The Ultimate Guide to Using LinkRisk
If you are working in digital marketing and haven’t come across LinkRisk yet, I would strongly recommend that you have a read over this article and get yourself signed up for a demo.
I must start this post by saying that I am in no way affiliated with LinkRisk; in fact, we (Koozai) pay to use their service. I wanted to write this post for three reasons:
- To have the ability to use the tool fully from start to finish to really get to grips with all the features
- To be able to share my thoughts and processes with you (the reader) to hopefully help you to get the most out of the tool if you decide after reading that you want to give it a try
- To help those who already use it maybe uncover some of the features that they might not have come across yet
We have been using it at Koozai since it first came out a couple of years ago and the tool has gone from strength to strength; adapting to what the industry needs in a tool. The team at LinkRisk welcome any feedback from their customers and act on ideas that are put across to them which is extremely valuable in a service provider.
As I mentioned above, I have put together this post (it isn’t a short one) to help you understand what LinkRisk is and how you can and should be using it for your website.
Already aware of or using LinkRisk? You can jump straight to guides on the individual modules by clicking on one of the links below.
If not, I will start by telling you a little more about the LinkRisk platform before going into detail on what each module can do for you.
Let’s get cracking….
So what is LinkRisk?
LinkRisk is a data intelligence and workflow platform for marketers. It is a tool that can be used by various roles in digital:
- SEO Execs
- Content Execs
- Brand Managers
- Affiliate Managers
- Online Business Owners
- Many more……
There are five core modules that make up the LinkRisk Suite. I will go into each of these in detail a little later on in the post but essentially, what LinkRisk have done is put together a workflow that allows you to Audit, Maintain and Grow your Link Profile in a natural way. It is a collaboration tool for teams who are working on the same account, making it easy to manage a link profile without duplicating up on work.
It pulls link data from multiple sources such as MajesticSEO, ahrefs and Google Webmaster Tools (which ever platforms you link up) and de-dupes it so you have a working list of links to analyse.
LinkRisk can also be used as a tool to analyse your competitors link profile and keep track of their LinkRisk score overtime.
Why should I care?
With the ever changing Google algorithms, if you own a website, you should be using a tool like LinkRisk to manage your link profile to try and future proof your website from search engine updates.
There are lots of different tools out there that help you to analyse your link profile but I haven’t come across any other tool that pulls everything together in one central place so you can really manage it and grow it at the same time.
LinkRisk isn’t just designed for link profiles either. The Peek app is used by affiliate managers and networks to help them in publisher discovery. You can look for sites within a niche and exclude any sites that do not have an existing affiliate relationship. Its also possible to target a specific network so you can say “show me all the food bloggers who are working with network A but not network B”
When should I start using it?
I wouldn’t wait until you have been hit by a penalty, you should keep on top of your link profile now and clean up links that could potentially harm your site in the future. Working on cleaning up a link profile can be time consuming (number of links dependant) but putting the work in now is a much better strategy than waiting to be hit.
LinkRisk isn’t just about auditing your existing link profile, you can use the different apps for a variety of things. For example, Peek (we will look at this in detail later) can be used to aid an outreach campaign or to uncover new affiliates for a network. Monitor can be used to make sure your good links remain present and don’t get dropped. Rankings, well rankings does just that. It tracks rankings on Google for your core keywords.
What will it cost me?
There are eight different plans available to users plus a custom plan. Four of the standard plans are shown below. Pricing starts from £149 per month.
So, now I know what it is, how do I actually use it?
The next 5,000 or so words will walk you through each of the modules and give you steps on how to use them. I have looked at LinkRisk from an SEO or Website Owners perspective looking to audit, maintain and grow my link profile. The screenshots used throughout are for the purposes of this exercise so the data will not match up as I am going through.
If you are already familiar with LinkRisk and just want to find out more about a specific area of the tool, use the below links to quickly navigate to your area of interest.
