Why You Should Check Backlinks – And How to Do It
Check Backlinks To Check Competitors
If you are serious about improving your SERPS, it’s important to check backlinks. Backlinks, also called inbound links (IBLs), are links coming from other website into your site. They send important signals to Google and other search engine algorithms about the importance and popularity of your site’s content, and are part of the more than 100 factors that go into the complicated and secretive algorithms.
Improving backlinks is often a goal for SEO projects, but you can’t improve upon something if you’re not sure of the current situation. Checking backlinks gives you a good picture of your site’s current inbound link status and any potential problems or benefits these links may be causing.
How Important Are Backlinks?
Everyone seems to be saying that backlinks are desirable, but to check backlinks and initiate ethical ways to encourage more takes time. It’s tempting to skip backlinks in your quest for better SERPS, but be warned: backlinks are still very important.
According to a study conducted by Moz on 15,000 competitive keywords, sites that ranked among the top results for their keyword had at least one backlink. In fact, in order to rank at all, at least one backlinks seems to be important.
Not All Backlinks Are Created Equal
All backlinks are not created equal, and not just any links pointing to your web pages will help your SEO. The quality of the links are also important.
Search engines assess not just number of inbound links, but the weight of the linking domain. A backlink from a university website, government website, or well-regarded news site holds more “weight” with the search engines than an unrelated website or one with poor optimization.
As with most things related to SEO, the key to a good backlink is relevance. Search engines look for signals that confirm a site’s relevance to the keywords for which it’s trying to rank. If you’re running a website that sells woodworking supplies, and the backlinks are from woodworking and hobby journals, that’s a sign of relevance. The links, the anchor text from the links, and the sites themselves all seem to say, “Yes, this is a website about people who enjoy crafting with wood, making furniture, carving wood, and woodworking of all sorts….”
If the same links came from sites that contained a huge array of links, or links from unrelated sources, they would either be disregarded as irrelevant or event a negative signal that perhaps the site owner is trying to buy his way into the search engine’s good graces.
Deep Links versus Domain Links
Another aspect of linking is a concept called deep links. Deep links, or deep linking, means that a site isn’t just linking to your home page but to content within your domain.
Your domain is the basic URL that you use to identify your website. As new pages or posts are created, these are found deeper in the site. The link becomes longer.
Deep links are another sign to search engines of a link’s authenticity. A domain link is common, but deep links, especially to specific content areas, can send powerful signals to search engines that the site is a good resource and therefore worthy of being ranked higher on the SERPS.
Check Backlinks: The Tools You Need
Now that you understand the importance of backlinks and the relevancy factor, let’s talk about how to check backlinks.
There are several tools you can use to assess the sites linking into your own website. These tools include:
- Ahrefs: Ahrefs is considered one of the strongest backlink checking tools on the market. You have to pay for a subscription to it, but they do offer a 14-day free trial that can help you get started. The system checks your current backlinks, and also offers an in-depth competitor analysis tool that can help you understand which keywords your competitors are ranking for so that you can create a strategy for your own website. You can track your site’s backlink growth over time, which is helpful for site owners to identify actions they’ve taken to improve backlinks.
- SEM Rush: Mostly know for it’s keyword research, SEMRush created a backlink checker to show all the inbound links pointing to your domain and their quality.
- Moz/Open Site Explorer: Moz’s Open Site Explorer provides a great set of free tools to quickly check your site’s domain authority, page authority, and backlinks. Paid subscribers can use additional tools to research their social metrics. The site’s backlinks check also helps identify potential spam links, which can bring your site down in SERPS. One of the best features is the ability to compare your site to competitors’ websites. You just enter the URLs into the tool, and it does the rest, providing you with a good picture of how your links stack up against competing sites. It’s a great free tool for small business owners and for a modest investment, provides even more resources to improve backlinks and SEO.
- Screaming Frog: Screaming Frog’s SEO spider is a desktop tool that installs on PC, Mac or Linux machines. It spiders through sites from an SEO perspective, and provides you with insights on links, images, scripts and apps, all from and SEO perspective. The initial download is free, but the site offers additional tools available for a reasonable fee. There are plenty of tools, including a backlink check tool, that can help you improve your website’s SEO.
Checking competitor’s backlinks can provide you with ideas and strategies to improve your own backlinks. If you can identify high authority domains linking into a competitor’s site, you may want to reach out to the webmasters on those domains and introduce yourself and your site’s content to them. They may not be aware of the rich resources you offer on your site, or other great content that they might link to link into.
Adding content can encourage good quality backlinks. A research report, white paper, or how-to guide are all great ideas for content that offers true value and relevance for potential inbound links. When you add authentic, relevant, original and well-written content to your website, or other types of content such as videos, podcasts, infographics and e-books, you’re giving relevant websites a great reason to link into your site.
Increasing the number of backlinks, and especially gaining high authority domain links into your website is neither a quick or easy prospect. It’s usually part of an ongoing SEO strategy that produces incremental results. When it’s done well, however, it can really boost your overall SERPs and help your site gain more visibility, especially among your target audience.