How to build links BLUE
15 min read

A Practical Guide To Backlink Management

Stewart Dunlop


Chief Link Building Strategist

Backlinks play a huge role in determining which websites rank number one in Google Search results.

Studies show that pages ranking first in Google search results have 3.8 times more backlinks than those ranked between 2 and 10.

Managing your backlink profile can help you:

🚀 Increase brand visibility: Make sure your website ranks on Google’s first page.

🚀 Establish authority: Be the first website that users are referred to in your industry.

🚀 Increase website traffic: 90% of clicks on Google are from organic listings.

This article explains how to effectively manage links in your website's backlink profile. We'll show you how to choose the right tools and then guide you through the audit process.

What Are Backlinks?

Backlinks act as endorsements for websites, similar to how likes serve as validations for social media posts.

When another website links to yours, Google recognizes it as a vote of confidence.

The more high-quality backlinks you have, the more trustworthy your website appears to search engines.

Good backlinks have the following criteria:

🎯 Relevance: Your backlinks should come from websites and content that are relevant to your own. There should be a clear connection between the linked content and your site.

🎯 Authority: Backlinks from reputable websites carry more weight. These sites are considered trustworthy sources, and links from them enhance your website's credibility.

🎯 Natural anchor text: The anchor text linking to your site should be natural and contextually appropriate. It shouldn’t be stuffed with irrelevant keywords.

🎯 Diversity: Incorporate a variety of backlink types, such as editorial, social media, and forum links, to give your backlink profile an organic appearance.

🎯 Quality of the linking site: Evaluate the overall quality of websites linking to yours, prioritizing those that offer high-quality content and good user experience.

What Is Backlink Management?

Websites don’t need your permission to link to your website. This means that bad links might get attached to your website and drag your SEO down.

Bad links typically come from spammy or low-quality sources, such as irrelevant or broken pages.

Backlink management allows you to influence and control these links.

Let’s say you run a blog about child psychology.

If it receives a backlink from a harmful or irrelevant website, such as gambling sites, this association can harm your blog’s reputation.

This kind of link also probably wouldn’t offer any ranking benefit because it’s not relevant. Worst of all, too many of these links could make search engines think that you’re trying to manipulate their search results.

This goes against their guidelines and could lead to manual actions or penalties—meaning your rankings could be reduced significantly.

Backlink management often involves:

💡 Removing bad backlinks from your website.

💡 Replacing bad backlinks by building new ones from more relevant and authoritative sources.

💡 Controlling which links search engines look at when crawling your site.

Doing this will help your blog maintain a strong and trustworthy online presence.

How to Choose the Right Backlink Management Tools

Google doesn’t automatically send you updates on your website’s backlink profile.

You need to set up tools, such as Moz or Google Search Console, and run regular audits on your website’s backlinks to identify and remove bad links.

However, as each tool offers unique features, you may not be able to track all metrics using just one tool.

Here are some tips on how to choose the right SEO tools for your website:

➡️ Determine what you can afford

The first question you need to ask yourself is whether you have the budget to invest in a paid tool.

If you’re just starting out, use free tools and gradually transition to paid-for options as your business grows.

On the other hand, if your business is already established and you’re ready to invest in your link-building strategy, then paid-for options may be a good fit.

Here are some examples of what you can expect to pay:

💸 Link research tools: Plans start at $499 per month for a budget of 1 million.

💸 Ahrefs: Pay $99 for a single user, with a free 7-day trial.

💸 Linkody: They charge $14.90 per month for two domains and one user.

Remember that numerous free tools, like Google Search Console, are available and offer a variety of backlink management features.

➡️ Start with a user-friendly tool

When you choose your first set of tools, make sure they:

✅ Require little training to use to their full potential.

✅ Have a user-friendly interface.

✅ Don’t require a complicated setup.

Once you’re comfortable with ongoing backlink management, you can explore more advanced tools.

Google Search Console is commonly recommended for beginners, while tools like Ahrefs, with their comprehensive analytics capabilities, may be more suitable for advanced users.

➡️ Read reviews and test the tool first

If you jump from one trial period to the next, it will take a long time to find the right tools.

You can speed this up by reading unbiased customer reviews beforehand. Make sure you look for feedback from independent sources and compare your options carefully.

Pay close attention to their feedback on the tool’s customer support. As you read the reviews, ask yourself:

🤨 How responsive are they to customers?

🤨 How knowledgeable are their team members?

🤨 How long does it take them to help customers?

After narrowing down your choices, start your free trials to monitor backlinks. This will help you decide which tools to use to achieve your goals.

