Link Building

What’s a Backlink Analysis and How to Perform One in 4 Easy Steps

Jeremy Moser
October 23, 2020

You can write the perfect blog post and it still might not rank first on Google. 

Despite all your planning and optimization techniques, your post could still fall short. 

Like everyone, your content needs support.

And the best way to give your content support is through backlinks.

But how do you know how many to aim for or which backlinks are worth the most?

That’s where a backlink analysis becomes useful. In this post, we’ll review all the major components of a backlink analysis and the necessary steps you need to take to perform one.

Before we dive in, let’s take a look at what’s in a backlink analysis and why it’s important.

What is a Backlink Analysis and Why Does It Matter?

A backlink analysis is a thorough evaluation of the number and quality of websites that are linking to your domain or a specific piece of content. 

backlink analysis

The analysis reviews more than just the number of backlinks you have leading to your page. It examines the entire scope of quantity, quality, anchor text, and recency of your backlinks while taking into account other factors for improved SEO. (We’ll cover these factors more in a minute.) 

A backlink analysis can be conducted for your company’s blog or even a competitor’s blog to understand how each is faring when it comes to acquiring coveted backlinks and improving keyword rankings. 

Link building and link analysis are just two components of a solid search engine optimization strategy. 

With backlink data, you can identify backlink opportunities as well as competitors’ backlinks you need to target.

Plus, you can identify toxic backlinks you might need to get rid of, like a spammy link or a low quality backlink to disavow. 

A complete backlink analysis gives you a wealth of performance data that can be used to improve your post and site performance and see how your business stacks up against a competitor.

The insights will be invaluable for your content and SEO strategy.

The significance of a backlink analysis

There’s a lot of value in conducting a backlink analysis. First, a backlink analysis will give you perspective on how useful others find the content located on your site. 

Typically, sites will link to yours if they appreciate your content and trust your brand. A large number of backlinks could indicate a loyal follower base that wants to share your brand or content with their own.

Secondly, a backlink analysis can define one of your SEO objectives.

If you analyze a top-ranking competitor, it will provide you with the number of high-quality backlinks you need to acquire (as well as direct target sites) to improve your SEO and surpass them.

find competitor backlinks

Of course, backlinks aren’t the only factor contributing to your success in the search rankings, but Google has stated time and time again that they are a top-two ranking factor. 

Research shows that 91% of all websites don’t get organic traffic from Google, largely because they lack the necessary backlinks to improve their rankings and compete in SERPs.

That’s why backlink analyses are so critical in ensuring the success of your site’s organic channel. 

With your new link portfolio, you can assess your link equity (value) and fix any broken links you find. 

Plus, as you move your link building strategy into the offensive mode, an SEO professional can use the link profile as a resource to increase backlinks and improve your SEO metrics.

Let’s start laying the groundwork for conducting a backlink analysis by highlighting the top SEO tools you’ll need to use. 

Preparing for your backlink analysis

By conducting a backlink analysis, you will understand what you’re up against and how you’ll need to improve your backlink outreach efforts.

However, you don’t have to conduct one alone. We’re here to help, and you can always use third-party software.

Thankfully, you don’t have to manually search for backlinks tied to your site. There are numerous SEO-focused tools available to help.

Some of the most popular ones on the market include:

  • Ahrefs
  • SEMrush
  • Moz
  • Majestic SEO
  • SEO Spyglass

These are the industry-leaders when it comes to SEO software and backlink analysis assistance, and many of them offer a free version of their software. 

But once you select your software, what metrics should you be looking for? 

We’ll outline the main components of the analysis and why each is important.

Components of a backlink analysis

Backlink analysis can be completed in a variety of ways, but there are four components that every analysis absolutely needs to have.

These components include:

components of a backlink analysis
  • Total links – how many total sites are linking to your page?
  • Unique Domains – how many unique sites are linking to your page?
  • Quality of Links – how authoritative are the links to your page?
  • Anchor Text – what keywords or phrases are the sites linking to your page?

Link data is invaluable. And it can only be sourced if you take the proper time to build a link profile, complete the link analysis and extract insights.

That’s why each step is so critical. They create a holistic view of the health of your backlinks, while shining light on areas that need attention. 

