Link audits are becoming more mainstream in Finnish SEO. This is a fresh gust of wind in our heavily on-site focused SEO scene. Optimized meta tags, content, site speed and structure have been bringing impressive results in boosting organic traffic. And still are.
Only some Finnish pioneer SEOs working in some of the most competitive niches in Finland have been building backlinks and thinking off-site SEO strategies in a systematic manner. There are exceptions, but it's not far from the truth to say that the Finnish SEO scene has been unfamiliar with link building and auditing for quite some time.
Now this seems to be changing. Link building is being acknowledged by the business owners as a crucial part of SEO. Many of them even are proactively conducting link profile health checks or link audits.
So, what is a link audit anyway?
This is an efficient (i.e. short) introduction to link audits.
Every website has a link profile, which is basically a list of links that point to your site. Every link helps or harms your site's ability to rank high in Google search.
The main purpose of link audit is to analyze your site's link profile to identify quality and toxic links. After identification, toxic links can be disavowed so that they don't harm your ranking anymore. Quality links typically produce recognizable patterns which lead you to find opportunities to get more of those rank-boosting-links.
Typically, a link audit includes a research on your competitors’ sites' link profiles. It also includes a checklist for backlink best practices. So, basic purpose of link audit is to get the most out of your current link profile, find opportunities and grow the amount of quality links.
1. Links are important
Every SEO (the guy who optimizes your website) can confirm that backlinks are important if you want your site appearing in the high end of search results. But we don't have to place our trust on those guys. We can go straight to the top and see what Google says.
John Müller (a Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google) said in September 2016 that "links in particular are really important to Google". Another Google's Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes said this more bluntly: "ranking without links is really, really hard". Andrey Lipattsev (a Search Quality Senior Strategist) revealed, also last year, that "links are still number one ranking factor".
2. Get ahead of your competition
If you find all this talk about link building and auditing a bit confusing, you're not alone. Off-site optimization or link building is one of the most overlooked aspects in Finnish SEO. And so, even if your website is small and not on par with onsite optimization, it's still possible to get way ahead with just getting the basics right with backlinking. Mastering the off-site SEO could even be considered as an unfair advantage right now in Finland.
3. Your site might be suffering from Google penalty
Google takes this linking stuff seriously. At least from 2012 Google has been releasing algorithmic updates which specifically concentrate penalizing link spam. Link spam can mean unnatural linking practices, such as buying links from shady websites or building links yourself with some automated tool. But basically, it just means that Google considers some of the links pointing to your site as toxic and penalizes you accordingly.
The important thing is: there are many natural ways your site is getting toxic links. For example, web is full of automated low-quality directories and ad sites which can link to your site without you knowing about it. And then there is this thing called negative SEO where your competitor or some other person is building toxic links to your site to harm your rankings.
4. Lots of low-hanging fruits
If your site's link profile has never been audited, chances are there's a lot of quick wins to grab. Here's some common findings.
Almost every business has visibility in the web. This produces mentions about your brand: your brand name is mentioned or logo used in another website. In some cases, there is no proper link pointing back to your own site. Many of these links can be easily acquired with just couple of emails.
This second one is even easier. If your site has gone through a renewal process or some other structural changes, it's a high possibility there are some links pointing to old broken URLs of your site. Inbound links pointing to 404 page are basically worthless and all power from those links is going to waste. Link audit gives you a list of those broken links and all that precious link power can be easily restored with redirects.