How To Track And Manage Backlinks

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Backlinks are vital for boosting your website’s search engine rankings. They act as votes of confidence and credibility from other websites. The more high-quality backlinks you have from authoritative and relevant sources, the better your site will perform in search results.

However, building backlinks is only half the battle. You also need to track and manage them properly. 

This guide covers everything you need to know about tracking and managing backlinks effectively. You’ll learn proven strategies for safely building high-quality links, cleaning up your link profile, conducting backlink audits, and more.

Understanding Backlinks

Backlinks play a crucial role in your website’s search engine performance as highlighted in the introduction. But what precisely are they, and why do they matter? Let’s dive into the details.

At its core, a backlink serves as a link from one website to another.. However, these humble links carry much more weight than you might think. Search engines like Google view backlinks as endorsements or votes of confidence in your content. The more high-quality backlinks your pages receive from authoritative and relevant websites, the more trustworthy and valuable your site is perceived to be.

Not all backlinks are created equal, though. There are several different types you must be aware of:

Dofollow vs. Nofollow Backlinks

  • Dofollow links allow search engines to crawl the link and pass along ranking power to the linked site. These are the most valuable backlinks for your SEO.
  • Nofollow links instruct search bots not to follow or pass any ranking value through the link.

  • Sponsored links are paid advertising placements, often marked as “sponsored” or “advertisement”.
  • Editorial links are earned naturally within the content on another site, unpaid.

Context and Anchor Text

The context of the link and the actual anchor text (the clickable words) can influence how much ranking power is passed. Using relevant, descriptive anchor text is ideal.

While the number of backlinks matters, quality trumps quantity. A few high-authority, relevant dofollow backlinks from trusted sites will benefit your SEO far more than thousands of low-quality, spammy links. In fact, having too many unnatural, paid or toxic backlinks can harm your rankings if search engines detect link schemes or manipulation.

The goal is to build a diverse backlink profile of authoritative, editorial links from a variety of sources related to your niche or industry. This helps reinforce your site’s authority and relevance on those topics in the eyes of search engines.

You’ll be better equipped to track, analyse and clean up your link profile to maximise the ranking benefits by understanding the different types of backlinks and their relative value for SEO. Maintaining a healthy backlink makeup is key for any successful SEO strategy.

Why Tracking Backlinks is Crucial

Keeping a close eye on your website’s backlink profile is an essential part of any successful SEO strategy. Here are the key reasons why tracking backlinks is so crucial:

  1. Monitor Your Site’s Overall Link Health – Regularly tracking who is linking to your site and the quality of those links gives you a bird’s eye view into the health of your entire backlink profile. Are you getting links from authoritative, relevant websites or being bombarded with low-quality, spammy links that could drag down your rankings?
  1. Identify and Remove Toxic Backlinks – While you can’t control what others link to you, having too many unnatural, paid or downright toxic backlinks can negatively impact your search visibility if spotted by Google. Tracking lets you quickly pinpoint these problematic links so you can disavow or remove them through Google’s disavow tool.
  1. Gauge the Effectiveness of Link Building Efforts – Are your current outreach, guest posting, or other link building tactics securing valuable backlinks from authoritative sources? By closely tracking new links over time, you can evaluate if your efforts are paying off or need adjusting.
  1. Keep Tabs on Your Competitors – Many backlink tracking tools allow you to check your competitors’ link profiles as well. This reveals their link building strategies, best link sources, and potential opportunities you may be missing out on.
  1. Recover from Google Penalties – If your site is ever hit with a Google penalty due to spammy backlink practices, having backlink tracking in place is crucial for identifying the root cause, removing the offending links, and recovering your lost rankings.

Staying vigilant about monitoring your backlinks allows you to proactively maintain a healthy, diverse link profile that follows best practices – something Google values highly. The better you track and manage this critical ranking factor, the more control you have over your SEO success.

How to Track Backlinks

Tracking your backlinks is essential, but how do you do it? Luckily, there are several great tools available to help monitor and analyse your link data.

Popular Backlink Tracking Tools

  • Ahrefs – One of the most comprehensive backlink checkers with a huge link database
  • SEMrush – An all-in-one marketing toolkit that includes robust backlink tracking
  • Moz Link Explorer – Part of the Moz Pro software suite focused on link metrics
  • Google Search Console – Free tool from Google to see who recently linked to your site

Most of these platforms work by crawling the web and building massive link databases that you can then query. They dig up all the backlinks pointing to your website and present the data in a clean, easy-to-digest way.

