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A Simple Guide on How To Conduct Backlink Analysis

Link building is an invaluable part of SEO. In fact, it’s one of the top factors search engines look at when determining your ranking.

Whether you’re developing a new link-building strategy or revising a current one, it’s important to look at where you currently stand. That’s where a backlink strategy comes into play.

Let’s cover what a backlink analysis looks like and the tools needed to conduct one.

Backlink Analysis

What is backlink analysis?

Backlink analysis is a comprehensive review of a website’s backlinks to analyze the site’s performance and identify issues that could affect its search engine ranking.

Backlink analysis is like the SEO version of going to the doctor for a check-up. You should do it regularly to ensure everything is in order, but you also do it when you notice something is wrong.

Completing this process is one of the best ways to understand your site’s health and understand what factors are contributing to its ranking. Perhaps you’ve noticed a sharp dip in your ranking, or you’re simply not seeing the progress you were expecting.

A backlink analysis will also show you how your website measures up against your competitors. You’ll gain some insight into what strategies your competitors are using and what you could implement in your own process.

Lastly, it’s a chance to identify new growth opportunities that you haven’t yet explored.

1. Choose the sites you want to analyze.

While it’s obvious you’ll be analyzing your own website, you’ll also want to narrow down the competitor sites you want to review.

You may already have a few top of mind, but if you don’t, you’ll want to pick sites that:

  • Offer similar products or services.
  • Are currently outranking you for your target keywords.

2. Select an auditing tool.

Although you could conduct a manual backlink audit, it’s likely more efficient to use a backlink tool that already has the key features you’re looking for.

There are several backlink checker tools out there, ranging in price and capabilities. You’ll usually find them as a section within an SEO tool, like Majestic and SEMrush.

Need help finding a backlink analysis tool? Find a few suggestions here.

3. Get a quick overview.

Once you select your auditing tool, it’s time to start the analysis.

Enter your domain name into the search bar and look at the results.

backlink analysis example

You’ll start with a ton of data. To get a quick idea of how your site is performing, focus on these metrics:

  • The total number of backlinks: The total number of links pointing to the site. For instance, if website A writes a blog post and hyperlinks to a page on website B, that is a backlink. If this number is very low, it may be the reason why your page isn’t ranking well.
  • Referring domains: The total number of websites that are pointing to your site. Website A pointing to website B counts as one referring domain. Sorting these domains by authority can tell you how valuable these pages are to your ranking and give you ideas for outreach later on.
  • Top linked pages: The pages on a website that get the most backlinks. This can indicate the type of content that’s best for link building.

Repeat this step with your competitors to set a benchmark and learn where you fall. Depending on the tool you use, you may be able to compare these metrics on the same page without going back and forth.

4. Analyze the details.

Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty details and look at metrics that will answer the “why.”

Begin by looking at your anchor texts, the words used to hyperlink your webpage. This is a great way to identify spammy backlinks that could be hurting your ranking.

backlink analysis anchor text

If you’re not sure how to know if the referral domain is spammy, see if the anchor text relates to the content on your site. If it looks like the junk section of your email and includes crude language, it’s likely spam.

Once you identify these links, you could reach out to the websites to ask to be removed. It’s a long shot but could work in some instances. Disavowing those links is the more realistic option, which is basically telling Google to ignore those backlinks.

Speaking of spam, you’ll also want to look at your country code top-level domain (ccTLD) distribution. ccTLD refers to the last portion of a URL, which designates the country it originates from.

This is another way to identify websites that could be the source of your negative SEO (i.e. malicious practice meant to negatively impact your ranking).

If your website gets a lot of traffic from Haiti, for instance, it wouldn’t be a red flag to see a lot of .ht backlinks. However, if you start to notice links like .cn or another unfamiliar TLD, you may want to look deeper into this.

Next up: broken or lost links. It’s important to identify your broken and lost links as you miss out on “link juice,” the potential to rank higher from a backlink. In addition, it can make your website harder to crawl.

How do you fix it? There are several ways to do so:

  • Reach out to the referring domain and ask that it be fixed.
  • Redirect the broken page to a new webpage on your website.
  • Redirect the broken page to another page on your website with similar content.

5. See what your competitors are doing.

As you dive deeper into your domain, be sure to compare your findings with your competitors.

For instance, look at the referring domains for the website that’s outranking you. If there’s little overlap between your list and theirs, this could give you direction into which domains to aim for.

It’s also helpful to compare your backlink acquisition rate against your competitors. Are they growing at a much faster pace than you? It could highlight another section worth investigating.

Top Backlink Analysis Tools

1. Google Search Console

Google Search Console backlink analysis tool

Image Source

Google Search Console is a free tool to do an initial backlink check. You can see top metrics, like your total links and referring domains.

The downside to this platform is that you cannot compare your site to your competitors. However, it is a good place to start to gain a big-picture view of your site’s performance.

2. Ahrefs

Ahrefs backlink analysis tool

Ahrefs is an SEO tool with extensive features to help companies optimize their websites.

The backlinks checker is easily accessible through the “Site Explorer,” and allows you to quickly export the data for further analysis. You can also access the sections on the left sidebar to explore each backlink feature more in-depth.

Ahrefs is a paid tool with pricing starting at $82/month and up to $832/month for agency-level capabilities. You can also take advantage of their free trial for seven days at $7.

3. SEMrushSEMrush backlink analysis tool

SEMrush is another top SEO tool with a backlink tracker available to subscribers.

You can easily compare your report to three competitors at a time and use the graphs for a visual understanding of the data.

To get a peek into how it works, SEMrush allows free users to make 10 requests a day. While you will only get a limited view of the feature, you can get an idea of how the dashboard functions.

For full access, you must obtain a subscription. Pricing starts at $99/month and goes up to $449.

4. Moz

Moz backlink analysis tool

Moz is one of the top backlink tools in the market.

The dashboard makes quick downloads easily accessible to focus on key areas of interest.

The “Spam Score” feature provides some insight into which links may be damaging your SEO efforts and how to reduce them. Another standout feature on the site is the “Discovered and Lost” section which shows you the linking domains you’ve gained and lost within a specific date range.

You can use Moz using a free 30-day trial or subscribe to one of their monthly plans, starting at $79.

Backlink analysis is an essential part of your SEO strategy and will require continuous maintenance. However, Once you know what to look for, it should be a painless process.

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UX: an important SEO ranking factor

30-second summary:

  • The story of SEO and UX began almost 20 years ago with both making a foray into the market in the 1990s
  • After years of analyzing data, I found that UX is a critical ranking factor for SEO
  • If you’ve exhausted all your SEO techniques but still don’t see a considerable movement on your website or rankings – you’re probably losing at user experience (UX)
  • Adobe Research’s Sr. Web Engineer, Atul Jindal condenses years of his experience and observations into this SEO guide to help you win at SEO and search experience

I’ve worked with many SEO and CRO campaigns as well as fortune 50 companies over the years. This gives me access to valuable data that helped me understand what is working and what’s not. Over the years by analyzing data I found that UX is a critical ranking factor for SEO.

The story of SEO and UX began almost 20 years ago with both making a foray into the market in the 1990s. While SEO was widely used as a marketing technique, UX (user experience) concentrated on giving the users an enhanced engaging experience on the website.

If you have exhausted all your SEO techniques but still don’t see a considerable movement on your website or rankings. Then probably you’re losing at User experience.

But it is quite difficult to find UX-related issues on your website. When you’re only looking at your website from an SEO perspective! You need to take a look at your website with your user’s (customer’s) eyes.

In this guide, I’ll explain UX and guide you on how to implement it into your SEO campaigns to get results.

What is UX?  

User experience (UX) is the experience of a user with your website/application. An easy-to-use website will provide a pleasant user experience but an unplanned website will have a bad or poor user experience.

UX focuses on the site architecture, visitor journey, desktop, and mobile layouts, user flows. In short, user experience is driven by how easy or difficult it is to navigate through the user interface elements that the website designers have created.

User interface (UI) focuses on the graphical layout of any application. It includes several factors such as fonts and design styles, text entry fields, transitions, images, and animation interface. In short, anything visual comes under the umbrella of UI.

It is important to note that UI and UX are two different functionalities. While UI revolves around design layout, UX is the experience of the user on the website while they are navigating the web pages.

Since we have a better understanding of the two, let us further understand how we can successfully implement UX into an SEO campaign.

Why does UX matter in SEO?

In recent years, Google has changed its ranking criteria. There was a time when Google was looking for the keyword reparations in your content or the number of backlinks that your website has.

But now the scenario has been completely changed. Google is becoming more user-centric day by day. They are using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), and other kinds of latest technologies to understand, evaluate and provide the best of the best results. 

Google has introduced the EAT concept as well as metrics like search intent, page speed, mobile-friendliness, dwell-time are ranking factors to rank on Google. All these factors are part of a rich user experience. 

A rich user experience is a factor that creates the difference between the first and second positions. Providing a rich user experience is always helpful for visitors and encourages them to stay longer and engage more on your website. That sends positive quality signals that show your website the best result to Google. And as a result of that Google rewards you with top spots.

How to implement UX into an SEO campaign?

As mentioned above, SEO and UX share common end goals – audience engagement. SEO will answer a person’s query, while UX will take care of their navigational queries once they reach the webpage. 

Today, it has become imperative to include the two while designing SEO campaigns or any digital marketing strategy. Google is constantly evolving its user experience and merging effective SEO strategies to give the audience a more meaningful experience. 

An excellent example of UX and SEO design is IKEA. We all know what IKEA stands for, but their website forms a story at every step. It guides the user to the correct landing pages and keeps them engaged. The color palette, their tags, and categories make a user stay longer and engaged on the website. 

Source: IKEA designed on Canva

Empathy plays a vital role in optimizing your web pages with the right combination of keywords. Those days are no more with us when the exact keyword matches were enough to rank well. Today, it is about putting yourself out there and thinking from a bigger perspective. 

