In the early days of the internet, building and monitoring a backlink profile used to be a case of “the more, the merrier.”
Back in those simpler times, Google’s algorithm determined that a website with more external links pointing to it was likely to be more authoritative than its competitors and would rank it higher in its search results pages.
Now, that’s not quite so true.
Having a huge quantity of backlinks isn’t always helpful—and in some cases, it’s even harmful.
These days, you need to be paying attention to who’s linking to your site.
Why You Need to Monitor Your Backlinks
It wasn’t long before owners of low-quality websites learned how to take advantage of Google’s more basic algorithms.
They’d try to game the system by buying links, or by aggressively working to have a ton of links placed in spammy web directories.
In April 2012, Google launched a major algorithm update to deter and punish these black hat SEO strategies. The update, code-named Google Penguin, sent websites engaging in these tactics crashing down the search rankings into virtual oblivion while promoting websites that had organically built credible links.
Google continues to tweak the Penguin algorithm to continue punishing websites that dishonorably build a backlink profile, but it’s still far from perfect. There’s a possibility that websites could organically build a profile of backlinks that looks spammy to the Penguin algorithm.
This means that website owners now have to monitor their backlink profiles with great care to ensure that they’re not being unfairly penalized by Google.
Here are seven essential tips for anyone who’s trying to maintain a high-quality backlink profile or have SEO success.
Along the way, we’ll share examples of how to track down all the relevant information in your Monitor Backlinks account. If you’re not registered yet, feel free to take advantage of our 30-day free trial to give it a try.
How to Monitor New, Updated and Lost Backlinks with 7 Expert Tips
1. Learn where your links are coming from
The statements coming from Google regarding the most recent Penguin updates suggest that links from high-quality websites now deliver more SEO juice than other websites.
This is all about the domain (or subdomain) where the backlink is placed. Here’s an example of how to spot this information in your Monitor Backlinks account:
Links from dubious directories, low-quality blogs and forums could actually harm your SEO, so it’s worth contacting owners of these websites and asking them to be removed. If you can’t have them removed upon request, you’ll want to disavow the absolute worst ones.
On the other hand, links from powerful websites—or simply nice, quality sites that are thematically related to yours—can make a big difference in your SEO and keyword rankings.
Even when you’re using a tool to monitor your backlinks, you’ll always want to do a manual review and investigate the source of each link on your own.
Sometimes a site looks like it’s spam at a glance, but when you visit it, you realize it’s just a young, up-and-coming site still in the process of building its content and authority. In that case, if the referral is genuine, you can leave the link.
2. Determine the authority of the sites linking to you
This is a bit of an extension of the idea above.
As a general rule, the higher a domain tends to appear in search rankings, the more you’ll want a backlink from them. This is because high rankings are earned through authoritative content and excellent SEO metrics.
While you’ll always still want to do a manual review, you don’t need to “eyeball it” or guess the quality of the domains with backlinks pointing to your website.
Metrics such as Domain Authority and Page Authority from Moz, or Trust Flow from Majestic SEO, do a great job of determining this. You’ll want all of this information to be easily accessible so it’s a key part of your backlink monitoring routine.
With Monitor Backlinks, for example, you can keep this SEO metrics information—and much, much more—easily visible in the Reports dashboard. Here’s what the autoreporting for Moz and Majestic looks like:
That’s why anyone who’s serious about their website’s SEO will use a tool that can do a deep dive into the backlinks metrics, too—not just slick reporting. Clicking over to the Backlinks dashboard in Monitor Backlinks gives you a whole wealth of data:
Not only can you see Google indexing status, Trust Flow, Citation Flow, Spam score, MozRank, Domain Authority, Page Authority and more, but you can download it all into a .CSV file and do some real, in-depth analysis on your own.
3. Monitor your link velocity
The rate at which you’re gaining links, commonly known as your link velocity, is also important to monitor.
A natural backlink profile will grow steadily. An irregular spike in new links looks fishy in the eyes of Google, and you could be punished for it.
The best way to avoid this is to post content on a regular basis, rather than posting a ton of blog posts on the first day of each month. If you’re engaging in SEO outreach work, it’s also best to do this continuously, rather than sporadically.
These little bursts will rarely do major damage, but spacing things out over days and weeks never hurts.
While you’re monitoring your backlink profile, you’ll want to be keeping an eye on the total number of links, and take note of any significant changes in the number of backlinks your site has.