When you first login to LinkRisk, it will ask you to create a profile for the first website you want to analyse. Enter the details and hit continue. I mentioned at the start of this post that you can also use LinkRisk to analyse competitors link profiles; if you are using it for that, I would recommend that you create separate profiles in LinkRisk for each site you are looking to track.
You will be taken to the ‘Home’ screen where you can easily navigate to each of the different modules that LinkRisk has to offer.
Once you have been using LinkRisk and have worked your way through all the different apps, the Home screen will be a very interesting place for you to keep an eye on your sites performance. The below screenshot is what your Home screen could look like once you have started your work across each app.
The first logical module to use is Audit so I will walk you through using this providing you with insight into some of the features available to you.
There are five sources in which you can add data to LinkRisk:
- Upload a file
- Google Webmaster Tools
- Paste Links
I would recommend that you use as many sources as you have access to as all link tools tend to have access to different links. If you would like to link Google Webmaster Tools to your account, you will need to add ‘wmt at linkrisk dot com’ (obviously as an actual email address) to GWT with restricted access. LinkRisk will de-dupe all the links from each source so you only end up with one list taken from all sources.
When importing from Majestic, Webmaster Tools or ahrefs, you will be asked if you want to import new links automatically each day. Unless you have another way of keeping on top of new links, I would strongly recommend this feature. You only use one credit for each link found.
Rescanning Link Profile
The next screen you will see will ask you about rescanning the link profile for the site. How you answer this will depend on a couple of things:
- How many credits you have in your LinkRisk account: Each time you rescan the link profile, you will use credits to do this (one credit for every link rescanned)
- How frequently you will be making changes to your link profile: Removing links rather than adding links as this gets done with the auto imports
For me personally, I would rather rescan my link profile when I am ready so I would leave it blank.
Adding Additional Domains
You also have the option to add Additional Domains that are associated with your domain. This wasn’t entirely clear from the screen but if you have any redirects set up for your domain, you should include them here. In the example below, I have included http://www.stateofsearch.com because this redirects into http://www.stateofdigital.com. By doing this you are telling LinkRisk that it is a known redirect so that it doesn’t raise any alarm bells within the system.
Once you have configured all your data, you then need to wait for LinkRisk to analyse everything and pull it into the Audit tool. Depending on the size of your link profile this could take anywhere from 2 minutes to a couple of hours.
Don’t worry if you get through the above process and realise that you missed something as you can change everything from within the Profile Control Panel or Add Additional Data section on each profile.
From within here you can update all of the above plus do a couple of extra things too:
The first step before you audit the links is to upload your existing Disavow file (if you have one). This is done within the Profile Control Panel. By doing so, you can make sure that the work you do in LinkRisk gets added to your disavow file which you can keep updated at all times.
Once LinkRisk have done all their analysis, it will be displayed to you in a very simple format.
You can tab through the graphs displaying your LinkRisk, Anchor Text and TLDs.
The algorithm improves the more data is fed into it so the more websites using LinkRisk the better it will become! From looking at how it scores the links, it isn’t far off in a lot of examples.
The links are colour coded into five categories. I have explained each of them in the table below. LinkRisk gives each link a score of between 0 and 1,000 (0 being excellent and 1,000 being the worst possible link).
Filtering the Link Profile
Scrolling down in the Audit section you will see a list of all the links pointing to your site with some information associated with each link. You can sort links by any of the columns.
If you were not using a tool like LinkRisk to check your link profile, you would end us sifting through an Excel spreadsheet full of data making the task a lot more time consuming than it needs to be.
The most effective way to use this area of the tool is by making use of the filtering options. Just above the table of links, you will see the filters. You can filter by lots of different methods making what was once a long list of links come down to a more manageable size to work through.
If you want to apply a simple one stage filter then the normal filtering system will work for you but to really drill down the data you are working with, the advanced filtering works best as you can filter by multiple metrics.
In the example below I have asked to be returned all links that have a LinkRisk score of Bad that are from forums.