Let’s get into each in more detail and walk through a full backlink analysis for your site.

Performing the 4-Step Backlink Analysis

Now that you know the importance of a backlink analysis and what tools you can use, we’re ready to dive in.

To illustrate the process, we’ll be using Ahrefs to examine our own site. 

Watch this video to see the steps in action!

1. Analyze the total backlinks linking to your site

First, we’re going to complete the main objective of your backlink analysis: finding the total number of backlinks currently linked to your site.

Once we pull this data, we’ll get more specific and examine aspects of it closely to source new insights. But, we’re going to start broad to get a high-level look at where everything currently stands.

SEO software can quickly aggregate your total backlinks for you, so you can get the cumulative number of sites linking to your page or domain.

This is a helpful—and essential—starting point for your backlink analysis.

Finding your total backlinks

Within Ahrefs (or a similar tool), you can look for the Site Explorer option. After you click it, you can input your domain to perform a high-level analysis.

Once completed, you can view the total number of backlinks linking to your domain and get granular with the data located in your backlink profile.

ahrefs site explorer

(Screenshot)

The starting point is always to assess your total backlinks. However, that number alone doesn’t provide a comprehensive picture of your current performance.

After all, what exactly does the total number of backlinks tell you? 

Well, alone, it doesn’t tell you much. With nothing to compare it to, how do you know if 700 backlinks is good or bad?

But if you compare it to a competitor’s total backlinks, you can understand where you rank.

You need to look at your total number within the context of everything else, including your competition and how they’re spread across your site.

If you’re examining the total number of backlinks to your entire domain, you can see which pages are most valuable to your audience. You can segment blog posts that are performing exceptionally well and double down on those topics.

Companies that blog generate 97% more backlinks to their site, and long-form content receives 77.2% more backlinks than short articles. 

blogging backlink analysis

Blogs are invaluable ways to connect with your audience and grow your organic traffic. With blogs’ positive impact on your total backlinks, you can reap the benefits in many ways.

But not all blog posts perform the same. Diving into the details here helps you find your star performers. 

By identifying how many backlinks you currently have, you’ve made your mark in the sand. This is just your starting point. 

How can you drive more? Are these backlinks even valuable?

Those questions are what we’ll answer next.

2. Segment unique domains

The high-level backlink objective is to get as many high-quality, unique backlinks from multiple different domains. 

To understand how many of your total backlinks are from different websites, you need to segment based on unique domains.

You need to go beyond the total number of backlinks you have and understand how many unique domains are linking to your site.

Google doesn’t always reward sites that simply have a high number of backlinks. 

Over the years, companies have simply bought backlinks and had artificial ones generated. In addition, some just purchased multiple sites and continuously linked them to drive their total backlinks.

Google put a stop to this and began placing the emphasis on unique domains. Google wants you to have backlinks from multiple, relevant sites — not just a bunch from the same site over and over again.

Multiple backlinks from different reputable sites is a strong signal that your content is valuable. 

Thus, you need to have a varying number of backlinks from different domains.

Finding your unique backlinks

Within the Site Explorer view in Ahrefs, you can click on your total backlink number to open up a more granular view of each individual backlink.

ahrefs overview

(Screenshot)

In this dashboard, you can view each individual backlink and segment your total backlinks by “One link per domain.” 

This provides you with a view of unique domains only, which will be more valuable than the high-level view of your total backlinks.

ahrefs backlink profile analysis

(Screenshot)

Backlinks are one of the top two criteria considered in Google’s page ranking algorithm, so conducting this portion of the analysis is critical.

By evaluating your unique backlinks, you’ll have a greater understanding of the domains that are essential for driving traffic to your brand and improving your overall ranking.

3. Check domain authority for high-quality backlinks

Let’s keep going deeper. You know your total backlinks and unique domains. 

But are they valuable? 

Google looks for high-value sites with high domain authority and rankings.

You need to review how many unique domains are actually high-quality domains with high domain authority ratings.

To put it another way: it’s quality over quantity when it comes to backlinks. But what makes a link a high-quality backlink?

Factors of high-quality backlinks

Two main factors contribute to high-quality backlinks: domain authority and the age of the backlink.

