What is link realignment?
Link realignment is the process of finding backlinks that go through a redirect or link to a 404 (or other non-200 pages) and contacting the webmasters of each to update the link to the correct URL.
As you can imagine, it’s essential to consider several factors before delving into a link realignment project. These include:
- The quality of the backlinks you’re updating – we specifically focus on backlinks with a high Trust Flow/Authority, meaning we are more likely to see a significant impact on organic performance.
- The number of quality backlinks you’re updating – updating one or two backlinks to avoid a redirect will likely lead to no change, hence why it’s crucial to lay out a list of links for realignment before you set off changing them.
- The level of authority on the landing page the backlink redirects to – it’s not always worthwhile updating backlinks to an old, unused, or low authority page. At Builtvisible, we typically select a priority list of URLs to target, that way we don’t have to worry about wasting time on low-authority pages.
Why is it important?
Link realignment is a crucial link building tactic for several reasons, and without opening an argument about how much link equity is passed through a redirect, the two key points are:
- When Google discovers the newly aligned link, it treats it as a new and fresh signal
- Google may interpret the brand as an entirely new entity when finding the realigned links, particularly when the changes go further than just the link update (e.g. anchor text change)
Now that we’ve determined what link realignment is and why we need to consider it as a link building tactic, let’s look at the steps required to get the data for the digital PR team.
Please note, steps 2, 3, and 4 can be done in any order. The order you do this in is dependent on the number of backlinks included in the exports and the package you have on Kerboo. For example, if your export has more than 500k of backlinks, it may be better to find the links that go through a redirect first before inputting into Kerboo.
Step 1 – Export a full list of backlinks
Export a full list of backlinks from your favourite backlink checker – Builtvisible predominantly use Ahrefs and Majestic. In the case of Ahrefs, make sure you select “include redirect chains” so you get all the information you need.
Additionally, if you are looking to realign links from legacy domains, make sure you export data for each of these domains as well.
At this point, if the data set is too large to start verification, you can filter your data by completing steps 3 and 4 before verifying the backlinks in step 2.
Step 2 – Use Kerboo to verify if the backlinks still exist
At this stage, it might be tempting to skip this step and jump to step 3 and 4, but we still don’t have an accurate list of links. Ahrefs and Majestic won’t check these links very often, meaning a lot of them may no longer exist. This means we may be handing over something to our digital PR team that’s going to waste a lot of valuable time for them.
That’s where we need Kerboo. If you don’t have Kerboo, you could use Screaming Frog or URL Profiler to verify the links instead. Take a look at Adam’s post to learn how to use these other tools to identify dead links.
Kerboo looks at every backlink and determines whether that link is still live. Use the “Upload Files” tab to add your data. Make sure you haven’t deleted any columns in your data sheets otherwise Kerboo may be unable to read the data correctly. When you’ve inputted all your data, click finish.
Note: Make sure you add any additional domains you want to include in the data. It’s essential to do so if you are doing this because of a recent migration or your company own multiple legacy domains – Kerboo will ignore the old domains unless you tell it not to. Additionally, make sure both HTTP:// and HTTPS:// versions are included in the additional domains.
Depending on how large the data set is, this can take up to a few hours to complete, so it’s worth taking this time to read some of our other fantastic blogs while you wait!
Step 3 – Verify the redirects or broken backlinks
Once we have an accurate list of backlinks, we need to determine which of these backlinks go through a redirect, and which land on a non-200 page.
Note: even if Ahrefs and Majestic say the link is correct, it’s worth doing this anyway as the data can sometimes be wrong.
To do this, we need to take the target links (Column titled “link to” in Kerboo) and add these to a Screaming Frog crawl using list mode. Once the crawl is complete, export the redirect report and update the list by removing any 200OK links.
Note: Make sure your Screaming Frog crawl is configured to “Always follow Redirects” otherwise this won’t work. To do this go to Configuration > Spider > Advanced.
Step 4 – If you have a priority list, extract them from your data
With this Screaming Frog data, we can also determine the final destination for the redirecting backlinks. This means we can filter out our priority list of URLs, reducing the number of URLs needed for Kerboo.
Extracting this data also means we have a clear destination URL for each of the realignment opportunities.
Step 5 – Clean up the final CSV to assist your digital PR team
Once we have the final set of links, we can start to clean up the data. Cleaning the data ensures the datasheet can be used efficiently as a working document.
- Removing any columns that the digital PR team no longer need (e.g. anchor text, metadata)
- Remove any low-quality backlinks that will provide little positive impact on SEO
- If possible, scale down the number of links by removing multiple instances of backlinks in the header (for example, in a recent project there were 16,000 backlinks from one domain to one URL – in which all of them were in the site navigation)
- If required, remove any landing pages that have a low authority or are not a priority for the client or the digital PR team.
At the end of this, you will have yourself a suitable list of quality backlinks requiring realignment!