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How to Properly Track and Manage Your Backlinks

I am absolutely O.C.D. when it comes to tracking, measuring, and recording data.  One of the best skills you can have in SEO is to be able to stay efficiently organized.  Only by keeping track of what actions you’ve taken, will you be effectively able to make correct decisions about what to do next.

Famous management consultant Peter Drucker once said: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”   I couldn’t agree more.

measure and control

Unfortunately, not everyone has the same nerdy obsession I have over collecting data.  Every week, I perform SEO consultations for various clients.  When someone doesn’t show up with a list of the links pointing to their site, I simply can’t help diagnose their offsite SEO problems.  There’s simply nothing to talk about.

I decided to make this post to help make your (and my) life easier by explaining how to properly track and manage your backlinks.

The importance of staying organized in SEO

ranking factorsIt is said that there are over 200 ranking signals that Google uses to determine SERP placement.  This means, that in your ranking equation, there are over 200 variables that are constantly changing from day-to-day.

Your only chance at wrapping your head around this equation is if you successfully reduce as many variables as possible.  If you can confidently answer questions like “do I have enough nofollow links pointing to my site?” then you’re one step closer to understanding your rankings.

This is not possible unless you keep track of your backlinks.

Why you can’t rely on Majestic to track your backlinks

Do not count on the 3rd party backlink crawlers to track your links for you.  Why is that?

  1. 3rd party crawlers are extremely flawed and will not pick up all your links. If you’ve ever tried comparing Majestic vs Ahrefs vs Moz results, you know what I’m talking about.  Their results are highly varied and grossly incomplete.
  2. You’re likely blocking your PBNs from being picked up by them anyways.

Imagine you start a new project money site.  A few months go by and you’re not ranking where you’d like to be.  You decide that it’s possible that you were too aggressive with your anchor text and you’d like to compare your sites anchor text profile to the niche-specific average ratio.

Well, my friend, if you didn’t keep track of your backlinks yourself, you’re completely screwed.  Majestic, Moz and Ahrefs are going to all give you conflicting and incomplete data.  Even Webmaster Tools won’t display all of the links to your site.

belfort wmt

If you want to be able to debug your sites, it’s time to start tracking your backlinks in detail.

What you need to track

I recommend keeping one large master spreadsheet for each of your projects.  Each spreadsheet should contain the following data:


First and foremost, you’ll want to track your backlinks: all links coming from PBNs, Web 2.0s, Press Releases, blog comments, etc.  Namely, track every link that is pointing to your site that is indexed.  This does not include social signals which play a different role in ranking altogether.

Here’s exactly what you should record:

  1. When was the link placed?
  2. What is the referring domain?
  3. What is the target URL?
  4. What is the anchor text used?
  5. Dofollow or nofollow?
  6. Is the link indexed?

Anchor Text Distribution

final anchorsThis is definitely the most important thing to track.  Keep an ongoing record of the overall anchor text distribution pointing to your site and how it measures up to the niche-specific target anchor text.  This is best accomplished with an automatically-updating pie chart.


Whenever you place links, keep track of what the rankings were before you placed the link.  This will allow you to see what links/anchors were most likely to have caused positive or negative movement.

This is most easily accomplished with a rank tracker, but I also recommend adding weekly ranking notes to your spreadsheet every time you place a backlink.  It’s simply going to make your life easier.  You’ll see what I mean.

A List of Keywords and Which Pages Target Them

Keep track of each of the keywords your site is gunning for and which pages on your site are gunning for them.

In most situations, I recommend you don’t send the same exact anchor text more than 1-2 times.  Each time you send a keyword’s exact anchor, mark this down in your spreadsheet.

Social Fortress Tracking

List all of your social fortress profiles, including your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. and denote whether or not they are indexed.

Also if you’re trust pulling and linking to your social fortress, keep track of the links and anchors that you’re sending to each social profile.

Weekly Log

logfileKeep a weekly update on what actions you took for the week as well as what actions you recommend yourself to take next week.  This will help you make quicker decisions from week-to-week as you won’t need to re-familiarize yourself with what your goals were.

But probably the most valuable outcome of keeping a proper weekly log is when you start to deploy multiple websites and dominate a niche.  Once you’ve figured out how to rank one site in a particular niche, you have a blueprint on how to rank other sites moving forward.  You simply need to follow the same weekly actions until your 2nd, 3rd, etc. pages are ranked on page 1 as well.

This can be huge when you really want to scale.  High-level responsibilities such as anchor text selection can be outsourced to a VA with very little SEO training.  As long as they can follow the instructions outlined in your weekly log, then can rank a website.

My Free Website Tracking Template

Keeping track of everything I’ve listed above is quite an organizational feat, so I’ve helped you out by providing you with the exact template that I use to keep track of my projects.

And here’s a demo on how to use this spreadsheet to its fullest potential.

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  • I absolutely love this post, and yes I’m a little O.C.D. also. I’ve been thinking about the best way to track my progress when building up sites and now I don’t have to thanks to your post. Thank You!

  • Great info as always Matt! You’re in my critical few sources that I always read when I get your email and consistently get something useful from each new post. I’m already filling in a spreadsheet based on today’s article/video.

  • Great info as always Matt – and thanks so much for template. Data, organisation, and tracking are the the real difference makers, perhaps even more so than some of the seo skills – if used without a tracking system..

  • Nice Matt! Getting organized is really where I’m struggling. Until I get my own shit in check, there’s no way I’m outsourcing this mess… lol.

    Question: When acquiring the data for the competitor’s anchor text ratio, do you just use the typical tools available (moz, ahrefs, majestic, semrush) or do you have any “not so typical” that you recommend as well?

