The life of any SEO practitioner involves carrying out numerous nitty-gritty tasks to get their sites up and ranking on Google and other major search engines. SEO audits form one of the first steps in the chain of tasks that lead to the final output, and are possibly one of the most important supporting pieces of a solid SEO strategy.
Examining the credibility of inbound links on any website is a crucial part of the SEO audit, and with major sites, these evaluations can include links amounting to anything from many to seemingly infinite. Dealing with large amounts of data can have your head spinning if you don't have a sound, workable mechanism for tackling the numbers. Here's a tried and tested method from SEO guru, Alan Bleiweiss.
It Starts With You Gathering The Data
Using a tool like Open Site Explorer, a lot of the work has already been done for you. As a guest user, you can run three reports per day so it's worthwhile setting up an account to be able to access full functionality of the reports for as many sites as you may need. For sites with tens or hundreds of thousands of links (or even more), it's advisable to use the Advanced Reports tab and export the data from there. For tens, hundreds or thousands of links, the Inbound Links tab is perfectly suitable. When you're pulling your report and converting it to a CSV file, make sure to import external, followed and 301 links.
Sorting The Data Into A Useable Format
You only need to be working with the URL, Title, Anchor Text and Target columns to start with, so it's best to hide the others so they don't distract you. Now here's where the clever part steps in... sort the data alphabetically by Anchor Text to search for any similarities and patterns. Sort by URL and Title too and try a variety of different sorting combinations to make sure all areas are covered.
Searching For Bad Links
Once you've arranged your data effectively, it's easy to pick up oddities and patterns that could be negatively affecting the ranking of your site. If you're already aware of the key phrases that the site is being marked down on, then you can sort by Anchor Text and see if there are any glaringly obvious problems behind those specific keywords. You could pick up that the URLs point to a Russian Bride Emporium, while the Anchor Text is denoting Knitting Materials. Check the Title too, because often there can be clear indications of link networks spelled out in this piece of web real estate. You might also notice that identical Titles are being used on a number of different URLs.
Whatever the case may be, having the data in this easy to manage format makes it easier for you to scan the columns for peculiar patterns. Once you've found the odd ones out, highlight them for a closer look by visiting the sites, which will undoubtedly unveil the true purpose behind each of the links. It may not be the absolute method of identifying the good, from the bad and ugly, but it certainly helps cut down time and volume.
How do you tackle large amounts of data when doing link evaluation?
Image courtesy of: begin2dig.com