Read more: 9 Backlink Monitoring Tools to Manage Link Building Campaigns

Using a Backlink Management Tool: A Practical Example

Before diving into the audit process, let's understand the practical use of backlink management tools through a hands-on example.

Assume you’re the backlink manager for MailChimp who’s been tasked to get a high-level overview of the company’s backlink health.

You decide to use OpenLinkProfiler for your tool because it ranks each website’s backlink health and provides an overview of each inbound link’s quality.

Here, you learn that MailChimp boasts an impressive A+ domain rank supported by over 52 million backlinks.

This means that MailChimp ranks as a top-tier website, alongside other authoritative entities like HubSpot and the New York Times.

Overall, it tells you that your backlink profile is healthy and has been well-managed.

This is what you might see on the OpenLinkProfiler dashboard:


Source: Open Link Profiler

Below this, you can also view the URLs from each page that’s linked to MailChimp. Each link has its own rank, and you can even see the anchor text it’s linked from.

This allows you to spot good and bad links.

For example, Gradcracker, a careers website for STEM students, includes a link to MailChimp in its “terms and privacy policy” section.

Since it uses MailChimp for its newsletters, it gives users the option to read MailChimp’s privacy policy.

The anchor text is, therefore, “privacy policy”, and you can see that Gradcracker’s website has a healthy backlink profile that’s ranked A+:


Source: Open Link Profiler

Armed with this information, you can conclude that MailChimp has a strong backlink profile.

However, this is a surface-level inspection. You need to do a full audit to understand the true state of MailChimp’s backlink profile.

Run Your First (or Next) Backlink Audit

Did you know that 41% of search engine experts believe that backlink management is the most challenging part of search engine optimization?

This is because it involves improving link quality rather than quantity. You need time, patience, and strategic effort to navigate the complexities of backlink management.

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you run a successful backlink audit:

1️⃣ Determine what you want to track

Before we dive in, let’s get a quick understanding of the different metrics you can track with backlink management tools:

📊 Link source: This includes identifying referring domains and the linking URL.

📊 Anchor text: See which text is used to link to your website.

📊 Link authority: Find out how the websites linking to your site are ranked.

📊 Link placement: Determine where the links are placed on their website.

📊 Link relevance: See whether the link is relevant to the page it appears on.

Ideally, your audit should track all of these metrics. This should help you get a holistic picture of your website’s backlink profile.

2️⃣ Use tools to compile and verify data

After reviewing and testing backlink management tools, you should have identified at least two suitable options for your audit.

It’s finally time to use these tools to gather and verify your data, and then move it into a master spreadsheet.

Follow these steps:

🛠️ Set up your chosen SEO tools: Once you have your favorite tools, you need to verify ownership of your website or set up an account for your website.

📊 Compile data: Now that everything is set up, you can start gathering the data. Most tools enable the download of reports into spreadsheet formats like Excel. After doing so, you can merge the data from each tool into a master spreadsheet.

🔄 Cross-verify your results: Next, you can start a comprehensive analysis of your data. You can, for example, use Excel formulas to cross-verify specific data points. This approach lets you cross-check data such as the number of external links or the domain authority as reported by different tools.

🧹 Clean up your data: Use Excel's data cleaning features to eliminate duplicate entries, correct errors, and remove irrelevant information. Ensure uniform data formatting and consistent labels throughout. Additionally, you can create charts and graphs to help recognize new trends in your backlink profile.

📅 Incorporate your historical data: You should now have clean, up-to-date data, which will serve as the foundation for your backlink analysis. The final step is to place this data in context with any historical data.

This whole process should take you about a day or two, depending on your circumstances and proficiency.

3️⃣ Analyze and fix inbound links

This is where the fun begins. You can now meticulously go through your master spreadsheet and assess the quality of each link.

There are two kinds of unhealthy links you need to keep an eye out for:

🅰 Toxic links

These are harmful external links that can negatively impact your website's reputation.

This process might reveal spammy links from low-quality websites or instances of attempted search engine manipulation.

This goes against Google’s spam policies, which can be found in Google Search Essentials (formerly Webmaster Guidelines).

In some cases, you may have accidentally created toxic links yourself due to poor link building practices.

Recognizing toxic links is essential for protecting your site from search engine penalties.

When identifying toxic links, look for::

☢️ Unnatural link patterns: Look for unusual patterns in your backlink profile, such as a sudden influx of low-quality links.

☢️ Relevance and authority: Evaluate the relevance and authority of the referring domains. Links from irrelevant or spammy sites can be toxic.