Setting Up Monitoring and Alerts

Once you’ve picked a tool, you’ll want to add your website so it can start tracking your backlinks. Many allow you to set up alerts to notify you whenever new links are detected, so you don’t have to constantly check yourself.

Analysing Backlink Data

The real value comes from being able to slice and dice your link data in different ways. For example:

  • Seeing your overall link counts and which pages have the most backlinks
  • Sorting by link quality scores or metrics like Domain Rating/Authority
  • Filtering for dofollow, nofollow, or other link types
  • Identifying new vs. lost links over time
  • Analysing anchor text across your links
  • Checking the topical relevance of the linking websites

This level of insight enables you to quickly spot positive and negative patterns in your link profile that may be impacting your rankings.

The best backlink tracking tools integrate seamlessly with other SEO software like rank trackers and site auditors. This centralised data enables you to connect the dots between your backlinks and organic performance.

While some decent free tools exist, the leading paid platforms tend to have bigger databases and more robust filtering capabilities for proper link analysis. Invest in the right tools, and you’ll be equipped to effectively track and manage this crucial piece of the SEO puzzle.

Managing Backlinks Effectively

Tracking your backlinks is one thing, but effectively managing them is just as crucial for SEO success. Here are some key strategies for keeping your backlink profile in tip-top shape:

Disavowing and Removing Toxic Backlinks

Despite your best efforts, it’s nearly impossible to completely avoid acquiring some spammy or low-quality backlinks over time. Whether from negative SEO attacks, old paid link vendors, or shady link building practices, these toxic links can harm your site’s credibility and rankings.

That’s why it’s critical to regularly audit your backlink profile and quickly remove or disavow any unnatural, artificial, or downright malicious links. Here’s how:

  • Identifying Toxic Backlinks

The first step is analysing your backlink data to pinpoint potentially problematic links. Typical red flags include:

  • Links from low-quality directories, link farms, or spam website networks
  • Excessive site-wide footer or sidebar links
  • Links with over-optimized or unnatural anchor text distribution
  • Backlinks from websites completely unrelated to your niche/topic
  • Dramatic link velocity spikes that seem impossible to acquire naturally

Most backlink analysis tools allow you to set rules for detecting these types of toxic links and flagging them in reports.

  • Using Google’s Disavow Tool

For spammy backlinks you can’t remove through manual outreach, Google provides the Disavow Links Tool. This allows you to upload a file telling Google’s algorithms to disregard or discount certain bad links when crawling your site.

However, only use the disavow tool as a last resort. Google clearly states they prefer first trying to remove the links yourself before disavowing. Additionally, if you disavow good links accidentally, it could hurt your rankings.

  • Link Removal Outreach

Whenever possible, attempt to contact webmasters directly and request the removal of any paid, unauthorised or artificially built backlinks. Explain that they violate Google’s guidelines and negatively impact your SEO performance. Maintain persistent but polite outreach.

For larger volumes, consider using a link removal service or agency that specialises in this process at scale. Their expertise and relationships can often remove links that individual efforts cannot.

  • Monitoring and Disavow Audits

Once you’ve disavowed toxic links through Google, it’s important to re-check that file periodically and update it as needed. Monitor for any new spammy links to add, or good links that were wrongly disavowed that should be removed.

Maintain a clean, up-to-date disavow file as part of your regular quarterly backlink audits. Letting it become stale with outdated data diminishes its effectiveness.

You’ll maintain a high-quality, trusted backlink profile that upholds your site’s reputation and search visibility by staying vigilant and quickly removing toxic backlinks using both manual outreach and the disavow tool.

