Backlink profile analysis is an essential part of the SEO research process. SEO experts regularly analyze the backlink profiles of websites to better understand how backlinks may be impacting their organic search rankings.
Learning how to do backlink analysis can help site owners and digital marketers gain strategic insights they can use to improve their SEO.
Although backlink analysis does require some more advanced SEO knowledge, this guide will break down the most important factors related to this process, including:
- The definition and purpose of backlink analysis
- The role of backlinks in Google’s ranking algorithm
- Factors to pay attention to during backlink analysis
- How to perform backlink analysis using Search Atlas SEO software
- What to do after a backlink profile analysis is complete
What is Backlink Analysis?
Backlink analysis is a fundamental process in search engine optimization (SEO). It involves examining the backlinks that point to a particular website and making informed conclusions about how those links are helping (or harming) that website’s search engine rankings.
Collectively, these links are referred to as a website’s backlink profile. Each website has a unique backlink profile, and the quantity and quality of those links play a major role in whether or not Google will rank web pages.
A comprehensive backlink profile analysis allows SEOs to gain strategic insights that can be used in their SEO campaigns.
Why Conduct Backlink Profile Analysis?
Because backlinks play such an important role in ranking, backlink analysis should be a fundamental part of the research phase of SEO.
If marketers or site owners want to improve the search engine rankings of a website, they should analyze its backlinks, as well as the backlinks pointing to competitor websites.
By conducting a backlink analysis, SEOs can:
- Understand the quality and quantity of backlinks pointing to a site
- See the common anchor texts being used when linking to web pages
- Identify where competitors are earning their backlinks
- Discover whether or not a website would benefit from link building
Backlinks and Google’s Ranking Algorithm
Since the early days of SEO, backlinks have been the most important ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. Backlinks show Google that a website is trusted by other websites on the internet
However, it didn’t take long for Google to realize that this ranking factor could be easily manipulated. Unethical SEOs started buying and selling backlinks on low-quality websites in order to artificially manipulate search engine results.
So over the past twenty years, Google has refined its ranking algorithm to better evaluate the quality of a website’s backlinks. A major part of backlink profile analysis is understanding whether or not a website’s backlinks communicate the quality signals that Google looks for when ranking web pages.
Factors to Pay Attention to When Conducting Link Profile Analysis
When using the Search Atlas backlink analyzer to examine your website’s backlinks or competitors, these are the factors that you should pay attention to. Each serves as a quality indicator that can help you evaluate the overall health of a backlink profile.
Total Number of Links
As a general rule, websites with more backlinks tend to rank higher than those with fewer backlinks. If a web page has a lot of backlinks pointing to it, it generally means that many people on the internet are finding that web page valuable.
However, quality is better than quantity when it comes to backlinks. If a website has a lot of backlinks, but from low-quality websites, that can potentially harm their search engine performance.
Although earning more high-quality backlinks is beneficial for ranking, it’s not just a numbers game. Google will also consider the quality of backlinks, which can be measured by the below factors.
Unique Referring Domains
Every website that links to yours is considered a referring domain because that website can send your website referring traffic.
Google wants to rank websites that have many unique referring domains. If multiple websites are linking to yours, it shows Google that your website is reputable and well-trusted by many in your industry.
A long list of unique referring domains in your backlink profile can increase your overall ranking potential, as Google will see your website as more trustworthy.
Domain Authority of Referring Domains
In addition to unique referring domains, it’s important to also pay attention to their Domain Authority or Domain Rating.
Although Domain Authority is not a ranking factor, it is a reliable metric for understanding the link equity of a website. Websites with higher DA scores usually have more backlinks pointing to them, meaning more link equity.
It’s true that site owners cannot control what websites link to theirs, but outreach efforts should always be with other reputable, high-quality websites.
So pay attention to the Domain Authority of your referring domains and your competitors’ referring domains. You can check the DA of any website using the Domain Authority checker in the Search Atlas dashboard.
