6 Killer Questions to ask for your Backlink Audit

These six questions will help you prepare for the actual backlink audit.

You may be surprised to learn about some of these aspects, as you usually don’t read about them.

1. Are you reacting or working pro-actively?

You can do a backlink audit as reaction to a Link Penalty, or to avoid getting a Link Penalty in the first place.

Your main website is affected, and maybe triggered the need for a reactive backlink audit first.

But you may not even know exactly, if you are experiencing a Link Penalty, or have suppressions in rankings due to a Link Filter.

While the SEO world saw very harsh and easy to spot Google Penguin penalties from 2012-2016, nowadays in 2022 Google got a lot smarter. You may not even notice that you have a penalty (signaled by a Manual Actions in Google Search Console).

Many SEO professionals perform pro-active backlink audits, to avoid tripping link penalties later on. The background here is, that the link penalty risk builds up over time, and can be managed. Google confirmed that proactive disavows are helpful to improve their trust in your backlink profile.

But it gets better - you may also have a link problem on one of your “related” sites, so the audit scope is important.

2. Which domains shall be audited?

You need to further define the scope of the audit.

However, there’s often a bigger number of other web properties and websites owned, and potentially affected.

Check for

  • Other country versions on ccTLDs like company.de or company.co.uk
  • Thematically isolated websites linking to your website, e.g. from marketing campaigns
  • Typo-domains that redirect from typocompany.com to your company.com
  • Redirecting from previous, abandoned brand names - like oldbrand.com to your company.com

All of these additional domains affect your main domain, and potentially also cause problems.

While all-in-one SEO tools often provide link data as part of their package, it is recommended to combine multiple sources for you link audit.

At the time of writing the following limitations apply with common SEO products

  • Google Search Console has only a small percentage of backlinks in their link export. These are very helpful inputs, but also very limited. We recommend to always include them in a full audit.
  • Semrush has only six months of link data available. Spammy links that are holding you back may be missing. Accessibility is the major hurdle. Even in the biggest plan, you can only download 100k rows, which often include many duplicates that you need to ignore later. Access via API is very expensive.
  • Ahrefs has link data only for a few months available, depending on your plan. You need the most expensive plan to get all historic links, others are limited to a few months. In addition to that Ahrefs are not storing links on “Noindex” pages, which could be crucial to find.
  • Sistrix - the link data from Sistrix traditionally covered the german language market very well. We therefore recommend to include them in a backlink audit especially for those markets.
  • Moz - the link data from Moz is limited in volume, accuracy and accessibility. Downloading a full backlink profile is not possible. Access via API is very expensive, and slow.

None of the typical all-in-one SEO tools provide comprehensive enough data for a backlink audit.

But these link data problems are not new. LinkResearchTools was built as an aggregator to solve these data problems, by combining many different data sources and enriching them.

There’s a long history of penalties that were only removed after a complete backlink audit with LinkResearchTools (LRT), the popular agency Dejan SEO being one of them.

Your goal is always to maximize the number of backlinks that go into a backlink audit. There is even a metric called Backlink Profile Coverage that measures that. We recommend to combine all possible link data sources and perform a complete backlink audit.

Sometimes marketers say that they only need to look at a domain name, and understand if a link from it causes a link penalty.

That approach is esoteric at best, because not only can you not know all domains on the web - it is also impossible to judge on a domains strength or risk based on its name. Even if you use some simple metrics like Ahrefs DA or Moz DA, they won’t tell you anything about the risk the links on a specific domain mean for your organic rankings. If you’re interested to learn more about different SEO metrics, we have a chapter on that.

An interesting outcome of this mindset is that the “Moz Spam Score” triggers for higher spam probability, if the domain name contains a dash. That’s just wrong.

We recommend to always base your decisions on the evaluation of multiple technical metrics, combined with your manual review and SEO experience.

Be aware tough, that a lot of spammy websites have improved on the one criteria that SEOs get easily tricked with - design. Just because a website loads fast and looks nice and shiny, doesn’t make it trustworthy in the eyes of Google. The toughest spam links we find are often from the nicest looking link selling PBN websites.

Backlink Audits can be very frustrating as you have to look through a lot of spammy websites. Recommendations generated in LinkResearchTools called Link issues try to take away the burden for the most common anti-patterns and let you disavow then with one click.

There are various ways to fix the problems found in a backlink audit, and you should be prepared to take all paths.

It’s good to plan ahead, because in larger companies it often takes serious time to get fixes implemented, or just get access to Google Search Console.

  • Disavow links: you can upload a disavow file to Google to tell them which links and domains should not be counted at the next crawl.
  • Remove links: you can try to reach out to spammy link donors and ask them to remove the links. This is not very effective, and also not required to get rid of a Google penalty, unlike common belief. It’s helpful still, as such links then may not re-appear again on other domains.
  • Fix redirects: after you disavowed or removed toxic links you should fix redirects from possibly dead pages.
  • Get disavowed or removed links crawled ASAP

What you need

  • Read-only access for every property, to download the link data from Google Search Console
  • Admin access to Google Search Console for every property affected to upload disavow files
  • Access to a redirect tool, .htaccess, nginx config or a Developer to execute the redirects you need to fix your website(s).
  • Technology to make Google Bot crawl the disavowed or removed links. Only then the disavow or removal has an immediate effect, otherwise it could take up to 9 months.for an effect. Link Detox Boost works very well for this purpose for many years.

There’s a good chance that you’re disappointed after a backlink audit.

Over the years a lot of people approached backlink audits in a cheap way and expected great results.

Depending on the situation of your current website the effects can vary a lot.

Frequently asked questions are:

How long does it take to recover from a manual action?

The recovery time from manual actions can be anything between days and months, depending on

  • if you disavowed the right links - the links that were actually causing the penalty.
  • if Google (already) recrawled all those links, at least 48 hours AFTER you disavowed them - you can use Link Detox Boost to improve that.
  • if there is some positive link equity left - if you had to get rid of all links, and no good links left, then there’s nothing to recover.

How long does it take to recover from an algorithmic supression of rankings?

The first questions to answer here would be, if you actually suffer from a supression in rankings based on your link profile.

This could be signaled by certain keywords, pages or folders ranking a lot worse than they did before.

An algorithmic supression doesn’t happen sharply, and a recovery will not be visible as a sharp jump either. Google’s systems are reacting slower here to make a reverse engineering harder than it used to be pre-2016.

Very often after a pro-active disavow it’s unclear for a long time, if a supression was lifted or not. Often there are many other marketing activities going on, that have an impact on the rankings, or even the search volume (think about PR here).

Document Created: 2021-06-10 - Document Last Updated: 2021-04-04

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