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Backlink History 101: How to Track Important Changes to Your Backlinks

Here’s a question for you:

How often do you think about the status of your existing backlinks?

I’m willing to bet rarely, if ever.

If that’s true, don’t fret. You’re not alone.

Most marketers don’t.

 

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And the reason is simple:

They’re constantly told by experts that more and better backlinks are the “golden goose” of SEO.

And they are 100% correct.

But every now and then, one of those “golden eggs” goes bad, and the marketer doesn’t notice.

Why? Because they’re too vested in acquiring new backlinks to look at the ones they already have.

But today that all changes.

In this post, I’m going to show you a simple way to take stock of your backlink history and use that information to improve your rankings in the SERPs.

It’s True. Your Site’s Backlinks Have a History

Fun fact:

Unless you’re brand new to internet marketing, you have backlinks in your portfolio whose status is not the same as it was when you first acquired them.

How so, you ask?

Because that’s the nature of backlinks. They change.

Think about it:

Have you ever noticed an unexplainable drop in your total number of backlinks? Or noticed a follow link that’s now nofollow?

These changes occur because the status of one (or more) of your backlinks has changed.

In most cases, these changes aren’t as serious as the earlier examples. But they do occur, and they happen more often than you think.

Take a look at this screenshot:

 

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Notice the red box? It tells you this one site (with only a small handful of backlinks) has had at least 12 backlink status changes in the past five days!

(Just imagine how many status changes a larger site has on any given day.)

I’m drawing your attention to this to make a very specific point:

It’s imperative that you both know and understand how your site’s backlinks are changing on any given day.

The rest of this post will show you how to do it.

Why Backlink History Matters

There’s never an occasion where a backlink status change does not affect your backlink portfolio.

Never.

Sometimes that change is good. Sometimes it’s bad. And sometimes it’s negligible.

But it changes none-the-less. And each change has a cause and effect.

Knowing what those changes are and why they occurred will better help you strategize and prepare your backlink building strategy in the future.

 

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Here’s a simple example to illustrate this point:

Let’s say you have five backlinks coming from the same domain. And this domain has become a semi-regular source of backlinks for your site.

After viewing your backlink history, you notice that each of those links is now listed as nofollow.

Upon doing a bit of research and correspondence with the site, you discover that the site has switched from a follow link configuration to a nofollow link configuration.

As a result, you no longer specifically target this domain for building follow backlinks.

Now, if you weren’t focused on checking your backlink history, it’s very possible that you may have never noticed this change.

You would’ve continued operations as usual, and your site would’ve continued receiving zero link juice from this site and most likely would’ve eventually seen the result reflected in your rankings.

That’s why backlink history matters.

It gives you direct insight into what’s happening with each of your backlinks so you can make the necessary decisions that will ultimately help your SEO.

Simply put, if you want to maximize your backlink strategy’s effectiveness, you need to regularly review your backlink history.

And in the next section, I’ll show you the easiest way to do that.

Backlink History 101: How to Track Important Changes to Your Backlinks

There are two ways to monitor your site’s backlink history.

Option 1 is to do it yourself.

This might work in the very early stages of your site’s existence—when you’re earning your first handful of backlinks.

But it’s not sustainable.

(Once you’ve accumulated hundreds of backlinks, it’s near impossible to keep track of them all by yourself. But if you’d like to give it a try, here’s a guide that can help.)

Option 2 is to let a piece of software do it for you.

Simply put … this is the way to go.

Using software to monitor your backlink history gives you two key benefits:

1. It automates the process. Software automatically keeps track of your backlinks’ status. There’s no finding a missing backlink, no manual checking and no deciphering needed.

2. It saves time. Software conveniently grabs everything you need to know about a status change and places it in one convenient location, saving you valuable time.

Monitor Backlinks has a module (called “History”) that’s solely dedicated to backlink history.

It keeps a detailed list of the backlinks whose status has changed since you’ve started using the software and updates the list every five days.

Here’s what it looks like:

 

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Check it out for yourself with a free 30-day trial of Monitor Backlinks, and enjoy full access to all these features and heaps more—no credit card required!

As you can see from the screenshot above, the History module has five columns that give you specific info about each of your status-changed backlinks:

1. Date

This column shows you the date that the status change occurred.

Here’s how this info can be helpful:

Let’s say you have a backlink whose status has changed to “404 Not Found.” And let’s say, by looking at the date, you’ve uncovered that the status has been in effect for three days.

That tells you that there’s some sort of issue with the site: Either the page no longer exists, or something’s blocking the page from being shown, or the page has been moved to another location.

