A backlink audit is a process in which a person examines all of the links that point to a website and assesses their quality. Based on that assessment some links are then removed or disavowed in Google Search Console.
Getting a good portfolio of high-quality backlinks for a website, intentionally or not, is one of the prerequisites for ranking that website high in the search results, whether that’s Google or any other modern search engine. So, why would anyone want to remove them?
Well, not all links are good. With almost two billion websites currently on the internet, low-quality or even spam-rich and malware-infected websites are abundant. And when you get backlinks from those sites, it can affect your own website from ranking well.
Even if you haven’t created links on any websites that fall under that ‘shady’ category, many of these websites generate links on their own. These websites are based on scripts that scrape the internet looking for content that they then repost on their pages and link back to the source. Usually, those are image galleries, ‘coupon’ websites, web directories, fake search engines and many others.
Sometimes, however, these low quality links might come from SEO agencies or ‘specialists’ that they’ve hired who have employed low-effort link building efforts. These link-building techniques will generate many low-quality (bad) links from websites like SEO websites, PBNs, un-related forums or comments, web directories and link farms.
In some rare cases, a bad link portfolio can also result from a negative SEO campaign undertaken by the website’s direct competitors. These campaigns are easily detected, however, and can be dealt with by our backlink audit team.
However your bad links have been generated, they need to be found and dealt with, or they can leave you and your website in a bad position. And that’s where our backlink audit comes in.
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What can GWM do for you?
Our backlink audit team has unbeatable experience and expertise performing backlink audits on websites of all types and sizes. This is such an important part of an SEO service, that each of our SEO packages includes a backlink audit completed during your SEO campaign’s onboarding phase.
Why is it so important? Because we want a clean slate to build a legitimate backlink portfolio for your website. This way, we know that there are no hidden reasons that would impact on your website’s ability to rank. But most importantly we want to remove any possibility of your website getting penalised by Google (either by an algorithm or a manual penalty) because of dodgy or spammy backlinks.
Getting a penalty can seriously affect your business. And penalty recovery is a big job. It takes a lot of time and a lot of resources. During this time, your business is at risk and bleeding money because you aren’t present at all in any search results.
While many marketing websites may present backlink audits as a simple process of identifying suspicious links by using software such as Ahrefs, SEMRush, Majestic or MOZ, the truth is that it’s not simple at all. However, a DIY inspection of backlinks is not a bad idea for an initial assessment. And those marketing tools can help you confirm your suspicions if you think there might be bad links pointing to your website.
If it turns out there are bad backlinks, finding a proper SEO expert to do an in-depth backlink audit is a must. A botched backlink audit and backlink removal/disavow can do even more harm to an already at-risk website. You might end up removing good links. Or missing some of the worst offenders. Even Google themselves believe this process is best left to the professionals, which is why the following text is highlighted in Google’s disavow tool:
This is an advanced feature and should only be used with caution
If used incorrectly, this feature can potentially harm your site’s performance in Google’s search results. We recommend that you only disavow backlinks if you believe that there are a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and if you are confident that the links are causing issues for you.
Our Backlink Audit (Removal) Process
Every backlink audit at Green Web Marketing is done by hand. Yes, you read that right! That means that every single linking website is inspected in detail to single out all of the spammy websites that put your website at risk. Depending on the age of your website, its structure, size and previous SEO work, the number of backlinks varies accordingly, and backlink audits can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a few days.
We usually use the following tools to examine the links coming to your website — Google Search Console (GSC), Ahrefs, MOZ and Majestic. GSC is the gold standard, since it’s a tool to help manage your websites’ performance in Google’s search engine. Ahrefs and Majestic have proven to provide the most comprehensive backlink data out of all other tools so far (in terms of the sheer number of detected links). However, all of these tools are used only to extract the links and look at the metrics. No recommendation from them or any other ‘AI’ tools are used to assess the overall quality of the link.
1. Audit preparation
The first step in performing your backlink audit is to get access to your Google Search Console. With GSC, we can see if your website has been penalised already, among many other things. Once we have access to GSC, we download a list of all of the websites linking to your website. That list is then combined with lists of linking websites that were exported from Ahrefs and Majestic. Finally, we make sure to remove any duplicates in the process.
Once the list is ready, the next step is the audit itself.
2. Backlink audit
Each of the websites from the list is examined and ‘graded’ on several criteria, including the basics such as domain rating (authority), the look of the website, how images are displayed and the ads that are being displayed on it.
The reason we review every backlink website and don’t rely on metrics alone is simple—there are many hidden ‘features’ a website can have that software tools can’t recognise. A phishing malware installed on a website to pop up on click, redirections leading to gambling or explicit content, cloaked content and other unsavoury tactics can make a dangerous website seem innocuous. Once all of the checks are performed, the linking website is then either marked for removal or disregarded.
3. Reporting and approval
At GWM we have never removed or disavowed a backlink without the client’s consent. That’s why, after completing the audit, we forward a report to you that lists all of the linking websites that were analysed as well as our findings, recommendations and other general comments. The final decision on which websites are to be removed or disavowed is yours.
4. Backlink removal and disavow
Once you approve the audit and the disavow file, our next step is to approach the removal. While Google recommends that links be removed rather than disavowed, we usually disavow the bad links. The reason is that link removal is often unsuccessful. Owners of many bad websites are hard to reach, and even when they aren’t, they frequently refuse to remove the links or ask for monetary compensation.
Depending on the results of the audit, the disavow process can be split into several steps. In some rare instances disavowing too many backlinks all at once might create issues, which is why we split the file into smaller ones and upload them during the course of a couple of months.
Why are we the best backlink audit choice?
Unsavoury and downright dangerous backlinking practices undertaken by some dodgy SEOs are what leads to poor backlink portfolios and possible issues with Google. That is why every part of our entire SEO process, including the backlink audit, is fully transparent. On top of that, the sheer number of successful backlink audits performed by Green Web Marketing is a guarantee that we can get you back on the path to growth.
If you suspect your website has suffered a negative SEO attack or that your previous SEO agency delivered sub-par backlinks, give us a call. We’ll be happy to investigate and help you ensure you have a high-quality backlink portfolio that works well for you.
Give us a call today. Let’s work together to ramp up your online visibility, increase your revenue-driving traffic and rocket your sales into the future.