Backlinks are links created on other sites that link to your site. As such, you don’t always know when they are created. In a previous article, “So You Want Backlinks,” guidelines were given on backlink building. When it comes time to build backlinks, you don’t have to do everything from scratch. Rather, you can analyze your site’s URLs, determine what backlinks already exist, and tap into existing best practices for link building, which improves your search engine optimization (SEO).
More importantly, a lot of bad practices were mentioned in the previous article. These were practices that can hurt your site including getting links from spammy sites, having broken links to your site, and more. Find these potential toxic backlinks on other sites can be easy if you have the right tool! In fact, there are a number of tools that can help you work with backlinks.
A Caution on Backlinks and Tools
In addition to helping you structure backlinks, they can also help you with suggestions on backlinks you should ask to be removed. Automated tools are not perfect. You should review any suggestions to remove (or even keep) backlinks. There are times when it might make sense to keep a link that is flagged as having an issue. There might also be times when a tool doesn’t catch that a link really isn’t appropriate.
There are tools that focus specifically on backlinking. There are also SEO tools that have sections focused on backlinking as part of a larger overall SEO approach. Both types of tools can be effective. The key benefit of the tools is to get a list of existing backlinks to your site or a page on your site as well as to get insights on the benefit or toxicity of each link. If the tool can help you with getting links removed, that can be a benefit as well.
You want to avoid tools that offer to build automatic backlinks for you.
The Backlinking Tools
The following are four tools that can be used to identify and manage backlinks. These are tools that have been identified as useful for backlink analysis. There is a brief description of each of these below.
- Open Site Explorer
Note that there are a multitude of other tools marketed for backlink analysis and building. Many of the tools suggested to me for this article included features for selling backlinks, building automated backlinks, and for tracking backlink trades. As such, they were dropped from this article. These are bad practices, and thus worth avoiding.
Backlink Tool 1: SemRush
SEMRush provides a multitude of tools including a Backlink Audit tool that will give you deep insights into the links coming to your site. You can configure it to look at backlinks in a number of ways as well see individual backlinks. In addition to providing data such as backlink types, domain distribution, top anchors, country sources, and a list of linking domains, SEMRush also provides a toxicity score for each backlink that lets you know the potential for negative impact.
Basic features of SEMRush can be used at no cost.
Figure 1: SemRush Backlink data for MSN.com
Backlink Tool 2: AHrefs
Ahrefs is another of the more popular SEO tools known for its backlink tools. Ahrefs provides competitive analysis, keyword research, backlink research. Within the backlink data, you can get information on the new and broken backlinks, referring domains, anchor tags, top referring content, and more.
Ahrefs is not a free tool, but they do provide a low-cost trial.
Figure 2: Ahref backlink data for HTMLGoodies.com
Backlink Tool 3: Open Site Explorer
Open Site Explorer is a part of the Moz Pro SEO tools. Like the previous two tools mentioned, Open Site Explorer provides tools to help you identify and optimize your backlink strategy. This includes showing backlinks to your site, providing spam scores, showing a spam score (similar to SEMRush’s toxicity score) for links, and more. Open Site Explorer helps you identify which of your pages are most valuable, which domains are best of those linking to your site, what text is being used to build the links, and more. It also provides linking opportunities and helps you to avoid penalties by showing you which links to clean up.
You can access a limited portion of Open Site Explorer’s functionality online. There is also a 30-day free trial. Otherwise, you need a subscription to Moz to continue to use the product.
Figure 3: Moz Open Site Explorer
Backlink Tool 4: OpenLinkProfiler
OpenLinkProfiler is a free online tool that can be used to do backlink analysis. You can go to the website as shown in Figure 4 and simply enter a site URL. Once you do, you’ll get a backlink analysis similar to what is shown in Figure 5.
Figure 4: OpenLinkProfiler page for entering a domain
As you can see in Figure 5, OpenLinkProfiler provides information on active links relative to the domain you entered. You can get anchor text, when the link was added as well as the industry and topic of some of the links. A Risk score similar to the toxicity and spam scores from other tools, can also be found to determine which links are potentially harmful. While SEOLink Profiler comes at no cost, to use some of the features, such as link notifications the exporting of a PDF report, you will need to set up a free account.
Figure 5: OpenLinkProfiler review of HTMLGoodies.com
Dealing with Bad Links
What do you do if you find bad backlinks on another site? There are generally two approaches that are taken. One is to ask that the link be removed. The other is to ask that the link be tagged with a ‘rel=nofollow’ tag. If a link already has a ‘rel=nofollow’ tag included, then no further action is really needed unless the site containing the link is really one you don’t want to be associated with.
Dealing with the removal of links to disavow them from your site is a process in itself that is worthy of its own article. In general, using a disavow tool should be a last resort for spammy backlinks. You can use the Google Search Console to disavow links. Additionally, most of the tools mentioned in this article not only show you how bad a backlink might be for your site, they generally include tools to help you disavow them as well. Look for an article on disavowing bad backlinks in the near future!