10 common link audit mistakes and how to avoid them

Although we are all doing fewer forensic link audits they do still play an important role in making sure we understand and protect the profiles we have. The nature of the task often means it remains one of those jobs where time and effort are the only way to get through the data required to do the job right.


So if we are going to do an audit, let's make sure we do it right and avoid having to redo this task at a later date in the same detail.


Here at Kerboo we have over 5 years experience in running link audits for clients with a few hundred links up to clients with link counts in the hundreds of millions. We know auditing links…


Here are 10 of the most common link audit mistakes that people make and how you can avoid making them too: -


  1. Not getting data from multiple link data sources.


Most people have access to Google Search Console and perhaps either Majestic or Ahrefs. In a recent experiment we looked at how each of these data providers compared in terms of their total coverage of the links pointed at a particular site. It may surprise you to hear that Google had the best coverage with just under 60% of the total combined link data, Majestic and Ahrefs had about 55% of the total.


Combine your link data sources to get better coverage.


  1. Accepting the disavow file from the client or previous agency without checking it.


You win that new client and they get you access to their GSC account. Many agencies then take the existing disavow file and use that. Do you know who made that file? Do you know what skills they had? When was it created?

If you simply accept the existing disavow file as correct you could be giving away lots of equity or worse disavowing things that are causing the client to perform badly.


Always review any disavow file you inherit and ‘reavow’ anything that shouldn’t have been disavowed in the first place.


  1. Doing the audit without knowing they already had a disavow file in place.


You get the client onboard and then you conduct a quick link audit to see what the current state of their link profile is. If you don’t take into account that they have an existing disavow file you will be auditing links that have already been disavowed.


Make sure you check the disavow tool before you audit, don’t simply take the clients memory of whether a disavow exists.


  1. Disavowing based on appearance not intent.


Its easy when you’re in the trenches and staring at a raft of old crappy links in a profile to get trigger happy and start killing off anything that looks poor. We call this internally ‘the problem of link aesthetics’. Its easy to see a messy looking site and then kill that whole domain because it didn’t look nice to look at. Link audits need to identify where the ‘intent’ is rather than judge how the sites look. A site might look rubbish but the link is naturally given or a site might look really slick but still be an obvious paid link.


Judge sites on the intent of the link placement not on how they look.


  1. Making judgements on functional subdomains


Often in link data (Majestic in particular) you will find links that appear to come from a subdomain that doesn’t actually resolve well in the browser. Things like ftp.example.com or mail.example.com would fall into this category. Its important to avoid just seeing the subdomain as a problem and disavowing the whole domain (Kerboo ignores what we call functional subdomains and would roll your disavow up to disavow the root domain)


Check the root domain for subdomains that don’t resolve and make your judgement there.


  1. Keeping links that show intent because they cost you money to acquire.


Often site owners will have spent a significant investment in the past on gathering links through link building techniques that are now frowned upon by Google. It's tempting to give in to the pressure from the client to keep in the links they spent good money on. Google don't care how much they cost and they now either pose a risk or they stand a good chance of being ignored.


It's better for everyone if you know what the true link profile is, getting rid of the links that show too large a pattern of intent is an important thing to do.


  1. Disavowing too harshly


On a number of occasions we have had clients come to us with link profiles that have been built solely by blatant SEO efforts. The issue then is that if you were to disavow everything that shows intent you probably cause the site as many ranking problems as if they’d got a penalty.


Choose where you drawn the line so the site has as much equity as you can leave. If that means leaving stuff that you’d normally disavow then diary to come back and remove some of those as you gain newer better links.


  1. Not looking for the strengths as well as the weaknesses


Many people approach audits as just the task of identifying where the threats are in a profile. Good audits look at where the strengths are and where the opportunities lie.


Use the audit as a way of understanding your link profile better.


  1. Forgetting to upload the disavow file


Yes this is a real problem, people use systems like ours and then forget to download the disavow file and give it to Google. Im not joking, it happens all the time.


Make sure someone has responsibility for the upkeep of the disavow at Google as part of their role and that its reviewed.


  1. Only doing an audit once


Maintaining a healthy and safe link profile is part of the ongoing work of anyone interested in the success of a site.


Put in place a regime where the new links are gathered and reviewed and the whole profile is kept understood and safe.


If you learn these 10 lessons your audits will be more efficient and of better quality.


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