Backlink analysis, tips to perform it in the most professional way
Inevitably, any talk about SEO and organic visibility ends up dealing with the complex topic of backlinks: this word simply identifies any link that any web domain directs to the pages of our site, but behind this basic definition there is a real world. Even today, to summarize in a very extreme way, backlinks are in fact one of the ranking factors on Google, and for many “the” factor par excellence, and more generally they represent a kind of “vote” towards the page that receives them, understood and followed even by the search engine.
What is a backlink and what it means
Also called inbound links, incoming links or one way links, backlinks are links that start from one Web site and point to a page on another Web site.
Literally, this term denotes a “backlink”, but there are also those who prefer the expression inbound link to emphasize the “direct inward” effect of this reference.In any case, we are talking about a Web page that, for the sake of insight, citation, or others, carries a hyperlink within the text to one or more pages of our Web site. This is a useful process and used especially in the context of link building activities and in building a network of links that come precisely from external sites, aimed at increasing the popularity, reliability and ranking of our site, enhancing what is already good in the published content.
In fact, Google and other major search engines consider backlinks as “votes” for a specific page, and taking the concept to an extreme, pages with a high number of backlinks tend to have high organic search engine rankings.
Why it is important to get backlinks for SEO
As is often repeated, search engine ranking follows rules, criteria and parameters that are known only to Google: this does not detract from the fact that over time strategies have been “discovered” and verified that go in the direction desired by Big G, as precisely link building does when carried out in a “natural,” unforced and unashamed manner. Receiving a link from another site means getting a trust signal, because it is as if that page communicates to the search engine that we deserve trust, gaining authority in its eyes and, as a consequence, also for readers and users.
In essence, then, backlinks obtained from our site are a potential signal to search engines of the presence of other Web players vouching for our content: if many sites link to the same Web page or Web site, search engines may infer that the content is worth linking to and therefore also worth showing within a SERP.
Thus, again theoretically and very succinctly, earning backlinks can have a positive effect on a site’s ranking or search visibility. In fact, backlinks formed the basis of Google’s original algorithm, known as “PageRank“, and although Google has since made thousands of changes to its algorithm, backlinks remain a key SEO ranking signal.
The characteristics of SEO backlinks
To delve deeper into the value of backlinks, we need to go back to talking more generally about how links and the Web work: hyperlinks are in fact the “glue” that holds the Web together and enable interconnection between individual documents on the Web. Internal links are those that point to pages in the same domain, and exist primarily to help people navigate the site and to avoid orphan pages, for example, while external links have a wider range of possible intentions, including:
- Providing more context to the reader.
- Cite or provide a source.
- Recommend something.
- Support an appeal made in the copy.
- Adding authenticity.
In any case, at an ideal level the link should be directed to a page that provides added value to the reader.
This is why search engines recognize that the backlink is valuable and reward the target URL, interpreting the link as intentional and voluntary, the result of some analysis and evaluation (including editorial) of the content on the target web page.
Again in general, then, there are various types of backlinks, which can affect Google’s behavior differently because they communicate very specific information:
Follow or dofollow links are the type of backlink everyone wants, because they explicitly indicate to Google the relevance and relevance of the landing page, signaling Googlebot to follow the link and take it into account for rankings, conveying what is called link equity.
Nofollow links, on the other hand, signal search engines to ignore a link and do not pass any value from one site to another, which is why they are considered of little use (or useless) for ranking or visibility improvement purposes. In reality, thanks in part to the evolution of its systems, Google more accurately recognizes the value of a link based on context and can ignore the indication not to follow the backlink – and thus the nofollow attribute has become a “hint” to ignore the link for the purpose of passing on authority, which Google may or may not decide to follow.
Sponsored links are an attribute of relatively recent introduction, which is used to expressly communicate to the search engine that the inclusion of that backlink is the result of an agreement based on the purchase or exchange of money, products or services.
UGC links identify links manually inserted by users of the page, from which the site somehow “disassociates” and does not offer editorial endorsement; this attribute is primarily designed for links in forum posts or comments on blog or site posts.
The benefits of backlinks for SEO and the risks of unwise strategies
Getting backlinks pointing to our site can bring several benefits to SEO, both in terms of improving rankings and from a broader perspective. In fact, thanks to these inbound links we can not only improve the ranking of our pages by strengthening our relevance in the eyes of Google, but also increase the reliability and credibility of the site, which can establish itself as a reference on the industry or on a specific topic. From a technical point of view, then, Googlebot scans pages to find links to follow, and so it can discover new pages: having backlinks, then, can facilitate the identification of our new pages and the eventual inclusion in Google’s Index, which is the stage before ranking.
