With webmasters and site owners talking more and more about the signals links are sending to Google about their website, it is more important than ever to know who is linking to you.
We find many business owners do not know how to check the links to their website and didn’t even know that you could. It can always be difficult to know what you don’t know about SEO.
Why would I want to know who links to my site?
Finding out who links to your site can give you a plethora of information that you can work with. The information may allow you to judge your successes and it may allow you to identify some problems that you need to work on, fix or avoid in the future.
Here is a list of things you may find from your backlink profile:
- identifying any press coverage or successful content on your website
- finding interest in a certain sector, service or information that may surprise you
- identifying your best links and understanding how and why you have them
- identifying any underlying problem you may have with your backlink profile or identifying bad links (spammy)
- ensuring your link profile is natural and varied
Links have played a large part in Google’s ranking algorithm for a long time. It’s reported that Google has over 200 ranking factors, which is insane. But at the top, inbound backlinks are still considered one of, or arguably the most, important factor.
How do I find out who links to my site?
There are a number of tools you can use, and many offer trials. There’s Ahrefs, Moz, Link Research Tools, SEMrush, and more. All do the job well, with some nice backlink analysis features, but I prefer Ahrefs. I find the link intersect and domain comparison tools highly valuable, especially when looking to gain an edge over your competitors. It shows you domains that link to competitors but not you, so you can approach those links to close the gap.
A number of these tools outlined are paid for tools, but I am going to take you through two of the free tools, or trials, you can use. If you patch them together you can gain a good insight. I will breakdown some of the good uses of two tools for you below:
Google Search Console
Formerly Webmaster Tools, you can use Google Search Console for a range of different things and if you don’t have it set up, I would strongly suggest that you do! One of its many features is checking links. There are two ways of doing this. What I consider to be the most obvious way is not the best available (it will only give you a list of domains that link to your website, as opposed to the specific page that includes the link). You can find a list of specific pages that link to your site by navigating to ‘Search Traffic’ in the left-hand navigation menu and then to ‘Links to your site’.
When here, click ‘More >>’ under the ‘Who links most’ section. Here you can see a list of domains that link to your website and the number of times they link to you. If you click ‘Download latest links’ a CSV with the specific URLs that are linking to pages of your website will be downloaded.
Once you have this, open in Excel.
For a quick overview, I would suggest sorting your URLs alphabetically. This may make it easier to look through. Keep an eye out for any low-quality domains – they may look something like ‘Directory1234.com’ or ‘freesitelinks.com’. You may also want to search through, visit the links and investigate yourself any that look good and any that do not!
For a step by step guide, you can visit the Search Console Help Centre on link reports here. This tool is a good starter for ten.
– can export into Excel
– gives you the full URLs linking (if you use the ‘latest links’ feature)
– provides little extra information (including: anchor text, followed/no followed, estimated authority, link destination)
Ahrefs offers a trial that can help add some of the missing elements from Webmaster Tools. It is $7 for 7 days access to the tool, but this is an investment well spent, as you can export and pull out all the data you need to help gain an understanding of your backlink profile.
You will be faced with your URL Rank and Ahrefs Domain Rank – these are estimates of your authority. You can also see an estimate of the number of backlinks you hold as well as the number of referring domains – referring domains are the most important thing here.
I have put Hallam’s website into Ahrefs to show you some of the insights you can gain.
Here you can see your Domain Rating, out of 100 and on a logarithmic scale, as well as the total number of backlinks and referring domains. It can also give you graphs, which helps visualise your links. As you can see here, Hallam has steadily increased the level of referring domains over time.
You can also check where you are getting your links from, and the type of links you’re getting.
Here, it’s important to have a variety of links.
You can see your ‘follow’ vs ‘nofollow’ link split. Follow links pass equity (or link juice as I like to call it), whereas nofollow links do not. Search engines still see nofollow links, but they’re told not to consider them.
Google expects nofollow links, and will look at them when deeming whether a link profile is natural. No worries if you get a nofollow link instead of a follow link, it’s still useful.
You will also see text versus image numbers. This one isn’t a big one, as whilst an image link does pass some equity, text links pass far more. HTML text is easier to crawl, and the anchor text is also a factor, whereas the alt attribute from an image won’t get the same weighting.
You can also look at where you’re getting your links from:
You need to gain links from all types of domains, whether that’s .com, .org, .edu (or .ac in the UK) etc, to stop your link profile from looking artificial. .orgs and .edu links are particularly good to target, as they have high authority.
Governmental and educational links are generally high authority and trusted. Links from these types of website are very good and a very good sign that you have a high quality, natural backlink profile.
But my favourite feature has to be the link intersect tool. It easily shows you the sites that link to your competitors and not you… (yet)! As these are links that you should be looking to copy and get for yourself.
You can find a fantastic guide on it here.
- insight into anchor text and more information than available in Webmaster Tools
- can put a number on high-value links
- follow/no-follow distribution
- you can export all URLs
- can put any website in and pull of the analytics (great for competitors)
- link Intersect and domain comparison are two fantastic features
- none 😀
On the whole, if you do not have any paid software I would use a mixture of free tools at your disposal or sign up for a free trial to gain a good insight into your backlink profile.
If this is not enough for you, you can use some of these tools to find out about the links to your competitors’ websites too. The best and most efficient way of doing this is by identifying your online competitors (they may not be who you think they are) and following the steps above (or take a look at the suggested post below to find out whether your competitors are optimising their websites).
Do you check your links often? If so, how? Or have you ever found anything unexpected while checking your links?
If you want more information on the elements needed to have a strong backlink profile, please see this post that I did for State of Digital that runs through the importance of a varied link profile and how you can stand in good stead.