Another nice feature that has been added is the Reports. You can drill down in a similar way to filtering but with pre-defined reports. The data is displayed in an easy to read format as it categorises all the links into sections.
Take a look at the report generated from clicking on ‘Follow / No Follow’. You can then drill down into either section and continue your analysis from there. For each of the Reports, you can also see the data in a doughnut graph.
Adding Links to Lists
Once you have your filtered down list of links either using filtering or reports, you can use the ‘Lists’ feature to put your links into certain categories. You can either add the URL or the Domain, LinkRisk will give the option when you select any of the options below.
I would start with the Bad and Suspect links and add all those to the ‘Investigate’ list unless you are confident from looking at the URL to say that you want it to be removed, approved or disavowed.
This will add your link to your ‘Approved’ List. You should add links here that you want to keep and make sure they don’t get removed.
This will add the link to your ‘Investigate’ List. No algorithm is as good as the human brain so it is important that you also do manual checks on links to make sure you are making the right decision. Adding links to the ‘Investigate’ list allows you to use the ‘Investigate’ module quickly and easily. We will come onto look at that module in more detail later.
This will add the link into your ‘Remove’ list. Building up your list of ‘Remove’ links makes it very simple when you get to the stage of needing to go through and contact the webmaster for the site to get the link removed.
This will add the link to your ‘Dissavow’ List that you can export from LinkRisk and upload to your site.
This will add the link to your ‘Ignore’ List. This is for links that don’t require any real attention at the moment. If you add a link to the ‘Ignore’ list, the LinkRisk score will be returned to 500 (Neutral).
Video Guide for using Audit
There is a handy 4 minute video that gives you a quick demo of Audit here:
Once you have gone through and categorised your links into either Approved, Investigate or Remove, the next step is to begin your investigation and the obvious place to go for this is the Investigate module.
Importing Links from Audit to Investigate
When you click through you will see the below screen. For the purpose of this exercise you should tick ‘Import from Audit’ and select your Investigate list.
The links you sent to the Investigate list will appear in a table format similar to the below.
Defining the Tags
Before you get started, it is important to define the tags so they match how your business works. LinkRisk has pre-defined the tags based on what most would use but it is down to you to decide if this is right for you. If you have a team of people working on the same account, you need to ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands the tagging system you have set up.
Each time you use Investigate for a new set of links, you can set up new tags which is a very handy feature which didn’t jump out at me. You will see why this is a good feature a little later on when we start looking at using the Peek module.
Begin the Investigation
As soon as this is setup, you can hit Begin Investigation and start going through each of the links directly within the tool. A separate tab will open up so you can easily navigate through each of the links and look at the page to decide on the appropriate action.
One of the options that isn’t shown in the screenshot below is (r). If you hit R on your keyboard, it will open the link in a new tab away from the LinkRisk platform. Be careful though as some sites may have malware; LinkRisk take the risk for you on this as they open the sites within their platform and show you a cached version so as not to harm their customers.
The progress bar at the top tells you how far along you are in your investigation. I spoke to Paul Madden from LinkRisk and he said that the most links an individual person has investigated in one hour using the tool is 2,350!
NOTE: There is no way of investigating just one link. The idea is that you use Investigate to analyse sites on mass. When you start working in Investigate, I would suggest that you get through all the sites (you can stop and start) before you import any other links into investigate.
After the Investigation
Once you have gone through all the links, you will be returned to the main Investigate page where you have your original table of links but they will now be tagged based on the work you have just done. You can then filter these so you can see links with a certain tag and act on them accordingly.
For example, the screenshot below you can see all the links that I have added to my Disavow list.
Multiple people can use investigate on the same account and they will be served individual pages with all different links to investigate. You can also see the email address or name of the person that investigated the link. This is an awesome feature if you have a team of people working on auditing the same link profile.
Exporting from Investigate
On completion of your investigation, it is time to import the analysis back into Audit. Click on Export and you will see two options:
- Export to CSV
- Export to Audit
You can set this up so that each time you mark a link in Investigate, it will automatically export the data back into Audit or you can just do it manually. For ease I would just do it automatically unless there are multiple people working on the account and you want to review their work first.
