In search engine optimization (SEO), your success is dependent on your ability to effectively strategize and execute that strategy. There are many ways you can plan incorrectly or set the wrong goals, and there are many ways you can incorrectly execute your vision.
You can evaluate your progress by studying a number of different metrics. You can check your search engine rankings for your target keywords, your organic traffic and, among other things, your backlink profile. But what exactly is your backlink profile, and why is it so important for SEO?
What is a backlink profile?
Your “backlink profile” is an overview of the backlinks currently pointing to your website. These backlinks may come from a variety of sources, including publishers, nonprofit organizations and partnered institutions, but they all point to your domain in some way. Using the proper tools, you’ll be able to see how many links you have, where those links are coming from, the strength of those links and other factors.
Why are backlinks important?
Why are backlinks such a big deal?
Google’s ranking algorithm is complicated, and we don’t know everything about it, but we do know that it preferentially ranks domains and pages that have been evaluated as authoritative or “trustworthy.” The higher the authority of a site or page, the higher it’s going to rank for relevant terms.
So how do you get that authority? One of the best, most direct methods is to build backlinks. A backlink from a website is viewed as a kind of trust signal — a vote of confidence that the destination site is valuable for an audience member. The more backlinks you earn, and the stronger those backlinks are, the higher you’re going to rank.
Of course, the downside is that if you’re caught manipulating your rank by building unnatural or spammy backlinks, you could face a significant penalty.
Backlink profiles, therefore, are indispensable tools to help guide your link earning and building practices — and to help you weed out “bad” links that could otherwise bring you down.
How to evaluate your backlink profile
How do you evaluate your backlink profile? The easiest method is to use a backlink checker tool, which will give you a breakdown of every link pointing to your site. All you’ll have to do is provide your domain, and the tool will take care of the rest.
What to check
What exactly should you be looking for?
You’ll want to check a number of variables, including:
Number of links. First, check out the number of links you have pointing to your site and to each of your individual pages (if you want to get that granular). Generally speaking, the more links you have, the better. However, you may find that your strategy is focusing too heavily on one page of your site and not enough on another, more important page of your site. It’s also possible to have too many links pointing to your domain if those links are low-quality or indicating spam.
Current domain and page authority. Scope out your current domain authority and the page-level authority of your most important internal pages. The higher these numbers are, the higher you’ll likely rank for your target keywords and phrases.
Diversity of referring domains. It’s a bad idea to rely on the same collection of domains for all your link building needs; you see diminishing returns from links coming from the same source. If you want the best results, you need links from a diversity of sources.
Strength of referring domains. Hopefully, your tool will also help you evaluate the domain authority of your referring domains; the higher these numbers are, the stronger your links will be. Optimize your campaign to get even stronger domains in your backlink profile.
Spam indicators. Spammy links are a major problem for SEO campaigns. Whether you intentionally built the links or not, a link that appears to be unnatural, low-quality or spammy could be removed — or could bring a penalty to your site. Fortunately, backlink checker tools are typically equipped with spam evaluating features, so you can flag and remove spammy backlinks before they become a problem.
Patterns and practices. Your number of links is growing, but how fast is it growing? Does it seem like the same publishers are linking to you over and over? You’ll want to pay attention to the patterns that begin to emerge in your link building strategy — and avoid making your links too repetitive, aggressive or predictable.
If you want to see the best SEO results, it’s important to conduct a backlink profile analysis at least once a month, if not more often. This way, you can keep tabs on the links you’re building, ensure you’re not violating Google’s terms of service and address issues before they become severe enough to threaten your SEO strategy.
Timothy Carter is the Chief Revenue Officer of the Seattle digital marketing agency SEO.co, DEV.co & PPC.co. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO and digital marketing leading, building and scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and drive growth from websites and sales teams. When he's not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running, and spending time with his wife and family on the beach -- preferably in Hawaii with a cup of Kona coffee.