Anytime someone hears the word audit a number of things pop in their mind; IRS, money, penalty, etc. No matter what you think of when you hear audit, one thing is for certain, it needs to be done. And in terms of websites, a link audit should be right up there with a site audit. Why, you ask? If there is one thing that can alter rankings in the SERPs, it’s backlinks. But if you don’t know anything about your links, you might want to invest some time into performing a link audit. If this is something new to you, there are five questions to ask:
1. Who is Linking to You?
This is probably the biggest question of the five listed here. Are links coming from clients, directories, vendors, blog posts or review sites? Or are the links coming from known link farms and spam sites. This is the first thing to look at so you know if the links you’ve got are coming from authoritative/trust worthy/related sites. If you’ve got a great deal of links coming from related sites, then you know you need to work on getting links from some trust worthy and authoritative sites, and vice versa. Not to mention, if you find a site you’ve got a backlink from that also has 1,000 other outbound links on it, you can bet you aren’t getting much link juice from that location. Diversity of links is more than just location; it also comes down to characteristics.
2. Where Are the Links Being Directed?
When people click on links, be it with anchor text or brand name, they expect to be taken to a source of information. If all of your backlinks are directing traffic to the homepage, take note of where the link is implying it will take the user. For instance, if a sentence says, “I just got the latest war video game, and it’s awesome!” and “war video game” is the anchor, a user will assume that link will take them to a page about that awesome video game. It shouldn’t take them to the homepage. The same goes for images. If there is an image of a screen shot of the video game with the company logo at the top, the link should still go to the page that has the information about the video game and not the homepage. However, if text is speaking about the type of business it is or if the image is the company logo sending traffic to the homepage, it is perfectly fine. The overall goal is to send traffic to the right location to get the highest conversion rate of visitors to customers.
3. What is the Anchor of the Links?
Similar to the paragraph above, the anchor text should describe where the link is taking the user. In addition, Dave Synder said at BlueGlass LA, “The text AROUND the anchor should also be descriptive of the link”. But this doesn’t mean if all of your links are missing anchor text you should give them all anchor text other than the brand name. Again, diversity in links is more than location. Vary the anchor text to include both keyterms and the brand name. You can still direct traffic to appropriate parts of the site with the brand name as anchor IF the text is conclusive to the destination.
It’s also good to know if an unhappy customer has given your homepage the anchor of “worst company in the world”. In which case, it might be time for some quality customer service to remedy the situation. Who knows, they may change it to “best company in the world”.
4. Where Are the Links Located?
Link location is, in my opinion, underrated and is why I’m not a huge proponent of using comments on blogs as a way to build links. If all of your links are coming from the footer or sidebar of a webpage, don’t count on a huge amount of traffic as well as a great deal of link juice regardless of the number of outbound links on that page. Hopefully you have links in the main body of the text above the fold and possibly in the header. If you’re missing a lot of links here, try looking at the content on the page and shoot the webmaster an email asking what could be done to get the location of the link changed.
This part of the audit gets a little more intense as you can’t simply run a report to see where the links are located at. One has to physically see the location. If you’ve got thousands upon thousands of links to look at, I’d pick the top 1,000 or so divide it up among co-workers and get to clicking.
5. Is There a Chance to Update the Links?
If you haven’t heard by now, 301’s aren’t passing full link juice. So take this time to update any old URLs to the new ones. I mean, if you’ve got a link located above the fold going to the right place on your website coming from a PageRank 8 site, you want the full weight don’t you? But how do you get the webmaster to change it? Here’s a hint, do most of the work for them. Rather than sending an email stating:
“Our URL structure has changed please update all of the links to our site from your site right away”
Send one that says:
“We’ve recently changed the URLs on our website and noticed we have some backlinks coming from your site. We have links located at these pages, with anchor text, on your site:
- Link 1 – Anchor 1
- Link 2 – Anchor 2
- Link 3 – Anchor 3
Our new URLs are below
- New Link 1
- New Link 2
- New Link 3
The anchor text can stay the same (or if it is possible to change the anchor text of these change them to: list here) for these links. Thanks for your time and we appreciate the help.”
Sure it may be some work on your end, but if it gets the full weight of the links flowing in your direction it’ll be worth it, especially if you’ve just launched a new website.
Audits aren’t fun, unless you enjoy doing them. But performing a link audit on your site will help you get a more intimate feel on how your site is being perceived on other sites, which can help you improve or re-direct how others are viewing your site.