Manual: Links Inspector

The feature "Links Inspector" of Visual SEO Studio, documented in detail.

Links Inspector

Links Inspector is a powerful tool to know everything you need about the links in visited pages.
Once you have your pages crawled - be they a list of URLs with incoming links, or a normal site exploration - you can inspect links as you need. External, internal, inbound or outbound links, Visual SEO will help you to assess their real value.

Used in combination with the Crawl URL List feature, Links Inspector permits you to audit backlink profiles, automating many off-page SEO checks to help you understand whether the link passes PageRank, and whether the URL the link points to actually accumulates it and/or distributes it internally.

Links Inspector usage is straightforward:

  1. depending on the type of analysis you need to perform, select the proper search criteria;

    Links Inspector search criteria

  2. click on the Find links button;
  3. and voilà, results will be loaded in the Link list table:

    Links Inspector link list

Search criteria

Match type

Links analysis can be performed to investigate various cases. The program will let you choose from several options:

Link match options
Link match options

  • Domain
    Will extract only the links pointing to the indicated domain. For example, if the indicated domain is "example.com", all links pointing to pages in "example.com" or "www.example.com" will be extracted.
  • Exact domain
    Will extract only the links pointing to the indicated hostname. For example, if the indicated domain is "blog.example.com", all links pointing to pages in "blog.example.com" will be extracted, but not those pointing to pages to - say - "www.example.com" nor "example.com".
  • Partial URL
    Will extract only the links pointing to the partial URL specified. For example, if the indicated partial URL is "www.example.com/Blog", only links pointing to pages in such folder will be extracted.
  • Exact URL
    Will extract links pointing exactly to the specified URL.
  • Exclude domain
    Will extract links not pointing to the specified domain. A typical usage scenario is when you want to locate all the external links in your site.
  • Exclude exact domain
    Will extract links not pointing to the specified hostname.

Domain/URL to match

Insert in this field the domain, URL or partial URL you want to match the searched links against.
Depending on which option you select in the "Match type" drop down menu, this text field will suggest you the form of the input text.

If you use Links Inspector to perform a backlink profile audit - using a crawl session made of pages coming from a list of URLs downloaded via the Crawl URL List feature - and you specified as a crawl option a linked domain (recommended), that will be used to pre-populated the field (and - most important - the program will be able to assess whether the URL the link points to actually accumulates and/or distributes the received PageRank).

Find links

Clicking on the Find links button the program will search within the pages of the crawl session all links matching the given search criteria.
Found results will fill the Link list table below.

Summary

The Summary tab sheet give you an overall perspective of the reports available in Links Inspector.
You can quickly select it anytime, even when not it is not visible, by clicking on the Show Summary link.

Summary: Toolbar

Links found

The total number of links found matching the given search criteria.

It is shown as a ratio of two numbers: the number of links found matching the criteria, over the number of all links found.
The program shows both the fraction and percentage forms.

The label is an active link: when clicked the "Link list" tab sheet will be selected.

Matching pages

The total number of pages found containing links that match the given search criteria.

It is shown as a ratio of two numbers: the number of pages found containing links that match the criteria, over the number of all pages analyzed.
The program shows both the fraction and percentage forms.

The label is an active link: when clicked the "Matching pages" tab sheet will be selected.

Non-matching pages

The total number of pages found not containing links that match the given search criteria.

It is shown as a ratio of two numbers: the number of pages found not containing links that match the criteria, over the number of all pages analyzed.
The program shows both the fraction and percentage forms.

The label is an active link: when clicked the "Non-matching pages" tab sheet will be selected.

Summary: tab content

The Summary tab gives you a visual overview of the links analyzed with a set of 3D pie charts, each giving evidence to a particular aspect:

Links Inspector summary page
Links Inspector summary page

  • Links by type
  • Links by anchor text
  • Links by root domain
  • Links by hostname
  • Links by ability to pass PR
  • Links by follow/nofollow

Like all 3D pie graphs in Visual SEO Studio, the charts can be zoomed, rotated, copied and saved at pleasure.

View details

When a summary graph has a corresponding tab sheet, below it a View details link, once clicked, will select the corresponding tab sheet.

