefs. It’s been around for some time, and the tool has a ton of features to help you understand how your SEO is performing.
Google Search Console
Another good tool to use is the Google Search Console. It’s a free tool and gives you several insights on how your backlinks are trending, including how many links and domains are currently linking to your website. However, if you’re looking for advanced features, you’ll need to use a tool like Ahrefs, SEMRUSH, or Moz.
This is another powerful SEO platform that’s stacked with features and insights. SEMRUSH is more than just a backlink analysis tool. However, their backlink analysis comes with a handful of features to help you gain deep insights.
One of the cool features they have is the Toxicity Score which tells you if you have toxic links and what these links are. Toxic links can negatively impact your domain and lower your rankings. So, it’s important to keep an eye on your toxicity score.