If we have learned anything from the Penguin and Panda updates within the last several months, it is to be proactive. The worst thing you could do is wait until you are hit with a penalty to start auditing your link profile. Just like a face mask penalty will set you back 15 yards on the football field, a Google penalty can set you back months of SEO work.

So, in light of the impending doom that is rumored to be approaching, also known as Panda 3.92, I’m going to go over how to execute a link audit.


First Things First

The first thing you are going to want to do is pull information about your backlink profile. You need to see what URLs are linking to you, anchor text that is being used, and your ratio of follow and nofollow links. We used Majestic SEO to pull this data, but any tool that will pull data such as anchor text, nofollow do follow, link URLs, etc. will be fine.

Factors That Influence Your Link Profile

As we all know, there all certain factors that have been known to influence Google’s view of the quality of your site. These factors should be monitored and used in helping you evaluate the quality of your link profile. Here is a quick recap of them:

1. Domain Age – A site with an older domain will most likely be seen as more creditable than that of a newer site. You can compare your domain age against that of your competitors to get a feel for where your site stands

2. Google Page Rank – Even though page rank is not the most accurate metric, it is important to know the page rank of your site. Generally, sites with higher page rank have more authority with Google and will rank higher in the SERPs

3. Number of Links – It is important to have a variety of links pointing to your site, however the golden rule is quality over quantity

4. Anchor Text Distribution – One of the things that Web Talent has been doing to be proactive for our clients is evaluating their anchor text distribution. We used Majestic to pull this data but you could also use sites like OpenSiteExplorer as well. Figure out the percentage of branded vs. non-branded anchor text. If your branded text is below 50%, you need to start link building more heavily with your branded terms. It is most natural to have a link profile that is comprised largely of branded terms.

5. Link Neighborhood – Make sure the links pointing to your site are coming from safe sites. Avoid paid links and spammy directories

6. Internal Linking – Make sure you are properly linking internally. It should appear natural and the reader should not be able to tell it has been optimized

7. SERPs – Although this is not the end all be all insight into how your site is performing, this can help assess if your rankings have dropped significantly


Evaluating the Links

It is important to look for links that could potentially harm your site. When looking at the links you want to look for poor quality and unnatural links. You cannot look at one metric to determine whether a link is poor quality or not. My suggestion is that you look at the Trust of the site in conjunction with the other ranking factors I discussed above.

It is important to note that just because a link shows low quality metrics, this is not a tell tale sign that it is a poor site. Legitimate sites should be looked at manually to make a final determination on whether or not that site could be potentially harmful. Directories have become a source of poor backlinks for many backlink profiles, so watch what directories you have submitted to in the past because Google is disvaluing many of these.

A new tool just came out a couple months ago, Link Detox, that puts the links pointing to your site into 3 categories, toxic, suspicious and healthy. It will then show you the links that it categorizes into each category. This is a good tool to use to help identify links that could potentially harm your site. I would suggest using this tool in conjunction with the metrics discussed previously because no one tool or metric is an end all be all to evaluating good and bad links.


To Remove or Not to Remove

After you have identified the poor links pointing to your site, you need to decide whether or not to remove them or develop a better link strategy moving forward. Removing links will be a heady task and the ruling is still out whether or not to spend time doing this. If you think the link could be extremely detrimental to your site, then you should consider contacting the Webmaster of that site to have it removed. Unfortunately there is no definitive evidence as to whether or not the links will harm your site so removing links is up to your discretion.


Check Out the Competition

There are so many tools out there to give you some insight into what your competitor’s link profile looks like. Use them! Sites such as OpenSiteExplorer and Majestic are good tools for analyzing your competition’s link profile. If your competition is ranking higher than you, look into what they are doing and where their links are coming from. You can gain awesome nuggets of information as to how to structure your SEO plan moving forward. Just be careful when analyzing their link profile, just because they are ranking higher doesn’t mean that they might not get penalized in the future for some of the strategies they are using now. Use your best judgment!


Building a Healthy Link Profile

After you have done a link audit of your site, you need to formulate a strategy moving forward. Take all of the data and information you have acquired and put it to good use. Figure out what you need to be doing that you are not currently doing. Put a stop to going after poor quality links. If you decide that you want to remove some links from your profile, figure out a plan of attack for having them removed. Make sure to communicate these strategies with all the members of your team so that everyone is on the same page and employing the same strategy for that client.