Domain authority is a metric used to assess the validity and reputation of the domain linking to your site. Domain ranking shows the strength of the backlinks. If the site has a high domain authority, search engines will view it favorably and will reward it accordingly.

After sites started to artificially increase the quantity of their backlinks, Google increased its emphasis on quality backlinks from unique, relevant domains.

However, you also want to have fresh backlinks to ensure not all of them are old and stale. 

Google evaluates the recency of your backlinks to ensure your content is still current and valuable for today’s searchers who are seeking content related to their search keywords. The search engine doesn’t want to serve them irrelevant, outdated content. 

Thus, you want to get as many backlinks from sites with high domain authority as possible and make sure you have some new backlinks continuously added over time.

Finding quality backlinks

In Ahrefs, you can examine the quality and recency of your backlinks by looking at their domain rating (DR) metric.

More than 48% of marketers assess the quality of their backlinks by checking their domain rating.

In order to find the domain rating of your backlinks in Ahrefs, you just need to sort your view by the DR column. It’s that simple.

ahrefs DR analysis

(Screenshot)

From there, you can start to see how many of your backlinks are valuable. We’d recommend considering anything higher than 50+ a valuable backlink, with 65+ being the gold standard.

Additionally, if you’re proactively sourcing backlinks, Ahrefs has a handy tool to check the site’s domain before reaching out. 

With their Website Authority Checker, you can input any domain and see their domain authority rating. This can help you target high-value websites with positive domain authorities that will help your overall rankings.

ahrefs website authority checker

(Screenshot)

With this new intel, you can be more strategic in how you source and generate new backlinks from high-quality domains.

4. Assess the quality of your anchor texts

Now it’s time to examine how sites are linking to your page.

Let’s specifically look at the anchor text that sites are using to add their link into their website copy or blog post.

Anchor text is the words or phrases on the site that are hyperlinked to your website. These can be indicators that improve the quality of the backlinks you receive. They should be monitored and improved if needed.

anchor text analysis for link building

Anchor text serves as another signal that conveys how relevant the site might be for a related search term. 

Anchor text that is relevant to what the site is about can help Google understand whether or not the site provides valuable information for those searching.

Finding your backlinks’ anchor text

The process to analyze your backlinks is simple. Thankfully, your SEO tool will easily source all your backlinks’ anchor text for you. 

In the individualized view, you can see a column titled “Anchor and backlink.” This will list all the individual anchors text variations that are used for your backlinks.

find backlinks with anchor text

(Screenshot)

If your anchor texts seem off or don’t highlight your brand and focus keywords, you can reach out to the website and ask them if they can change it. 

The company might not, but it’s worth a shot. This is often an easy way to get the anchor texts updated and maybe even forge a connection with the company.

By analyzing your anchor texts, you’ll ensure you’re optimizing all your backlinks to deliver the most value for your content.

Next steps: Page vs. site analysis, outreach, and more

So you’ve completed a backlink analysis for your entire site. Now what?

It’s time to do one for a specific page on your site. This can provide you with more detail on which content your target audience finds most valuable. 

Comparing posts or pages with a lot of quality backlinks to those that are underperforming will also help you focus on actionable steps to start building more valuable backlinks.  

Once you’ve pinpointed where you need more backlinks to be competitive, it’s time to start doing outreach.

Find domains with high domain authority and reach out to see if you could contribute to their blog or offer research that can be linked back to your site.

Of course, this can be time consuming. That’s why you can always work with us to increase your brand visibility and drive more high-quality backlinks to your site. 

With the insights you’ve discovered from your backlink analysis, you can begin to execute a SEO and backlink strategy that makes your content competitive on search engines.

Conclusion

Everyone wants to rank high on Google, but how can you actually make that happen?

If you’ve tried everything, you might feel a bit lost. 

The answer may lie in your backlink analysis, an audit that highlights all the pages linking to your site. 

Backlink analyses provide critical information that can help you benchmark against and surpass competitors in your ranking. 

To conduct one, you need to analyze your backlinks, segment unique domains, review domain authority and assess the quality of your anchor texts.

By doing so, you can gain new insights about your SEO efforts and improve your rankings overall.

Links that move the needle.

Acquire normally unreachable backlinks from the best websites in your niche.