Acquiring High-Quality Backlinks

The goal is to earn backlinks from authoritative, relevant websites with a clean, trustworthy reputation. Some proven tactics include:

  • Content Marketing – Creating shareworthy blog posts, guides, visuals etc. that other sites will naturally like to link to
  • Outreach and Digital PR – Conducting campaigns to pitch your content and earn placements on popular publications
  • Guest Posting – Contributing articles to respected blogs in your industry with contextual links back to your site
  • Broken Link Building – Finding and replacing broken links on other websites with links to your content

Cleaning Up Your Backlink Profile

You’ll inevitably acquire some spammy or low-quality links over time even with a solid link building strategy. It’s important to routinely analyse and clean up your profile:

  • Use backlink analysis tools to identify toxic or unnatural links
  • Disavow any problematic backlinks through Google’s disavow tool
  • Reach out to webmasters and request the removal of inappropriate paid links
  • Monitor for negative SEO attacks from competitors trying to sabotage your rankings

Conducting Link Audits

In addition to ongoing monitoring, perform comprehensive backlink audits every few months to deeply analyse your link profile health. Look for:

  • Excessive link velocities or spikes that seem unnatural
  • Too many links with certain anchor text distribution that could be over-optimized
  • High percentages of nofollow, sitewide, or low-quality links dragging down your ratio
  • Link profile gaps or opportunities for more relevant link sources

You’ll maintain a squeaky clean, authoritative backlink portfolio that boosts your website’s credibility and search performance by consistently applying these managing techniques.

Backlink Auditing and Reporting

Routinely auditing your backlinks and compiling detailed reports is crucial for gaining insights, optimising your strategy, and proving the value of your efforts. Here’s what an effective backlink auditing and reporting process looks like:

Conducting Regular Backlink Audits

At least once per quarter, perform a comprehensive backlink audit using one of the premium tracking tools mentioned earlier. This involves:

  • Exporting all your current backlink data
  • Analysing metrics like link types, anchor text, domains, etc.
  • Looking for spikes, drops, or other anomalies
  • Identifying toxic or low-quality links to disavow
  • Pinpointing new quality link opportunities to pursue

An audit lets you step back and get a bird’s eye view of your overall link profile health and growth over time.

Tracking Backlink Acquisition

Between audits, you’ll also want to continually track your team’s link acquisition pace and types of links being earned, such as:

  • Total new backlinks acquired this month/quarter
  • Total new unique referring domains
  • Breakdown of follow vs nofollow new links
  • Anchor text distribution across new links
  • Cumulative new Domain Authority/Rating from new links

Monitoring these metrics weekly shows if you’re consistently securing quality backlinks as expected.

Generating Reports

Once you have your auditing and tracking data, compile it into professional client or stakeholder reports. These reports should include:

  • Current backlink overview metrics
  • Total backlink growth over time
  • New vs lost backlinks
  • Top backlinks acquired
  • Potential customer/competitor comparative analyses
  • Toxic link disavow details
  • Goals, successes and areas for improvement

Be sure to highlight wins, identify roadblocks, and make actionable recommendations for refining your backlink strategy going forward.

Visualisation and Presentation

To really bring your backlink reports to life:

  • Use visuals like charts and graphs
  • Pull interesting data-driven case studies
  • Incorporate stock photos of link building activities
  • Present reports in a polished presentation deck

Clear, compelling reports showcase the value and impact of your ongoing backlink efforts in a tangible way.

You’ll optimise your backlink acquisition, ensure you maintain a healthy profile, and generate buy-in for continued link building investment by auditing and reporting consistently.

Advanced Backlink Management Strategies

Once you’ve mastered the basics of tracking and managing backlinks, it’s time to level up your approach with some more advanced strategies:

Data Visualization and Link Scoring

Most premium backlink tools utilise sophisticated data visualisation and scoring algorithms to help make sense of your link data. For example:

  • Visual backlink profile “maps” showing your most influential links
  • Customizable “pie charts” breaking down your follow/nofollow mix
  • Automated toxic link flagging and scoring based on risk factors
  • Link scoring metrics combining authority, traffic, relevance and other criteria into one score

These visualisations make it faster to spot positive patterns, weak points, and prioritise which links deserve the most attention.

Integrating with Other SEO Data

For a truly holistic view, integrate your backlink reporting with other key SEO metrics like organic traffic, rankings, audience data and more. This unified dataset allows you to:

  • Correlate backlink spikes/drops to impacts on your positioning
  • Identify top ranking and revenue-driving backlinks
  • Map links to specific marketing channels or content assets
  • Calculate ROI of link building efforts against performance uplifts

The better you can connect backlink data to tangible business results, the easier it is to showcase its value.

Automating Tracking and Reporting

As your website and backlink portfolio grows, manual backlink checking simply won’t scale. Consider automating parts of your process:

  1. Setting custom rules for automated backlink monitoring and alerts
  1. Using APIs and scripts to regularly pull updated backlink datasets
  1. Implementing reporting templates and workflows
  1. Tying in project management tools to organise link building tasks

Automation frees up your team’s bandwidth for higher-level analysis and strategy.

