What is a link audit?
A link audit is when you analyse all the external link pointing at your site to determine the quality of your link profile, where you currently stand in relation to your competitors, identify any toxic links that may be linking to your site followed by a plan to improve your profile and ensure there are no links which may be harming your SEO efforts.
Why would a domain need a link audit?
Back in the noughties when SEO was relatively new, one of the best ways to rank well for relevant high volume keywords was to obtain as many links as possible that pointed to your site using the chosen keywords.
SEOs of a dubious nature got wise to this and built link networks in order to sell links in return for rankings.
Google got wise to this and eventually, in 2012, they unleashed the Penguin Update which was (meant to be) the begining of the end for dubious link building practices - this led to many site owners auditing their link profiles and disavowing anything that might be deemed low quality or spammy so that Google could discount these and website owners could be confident they weren't causing them any issues in relation to their organic performance. Any sites that relied totally on spammy link building practices saw their visibility disspappear over night.
Further Penguin updates followed whereby any disavowed links were no longer taken into account, and any new domains now identified as spam would be penalised - eventually, Google made this aspect of their algorithm real time - meaning your site could be hit at any time if it has a questionable link profile.
This also led to a rise in negative SEO, which is where a competitor could instead start building spammy links to other sites in order to get them penalised instead.
These days, most new websites tend to have a clean profile as few sites tend to carry out high volume, low quality link building - but there are many which still have low quality legacy links in their profile. There are also still many sites/niches which employ this tactic to great effect (until the algorithm catches up with them).
If your organic performance has taken a hit recently, then it may be that your site has been affected by low quality links - hence a link audit would required to ensure your profile is healthy and any toxic links are disavowed.
Link profiles are also still a fundamental ranking factor, and more often than not you will find sites which rank well across a wide number of search terms tend to have strong link profiles.
Therefore you can also carry out a link audit to determine where your site currently stands against your competitors to inform any Outreach and PR strategy you may have for enhancing your organic visibility.
How to conduct a link audit
- Download your link profile from as many 3rd party sources as possible: Google Search Console, AHREFs, MajesticSEO, Moz and SEMRush all provide data on external links
- Compile your links from various sources and de-dupe to show unique links / domains
- Manually review each and flag any that look like spam. The general rule of thumb is: if it looks like a crap link, it's a crap link
- Once complete, create a disavow file based on the crap, spammy links identified and upload this via Google Search Console
If you are carrying out a competitor audit to identify opportunties you can instead compile the above data, order the linking sites in terms of domain authority and then review each site to assess if it would be possible to acquire a similar link to your site.
Will a link audit impact organic performance?
If your link profile is propped up by low quality links, then disavowing a high number of these may have an adverse effect on your organic visibility, assuming you've not already been penalised. However, at the same time, it would future proof your site from any algorithmic or manual penalties if your site was to fall under Google's Penguin Radar.
Once fully audited, you can then be confident that any natural, organic link building, PR and outreach you carry out will then strengthen your domain and help enhance your visibility.
If you want to find out more about Link Auditing, the following resources are a good starting point, alternatively, if you want any assistance fill in the contact form below: