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Auditing Your Backlinks Manual

The main goal of SEMrush’ Backlink Audit Tool is to help you get rid of as many toxic links for your domain as possible. The Audit tab of this tool lets you comb through your entire backlink profile (up to 500 backlinks per referring domain) and pick out the links that you either want to keep or delete.

Keep sends links or domains to your whitelist, and Delete lets you either plan to remove with an email request to a webmaster or disavow with the Google Disavow Tool.

Reviewing Your Links

A number of factors go into SEMrush’s definition of toxic, but some of the most common signals are links from spammy sites, links from non-Google indexed sites and sites with malware or viruses. Basically, any unnatural link that has the potential to cause harm to your domain’s ranking in Google is considered a toxic backlink.

Once you have configured your Backlink Audit Tool, your backlinks will be listed in a table with three groups to move them between: For review, Whitelist, and All links.

You can also set your Backlink Audit to the page and subpath level when you click on your report scope.

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At the start, you will have all of your links in the "For Review" group. This group can be considered your working folder - the links that you are currently auditing. The "All links" group will be there as your backup, as these links will always remain in your audit in the case of a mistake. However, keep in mind that once you disavow any of these links they will disappear from BOTH folders. Disavowing is essentially letting Google know to not consider the impact of these links at all when reviewing your site.

You can see which of your backlinks are new by clicking the "New" checkbox. A backlink is considered new if less than a month has passed since the first time SEMrush discovered it. 

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Domain and URL

Just below these three groups of backlinks, you will notice there is a filters tab as well as two labels: Domain and URL. The group of domains will include backlinks tied to a referring domain, while the URL group will allow you to see the individual URL of your backlinks. This is beneficial if you know the particular URL that is potentially harmful. The search bar directly to the right will also give you the chance to search by URL, Page Title, and Anchor text.

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Toxic Score

The Backlink Audit Tool sorts the toxic backlinks in order of Toxic Score, with the highest Toxic Score links being shown on the first page. Toxic Score is how the Backlink Audit Tool determines which of your links are the most dangerous for your website. Toxic Score is based on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being good and 100 being very toxic.

There are currently over 50 different toxic markers that SEMrush uses in determining the Toxic Score for a link. By hovering over the Toxic Score you will be able to see specifically which Toxic Markers are associated with that specific backlink.

The action that you decide to take with a backlink should be determined by its Toxic Score. If you see a number of backlinks that appear to have a dangerous Toxic Score you will want to send them to your remove list (to manually ask for removal) or disavow list. A disavow list can be sent to Google so that the links can be disassociated with your website.

If a link has a low Toxic Score and appears to be fine, then you can decide to send the domain or URL to your whitelist. Whitelisted backlinks are the backlinks that you do not want to remove from your website.

Both of these actions (disavow and whitelist) can be done with buttons underneath the action tab to the far right of the backlink.

Keep vs. Delete

The "Keep" tab will allow you to whitelist the backlink while the "Delete" dropdown will let you disavow or remove the link via outreach.

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You may notice that you are given the option to send full domains as well as just URLs to disavow. If you are certain that all of the pages on a domain are bad links its probably best to disavow them at the domain level to ensure you are not risking missing on other potential toxic links from that domain. 

You are also able to view your backlinks as groups. The Backlink Audit Tool lets you group backlinks by both Domain and URL. This can let you save time if you know you are looking to just disavow whole domains. 

Using Filters To Increase Your Audit Accuracy

By using the toxic marker filters you are able to narrow down your list of audited backlinks to those that have a higher priority for your specific goal. Let’s say you are looking for any backlinks that are coming from pages with spam TLDs, you can easily select that specific marker and the backlink audit tool will filter out your results to show you just the links SEMrush found coming from pages with spam TLDs.

Advanced Filters

Advanced Filters allow you to narrow down your results based on more than just toxic markers. Under the advanced filters dropdown menu, you can filter by follow or nofollow backlinks, Audit types and anchors.

Auditing Your Backlinks image 5Audit types are grouped into three categories, toxic, potentially toxic and non-toxic. This can help save you time if you are looking to just analyze the list of backlinks that are definitely toxic to your overall profile.  

Anchor Text

The Backlink Audit Tool also groups backlinks by their corresponding anchor text. These anchors include Money, Compound, Branded, Organic, Other, Naked and Empty. Branded anchors are anchors that include your brand's name. Naked anchors appear just as it would in the URL. Money anchors contain keywords the site is attempting to rank for. Compound anchors contain the brand name as well as another keyword. Organic anchors contain generic keywords such as “click here” or “this site.” Other anchors are those anchors not clearly defined and empty anchors are just that, empty.

When building links for SEO, it can be beneficial to have a percentage of your backlinks using your target keyword as the anchor text. By filtering out your audited links by anchor text you can help to gain those links that have the specific anchor text you are looking for.

After you’ve gone through all of your links in the audit tab and sent them to your disavow, whitelist, and remove lists, you can move on to the next step of your audit.

Step 2: Removing your links