Dofollow vs. Nofollow
There are two types of backlinks – dofollow and nofollow.
A link with a nofollow attribute prevents the crawler from following the link. In contrast, links without this attribute are commonly referred to in the SEO industry as “follow links” or “dofollow” links, because the crawler can follow them to the linked-to page.
If a link has a nofollow attribute, it also means that the link does not send any “link juice” on to your website. It is generally agreed upon in the SEO industry that nofollow links are not used in Google’s ranking algorithm.
As a result, dofollow backlinks are generally more desirable for building a strong backlink profile.
However, that doesn’t mean there is no value to a nofollow link. That link can still send traffic to your website and get more eyes on your content, which can mean the potential for more natural linking in the future.
Although site owners cannot control the anchor text that other webmasters use when linking to their web pages, Google still looks at anchor text as a quality indicator of a backlink.
So pay attention to the anchor text other webmasters use to link to your content. Google uses anchor text to understand content and relevance and uses those signals in its ranking algorithm.
If a web page has backlinks with anchor text that do not relate to the content on the page, that confuses Google crawlers and they may be less likely to rank the page.
A healthy backlink profile will have a diverse set of anchor texts, including branded, partial match, generic, and naked. For more details on the different types of anchor texts, read this detailed guide on anchor text diversity.
A healthy backlink profile will usually have backlinks from referring domains with similar topical relevance.
As a general rule, it is better for your backlinks to come from websites that share some topical relevance to yours, because Google will see that your website is well-trusted by others in your industry.
In contrast, a lack of topical relevance can be concerning. Links from irrelevant websites can look like unethical linking practices.
For example, if a law firm website has most of its backlinks in the comment sections of food blogs, that does not look like natural link building.
In general, you want your backlinks to come from the highest-quality, relevant websites in your industry. This will help show that your website keeps company with the best of the best on the internet.
How to Perform Backlink Analysis Using Search Atlas
There are two primary ways to perform backlinks analysis in your Search Atlas dashboard. The first will help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your own backlink profile. The second will help you compare your backlink profile against competitors.
1. Analyze a Website’s Backlink Profile Using the Backlink Analyzer
Navigate to the “Backlink Research” feature in the dashboard and enter the homepage url of the website that you want to analyze. Then, press “Analyze.”
After the report is generated, it will be added to your list of reports at the top of the table. Click “View” to see the details of the report.
The report’s first page will provide you with a visual overview of the website’s backlink profile and how it has changed over time.
You will want to see upward trends in all of the above charts – as your DA, PA, and total linking domains and linking pages should naturally increase over time. Any downward or static trends may signal that your website is in need of a link-building campaign.
There will also be six other tabs that you can navigate to in the report including:
A complete list of all of the referring domains in your backlink profile and the total referring domains over time.
The table will also display the referring domain’s Domain Authority, spam scores, and whether the links are dofollow or nofollow.
A healthy, active website will show an upward trend in referring domains over time.
A complete list of all of the web pages that include backlinks to your website and the total linking pages over time. The table will also display individual page urls and Page Authority scores of the linking pages.
Like linking domains, a healthy backlink profile will have an upward trend of linking pages.
A bar chart showing new or lost referring domains over time.
Referring domains can get lost when websites are migrated or webmasters remove links. In general, you will want to see more green trends than red trends.
A bar chart showing the total new or lost linking pages over time. It’s normal to lose backlinks, as web pages can be moved, updated, or deleted.
Similarly to New/Lost Domains, you want to see more green trends than red trends.
A table showing the top pages on the website, or those with the strongest backlink signals. The table also includes Page Authority scores, HTTP status code, total linking domains, and total linking pages.
It is most common for the homepage of a website to have the most backlinks.
A bar chart showing you the distribution of anchor texts in your backlink profile. Most likely, the majority of your anchor text will be branded.
However, you will also want to see anchors that have topical relevance to the keywords that you want your pages to rank for in organic search.
