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Link building is a huge part of an SEO campaign. Inbound links to a website convey trust and the search engines take that into consideration as part of their ranking algorithm. In order to know what kinds of inbound links are pointing to your website to better understand how the search engines are viewing your website, it’s necessary to conduct a link audit.

A link audit is best done manually. It’s a time-consuming process and can be tedious to complete, but it’s the best way to get a glimpse into how the search engines perceive your website. A link audit not only helps tell you where you stand currently, but can provide you with insights for what you need to do going forward, and the kinds of links that you need to focus on achieving in the future.

The first step to conducting a link audit is to use a tool like Link Diagnosis. After inserting your website, it will provide you with a list of inbound links. The next step is to visit each link. Depending on the size of your site and how long it has been around, this could take awhile. Create a spreadsheet and categorize each link after you visit it into the following categories: Article/Guest Blog Post, Blog Comment, News, Business Profile, Directory Link, Press Release, Social Media, Video Marketing, and Other.

If you’ve never done any link building before, a link audit will help you determine what kinds of links have occurred naturally over time. You may have lots of links in one category and very few in another since they haven’t been in your “control”. Since the search engines like to see a diverse link portfolio, the next step is to develop a link strategy that focuses on your weak areas. For example, if you have lots of profile and directory links, but no blog or social media links, it’s time to ramp up your content marketing.

This is also a good time to conduct a link audit of your main competitors. A competitor link audit can be a good place to start when looking for new places to add links. Of course, just because a competitor has a link on a website, it doesn’t mean that you need to have a link there too. You should only attempt to get a link if it is highly relevant to your website as well and if it’s a high quality site. Leave the spammy link exchange sites (and potential penalties) for your competitors.

Once you’ve started a link building campaign, it’s recommended to conduct a link audit on a yearly basis or so. A link audit at the beginning of a campaign lets you know where the opportunities are. A link audit while you are conducting a campaign lets you know how well it’s performing and can help you optimize the strategy going forward into year two, three, etc.

As your site ages it will achieve more links. The link audit can be time-consuming, but if your links are growing it means that you are doing something right.

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