Links by type

Not all links were born equal. Even when they can pass PageRank, they are taken in better or worse consideration by search engines depending on their placement within the web page.
Content links are generally considered of higher value than - for example - footer links.
Visual SEO Studio has a powerful feature: it is able to classify the type of link. Recognized types are:

  • Content
    The link is placed within the body of an article, blog post, etc. Content links are considered of higher value.
  • Navigation
    The link is placed within a navigation menu, likely shared among all pages or a set of pages.
  • Header
    The link is placed within the header part of the web page, likely shared among all pages.
  • Footer
    The link is placed within the footer part of the web page, likely shared among all pages.
  • Sidebar
    The link is placed within a side element of the web page, likely shared among more pages.
  • Signature
    The link is placed within a forum or blog signature.
  • Comment
    The link is placed within a user generated comment, e.g. a comment in a blog post.
  • Unknown
    Used when the program was not able to categorize the link.

This report groups links by link type, and provides a pie chart to show at a glance their distribution.

Links by anchor text

The anchor text - the clickable text forming the link - has historically been used by search engines like Google as a strong signal for the search term to rank the pointed page for.

<a href="...">anchor text</a>

Since this become common knowledge among the SEO community, it unfortunately caused the despicable spread of link spam and commerce of exact-match text links.
Search engines realized these were mining the foundation of their ranking algorithms based on considering links as third party votes for appreciated resources. They then developed anti-spam algorithms to detect fraudulent use of links to artificially inflate PageRank calculation and other link related ranking signals.

When analyzing a backlink profile, looking at the most used anchor texts can help you spot a natural vs an artificial distribution of links:

  • A natural looking anchor text distribution typically has a large usage of brand name, naked domain, full home page URL, and branded keywords - all these pointing to the website home page - and a variety of long tail keywords pointing to specialized pages, mixed with non-informative text (e.g. "this page", or "here") and empty texts (case of image links).
  • An artificial looking anchor text distribution on the contrary has a higher number of one/three "exact match" main commercial keywords as anchor text of links pointing to the home page, texts that are unlikely to be used so commonly by people spontaneously linking to a website.

So today you want both to have a number of inbound links with anchor texts geared toward your preferred keywords, so that you can rank for them, and you also want your backlink profile to look natural, to avoid incurring in anti-spam penalties.
If you are under the impression the two things were antithetic, you are correct. Balance is the key.

This report groups links by anchor text, and provides a pie chart to show at a glance their distribution.

Links by root domain

Examples of root domain, also called "naked domain" or "main domain", are example.com or example.co.uk or any other first/second level domain you can register from a registration authority, without the "www." or any other subdomain part.
Differently from subdomains, root domains are registered and administered by a distinct legal entity (e.g. a person, a company...).
Hostnames like www.example.com and blog.example.com have the same root domain example.com and are administered by the same entity.

A strong backlink profile has backlinks from diversified root domains, the more the better.
Every spontaneous link is appreciated, but having all backlinks from one or few root domains is not comparable to having the same amount of backlinks from a lot of distinct root domains: many backlinks all from the same root domain are like a single person highly recommending you. This often indicates links placed in a shared content part like a footer or a sidebar, or a banner, while the best backlinks are content links.
Of course, looking only at the root domains number does not tell the full story, you want to see their names: sometimes is better having backlinks from fewer root domains, if they are well-known authoritative sites, instead of many rubbish domains bought wholesale from the same spammer. Visual SEO Studio lets you check them all.

This report groups links by root domain, and provides a pie chart to show at a glance their distribution.

Links by hostname

Examples of host name are example.com, www.example.com, blog.example.com or example.co.uk; basically it the domain name.
The list of all hostnames includes both root domains and subdomains, whatever is found in the crawled URLs.
Keep in mind that subdomains are largely treated as subfolders, with some exceptions (it depends on who is registered to administer them, read Subdomains and SEO to know more about how search engines treat them).

This report groups links by hostname, and provides a pie chart to show at a glance their distribution.

Matching pages

This report lists all pages where the program did find links matching the given search criteria.
The list can be export to Excel/CSV or opened as a crawl session subset in Tabular View for further details.

Non-matching pages

This report lists all pages where the program did NOT find links matching the given search criteria.
The list can be export to Excel/CSV or opened as a crawl session subset in Tabular View for further details.

When you are auditing a backlink profile, for example using a crawl session created with the Crawl URL List function visiting all URLs of backlink pages exported from Google Search Console, if the link is not found it could mean it was removed from the web page (unless the crawled page were truncated before the link definition, in case use a higher maximum page size threshold).
This is an important piece of information for those who paid for backlinks.