A bar chart showing the number of links on the website that may be from spammy or low-quality websites.
A high distribution of spammy links signals a website that may have been impacted by low-quality or unethical link-building practices.
Altogether, these tabs allow you to examine each of the major factors that impact backlink profile health.
Navigate between the tabs to gain all of the information gathered by the software. Then, leverage that information in your SEO strategy.
2. Compare a Website’s Backlink Profile Against Competitors
To compare a website’s backlink profile against competitors, navigate to the “Compare Backlinks” feature in the Search Atlas dashboard.
Enter the homepage urls of 2-5 competing websites and then press “Analyze Links.”
After the backlink comparison report is generated, it will be added to your list of reports at the top of the table. Click “View” to see the details of the report.
This report will chart the major factors impacting your backlink profile alongside your competitors, including Domain Authority, Page Authority, linking domains, and linking pages.
If all of your competitors have stronger signals in these areas, Google is more likely to rank pages from their domains, even if your content is high-quality.
That is a sign that your website needs to start doing link building outreach.
What to Do After Backlink Analysis: Possible Next Steps
All of this backlink profile information may feel overwhelming to those newer to backlink analysis. However, the backlink data in these reports provide very valuable insights that you can utilize to improve your SEO.
Identify Any Missing or Low-Quality Content on your Website
If your backlink analysis reveals that your competitors have more backlinks than you, it may be because they also have more content.
More high-quality content on your website means more people will be interested in linking to your website. Lots of high-quality content on a website can be used in public relations outreach, social media posts, digital PR, and other marketing efforts that often result in links.
If this is the case for your website, navigate to the competitor research tool in the Search Atlas dashboard to see what pieces of content on your competitors’ websites rank well and have the strongest Page Authority metrics.
You may want to consider adding a similar piece of content to your own website to increase your own chances of earning high-quality backlinks.
Create a List of Outreach Targets for Link Building
Competitor backlink analysis allows you to see who is linking to your competitors and to what pages. If you want to outperform them in organic search, you’ll need more backlinks.
So create a list of your competitors’ referring domains. Then, reach out to those webmasters in your link building, public relations, and manual outreach campaigns.
The Link Gap Analysis tool in your Search Atlas dashboard will allow you to easily identify potential outreach targets.
If there are websites linking to multiple of your competitors’ domains, it’s likely that those websites may also be interested in linking to your content.
Disavow any Spammy or Toxic Backlinks
If the backlink analysis process reveals that your backlink profile is tainted with toxic links or spammy referring domains, you may want to consider leveraging Google’s disavow tool.
Google has gotten better at dismissing the low-quality links that point to our websites. But search engine rankings can be negatively impacted by spammy links. The disavow tool allows webmasters to ask Google to dismiss links that are low quality.
Using the disavow tool, though, does require more advanced SEO knowledge. It’s best to work with skilled technical SEO experts when using disavow. Otherwise, you may end up disavowing links that actually benefit your organic ranking potential.
Invest in a Link Building Campaign
If your backlink profile analysis reveals that your website is low on backlinks, lacking quality referring domains, or missing anchor text diversity, it may be time for a link building campaign.
Link building the right way – through original content and manual outreach – can be one of the most impactful SEO strategies. More backlinks not only send referral traffic to your website, they help increase your Domain Authority, and thus the ranking potential of your entire website.
But make sure to only work with reputable link builders who use Google Compliant Strategies. Agencies that specialize in link building, like LinkGraph, can help ensure the links you earn meet Google’s quality standards.
Ready to Analyze Backlinks?
If you want to start analyzing your backlink profile for organic ranking potential, start a free trial of Search Atlas. You will gain access to all of the backlink tools and features listed in this article.
Remember, improving your backlink signals is one of the fastest and surest ways to increase your organic visibility.
Plus, regularly checking in on your backlink profile helps ensure that you don’t lose any momentum with your off-site SEO strategy.