When you've put a lot of effort in acquiring links to your website, you want to make sure these links aren't lost at any time.
When multiple links are removed or changed within a short timeframe this is a strong signal to search engines that these links could have been acquired unnaturally.
Since Penguin, Google has gotten a lot better at finding all similar links. You might lose the value for all of them when only a couple are tagged as obviously unnatural.
Monitoring which links are removed and which links are altered over time allows you to take action before Google does. So how do you effectively keep track of your existing links?
Why Monitor Existing Links?
Sometimes you trade more than just the good content on your website with a link partner. Although natural links should be seen as votes of confidence, sometimes a link is an agreed obligation for business partners, discounts, or other deals.
To see if they keep their end of the bargain it isn't enough to check on them once. Far too often links are removed after a couple of months.
Google spam detection is all about patterns in your link profile. Groups of similar links are seen as degrees of natural behavior and valued as such. When multiple links in a group start to behave less natural, the entire group will be affected negatively.
Automated Link Alerts
Checking 50 links once a month is the most you should be willing to do manually. When you need to monitor over 50 links you're dependent on automated tools that alert you when a link has been changed.
You can choose between various solutions that run as a desktop application or as web-based service. When selecting the right service for you, make sure that it has various options to send you alerts and keep in mind that the more frequently it re-checks links, the better.
What Changes are Important?
The most important change to monitor is losing a link. You need to know if just the link has been removed or the entire page it was on. The latter often happens by accident, but the first requires conscious action from your partner.
It's also important to find out when the specifics of a link are altered. Your link partner might add a nofollow or adds affiliate tracking to the link. All changes to link specifics including anchor text and landing page should be monitored.
If you aren't using expensive tools like Majestic SEO, which has “Lost Links” as just one of their options, there are various alternatives that offer just backlink monitoring. Here are just a couple of solutions:
- Pro: Allows you to dig deep within all your links and you don't have to pre-select which links to monitor.
- Con: Doesn't have automated alerts and doesn't report on changes, just on lost links within the last six months.
- Pro: Has a lot of additional features to keep track of all link deals.
- Con: Runs from your local machine and is based on the unwanted practice of link trades.
- Pro: Reports on every change to your link in detail. Linkody re-checks daily and sends automated alerts. It combines various methods of link discovery and can even report on initial placement.
- Con: Can only be used for backlink monitoring. Comparable functionality is available in complete services like Jetrank and Raven.
Acting on Changed/Lost Links
Once you receive an alert, try to find out what the original deal with that partner was. Contact them as soon as possible to resurrect the link in time before Google flags it.
Although I'm a big fan of naturally acquired links, you need to guard those link-gems you accidentally or deliberately acquired. Backlink monitoring is one of those things too few of us do.