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:

Backlinks

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.

Rankings

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, they 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.

download

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

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