A client recently asked me how they could analyze their backlink profile for weak links. It’s an important exercise, especially with recent changes to Google’s algorithm, specifically the Penguin update which aimed to decrease the ranking of sites participating in link schemes, among other things.
Use Google Webmaster tools and spot check shady looking links. GWT will only give you a list of sites linking back to you, and how many links on that site point to you, and from how many pages. From the homepage, select the site you want, navigate to Traffic > Links to Your Site > Who links the most > More, then click one of the download buttons. This file lists pages that link to your site. If you click “Download latest links,” you’ll see dates as well. This is the easiest/least scientific approach.
SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer
With Open Site Explorer you can generate a backlink profile report. To get started, filter by “all” from “only external” to “pages on this domain.” For more filters, use the Advanced Reports tab. When reporting on an international version of a site that uses a folders to segment country-specific sites (e.g. www.site.com/fr) I used “Any” type of links that come from “External linking page” “Any IP address or C-block” links that link to “Any page in this subfolder” (/fr). This will output an Excel file with the referring URL, target URL, anchor text, page authority, etc that you can analyze. However, note that it won’t give you the date the link was acquired which could be helpful in tying backlink acquisition to specific link-building campaigns.
MajesticSEO combines the best of both worlds by providing both the value of the links and the history of acquisition. While using SEOMoz’s metrics is fine, I personally consider PageRank to be the best indicator of quality. With Majestic SEO integrated into BrightEdge, you get just this. IMO using MajesticSEO/BrightEdge reporting backlink data with PageRank gets you closer to identifying the backlinks that Google deems low-quality.
What to do if I find bad backlinks in my profile?
If you discover many low quality links that may be harming the site’s ranking, you can use the new disavow tool in Google Webmaster Tools. Although Google says it will generally ignore links that are disavowed, keep in mind that, much like the canonical tag, this is more of a hint to Google than a directive.