How to Run a Backlink Audit and Monitor External Links for SEO

How to Run a Backlink Audit and Monitor External Links for SEO

how to run a backlink audit and monitor external links for SEOHow often do you search for your target keywords to see how you stack up against your competitors? If you aren’t happy with the search ranking results, performing an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) audit might be your next step. Though you are interested in launching an SEO campaign, it can be a frustrating and time consuming effort, especially if you don’t know where to start. Properly understanding the role that backlinks play in determining your Google search ranking is one crucial element. It is imperative to properly understand how they are assessed and what you can do to build them and get them indexed.

This post includes:

  • the importance of backlinks for SEO,
  • a step-by-step guide for running a backlink audit, including 4 free online tools
  • a free downloadable spreadsheet for monitoring your SEO campaign

Let’s get started.

What are Backlinks and why are they important?

Backlinks are external links on other domains that link to your website. The Anchor Text is the text that the visitor sees when they click on the link.

It is important to have backlinks because the number, quality, and variety of backlinks that you have pointing to you site helps to determine your Google search ranking. Companies providing Marketing Services like Stone Barn Management ultilize backlinks and other strategies in order to improve a website’s search engine ranking.

There are two main kinds of backlinks– FOLLOW and NO FOLLOW. Follow backlinks are links to your site that have been intentionally placed in the content of a website. There are a number of ways to acquire No-follow links, such as commenting on someone else’s blog or creating a profile on a forum. There is controversy about how much credit (or “juice” as it is typically referred to by SEOs) you get for accumulating no follow links. As a general rule, no follow links don’t hurt and they absolutely bring traffic to your site. Some people think they do help your ranking. You should try to spend your time building follow links and generate no follow links when you are community building– For example, if you are leaving comments on blogs in your industry (which you should), sign in to the commenting system so that your name is linked to your website. You can experiment with how the no follow links affect your ranking using the monitoring method outlined below.

Google takes into account how many domains link to you (300 backlinks from 1 domain isn’t as nearly good as 10 links from 30 domains), how many times each domain links to you, and the page rank of the domain (links from Forbes are better than links from a spammy, fake site).

How do I audit my backlinks to see how many I have?

There are a number of SEO checking tools that can help you audit and monitor your backlinks. Many provide some information for free (sometimes for a limited number of searches) and then offer a monthly rate for the full package. It is best practice to use a variety of backlink checking tools, since many providers use different web crawlers to find your links and may give you different results. For this reason, small businesses would get the best results by optimizing their website for SEO and then monitoring using a few free tools. Thankfully, you can absolutely use a combination of different free tools to make a good assessment of your backlinks. Then if you need additional help, then it may be time to hire an experienced SEO.

Here’s a guide for running an initial audit of your backlinks and rank which will also become a system for regular monitoring.


Step One:

1. Make a folder on your computer for saving your audits on a regular basis. Name it “(Your Domain Name) SEO Reports”.

seo reports folder



Step Two:

2. Use the following free tools. Either download spread sheets of your findings or take screen captures and save the files into your Business SEO Reports folder. Modify all of the file names so that they include the month and year at the beginning of the file name followed by your domain name and the service you are using (For Example: Feb 2015 Your Domain Name Ahrefs Report).



 Backlink Watch Checker

How I use it: Using Backlink Watch! is a first step, since its service is unlimited and free. 

Cons: The page itself is a little spammy with the pop-up adds and links tempting you to buy links. Don’t do that… purchasing spammy links could actually hurt your SEO. 

Pros: You can see the entire list of backlinks that they see on the internet pointing towards your site. It is free and doesn’t limit the number of times that you can search.



Web Me Up SEO Tool

How I use it: Once a month, I grab a report for 3 sites that I am currently monitoring. It appears to use the exact same technology as, so don’t expect a difference in the links that are reported.

Cons: You can only get 3 reports a month with the free account. 

Pros: You can download the report as an excel spread sheet.


3. MOZ Open Site Explorer


How I use it: Once a month, I search for the sites that I am monitoring and compare them with their competitors. I keep track of the domain authority score and other stats by taking a screenshot.

Cons: You can only run 3 searches a day (not including the comparison searches, however). The MOZ database only runs a huge update every month or month and a half, so you may see a delay in updating new links. You can check their schedule here. At the time I wrote this post, the next upcoming update is planned for March 11, 2015.

Pros: You can do a side by side comparison of your site against your competitors, which is so helpful, by going to “Compare Link Metrics” and adding your competitors urls. It provides more than just the backlink count– even at the free level– by providing you with a list of helpful stats including your domain authority, page authority, and just discovered links.


4. Ahrefs


How I use it: I use the free account to monitor changes over time and look for problematic drops in backlinks.

Cons: Most of the backlinks are hidden from you unless you subscribe. Tip: if you shuffle the order of the links by clicking on the different columns, you can see more without purchasing the membership.

Pros: Great analysis of new and lost backlink numbers over time. This could help you identify a backlink problem that you need to fix.


Step Three:

1. Download my SEO Campaign Tracker to keep track of your reports, basic observations, actions taken, and results.

seo campaign tracker

It is so important to track what results your SEO efforts are making as you tailor your campaign to your industry. For example, posting 2 guest posts in a certain month may have had a dramatic impact on your ranking because of the quality of the external link pointing to your site. Maybe adding yourself to a few directories, like Reddit and Hotfrog, also made an impact.

