The best backlinks are the ones the search engines know about. Four reports in Google Search Console help analyze the strength of your backlink portfolio.
Search engines use backlinks – links from other sites to yours – in their algorithms as a measure of value and authority.
Google's original PageRank algorithm conceived the idea that links are like quotes in, for example, a research document. The more citations it receives, the more valuable the site.
In order to attract links, the content of the site must be valuable to others. And link capital – the total value of backlinks – is an algorithm component of every major search engine. Analyzing the links that contribute to that capital can help focus your link acquisition efforts.
The "links" reports in Google Search Console are a great (and free) source for that analysis.
The link page contains four sections:
- "Top-linked pages" (external): Pages on your site with links from other websites;
- "Top Link Pages" (external): External sites that link to yours;
- "Top Linking Text" (external): Anchor text on external sites that link to yours;
- "Top-linked pages" (internal): Pages on your website with most internal links.
In addition, Search Console reveals the total number of links to your site that Google has crawled, marked "2" in the image above (34,506 links). You can export an example of these links by clicking "Export External Links", marked "3."
Exports below only contain 9,451 of the site's 34,506 total backlinks, or 27.4 percent. And the links are not necessarily the most important or most representative. But by visiting the sampled pages, you can measure the type of sites that link to yours and how.
For example, the URL Linguee.com.ar above links to many links, which it then translates. But Linguee.com.ar has many ads in the original view and no real content of its own. Google probably thinks this is a low-value link.
Each page of a website can attract external links. The report "Top-linked pages – external" shows the number of links per page. For example, in the screenshot below, 375 websites (marked “2”) have 14,927 links to the website (“1”).
Click on any page to see which sites link to it. Clicking on the website URL above would show that Trustpilot.com links to it. Clicking on the next level shows which pages on Trustpilot.com contain the links.
You can also filter the pages to include or exclude characters by clicking on the triangle with three rows, marked "3" in the image above and then selecting "Target Page." You can then restrict the links to, say, product pages.
Search Console makes filtering available in the same place in all reports. You can also export the data in all reports (marked “4” above). It is a good idea to export the data at regular intervals as Search Console does not save them. It only gives the previous 16 months.
Top Link Pages
The top 1,000 domains that link to your site are listed in this report. For example, in the image below, Trustpilot.com is the top link site (in the column labeled "1") with 7,002 pages ("2") that links to only two pages ("3").
Search engines use the number of unique, unauthorized link domains as the primary value of the value rather than the number of overall links. Fifty websites with one link are better than, for example, a site with 50 links.
Scanning the list of "Top-Linking Sites" gives you an idea of how many links domains are worth or not. For example, websites with paid links or some unique content are low value. Affiliate sites (owned by the same company as yours) are also low value. For example, the site labeled "4" above is connected.
Google doesn't normally penalize your website today for having many low-value links – unlike the Penguin algorithm in the past. But low-value links don't help either. They do not contribute to your equal capital and ability to rank.
Top Linking Text
"Anchor text" are the words that contain a link. It has a double value: It contributes to the contextual relevance of the page containing the link and also to the linked page.
The more specific the anchor text, the more valuable it is. Anchor text with "click here" or "read more" sends weak relevance signals for both sides.
To analyze the anchor text that links to your site, scan the list in the "Top Linking Text" report, marked "1" in the example above. Text without the brand or domain is usually the most advantageous.
There is no numeric data in this report and no way to tell which page contains the text or alternatively which page it links to. Thus, this report is less useful than others.
Ideally, internal links on your site indicate the most important pages for ranking. Each internal link sends a small amount of equal capital and relevance. Stronger internal link networks can provide stronger organic search rankings.
The report "Top-linked pages – internal" enables analysis of your internal link network. The total number of known, internally linked pages, 43,985, is marked "1."
The top linked page in the example above (2,038 links, marked “3”) is where shoppers can place an order. The website is second. Scan the list to ensure that high-priority pages contain an appropriate number of internal links. Otherwise, you may want to consider improving your internal link structure.