Are you unsure of how to find out who links to your website?
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. My colleague Laura Hampton has written a post recently about the information you don’t know you don’t know about SEO, if you’re feeling surprised or wanted to learn more after this post then I would suggest giving it a read.
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 are 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
Links have played a large part in Google’s ranking algorithm for a long time. In the past (and even now) some SEOs are building a vast number of low quality links to websites in order to artificially inflate their rankings. This behaviour will land you a Google penality or a slap from Penguin that will dramatically decrease your visibility and your traffic with it.
How to do I find out who links to my site?
There are a number of different tools you can use to find out about the links to your website. A number of these tools are paid tools, but I am going to take you through some of the free tools you can use. Most will offer limited functions for free use, but if you patch them together you can gain a good insight. I will breakdown some of the good uses of three tools for you below:
You can use Webmaster Tools 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!
– 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 some free features that can help to add some of the missing elements from Webmaster Tools. You will not be able to view a full list of your links but you will get a fairly good overview of the information not available from your Webmaster Tools Export for free!
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 the BBC website into Ahrefs to show you some of the insights you can gain. Anchor text is the clickable text that you will use to follow a link. This used to be a huge signal to Google about what your website did or was about. For this reason, it has been used by SEOs in the past to try to get pages ranking highly by putting the keyword or phrase in the anchor text of a large number of links. This is now considered to be unnatural behaviour and a sign of low quality link building at best (and manipulating Google’s rankings at worst!).
On the default overview page of Ahrefs you can scroll to see your location distribution and anchor phrases. For location you want to see a normal pattern – the country you are in, countries that speak your language and countries you serve. For anchor phrases you want to see natural, branded phrases so BBC’s are looking pretty natural:
Keyword rich anchor text featuring highly can signify a problem, for example we might see popular phrases as ‘best news website’ or ‘news provider’ – and take note of the percentages too. The highest percentage of the same anchor text for the BBC is 7%, some websites with unnatural links, you will see a large number of links with up to 30% as one, keyword rich phrase. This is a bad sign and something that should signal warnings to you!
Also check the ‘Backlink Types’, 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.
– Insight into anchor text and more information that available in Webmaster Tools
– Can put a number on high value links
– Follow/no-follow distribution
– In paid version you can export all URLs
– Cannot export with free version
Open Site Explorer
Open Site Explorer gives you three free goes a day. You cannot export the data but you can look through it on the page itself. This is a good tool for getting an overview as well as digging a little deeper. Try the ‘Just Discovered Links’ tab to find your most recent links. These dates are not particularly reliable, but to me it seems that is the most reliable and effective tool for picking up and reporting recent links.
Other backlink checking software offer dates, but on the whole these are poor indicators of the freshness of the links.
– Can look through all links
– Limited number of free gos
– Cannot Export with free version
– Overview not as effective as graphs available in Ahrefs
On the whole, if you do not have any paid software I would use a mixture of all three to gain a good insight into your backlink profile. Key things to remember are that these are not always perfect, they do get things wrong and they can take a while to find new links.
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?