Backlinks: How to see who is linking to your website
… and why you should care
A very important factor in improving a website’s rank in search engines is backlinks. The more quality websites that link to your website, the better your chances of ranking higher in Google searches.
Checking Links To Your Website
There are many free tools that provide backlink information about any website. Ahrefs checker and Moz’s backlink checker called Link Explorer are free tools with limited functionality, with more available for their paid subscribers.
We use a paid tool called Linkminer by Mangools. We also use SEMRush which provides a backlink analysis, as well as an audit to identify any “toxic” links that may be harmful to SEO. A bad or a ‘toxic’ backlink is a link that either comes from a suspicious website, or has been acquired illicitly (meaning it is spammy in nature). Getting rid of toxic backlinks is not easy. SEM Rush describes their recommended process for eliminating toxic links here.
A review or audit of backlinks to your website will include a few important metrics in addition to the number of links.
[Not sure of the order of the metrics we list below. If Alexa Rank is not that important any more, then should it be first? If we are just listing alphabetically, then perhaps we should explicitly say that]
Alexa rank is a measure of website popularity (this is not related to the Amazon Alexa voice search product). It ranks millions of websites in order of popularity, with an Alexa Rank of 1 being the most popular. Alexa Rank reveals how a website is doing relative to all other sites. According to Higher Visibility, while an Alexa Rank was once a valuable asset for a website when pitching space to advertisers, the notion has somewhat gone by the wayside. Alexa Rank can act as one tool among many for SEO audits, especially in comparison to competitors, yet most digital marketing professionals would agree that Alexa Rank is not something valuable in reference to overall SEO optimization and performance.
Citation & Trust Flow
Majestic SEO created tools called “Flow Metrics” which help evaluate a website’s value, especially as it relates to linking. You can check your own website’s flow scores, your competition’s scores, and the scores of other sites linking to you.
Citation Flow measures the value or strength of a website or link. It’s a score between 0-100 that indicates how influential a link will be based on how many links are coming into it, and is not based on the quality of the websites containing the links.
Trust Flow is a score based on quality, also with a scale between 0-100. Majestic collated many trusted seed sites based on a manual review of the web. This process forms the foundation of Majestic Trust Flow. Sites closely linked to a trusted seed site can see higher scores, whereas sites that may have some questionable links would see a much lower score.
In the quality vs. quantity game, Trust Flow is a more important score, but you also want to increase the quantity of your “trusted” backlinks – the goal is to have a lot of quality websites linking to your website. This tells search engines your website has good, trustworthy, valuable information.
Moz uses its own scoring metrics, Page Authority, Domain Authority, and Spam Scores, which are similar to the Majestic terms. Note, none of these metrics are set by Google – they are created by SEO experts to provide guidance on evaluating links.
How To Get High Quality Links To Your Website
Getting new quality links to your website takes time, attention, and effort. After reviewing your current backlinks, your goal is to find high Domain Authority sites that have a history of linking to pages discussing your topic. One method is to is to study your competitors’ backlinks.
Check out your competition
Use the same tools we recommend for checking your own backlinks to check who is linking to your competition. This is a great way to start a list of websites you might want to reach out to. Take a look at the links to your competition’s website, export the list and data, and put this information in a spreadsheet. Importing a .csv file will allow you to sort the list to highlight links from reputable sources (those with high Trust Flow and/or Domain Authority).
Get your name out there
Neil Patel says “leveraging public relations is perhaps the most necessary step in your backlinking journey.” The best way to do this – like it or not – is to be active on social media. Depending on your business category, this may mean Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter (or a combination of these). Interacting with other website content by commenting and reviewing can also help you become better known and create more links to your website.
Write a guest blog for another website
Once you have developed relationships with others in your industry through your public relations efforts, look for opportunities to share an article on their website and add a link back to your website. These are authentic links, not spam, and can be an effective backlink strategy.
Grow your email list
In addition to getting people to link to your content/website via social media, you can also use social media to grow your email list. A larger email audience provides more opportunities to share content and get links back to your website.
Create great content
Of course, none of the above strategies will be effective if your site doesn’t contain well written, relevant, and interesting content! People will not interact with or share articles that don’t spark their interest. If you are not writing content for your website, and if SEO is important to you, consider hiring someone to help you create fresh, high quality content on a regular basis. In time, you should see improvements in your SEO if you make content creation a key (but not the only) part of your backlink strategy.
For more information on getting high quality links to your website, digital marketing expert Neil Patel’s list of ways to get high quality backlinks to your websites is an excellent reference.