I have to say, while others may have been dreading it, I was secretly looking forward to “Mobilegeddon,” the cheerfully nicknamed Google Algorithm update that launched on April 21st. This update was termed as such by web developers and SEO gurus because of the importance assigned to mobile-friendly features and usability. It threatened to wreck the search rank of many local businesses that haven’t prioritized the development of a mobile-friendly site.
For more details on Mobilegeddon, see this Bloomberg Business video:
April 21st also happened to be the day that we closed on our new home, so I wasn’t too attached to the search engines that day : )
Thankfully, I knew that I didn’t need to be worrying on Mobilegeddon, because as a standard my websites are responsive, which means that they adapt seamlessly to different screen sizes.
As a whole, our websites were unaffected or positively impacted by the update (woohoo!). This is a relief for the business owners who could have been affected. Others have recently contacted me to ask about SEO packages. The truth is, it is just the industry standard to have a responsive website now.
If you are interested in learning more or transitioning to a responsive website, contact me today.
How 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.
1. Make a folder on your computer for saving your audits on a regular basis. Name it “(Your Domain Name) SEO Reports”.
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).
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.
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 backlinkwatch.com, 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.
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.
1. Download my SEO Campaign Tracker to keep track of your reports, basic observations, actions taken, and results.
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!
Google Webmaster Tools is an essential, free SEO tool and monitoring system. Here are step-by-step instructions for the Google Webmaster Tools verification process for websites created in WordPress. This tutorial also covers how to verify both the www and non-www versions of your site and set your preference in the site settings, a quick extra measure which will improve your search performance with Google.
Though this process does involve copying and pasting a line of code in your WordPress site’s backend, this process can easily be completed by someone with no coding experience.
1. Sign in to Google Webmaster Tools.
2. Click on the red “Add a Site” button. Type in the URL of your website (either the www or non-www version, it doesn’t matter right now).
3. Click on the “Alternate Methods” tab for Verification. Select “HTML tag.” Copy and paste the line of code provided. It begins with <meta name=
4. Login to your WordPress Dashboard. In the lefthand column, click on Appearance>Editor. Then, in the righthand column, click on Header (header.php).
5. Paste the line of code into the header.php file directly underneath the line that reads <head>. Be sure to not change or delete any other lines of code! Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click “Update File.”
6. Go back to your Tab where Google Webmaster Tools is open. Click “Verify” and you will see a Congratulations notice appear.
Part Two: Verifying the other version of your website (www or non-www) and selecting your prefered domain
7. Go back to the main welcome screen for Google Webmaster Tools by clicking on the red header, “Wemaster Tools.” Repeat steps 1-3 for the other version of your site (If you added your www url first, now add the non-www url). For example: First I added megfarrington.com and then I added www.megfarrington.com. You do not need to enter the line of code into your WordPress dashboard again. After selecting the alternate methods of verification tab, selecting html tag, and clicking verify, you have verified ownership of the other version of your website.
8. Now click on the gear icon on the upper right part of the screen and select “Site Settings.” Choose your website’s perferred domain in order to tell Google to display your URLs as www or non-www. If you don’t know which way your website is set up, visit your website and note if the wwws appear in the url or not.
Congrats! Both your www and non-www website versions are added to Google Webmaster Tools and you have specified which is the preferred domain, which will help your ranking with Google.
Next, I will cover how to add a site-map to your Google Webmaster Tools and some of the ways to use these tools for monitoring your site’s performance.
Have any questions or difficulties? Let me know in the comments!