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How to Monitor Backlinks: The Two-Phase Approach

A few years ago, I used guest posts to build up my project management website.

I wrote dozens of blog posts. I delivered more than 20 webinars.

I knew that these techniques had worked for others.

There was just one problem.

I had no idea which techniques were getting results.

Out of all these efforts, which ones really made a difference for my SEO?

If I knew how to monitor backlinks then, life would have been much easier. I probably could have grown my subscriber base and traffic much faster. In 2018 and beyond, there’s no excuse to make that mistake again.

Learning how to monitor backlinks is one of the best ways to find out if your link building efforts are really having an impact.

Quick Review: Why Bother Monitoring Your Backlinks

You want to get to page one of Google’s search results. So, what matters?

According to SEO experts, there are 200 ranking factors.

The speed of your website, social signals, content length and beyond all play a role. If you have limited time and energy, it makes sense to focus your efforts where they can make the most significant impact.

Backlinks from other websites, especially authoritative, high-traffic sites, are your best bet.

Monitoring backlinks benefits your website in three ways.

1. You’ll know which marketing efforts to increase and what to ignore.

2. You’ll be able to deliver better reports to your clients (more on this below).

3. You can add more social proof to your website quickly. Let’s say you get a backlink from the New York Times. That’s great social proof, showing that someone reputable values your content.

By regularly monitoring your backlinks, you’ll discover where you’ve had success, be able to share the news and repeat the successful strategies that earned you killer links again and again.

This is much better than being lost in the dark, not knowing what’s working.

How to Monitor Backlinks: The Two-Phase Approach

Phase 1: Get Ready to Monitor Backlinks

Just having backlink data in front of you doesn’t create business results on its own.

You’ve got to do something with it.

This need requires regular work and analysis to become helpful. Use the following two practices to get started.

1. Add backlink monitoring to your work schedule

When you learn about the power of backlinks, there’s one natural question to ask: How can I get the benefit of better backlink monitoring with my heavy schedule?

There are two approaches you can take.

For one, you can start with the manual method: Do search after search, add links to a spreadsheet and add other data points.

While this approach works, it only makes sense if you have too much time on your hands.

For everyone else, using an automated backlink monitoring solution like Monitor Backlinks is the best approach.

Monitor Backlinks itself is accessible to all with affordable, flexible plans and pricing. And if you just want to monitor your backlinks for a month to see how it goes, you can take advantage of the free, 30-day trial.

Once you’ve chosen your method, schedule time in your calendar each week or each month to monitor backlinks. If you’re using a manual approach, this may take several hours. At the very least, you’ll want to make life a little easier with a tool like the Monitor Backlinks Free Backlink Checker, which is a nice option for more infrequent, limited backlink monitoring.

If you use the full Monitor Backlinks tool, backlink monitoring will take less than half an hour per week. And that time will be spent more productively on higher-level, high-leverage tasks, since all the data collection is done for you and served up neatly.

Rather than collecting the data, you’ll spend that designated time thinking about the data, doing analysis, reviewing reports and assessing your current strategies.

Tip: Don’t just look at your own backlinks. Use Competitor Backlink Analysis to make sure you keep up with your competitors. Monitor Backlinks presents you with updated competitor backlink data as well, so most of the work is done for you there anyway.

2. Know what to look for in backlinks

Once you’ve followed the step above, you’ll have a big list of backlinks to look at. How do you make sense of all of this information?

Simple: Use the following criteria to evaluate backlinks.

At the end of this process, you’ll categorize your backlinks into several categories: desirable (i.e., you want more of these), undesirable (i.e., discourage this type of backlink) and everything else.

As you go through your backlink list, take note of the following points:

  • New or lost backlinks. Sadly, some backlinks disappear as website owners update their sites. By proactively monitoring backlink changes, you can ramp up your link building efforts before your rankings suffer.
  • Domain Authority (DA). A backlink from a high DA carries more value. Moz is credited with creating this metric a few years ago. According to Crazy Egg, “Domain Authority is a measure of how well a website is likely to perform in search engine results.” The scale runs from 0 to 100 where 100 is the best.

As of February 2018, the New York Times has a 99 DA and NASA has a 97 DA. In the marketing world, CopyBlogger has a DA of 85. As a rule of thumb, you want backlinks from high-DA domains.

  • Type of link. While nofollow links are the ones that pass the link juice, and dofollow links do not, a mixture of dofollow and nofollow backlinks is desirable.
  • Domain age. As a rule of thumb, older websites are more valuable. Aim for websites that have been online for over 12 months. Why? They’re more likely to stay around. A backlink from a brand new blog may be gone in a few months when the bloggers neglects to renew their hosting.
  • Overall website quality. Read the website for a few minutes and ask yourself “Do I like what I see here?” and “Is this website up to my quality standards?”
  • Relationship potential. Building on the website quality point above, look into the potential for relationship building. If the website has a clear owner or manager, you may be able to arrange webinars, guest posts or joint ventures to promote your brand further.

