Backlink Analysis 101: What to Ask Yourself Throughout the Process

backlink analysis 101

I’ve previously gone to lengths to discuss backlink acquisition and whether disavows are still relevant or not. This is not just when I write blogs for Embryo, but in client meetings and in everyday conversations too.

The most important aspect of ensuring your backlink profile is both as natural and trustworthy as possible, is with regular analysis and in-depth understanding of what to look for.

I personally believe the importance of backlink analysis is higher than ever before.

Think of it this way, we are allowing other sites across the web to provide information and context around our own websites. So why wouldn’t we want to control as much of this as possible?

Here are my top questions to ask when analysing your (and your competitors!) backlink profiles…

1. First of all, what sources are you gaining links from?

It’s always important to analyse from a top level perspective of where external sources are linking to your domain. It’s crucial to understand whether you’re gaining a range of links from high quality sources or low authority sites.

For example, are you getting links from highly authoritative sites such as the national press, educational sites, government sites or even healthcare sites?

Or are you gaining links from sites which seem a little spammy or have a low domain authority?

It’s also important to understand the context of the domain too; as this is where Google (and other crawlers) are being led from. For example, if you own a high end, ecommerce fashion site, yet you’re getting a range of links from gardening and roofing websites; the chances are these links just aren’t relevant (nor are they giving any additional benefit for the crawler).

Infact, these sites could often confuse crawlers even more.

2. What is the current ratio of high domain authority links vs low quality?

There’s not a magic number. Nor a magic ratio. But from my perspective, It’s important to see a mixture of sites linking to your domain.

I also believe that if you’re aiming to naturally gain links from highly authoritative resources, these are often also the ones which are scraped and crawled, gaining lower quality, syndicated backlinks at the same time.

But those aren’t to cause concern or worry, as these are also naturally acquired for every backlink profile.

3. How have these links been acquired?

It’s really important to understand the way in which each link has been acquired.

In the eyes of Google, all links should be earnt naturally, by creating great content and resources where other sites want to link to you, showing your expertise, authoritativeness and trust.

But this isn’t always the case.

We know links can help with building foundations for a campaign; and having a regular stream of links can be the difference between competing alongside your competitors on page one, or sitting on page 3.

Therefore, it’s important to understand the acquisition of links – have these been acquired naturally, or are there black hat link schemes which have been set up, which could cause damage to your site?

This is not only important from an understanding of HOW these links were acquired, but also, the speed of which these were found too (see point 8).

4. Within what context is your site being linked?

Following on from my first point, it’s not just the overall source domain which is important.

It’s also page and context level too.

Is the piece of content more relevant than the site is? This can often be the case. As long as a link is providing additional content about your site, or referencing you as a source of information, then in my eyes, this is positive.

On the other hand, I also feel that it’s important to understand the deeper context of a link too.

For example, if you’ve gained press coverage, Is it positive or negative? Are they recommending your business for a certain product or service? Or is the article purely telling people to stay away?

I don’t believe that this is currently a factor taken into consideration by many crawlers, but over time, as we see Google further develop and understand the web at a greater depth, this would come as no surprise in years to come. So it’s always something I’d look out for, if you’re regularly gaining negative press coverage online.

5. What anchor text is being used to link back to your domain?

It’s no secret that anchor text can often provide great insight into your domain, through links.

Some of the questions I often ask when it comes to anchors are;

  • Are there a high percentage of brand anchors vs non-brand?
  • Are they relevant to your brand or products?
  • Is your website being linked to with “website” or are you finding highly contextualised keywords and phrases are being connected to your website from external sources?
  • What content is gaining the most links?

6. What content is gaining the most links?

Analysing your backlink profile by landing page can often prove to be incredibly insightful.

You can decipher which content is gaining the most links, and therefore the most important and “trustworthy” in the eyes of the crawler.

On the other hand, you can see which pages aren’t gaining traction too, forming an analysis of what content is performing best across the web.

7. What is the ratio of follow to no-follow?

Yes, that’s right. The usual ‘are no-follow links important?’ debate. 

Again, there’s no magic metric to adhere to when comparing follow vs no-follow links in your backlink profile, but I believe a good mix of the two is always nice to have and gives off the impression of a healthy profile.

I often like to think of it this way…

Are you gaining a lot of highly authority press coverage links but they are no-follow?

Or are you gaining thousands of low authority links from spam sites which are followed?

I know which I’d prefer.

8. How has your backlink profile evolved over time?

Have you seen an incremental, natural growth, or have you seen sudden spikes in thousands of links from very few domains?

From experience, I’d say that if you see a high number of links being acquired to a site in a short space of time, this is often a red flag.

These links could either be being scraped from sites and bots, or a huge influx of links being manually built can often look concerning too from Google’s perspective. As this is unnatural for the algorithm, and will often drop off after a short period of time too.

9. What is the ultimate link within your industry and have you achieved it?

I think this is my FAVOURITE point.

The beauty of working in an agency like Embryo, is the vast range of clients we have on board. And I’m pretty certain that 99% of them would each have a different answer for this. That’s because in each industry we serve, there are a range of sites which could deliver their dream link!

And I can confirm, if you produce high quality content that your users will love, your dream link spot will be waiting to pick it up too.

10. Not only that, but if you have a local or national focus, what is that dream link you’d like to gain? And have you achieved that yet too?

Press coverage. Every brand loves to gain press coverage, either regionally or nationally.

Have you gained local press coverage in your industry? And if so, can you use this to analyse how this has impacted your performance over time and how you can improve further.

If not, could you make that your goal for this year? Again, if you create quality content, you’ll land these dream links with ease.


11. Finally, What links have your competitors got and how are these distributed amongst their content?

Whenever I analyse a backlink profile, I’m constantly criticising and comparing against competitors. Start asking these questions about them too. Maybe they’re thought leaders in a specific niche within the industry, which has helped land them a range of high quality, highly relevant links.

If so, how does this bode for them and their performance? And how can you use this in your link building strategy going forward?

Analysing your backlink profile often is a crucial part of SEO that can often become lost within the workload or overlooked. But I believe that analysing your ongoing backlink profile is just as important as acquiring new links too.

If you’d like more information on our off-site SEO strategies, or would like to find out more about what we do at Embryo; get in touch with the team today.