Google has done a great job over the past five years of getting away from ranking signals that can be spammed easily such as links and keyword stuffing. 

In other words, understanding your audience’s buying intent and analyzing their search queries will lead to refined and sustainable results. 

Let us understand the three most critical factors that influence the SEO + UX ranking. 

Understand your audience

It is probably one of the trickiest parts of running any successful campaign – Understanding the target audience. 

Most companies spend a considerable amount of time researching the audience before concluding who will be their right target. It is why we have spent a sizable amount of time highlighting its importance. 

We have often heard of marketers, businesses, and content creators emphasizing the importance of the right target audience. While sometimes it is more or less commonsensical to grasp the audience’s pulse, there are times when you need to explicitly ask: 

  • Who is my target audience? 
  • What do they want? 
  • What they are searching for? 
  • How are they looking for the information? 
  • Did my searcher bounce right away? 
  • Was there any action taken on the link?

These are key questions, Google’s algorithm takes into consideration to understand whether search results are aligned to the searcher’s intent.

For example, Airbnb works on an inclusive design model that concentrates on improving readability across all platforms. Their target audience is clearly defined – travel enthusiasts, people looking for holiday home options, and people looking for holiday hosting solutions. Their focal point has been improving the user experience by leading them to the right landing pages. They coupled it with catchy CTAs that probed the user to take an action. Whether you are a host or someone seeking an extraordinary travel experience, their comprehensive holiday solutions pave the way to make booking a holiday faster and easier. 

UX and its role in SEO an important ranking factor - Airbnb example

Source: Airbnb. Designed on Canva 

Once you understand your audience completely, it can lead to a page getting clicks and some action taking place if you are on the first of Google search results. 

UX helps the audience stay glued to the page while SEO honors their intent to click on the page’s keyword and land. Everything you do, your focal points are always around the satisfactory experience of the users. From addressing their color preferences to the layout and messages, you have to build everything that caters to your customers. 

Another critical factor in understanding the audience is the user’s intent. It would help if you addressed it while carrying out a detailed audience persona such as informational, navigational, transactional, or commercial purpose. In each case, the queries have to be predefined to understand the user’s need. 

Keyword research

Understanding the intent of potential visitors landing on your web page through search is another crucial factor that makes up for an effective UX and SEO strategy. If your website is not fully optimized with the right set of keywords, there is a bleak chance of it ranking on Google or even leading to any action. 

For example, imagine searching for the keywords – “How to wear a bowtie?” 

The most logical conclusion is that your search will lead you to a tutorial or a video, right? If the same set of keywords are used by an ecommerce site selling the bowtie, your query will remain unanswered. You may conclude that the website using this keyword is not worth visiting in the future because they apply ‘click-bait’ words to lead a consumer to their website. 

But if the person lands on the right page with the instructions clearly outlined, they stay to learn, thus increasing the dwell time and may browse the website for more information. Here your keyword has played a vital role in leading the consumer straight to the tutorial. 

Google keyword planner, Moz keyword explorer, Keywordtool.io, Ahrefs Keywords explorer, or SECockpit are some practical tools used widely to search for the right keywords. 

The best way to select the right keywords to fit your SEO strategy is to iterate the keywords you need ranking. Search relevant topics based on your business to portray and understand how the user intent affects keyword usage. 

In short, keyword research, before setting up SEO campaigns and merging them with UX, help you evolve with changing market trends. 

Site architecture

Designing a website without optimizing it for search engines is a waste of time and vice versa. Both these aspects work together and need to be carefully considered right from the beginning. 

The site’s architecture is how the pages flow on your website. From the SEO point of view, good website architecture means Google will easily find and index your page. Simply, links should help Google to navigate smoothly from high to low authority pages. Google Search Console has improved a lot since its early days and became highly informative to SEO technicians, helping them to understand how a website is indexed and appeared to Google. 

Using H1, H2 tags, headings, taglines, catchy CTAs, and informational menu labels, decide whether your audience will interact with your website or not. Remember- your homepage should not be more than four clicks away. 

Mobile responsiveness

Mobile-responsive design has gained significant importance for both the user experience and SEO. Over 50 percent of all traffic is now driven by mobile search and sites that are not mobile-responsive will compromise the user experience.

According to Google’s page experience document, mobile-friendly websites have priority access to appear above in search results. Enhancing the readability of your readers by incorporating the right font family and text size is a must-have to consider improving the mobile experience. Having a responsive website with the ability to load faster has on varying screen sizes has become a standard these days.

You can check a site’s mobile responsiveness by using Google’s Mobile-friendly testing tool

Conclusion

Bad SEO + UX ruins the entire motive of brand building. It pays well to give importance to the fine attributes today. It includes domain name, informational content, internal links, optimizing meta tags, meta descriptions, image alt tags, headings, and page titles to make the entire experience worthwhile.

Implementing SEO with UX design may seem a little daunting initially; however, it is critical to boost rankings and build a great brand.

Atul Jindal is Sr. Web Engineer at Adobe Research.

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