    The obvious issue is that so many people use PBNs now, and block spiders from crawling, so you can end up with a very skewed sense of actual anchor text ratio (and authority/power of domain).

    I did become aware of one, not-so-typical tool out there called which is not always blocked. (Though I guess it will be now! Lol) Do you have any other sources like this you could share? Thx!

    • Openlinkprofiler is rarely blocked, but its not the best crawler in the world. You can always uncover backlinks if you use search parameters to cleaverly dig them out. Perhaps another blog post.

  • Hey Matt,
    great post as always! I have a question, though. If I set a link into a blog comment, like in your form below, in the “website field”. And that link appears on 20 pages on the domain, for example. Do I count the link once or 20 times? Sorry for the noob question, but I am a bit confused there.


      • Thank you Matt! I´ve one follow up question, if I may. Considering the anchor texts of an pmd. If the Money KW is “Blue shoes” and the URL is: Blueshoesinfo . org (sorry if that is a real site!) and I fill that website in eg. the contact detail form below. Does that count as money anchor?

          • Sry Matt! I meant what if I put a link in to the column “Website” of a blog contact form. When my KW is “Blue shoes” and my website is blueshoesinfo. org. Does Google think that I used my Keyword or does Google sees that as a naked URL anchor?


          • If you type in “Blue Shoes” its a target anchor. If you type in “” then its a URL anchor. This applies to any link type, not just comments.

  • Great article Matt, you made some great points! I do the same thing in a more automated way. Staying organize is truly important.

    One tool that I use to manage my backlinks is a program called “backlink monitor” by inspyder, it does all the things you outlined. It’s a one time fee software and you can add your links into the software as you build them and it keeps track of your anchor as well as if the link are still on the page. It can also track the PA/DA of a link, the date the link was added, the date the link was submitted to be index, etc…This is great if you manage a large PBN network as well since you’ll know if one of your PBN’s are down without checking them one by one.. Also, if you do tiered link building, it can keep track of all your tiers and let you know when a link whiten your tier is dead/broken.

    It makes life that much easier!

  • Hi Matt, thanks for another great post! You really make our SEO lives easier 🙂

    One question: lately I’ve been seeing a lot of URLs with anchors like this one, “you can read the best product reviews at“.

    How would you classify such a long anchor text like the above one?, brand?, url?, misc?


    • 1) If you care about ranking those inner pages, then yes, add them to the XLS.
      2) Nope. Anchor text distribution is calculated on a per-page basis.

  • So what does one do if working on a client site with a prior backlink history?

    Or if an expired domain is picked up and used as a money site?

    This seems to apply to brand new sites with no backlink history so everything can be tracked.

    But in the scenarios above what would be the best approach?

  • Thanks Matt, great post. Where do you pull your competitor anchor text profile from? I’d assume majestic? Maybe as the pie chart was similiar

  • Excellent post as usual. Your post was recommended by John V, as a few of us have joined together for a “100 links in 100 days” Challenge and this is an excellent way to keep track of our links. Thanks a ton Matt.

  • This was an eye opening post Matt. Thanks a lot!
    I took action and started going through the spreadsheet and I’ve got a couple of noob questions:
    1. I should count links from press releases, right?
    2. What if inside the press release there is one Brand and one URL anchor type? Do I count them both?

    • 1) That’s correct, but I don’t assign them an anchor for every indexed PR syndication. Pretty sure Google treats them differently. I usually count a PR as 5-10 URL anchors then call it a day.
      2) If the link is going to the same URL, whichever anchor is on top is the one that’s counted.

  • Another epic post! Great stuff Matt, gona make life much easier. Something I have been overlooking is building links to social profiles. I currently have a client stuck with rankings between 11-18 for tons of keywords so that may do the trick. Do you have your own aged tumblrs? Can you recommend a vendor? I like to save my/ your PBN’s for the money website, maybe I’m missing a trick. Cheers

  • Hey MAtt, thanks for the great info and for the spreadsheet. I am wondering however, what you do in the case of the top sites not having many (if any) backlinks pointing to them, but are just huge authority sites (amazon or yelp etc.) and you have a pretty new site (or 2 year old site with not much done to it). Thx for your feedback.

    Sincerely, Buyseech

  • Hey Matt – awesome with the spreadsheet share, was just in the midst of creating one with the circle graph you have when I saw your post and I was like HELL YEA.
    Anyways, are you counting for example every citation you might throw at a site as well for percentages – I just wonder if I have 50 citations if that will just throw everything off?

    Thanks again though, for real!

  • Awesome content fellow O.C.D , I’m reading you for the first time and I must say the spreadsheet is totally worth my email. You win my email Matt. (y)

  • Great article Matt, I have a couple questions regarding classifying Target & Brand Anchors. In the case that your Target keywords are also the brand name how do we classify these anchors into the applicable sections of the sheet.

    Lets say the keywords I am working on are as follows

    Bintang Beer
    Bintang Alcohol
    Bintang Beverages
    Where to buy Bintang Beer

    The Brand name is “Bintang” but the keywords Im trying to rank for is also “Bintang Beer” how do I classify these into the sheet correctly as a target..

    Also do variations of my target keywords like “where to buy bintang beer” is this classified as a target keyword or would this be considered topic?

    Thanks for the help and keep up the great work, enjoy reading your articles.

    • If your domain is, then your only brand anchors are “Bintang”, “bintang”, “Bintang LLC”, etc.

  • Matt, you honeslty have some of the best structured and informational SEO articles on the web. Great post, and thanks again for sharing.