At that point, you’d want to reach out to the site owner and find out what the issue is and move forward from there.

2. Linking Page

The Linking Page column shows you the page that the backlink is located on.

This makes it easy to look at the page where issues are currently occurring. So if your status is saying that a site is down, you can quickly visit the site and verify if it’s true.

3. Backlink

This column tells you the page on your site that the backlink is pointing to.

If the backlink is no longer effective, you now know which page needs to be targeted with a new backlink in order to counterbalance the loss.

4. Previous Status

This column gives you the old status of the backlink, which helps with determining the type of change that’s occurred and whether the change is positive or negative.

5. New Status

This tells you the current status of the backlink as of the date it was added to the backlink history log.

This is the most important column in the module as it tells you what steps (if any) you need to take in rectifying any issue that may occur as a result of the status change.

The key columns to focus on when looking at your backlink history are Previous Status and New Status.

It’s through these columns that you get a better understanding of what has happened to your backlinks and what needs to be done as a result.

What to Look for When Monitoring Your Backlink History

So what exactly are you looking for when studying your site’s History module?

In short, you’re looking for the types of changes that have occurred and whether those changes are positive or negative.

I’ve placed these changes into three main categories and have affectionately called them: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

 

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(Note: The lists below do not cover every possible status change. However, using the lists below, you should be able to easily determine which category of change has occurred with status changes not included in this list.)

The Good

“Nofollow” to “Follow”

This means a backlink that was previously nofollow is now follow.

This is almost always good.

But keep in mind that spam backlinks can experience this status change as well (in which case it’s clearly not a good thing).

So make sure you always investigate a new follow backlink over in the Backlinks module to make sure it’s not unnatural or spammy.

“Will Be Checked Soon” to “Follow”

This means that the backlink in question was previously unchecked by Monitor Backlinks (most likely due to it being a new backlink).

Now, it’s been checked and is categorized as a follow backlink.

“Backlink Not Found” to “Follow”

This is a situation where the backlink previously couldn’t be found by crawlers, but has been found and is now considered a follow link.

Any Other Status Change to “Follow”

Do you notice a trend here?

Any link that has a status change to “Follow” is a good thing.

But always remember to check to make sure the backlink isn’t spammy.

The Bad

“404 Not Found” to “Server Down”

This means that the server for the page that the backlink is on isn’t being found on the server side.

If this is a valuable follow backlink, you may want to reach out to the owner of the site (if you can find their contact info) and let them know about the situation.

Other than that, there’s nothing to do but hope for the best.

“521 Unknown” to “404 Not Found”

This means that the page was currently unknown but is now not found. Nine times out of 10 this means that the page is no longer available—taken down for some reason.

Again, you can reach out to the site owners or leave it be.

“Will Be Checked Soon” to “Nofollow”

This means that the page has been checked and the backlink has been marked as nofollow.

It’s ultimately up to the site owner which links are labeled follow or nofollow. But if you know the link was supposed to be follow, you’ll want to reach out to the site owner and let them know about it.

Mistakes do occur, and there could’ve been an accidental “nofollow” tag placed in the link code.

“Follow” to “500 Internal Server Error”

This means that your followed link is currently not being counted because the crawlers can’t find the page due to server issues.

These errors most often correct themselves after a few days.

But if the status hasn’t changed since the previous update, you’ll want to reach out to the site owner and let them know about the issue.

The Ugly

“Follow” to “Nofollow”

This means the link was previously follow but is now nofollow.

You’ll almost always want to reach out to the site owner in this case and inquire as to what caused this change to occur.

If you can, work with the site owner to rectify the issue and change the status back to follow.

“Follow” to “Server Down”

This means the server is currently down.

Again, this is often a temporary issue and will correct itself. But keep track of the status and reach out to the site owner if it’s not fixed by the next status update.

“Follow” to “404 Not Found”

This most often means the page has been taken down.

In many cases, you can reach out to the site owner and they’ll place the link on a new page. Or they may have created a new page with updated information and will include your link in it also.

In this situation, you’ll always want to reach out to the site owner.

Backlink History Wrap-up

Now you have a solid grasp on how often backlink statuses can change and how important it is to monitor your backlinks’ history.

Here’s the best piece of advice I can give you:

Use Monitor Backlinks to keep track of your backlink status changes.

(Remember to pick up a free trial to get full use of the tool for 30 days, without paying a cent!)

Check your History module every week to find out about all of your backlink status updates.

Then, if necessary, perform the required actions based on the status change to rectify the situation and prevent it from happening again.

Take this seriously.

It only takes a couple of minutes to do, but those couple of minutes can translate into higher search engine rankings.

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