How to do an SEO backlink Audit

Backlink Audit Objective

Analyze your website or a client’s website backlink profile and benchmark against key competitors.

What You’ll Need

What is a backlink audit?

An SEO backlink audit is the process of reviewing and analyzing the backlinks that point to your website to identify potential issues or opportunities for improvement. Backlinks are links from other websites that point to your website, and they are an important factor in search engine rankings. Even though Google has stated that links will be less important in the future. A backlink audit is useful to provide the client insights into how they perform relative to their competitors. This is essential information as it helps set expectations around whether we can compete on the most competitive head terms or whether we should aim for smaller / long-tail keywords.


  • Identify broken backlinks that can be fixed for a quick win
  • Highlight where competitors are winning with content (what content results in the most earned backlinks?)
  • Highlight where competitors are getting backlinks from

Part 1: Backlink Audit

Here we should review the client’s backlink profile using Ahrefs Quick Batch Analysis & SEMRush Backlink Analytics. We are looking for how they compare against the competition (DR/DA), where their competitors are getting most of their backlinks from, and any gaps in highly linkable content.

Review broken backlinks

A broken backlink is an incoming link pointing to an “error 404” page of a target website. This means that when another domain is linking to a broken link on your website, none of the link equity is sent to your site and therefore lost. These are usually easy opportunities for us to create a redirect from those 404 pages to a more relevant page that would allow us to recapture that lost link equity.

Nearly every website with tenure has broken backlinks, whether from a botched site migration, bad URL management or something else. Use the broken backlinks template to audit and create an actionable list of URLs that need to be redirected to the correct page.

Review brand mentions

Brand mentions are instances when a company or brand is mentioned online, usually in a social media post, blog, website article or other piece of content but don’t link back to the company’s website. These are usually fairly easy opportunities for us to reach out and ask the referring domain for them to link back to our site. Pro tip: try misspellings of your brand name or product names to find even more opportunities. 

Review areas where competitors are winning backlinks

Questions we want to answer:

  • How are competitors earning their backlinks through content?
  • What are their most successful content pieces?
  • Are there gaps that we can fill with new content to replicate the competition’s strategy?

Using Ahrefs Backlink profile, we can see what types of content the competitors are winning with. This will help guide where we need to create highly linkable content to do the same.

Review lowest-quality backlinks

Here we should review the lowest-quality backlinks and double-check if the the website has been hit with a manual penalty (Google Search Console).

  • Evidence of a history of link buying/guest posting, anything that can be considered “manipulative”

Most often we do NOT need to proceed with a disavow file. There are three situations where we will recommend to our clients a thorough link audit followed by filing a disavow:

  • The site has a manual action for unnatural links in GSC.
  • The site has a very large number of links that we feel the webspam team would consider being “manipulative”.
  • The client requests we remove spammy or pornographic backlinks

Google’s own documentation spells this out clearly:screenshot of google documentation regarding disavowing backlinks


Part 2: Benchmark vs Competitors

Here we should benchmark our link profile against key competitors. This should be done in two ways:

  • Benchmark overall domain authority and link profile Using Ahrefs’ Quick Batch Analysis create a backlinks comparison chart for key competitors that looks something like this:This can become an appendix of the strategy presentation or it can become the main feature if we believe domain authority is a primary barrier to growth.
  • Benchmark key landing pagesMoving over to SEMrush, go to the Backlinks Analytics report and enter competitors. This will allow us to compare by taking our key landing pages and benchmarking against competitors we can get a sense of “are backlinks an issue” which will inform our strategy and ongoing work.

Bottom line: Backlink Audits for SEO

A backlink audit can help you analyze the backlink profile of a website and compare it to competitors. By reviewing broken backlinks and brand mentions, identifying areas where competitors are winning backlinks, and analyzing the lowest-quality backlinks, you can gain a deeper understanding of the website’s performance and improve its search engine ranking. Benchmarking your website’s link profile against competitors using tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush can inform your strategy and help you overcome growth barriers. With a thorough backlink audit and ongoing optimization, you can achieve your SEO goals and stay ahead of the competition.

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