An inbound link (or backlink) is any URL, video, or image on a website other than yours that when clicked – will bring a user to your website. A backlink profile is the compilation of all of these mentions from around the web.
There are many SEO benefits to monitoring your inbound links. The type and quality of links can affect your ranking and overall domain authority.
Links pointing to your site from other websites can improve your traffic and rankings if they are from quality, authoritative sites. Links from low-quality or spammy sites do not follow Google’s link quality guidelines. They will likely hold your rankings back, or even get your site penalized.
Google has since rolled out several algorithm updates that devalue low-quality links. The most recent update came in December 2022. The search giant warned that any sites partaking in spammy link-building tactics, including buying links, could see rankings change.
So, you may be wondering, “How do I check links to my site?”
There are several services that act essentially as an “incoming link checker.” They trawl the internet for inbound links to your site and thus help show your site’s backlink profile. The free options usually offer these metrics:
The paid options are much more robust. But these SEO tools offer the following, in addition to, the above metrics:
Many paid inbound link analysis options and SEO tools offer free trials. This gives you the opportunity to learn more about each service and find the one that works best for you.
A good place to start when it comes to checking inbound links to a website is Google Search Console. This allows you to download a list of inbound links that Google has for you. They do not always have the most up-to-date history, so using additional tools to find backlinks can help you see a more complete breakdown.
Since this option is free, it does take a while for the backlinks to pop up. It will only show your first 1,000 backlinks, so if you have a larger profile you’ll have to find another way to see the rest of your backlinks.
The backlink search has to be complete before you can search the tabs, but preliminary reports include the URL of the page with the link to your site, the anchor text of the link, and a few other metrics such as Pagerank, and OBL, which stands for outbound links.
Once you’ve completed your free signup you can type the domain of your URL into the search box and click “Check backlinks.” The completed search will take you to a summary screen.
Next, we want to take a look at the “Backlinks” section:
The columns are the URL of the page your link is on, the domain authority of that site, the anchor text, if the link is “dofollow” or “nofollow,” and when it was first found. If you like the service you can pay for more metrics but this is a good base for a general idea of your backlink profile.
Cognitive SEO features lots of metrics and is recommended for sites that may need to recover from a Google penalty. It can distinguish good links from bad ones and helps you keep track of the ones that you’ve contacted or disavowed. When you type in your URL into the link explorer and hit search, you’ll see a result like this with a breakdown of all the backlinks you want to monitor.
This also includes a profile authority as well, which shows you the percentage of good, average, and low quality links that exist in your profile. If you click on the “Referring Domains” tab you can see only the external backlinks to your site.
Ahrefs backlink checker does require a paid subscription, but you can test it out with their free trial.
Once you register for your free account you can enter your domain and hit search. There are many metrics and different options to choose from, but for the backlink profile you just want to focus on Referring Domains.
Ahrefs have a lot of quality metrics to show: domain rank, Alexa rank and backlinks count, and the domain of the backlink.
Once you enter your domain into the URL box and hit search you’ll see the following details.
You’ll get an overview of the Domain Authority (DA) of your url, the total number of linking domains that link to your website, as well as the total number of inbound links.
This screen allows you to filter by a number of factors including inbound links, linking domains, anchor text, and top pages.
If you select Limit Results “to one link per domain” you’re about to get a clearer picture of where your inbound links are coming from without sorting through a bunch of links from the same domain.
While having multiple internal links on your website is helpful for relevancy, they won’t help you determine what type of inbound or incoming links your site has from other sites. The columns in the Moz link explorer report show the URL of the websites linking to your page, the anchor text, Moz page authority, and domain authority.
Once you enter your URL into their main webpage, you’ll be taken for a free “trial” of their backlink checker. Below you’ll see what the free report looks like:
The free version of Majestic gives your total number of backlinks, referring domains, referring IPS, and subnets. The backlink report dives further into the types of links your website has, as well as direct links, no follow links and much more.
There is also a Trust Flow metric which can show you how authoritative your site is for the different categories that are set up. You can also create reports based on your backlink profile and choose the metrics you want to examine further.
While they do offer free backlink checking, there is a limit. With a paid subscription to Buzzsumo, you get unlimited access to not only backlink information but the social shares of those links.
In review, if you just want a list of the backlinks you have, the free option works just fine. If you’re looking to track your backlinks profile over time or recover from a Google penalty, then one of the paid options might be your best bet.
We use SEMRush in house here at DTC, and we love its varying capabilities across departments. Keyword research? Check. Keyword analysis? Check. Backlink detection? Definitely check.
It’s leveled up our digital PR capabilities and ensured that our whole campaigns, top to bottom, are optimized and ready for the world to see them, one search at a time.
For backlinks, the “Backlink Analytics” section of SEMrush is of particular use: you can check for backlinks, analyze them, and even see what backlinks rival campaigns have compared to yours.
Taking some time now to find incoming links and keep up with your backlinks profile can save you from any penalties that could potentially undo all of your hard work if spammy sites are linking to you. Save time, money, and headaches by checking your backlinks profile regularly. A backlink review should be a priority in your digital marketing strategy.
Want more information on backlinks and how Digital Third Coast handles link building SEO? You can learn more about digital PR and how our team helps businesses grow their backlink profile through earned media coverage. Head over to our SEO services page and speak to one of our SEO experts.