For example, if you suddenly score 10,000 links overnight, this is something to be concerned about—it’s extraordinarily rare that a big burst like this will occur naturally, and you may be witnessing a negative SEO attack in action.
4. Pay attention to the number of dofollow vs nofollow links
A nofollow tag essentially tells Google not to assign any SEO juice to a link. Many web forums and news websites automatically add these tags to links posted to prevent spammy links from being added to comments. Website owners can add this tag manually too.
Nofollow links won’t do you any harm or good, so they don’t need acting upon. However, if you have dofollow links pointing to you from low-quality websites, it’s worth asking for them to be removed. Dofollow links are the ones that pass link juice.
It has been suggested that the ratio of dofollow vs nofollow links may affect your SEO. The suggestion is that a high proportion of dofollow links in your profile may appear unnatural to Google. Meanwhile, a high proportion of nofollow links will leave you with no SEO juice at all.
Ideally, you’ll have a healthy mix of both, so that’s what you should be on the lookout for.
5. See which pages your backlinks are pointing to
A healthy profile of backlinks pointing to your homepage is brilliant, but don’t expect any organic traffic to your deeper pages in this situation.
Links pointing to a large range of your pages makes your domain appear more valuable as a whole in the eyes of Google.
You can see the distribution of linked pages in Monitor Backlinks:
It’s also important to make sure that the backlinks are leading the readers to a good place.
Web users who land on the page which actually has the information they’re looking for are less likely to bounce, will probably stay on the page for a healthy amount of time, and might even link to the page themselves. These are all indications of a quality page in the eyes of Google.
If you spot a link pointing to your homepage where a deeper level page would add more value to the reader, it’s worth pointing this out to the website’s owner.
6. Optimize your anchor text
The black-hat SEOs attempting to gain search results in the pre-Penguin era would often add suspicious links with the exact keyword they were trying to rank for in the anchor text.
Google spotted this and will now punish websites with an unnatural amount of inbound links that have the same anchor text. Links within short “articles” that make no grammatical sense could also send you tumbling down the search rankings.
A healthy backlink profile will have a good mix of semantic, branded and URL anchor texts.
Again, you can review your anchor texts in Monitor Backlinks, either getting a quick overview of distribution or an in-depth, backlink-by-backlink view of anchor text. Here’s what the overview looks like:
7. Add backlink monitoring to your SEO routine
It’s not enough to monitor your links sporadically.
If one spammy link from a low-quality website appears, or one incredible link from a popular website is removed, it could make all the difference to your search ranking.
If you’re serious about maintaining a healthy search ranking for your target keywords, your backlink profile needs to be continuously monitored.
Thankfully, there’s software available that simplifies this task. Tools like Monitor Backlinks can keep a real-time view of your backlink profile and email you with alerts of any changes.
As you can see above, Monitor Backlinks will help you monitor how you’re ranking in Google for your target keywords, as well as how this compares to your competitors—important information when measuring the success of your backlink campaigns.
It alerts you when the status of a link changes like when a link goes bad or the linked page is updated (perhaps per your request).
It will even alert you when your competitors secure any new backlinks, potentially identifying new opportunities for you to grab new links yourself.
It’s recommended to take action on any changes that could harm your SEO as soon as possible, by getting in contact with the owner of the offending website.
You work hard to build relationships with website owners and get your healthy links live, so don’t feel bad about sending a quick email to ask for them to be reinstated if they are removed.
How to Improve Your Backlink Profile with Monitoring
Even if there are no harmful links in your profile, there are always improvements that can be made.
The general consensus is that the more diverse that your backlink profile looks, the more natural it looks and the better it therefore looks to Google.
The goal is to have as diverse a backlink profile as possible. Link diversity encompasses its domain, where it points, when it was born, its anchor text, as well as whether it’s nofollow or dofollow.
Former Google head of web spam, Matt Cutts, insists this job shouldn’t be as time-consuming as it sounds.
In a 2009 blog post, he said: “The objective is not to make your links appear natural. The objective is that your links are natural.”
This suggests that if you’re building links naturally, you won’t have much work to do when monitoring your backlink profile.
However, using a tool such as Monitor Backlinks can help you deal with any unnatural linking activity quickly and efficiently.
With over 10 years of SEO and link building experience helping hundreds of businesses succeed online, Paul Teitelman is one of the most respected and top ranking SEO consultants in Toronto & across Canada. Add Paul on LinkedIn or check out his blog for some great SEO tips!