Scaling for Enterprise Backlinking

For larger enterprise organisations with multiple websites, products or campaigns, your backlink strategy needs to accommodate:

  • Subdomain or subdirectory filtering to focus audits
  • Ways to compare backlink performance across digital properties
  • Customizable role-based reporting for different stakeholder groups
  • Centralised link management and acquisition processes at scale

More advanced solutions allow you to control a cohesive enterprise-level backlink program.

By leveraging these cutting-edge strategies and integrations, you’ll gain a competitive edge in efficiently managing your ongoing backlink program for maximum impact.

Best Practices and Tips

As you implement all the backlink tracking and management strategies outlined, keep these best practice tips in mind:

  1. Prioritise Quality Over Quantity – Forget the old-school mentality of acquiring as many backlinks as possible. These days, Google heavily prioritises link quality over sheer volume. A few high-authority, relevant backlinks will benefit your SEO far more than thousands of low-quality ones. Focus your efforts on earning those premium links.
  1. Avoid Black Hat Tactics – There are plenty of shady “black hat” link building tactics out there like paid private blog networks, automated spam comments, and link schemes. While tempting for a short-term rankings boost, they put your site at serious risk of Google penalties. Stick to sustainable, whitehat link acquisition methods.
  1. Monitor Google’s Updates – Google frequently updates its algorithms to better detect and devalue spammy or artificial links. Tactics that worked last year may open a red flag this year. Stay up-to-date on Google’s latest ranking factors and changes through authoritative SEO news sources. Adjust your link strategies accordingly.
  1. Continually Adapt Your Approach – Your backlink management needs will constantly evolve as your website grows and the SEO landscape shifts. What works for your startup may not fly for an enterprise a few years later. Continually audit, test, and refine your process based on performance data. A stagnant backlink program is a failing one.
  1. Practice Patience and Persistence – Acquiring premium backlinks through outreach, PR efforts, and relationship building takes considerable time and hustle. There’s no shortcut for earning those highly coveted links. Maintain realistic expectations, remain persistent in your campaigns, and don’t get frustrated if you don’t see overnight results.
  1. Build a Diverse Portfolio – A healthy backlink profile consists of a diverse blend of link types, anchors and sources. Overreliance on a single type (like excessive exact-match anchors) appears manipulative to Google. Vary your anchor text, earn nofollow/dofollow links, and pursue new referring domains consistently.

You’ll set your website up for sustainable backlink growth and SEO success over the long haul by keeping these tips top of mind. Quality, diverse inbound links will continue to be a crucial Google ranking factor for years to come.

Conclusion

There’s no dancing around it – backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors in Google’s algorithm. The quality and relevance of the websites linking to you plays a huge role in how your pages perform in search results.

Don’t let your search visibility languish due to a neglected backlink strategy. Start tracking, analysing and optimising your link data like a pro. The impact on your organic traffic, lead generation and bottom line will make it all worthwhile.

Consistent effort yields consistent results when it comes to building an authoritative backlink graph. Put in the work, and Google will take notice. A robustly managed backlink portfolio translates to a powerful online presence that dominates your niche.

Frequently Asked Questions Section

What are backlinks and why are they needed for SEO?

Backlinks are inbound links from other websites to your website. They act as endorsements and are a major ranking factor for search engines in determining a site’s authority and credibility.

How can I check my website’s current backlink profile?

Use a backlink analysis tool like Ahrefs, Semrush, or Moz to scan the web and pull all the backlinks currently pointing to your website.

What are the best tools for tracking and monitoring backlinks? 

Popular paid options include Ahrefs, Semrush, Moz, Majestic, and CognitiveSEO. Google Search Console is a free tool you can use to use basic tracking.

How often should I perform a full backlink audit? 

Most experts recommend a comprehensive technical audit at least once per quarter to monitor your link profile health.

What types of backlink data and metrics should I focus on in my reporting? 

New vs lost backlinks, follow/nofollow ratio, total referring domains, anchor text distribution, domain authority/ratings, and organic traffic impact.

What are some advanced backlink strategies for enterprises or large websites? 

Utilising link data visualisations, integrating with other SEO platforms, automation, role-based reporting, and centralised management processes.