☢️ Anchor text manipulation: Be wary of excessive use of commercial anchor text (anchor text containing commercial keywords), as this may signal an attempt to manipulate search engine algorithms.

Once you identify toxic links, you can weed them out so they don’t tarnish your website’s reputation or affect its rankings.

You can do this by disavowing links using Google's Disavow Tool. Have a look at our guide that explains how to use this.

🅱 Broken or irrelevant links

Broken links may not work or lead to non-existent pages, while irrelevant links lead to unrelated content.

While not necessarily harmful like toxic links, both can impact user satisfaction, your SEO, and your site’s credibility.

A study by Ahrefs experts, analyzing over two million websites, found that 65.5% of links have become broken or irrelevant over the last nine years.

Keep an eye out for:

🚫 404 errors: Monitor backlinks for 404 errors or pages not found, indicating broken links that need attention.

🚫 Content relevance: Ensure that the content surrounding each link is contextually relevant, as irrelevant links can confuse visitors.

🚫 Link redirection: Check for links that redirect users to unexpected or unrelated content. This will create a bad user experience.

When it comes to broken links, contact the website owners who run the site the link is coming from and arrange for them to be updated.

Link Building Campaigns to Pursue Between Audits

Now that your audit is complete and immediate issues are addressed, you can work on improving backlinks before your next audit.

Here are some great link-building strategies to help you get an A+ score:

1. Use ethical link building

There’s a dark side to link-building campaigns called “black hat SEO”. This is the practice of manipulating search engines for higher rankings.

This can be done by creating backlinks through deceptive means, such as:

🕵️‍♂️ Link farms: These are website networks that have been created to exchange links and boost each other’s domain authority.

🕵️‍♂️ Keyword stuffing: Adding excessive keywords in unnatural places to artificially boost page and website rankings.

🕵️‍♂️ Hidden text or links: Including text that users won’t see, but Google’s algorithm will, such as setting the font color to match the background and filling it with keywords.

Google strongly discourages these practices. If you use them, you risk receiving a penalty or manual action, which reduces—or even removes—your website’s search engine ranking.

Make sure you build backlinks ethically, like by fostering real relationships and only using keywords where appropriate.

You can also spend time creating shareable, long-form content. Research shows that quality content with 3,000+ words receives more backlinks than short-form content.

In the end, this is one of the best link-building strategies out there. If you deliver user-friendly content with relevant keywords, you’ll get organic links.

2. Engage with online communities

Your website can’t be linked to unless people know it exists. Part of your link-building initiatives should include community engagement.

This involves participating in relevant online communities, forums, and social media platforms to establish authority and build relationships.

Engaging in this type of online networking will naturally draw high-quality backlinks, as people recognize the valuable contributions you've made to your field.

Here’s an example of a post on a cycling forum where the community was discussing changing their tire size. One member offered this advice:

Cyclling news

Source: CyclingNews

Here, they suggest a blog on Biker Tricks, which then gains a relevant backlink from this forum and may even lead to new readers.

3. Create relationships for backlink building

By forging positive relationships with other website owners, you are likely to receive organic backlinks.

Let’s say you run a website that forecasts waves for surfing.

If you collaborate with a well-known wetsuit brand for a surfing event, you open the door for potential backlinks.

Leading up to the event, the wetsuit brand may naturally link to your event page or wave forecast section, acknowledging your collaboration.

This type of relationship-based backlink is valuable because it's organic and based on a genuine partnership.

Here’s a similar example of a press release from USA Surfing, which links to its new sponsor, Pactto:

USA Surfing

Source: USA Surfing

Pactto has decided to sponsor USA Surfing’s athletes and, in response, they’re announcing their goodwill and linking to their site.

Rank at the Top of Search Engines

Mastering the art of backlink management is essential for enhancing your website's performance in search engine rankings.

This article explained how to choose the best link-building tools for your website and what using these tools might feel like.

Backlink management involves effectively utilizing SEO tools to conduct backlink audits, that can enhance your website’s backlink profile.

But it’s important to look ahead. By using an ethical SEO strategy and making strong connections, you can successfully boost your search engine rankings.

Unfortunately, backlink management can feel like a full-time job. This is why more than 60% of businesses outsource link-building to professional agencies and contractors.

To experience the ease of stress-free backlink management for your website, get in touch with us today.

“For people to discover your website, you need to build pathways and big, flashing signs that lead them there. In digital marketing terms, this means you need links, links, and more links.”

Luisito Batongbakal