Back in Audit, you can continue further analysis and filtering should you need to do more.
Putting Your Lists into Action
If that part is complete, this is when you need to start thinking about actually putting your lists into action. For example, the links that you have marked as Remove or Nofollow will need to be contacted to make that happen. We will come onto speak about Peak (another module within LinkRisk) a little later which will help make this process a lot quicker.
When you click on Export within the Profile Control Panel (note: you will not see Export in the list if you are importing or scanning any links) the screenshot below will appear. You can see the predefined lists that are already set up making it nice and easy to see what can be exported and in what format. There is also the option to download all your links which will include the list you have added them to if you prefer to play around with data in Excel.
Create Disavow List
At the bottom of that screen, you will see the Google Disavow File button. By clicking on this, all the links that you marked as disavow in Audit will be added to a text file that you can upload easily to Google Webmaster Tools.
Exports are not always instant; they will appear in the Exports section in the sidebar on the left.
Links that have been added to your Approved List at the Audit stage will most likely be links that you care about and would not necessarily want to lose. For example, let’s say that you had an awesome link from the BBC, you would not want this link to change in any way and you definitely would not want to lose it.
On the flip side, you might also like to keep track of the links on your Remove list to check when sites act on your request after you have outreached to them.
This is where Monitor comes in. LinkRisk have added this module so that you get alerted if one of your Approved or Remove links change.
You can use Monitor to tell you if any of the below happens to a link you are monitoring:
- The link rel changes
- The link anchor changes
- The link id changes
- The link class changes
- The link becomes active / inactive
- The Link To (destination) changes
When you first navigate to the Monitor module, you will see the screen below. You can select what you want to be alerted too but I would imagine you would want to keep all the options selected.
You can either paste the links you want to monitor in stage 3 or you can import your Approved or Remove lists from Audit. One or both options need to be used in order for Monitor to work. Leaving them blank doesn’t mean that LinkRisk will monitor all your links. The links will be checked automatically once a day.
LinkRisk will then rescan all the links that you have asked it to before returning a screen like the below to you. From within here you can use the filters to drill down into each link that has changed and investigate what has happened and what you can do to get the link back.
You can filter by the following options:
In the table, you will be able to see why a link has changed by looking down the Changes column. Different colour circles are representative of a different type of change.
Moving on from Monitor, the next logical step is for us to look at Peek. Peek was designed to help you rebuild your link profile with quality links after you have completed the audit and removal stage. It helps website owners or marketers to identify websites for content placement or affiliate opportunities and gives you the contact details for the website making outreach a lot faster. Peek can also be used to aid with link removal in the previous process as you can find the contact details for the site you need to reach out to in order to get the link removed.
LinkRisk have built up a huge database over the past few years and using Peek you can drill through a minefield of websites and really hone in on the ones that are most important for you in your outreach work. You can use Peek to find sites about a specific Keyword set, find people and what they are connected to via Email Address or find all the sites that are on a particular server by IP.
The keyword search does just that. Search for sites based on the keywords that you add into the search.
In the example below, I have looked for sites related to ‘Pizza’, ‘Takeaway’ or ‘Fast Food’. The first thing you will notice is a word cloud at the top of the page which you can use to drill your site list down even further. If one of the words in the cloud seems relevant simply click it and add it to your search.
Once you have got all your keywords in place, it is time to take a look at the list of results that have been found for you. The filtering is brilliant in Peek; you can really drill down using the advanced filters to get to the websites that you are interested in looking at without doing a huge amount of work first. LinkRisk has done this work up front for you.
Filtering in Peek
Here are the things that you can filter by:
You can save your filter so that when you come back into Peek you can use the filters again without having to start from scratch each time. Name them sensibly though; I would recommend including the core search term in the name along with what filters you have selected.
