Whether you’re new to SEO or a seasoned professional, you know that building backlinks to your website is an essential component of an effective SEO strategy. A website can be optimized with all of the right keywords in all of the right places, but without backlinks from reputable websites, your site won't rank well against the competition. Backlinks are what vouch for a website’s worthiness—without them, Google and other search engines won't know that your website is reputable and worthy of ranking at the top of search. There are always hundreds of other websites covering the same exact keywords that your website is targeting, and search engines will assess the quality of your backlink profile and uses this as an indicator of popularity for the page. If you have a high number of quality links, there’s a very good chance your page is getting linked to because the content is very good.
Ahrefs is a powerful tool that allows you to take a strategic approach to building your own backlink profile, and to examine competitor backlink profiles to see what they might be doing to outrank you in search.
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Why analyzing your backlinks is important
If you’re actively building links to your website by reaching out to blogs and related businesses for guest posting opportunities, syndicating your content on the web, or even by paying for display advertisements, then you need to monitor these incoming links. You can do this by creating reports for the various types of services you are using to get links. For instance, if you submit an article to Medium, you can store the live link to the post in a link building report that you’ve created with Excel or any other program. This allows you to manually keep track of your efforts, but it’s often not enough.
What if a link goes down or gets deleted? You would have to periodically examine your lists, view all the live links, and update your reports as needed. That could get very time-consuming and challenging as your link building campaigns grow.
Similarly, what if a website links to you without you reaching out to them? Since it wasn’t a part of your organized link building efforts, you would never know about it.
Ahrefs addresses these concerns by automatically monitoring all incoming backlinks. The product attempts to track every page on the internet and analyze where those pages link to, so that it can provide this information to you. It’s extremely powerful and it takes the hassle out of tracking your link building yourself, as well as recognizing links that you may not have ever spotted on your own.
There’s valuable data provided exclusively by Ahrefs
You may not realize it when you’re creating link building reports, but once you see the amount of data that Ahrefs provides with their backlink tracking service, you'll begin to realize that there’s a lot more to a link than meets the eye.
The keywords used for the link are known as anchor text. If you have incoming links from sites that linked to you using your exact target keywords, these links are more powerful than a raw http:// hyperlink. However, if you’re building links and you overdo this by always using keyword optimized anchor text, you can negatively affect your search engine rankings. There’s a fine balance that must be met, and a tool like Ahrefs is essential to monitoring your anchor text and getting it just right.
Referring domain/page metrics
The quality of the website that links to your page is a very important factor. You want links from high quality sites, and to help determine if a website is of high quality, Ahrefs gives you a variety of ways to measure the authority behind a given domain or page.
Ahrefs includes a Domain Rating (DR) for each website, which is a measure of the domain's overall backlink profile. You can use this to conclude whether a given backlink in your own profile has come from a reputable website. There’s also URL Rating, which is a similar metric that represents the strength of the specific page the link comes from, rather than the strength of the domain. Below, you can see several of Wikipedia's backlinks, and the URL rating, and domain rating for each of the links.
Ahrefs also provides an Ahrefs rank, which sorts and ranks sites based on the size and quality of their backlink profile. You can view the number of backlinks a site has, its referring domains, and much more. This in-depth analysis of each backlink’s inbound and outbound links means you can have a thorough understanding of your backlink profile.
Do-follow vs No-Follow
Do-follow links pass authority from the page they are on to the page being linked to. The more high quality dofollow links you have, the better your search engine rankings will be. Ahrefs allows you to see firsthand whether your links are do-follow or no-follow.
New vs. lost backlinks
A high number of lost backlinks could indicate to search engines that you’re using low quality link building strategies. It implies that you’re building links on sites that don’t stay online very long or on sites where your link was removed. Ahrefs monitors this for you so that you can see the data in real-time as they gather it.
Top level domain
Top level domains, such as those from .edu or .gov domains, are powerful links that can have a strong impact on your search engine rankings. But knowing if an educational institution or government entity has linked to you is impossible without a backlink tracker. Ahrefs gives you exact link counts by top level domain to see how you’re doing with different TLDs.
Analyzing a competitor’s backlink profile
You might be excited to start using Ahrefs to analyze your own website, but where it truly shines is with competitor analysis. Ahrefs allows you to dig deep into the backlink profile of any website, including those you don’t own or control. This allows you to audit a competitor’s links and use those sites for your link building efforts. You could continue to audit websites that rank ahead of you until your backlink profile essentially matches. This takes the guesswork out of finding niche websites to build links on.
Ahrefs is a data powerhouse
Ahrefs crawls more than 6 billion web pages per day with a total index size of over 12 trillion known links. They use approximately 38,000 CPU cores to process this data, amounting to over 30 petabytes of storage.
Their database is enormous, and you get access to that data with generous capacity, even with the Lite version. You can check up to 25 domains and 100 URLs per day, with each report containing as many as 10,000 total rows.
Ahrefs tracks more than just backlinks
Ahrefs has evolved into an end-to-end SEO tool that does more than just analyze backlinks. Apart from their tools to analyze backlinks, another powerful feature of Ahrefs is their keyword explorer, which allows you to track your rankings for various keywords over time. For example, you can filter for keywords that you recently started to rank for, and you can also search for keywords where your rankings have increased or decreased substantially. In the screenshot below, you'll see recent keyword movements for Wikipedia.
This is especially helpful since you can tell if your rankings are suddenly dropping for a keyword. In that case, you may want to analyze why that may be happening, and see if the keyword has become more competitive overall, or if your competitors are doing something that you should also be doing.
Because of all of the rich functionality that Ahrefs provides, and because the system is very intuitive with an attractive user interface, Ahrefs is a must-have for anyone serious about growing their SEO efforts.