Now that you have a reliable backlink report in place, what can you do with this information?

Phase 2: Apply Backlink Monitoring to Reporting and Outreach 

Backlink monitoring helps you to improve a variety of online marketing tasks.

Of course, the exact actions you take will vary depending on whether you’re the site owner or working to manage client sites as part of an agency.

1. Improve your reporting with backlink monitoring

If you provide SEO or marketing services to clients, reporting on your work matters. After learning how to monitor backlinks, you’ll be able to demonstrate how your marketing work is impacting the client’s business. If you have a three-month or six-month client engagement, tracking backlink growth is a crucial data point to show.

Whenever possible, connect the dots between backlink monitoring and your client’s desired business outcomes. For instance, take the example of working with a specialized attorney who helps entrepreneurs manage risk.

Unless the client is educated in digital marketing, simply stating a list of new backlinks earned may not mean much.

Use the following steps to improve your backlink reporting and keep the client happy:

  • Focus on the outcome. What does the client want from working with you? Let’s say that they wish to have 10 new leads per month. Keep this goal in mind at every step.
  • Look for correlations between backlinks and other SEO metrics. Try to find how many site visitors are being driven from each given backlink. See if there’s a correlation between any increase in quality backlinks to other metrics, like pageviews or conversions. Graphs and other visuals that show this correlation will show your client how backlinks are working for them.
  • Tailor your reporting to the outcomes. You may focus your marketing efforts on an optin page or application page. High-quality backlinks will help to drive better traffic to that page.
  • Present reports with backlinks in mind. Instead of emailing a report, set an appointment to present the report. That way, you can show step by step how gaining more backlinks has improved the client’s goals.
  • Apply continuous improvement to your reporting. No report is perfect especially if you’re new to working with the client. That’s why I recommend listening carefully to questions and comments. What does the client like the report? What do they question? Take this feedback into account and present a better report next month.

You can also use the built-in reporting tool found within Monitor Backlinks to make reporting on backlinks that much easier.

how-to-monitor-backlinks

2. Improve your outreach with backlink monitoring

How do you know if your outreach and link building efforts are paying off? Use backlink monitoring to see if your requests are paying off in real links.

You can also use backlink monitoring to find out how long it takes outreach efforts to take effect.

With that information, you can better guide client expectations. To get started, use the following process:

1. Identify backlink opportunities. Within Monitor Backlinks, you can easily run competitor reports to find new ideas. Start by identifying two competitors to your website that has been online for a year or longer.

Actually, Monitor Backlinks will even look at your domain and suggest possible competitor sites to you based on your site’s content, keywords and thematic focus.

Tip: Read The Competitor Backlink Spy Guide for additional guidance on how to spy on your competitors for SEO insights.

2. Rank the backlink opportunities for relevance and value. If you end up with a list of one thousand possible backlink opportunities, you might feel overwhelmed. To avoid this situation, rank the backlinks for relevance.

For example, you may choose to ignore backlinks from top publications like the New York Times because it’s difficult to reach the right people there. In this case, you might decide to focus on websites with a Domain Authority over 20 and where there appears to be a single owner or editor of the website.

3. Develop ideas on how to add value to your outreach. If a stranger walked up to you and asked for a favor right away, would you do it?

how-to-monitor-backlinks

This might depend on your mood. For backlink building, do your homework to improve your odds. For example, write out a list of your top five most popular blog posts. Starting the conversation by offering a resource is a sound approach.

4. Execute an outreach strategy. Now it’s time to reach out. Use a tool like Hunter or Anymail Finder to identify email addresses at the domains you target. For guidance on developing an effective outreach email, click here.

Tip: Always remember the importance of writing you focused emails when you’re asking for backlinks.

5. Monitor your outreach campaign with Monitor Backlinks. After a few weeks of outreach, how do you know if your campaign is successful? Well, you have learned how to monitor backlinks, so put that skill into action.

How to Get Started with Monitoring Backlinks

You’ve learned the art of backlink monitoring. You know that they enhance marketing reports. You can also use them to spy on your competitor’s marketing.

For this article to help you, there are two steps you need to follow.

First, open your calendar and mark a one-hour block for “Monitor Backlinks” (include a link to this article).

Second, note one website that you’ll focus your backlink monitoring efforts on.

Once you get comfortable with one website, you can expand to additional websites.


Bruce Harpham provides content marketing for B2B SaaS companies so they can get high quality leads. He is also the author of “Project Managers At Work.” His work has appeared on CIO.com, InfoWorld and Profit Guide. Read his B2B SaaS marketing case studies from Prosperworks CRM, Megaventory, and other companies.

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