Lastly, getting backlinks from “real,” useful and in topic sites can also increase our referral traffic: an outbound link to interesting content can convince the reader to actually click on the referral and delve deeper into the information on the landing page-if we think about it, this is the “native” purpose of backlinks, the purest and least “strategic” one.
In short, getting and earning backlinks is an essential component of off-site SEO, and usually the process of getting these links is known as link earning or link building, which we have defined as a highly strategic activity, where there is (or at least should be) no room for unprofessional improvisation.
In fact, we cannot think only of uncritically “accumulating” hypertext references; in recent years, as our Ivano Di Biasi has also often repeated, the link market has become “similar to the drug market,” composed of “pushers and pushers of links a go,” considering and using link building only as a means to try to pump up rankings rather than a tool to bring real value to users. Needless to say, this is one of the potential factors for Google penalties, which has developed algorithms that identify low-quality links and looks askance at “unnatural” and non-organic activities, as also described in the search engine’s SEO guidelines.
How to check the backlinks your site receives
Not all backlinks are equal, for our site’s interests, and this does not depend only on the differences in the link’s rel attribute: the site sending the link also has its “weight” and some are inherently more valuable than others.
Simplifying, as it is easy to guess, backlinks received from trustworthy, popular and high-authority sites are considered the most desirable and useful ones (and in this case, even a simple mention could give a boost to the brand, as we were talking about brand monitoring), while backlinks from low-authority and potentially spammy sites are generally at the other end of the spectrum. Added to this is the evaluation of the elements that characterize the linking page, such as content, search engine accessibility, anchor text, any other associated meta tags, and so on. As a bottom line, the concept to memorize is to make a difference for ranking is not the quantity of backlinks, but rather the quality of the links obtained.
Backlinks checker, the tools to analyze backlinks
Site in vertical decline, constant decline in page views, keywords positioned in a nosedive: when these situations occur, the thought immediately runs to the fear of having run into some penalty from the search engine, perhaps due to Negative SEO activities that have in fact led to the downgrading of one’s site.
To avoid getting to this critical case (or to get past the stage) there are fortunately some activities and tools that can support the work, starting with backlink checker tools, which provide a complete picture of the sites that reference ours, and consequently check their online authority.
Keeping an eye on the backlinks we receive is therefore very important and is part of the activity called backlink profile analysis, a monitoring that should be done consistently to track the evolution of our online presence and to develop a stronger brand, with high quality content and in an organic way. In our support come several online tools, starting with those made by Google Search Console, which remains one of the most reliable sources and allows us to check various information about external links, such as Pages with the most links (the pages of our site with the most backlinks), Sites with main links (the domains from which the most referrals come) and Text with main links (the most common anchior text used in backlinks). Then there are backlinks checker software specialized in this task, such as Ahrefs or Majestic, and of course we will see together how to use SEOZoom to study the backlink landscape and how our platform can also offer assistance to avoid Google penalties.
Building a natural backlink profile in the eyes of Google
In fact, the underlying goal of link earning or link building should be to fortify the site without resulting in illegal or sanctionable practices: we are talking not only about link exchange or buying backlinks, but about various “artifices” that fully fall under black hat SEO and therefore can become causes for manual actions or downgrading by Google.
Indeed, it may happen that some dofollow links may be considered harmful or “toxic” because they come from suspicious sites or precisely are obtained by violating the search engine’s terms of service, and this may cause Google to penalize or even deindex a site.
In the background, there is always Google watching us from above, to use a metaphor (perhaps not even that “campy”), and to be really strategic in link acquisition activity we should also make sure that the site linking to ours enjoys the search engine’s favor, has not suffered previous penalizations and is not classified as spam. Although it is not necessarily the case that receiving links from these sites automatically leads to a worsening of the ranking (in many cases the referrals also arrive in ways not controllable by the site owner), such referrals do not pass value to the landing pages: one possibility may be to check for incoming links from these types of untrustworthy sites and think about removal, using, for example, Google’s Disavow Tools tool, which serves precisely for the removal of a backlink deemed spam, but this action must also be evaluated appropriately.
A good ally for comprehensive analysis
In conclusion, a good analysis of inbound links always requires an overall study, to which an in-depth study of specific areas should be accompanied. And SEOZoom is a good ally to help the SEO or Link Builder plan a good strategy: did you already take a look to our Link Monitor? Learn more about our monitoring backlink analysis tool here!