Remember to diversify your SEO tactics, avoid spammy solutions, work on great content, and track your results by monitoring backlinks and rank.

Let us know what works for you or if you have any questions in the comments. Have a paid service that you recommend? Let us know!

Top Free Web Design Resources for Freelancers

Top Free Web Design Resources for Freelancers

Top Free Web Design Resources for Freelancers

As I type my twitter feed is endlessly filling up with links to cheap and free web design resources.

Don’t get me wrong, I love free icons and stock photos as much as the next girl and, yes, will join any email newsletter list with a compelling free e-book attached. However, time is money and I am paid to create quality websites, not to sift through the endless noise on the internet.

Here are the resources that I have found to be most helpful. These are the ones that I truly would miss. I hope that this list saves you some time and better equips or inspires you in new ways.


1. Google Chrome and Extensions for Web Designers

Best Google Extensions for Web Designers and Developers

I love, love, love Google Chrome as a browser and my mind was blown when I learned about all of the extensions available for designers, from color pickers to window resizer for testing different screen resolutions. The best part is that it integrates amazing free web design tools, like window resizing (I previously used screenfly for this) and’s technology profiler, into your browser, saving you time (yes, .. now I can do it from the comfort of my browser. Yay!).

My favorites extensions are all free and are added as icons in my browser:

  • BuiltWith Technology Profiler: I check most websites that I love on to figure out how to get their effects and if I can’t figure it out that way I use…
  • Web Developer: lots of tools for inspecting and editing CSS elements
  • StayFocused: set a timer limit to the amount of time you want to spend on Facebook or other time sucking websites. When your time is up it will say “Shouldn’t you be working?” Very helpful.
  • Simple Time Track: keep track of your billable time on various projects and even set goals for how long you want to work on things.

Some time I should write a blog post about my love-hate relationship with Google. When it comes to free resources though, it’s all love!


2. Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools

google analytics

These items really deserve a post for themselves (to be continued!), but if you aren’t using them, get your website verified today and get started.

Or, if you don’t want to verify your website yet, start doing keyword research here:



3. Jonathan Wold’s “Four Weeks to Your First Client” Course


Jonathan’s free Course is the first great resource that I found when considering embarking into the new world of freelance Web Design. It helps you think big picture about starting off as a freelancer and also provides all the nitty-gritty practical details for getting started. For free? Yes. You won’t regret it. Also, I really appreciate that Jonathan is open about his faith and loved hearing that he works on self-discipline by memorizing scripture.



*Also, there is very newly released follow up course that I am currently taking which was sent out by Jonathan and his friend Arlen called “Crossing the Chasm“. Also very helpful and timed perfectly for me– it helps you consider in broader terms what your goals, to identify the dream behind your dream, and press on to make it happen.



4. Code Academy


Take online courses/tutorials and explore new skill sets in web design. Includes tutorials and intro courses in CSS, PHP, Javascript, and more.


5. Hootsuite (or another social media scheduling system of your choice)


Because when time is money and social media is free advertising, you can’t NOT use it but you don’t have time. Multiple your time by sitting down and scheduling posts for the upcoming week (or month!) on Hootsuite. I use the free version to manage Twitter and Facebook and currently mainly share via Twitter right now.

If you use Google Chrome install the free Hootlet extension to get a button in your browser for even easier sharing as you surf the web.


6. Asana or another Project Scheduling System


I used Asana and like its functionality. Honestly, this kind of digital organizing really doesn’t help me that much (I like to make checklists on paper when working on my own), but I think I’m in the minority. I do think Asana is very helpful to share to-do lists with clients who have their own tasks to complete to make sure your project is launched on time. Make online to-do lists and get email reminders for different project tasks that need attention. Helps with juggling multiple projects and you can share lists with collaborators.


7. YouTube (kind of broad, I know, but worth mentioning)

Matt Cutts Youtube Channel

Watch Matt Cutts and hear SEO answers straight from Google’s mouth, search for tutorials to help with your coding and plugin debacles, and while you are there, start your own YouTube channel, upload videos and embed them on your website to help with your own SEO! (I’m in the process of doing this right now). Use YouTube for all it’s worth! Often it’s easier to find answers on YouTube than sifting through pages of troubleshooting on random forums.

Just don’t get sidetracked by videos of sloths crossing the road or other cute animals 🙂


For Wordpress Freelancers:


Elegant Themes Blog

Elegant Themes Blog for WordPress Developers

If you are a WordPress designer, I would recommend following the Elegant Themes blog whether you use Elegant Themes or not. The content is incredible and varied, but always on point.


For Freelancing Moms:


Brilliant Business Moms

Brilliant Business Moms Podcast and Resources

The Brilliant Business Moms host an informative Podcast, free 52 week course, and online support community for moms who run their own small businesses. I’ve learned a lot about social media, the legal side of running a small business, and the blogging world through their great resources. Really, can’t say enough good things about these ladies and their site.


There is no doubt about it: the internet is overflowing with resources that can help us manage our time, develop new skills, and keep up on trends and news in our field.

The tricky part is navigating the waters without drowning in the massive quantities of resources available to us.

I hope this was helpful! What did I miss? What are the resources that you have found most helpful? Share them in the comments below!