In the example filter below, I have asked LinkRisk to display all sites that have a contact method and an RSS feed who are based in the UK.
List of Sites
I have been returned 431 results of which I can either export and view the data in a csv file or I can just view each result from within LinkRisk. Exporting data does cost you credits; one for each domain exported but you do get the data for each site in an easy to use spreadsheet if you do it this way. You might want to drill down using some more of the filters to make this list more targeted but for the purposes of this, I am leaving as it is.
Each column can have a sort applied so you can view the data that is most important for you. The Social column is interesting and each of the icons has a hover over so you can see what they all mean. From this column you can see whether the site has a:
- Twitter Account
- Facebook Account
- Google+ Account
- Email Address
- Contact Page
- What keyword tags are relevant to the site
The best way to use Peek in my opinion, is to go through each of the domains listed within the interface and look at the data associated with each. The screenshots below show you the information that you can find for each site listed.
The first thing you will see is all the contact details that Peek has found for the site. Anything left blank is obviously not available on the site.
You can see some very top level stats for the domain which can be helpful depending on the reason that you are using Peek.
LinkRisk pulls relevant keywords and tags into this area to give you a quick overview of what the site is about.
LinkRisk are aware of when a site is linking out to an affiliate of some description. They track around 60 – 70 affiliate networks and in turn, can pull in details about any affiliate networks a site is featured on.
If a site offers advertising in the traditional sense (EG banner ads), then they often have a page or section on the site dedicated to telling you about it. As you can see from the screenshot below, this is true for Great Days Out.
From here you can see all the sites Meta details including title, description, keywords, generator, robots and RSS. This is for the main Home page of the site.
Social Media Details
The numbers you see here are not based on the following the site has on Twitter, Google+ or Facebook. It is based on how many times that root domain URL has been shared on the platform.
The numbers are likely to be bigger than what the accounts will have as LinkRisk is looking for reach rather than just numbered.
This graphs gives you a snapshot on the traffic from Google.com on SEMrush. LinkRisk have said that they are working on this particular area to make the graph and data more beneficial to their users so I will be interested to see what they do with this.
Where LinkRisk is linked with Majestic data, you can see a snapshot of information pulled directly from there. In the example below you can see where a site is placed within the Majestic Million, the Citation and Trust Flow and the number of Backlinks. You can also see the topics that the site is listed in.
This table will show you the sites Adsense and Analytics IDs if they are present. This is very helpful to see if they have any other sites using the same IDs. In the example below you can see 11 instances of the same Google Analytics ID.
Clicking through on the number will take you to a new screen with an advanced filter showing you all sites using that ID. The likelihood here is that all sites are owned / run by the same person so you can save yourself time and reach out to the owner for multiple sites (if relevant).
You can use this section to find out more information about the domain registrant. Where there are multiple instances on any of the details, you can drill down to find out the details for the other sites managed by the same registrant. In the example below, you can see thousands of sites owned by the same registrant which would indicate that the hosting provider registers and controls them all.
In the second example, you can see that this is more likely going to be an individual that has registered the site.
The hosting details section is good to see whether a site is on a shared server and if so, what other sites are hosted on that server. Additionally, you can also see how many sites are using the same IP address. In the example below, you can see 1,188 instances on the same IP and 25,063 instances on the same C Class! You can click through to drill down on this data further by clicking on the number within the Instances column.
If there is a blog present on the site you are reviewing, you can see in this section a few of the latest posts that have been published.
This is one of the most interesting features from within Peek for me. If you have found a site that you like the look of, you will want to scroll down to the bottom of the page and look at what is returned within Similar Sites. The LinkRisk algorithm looks at what makes up the site you are looking at and returns others that are of a similar makeup. This can speed up your research and outreach phase massively as you will have a list of sites here that could potentially very interesting for you.
Marking Sites as Favourites
As you are going through the sites, you can mark the ones you want review in more detail as favourites by clicking on the Star next to the domain.
The following two features will only appear once you have favourited a domain.
Use this area to write notes about the site. This is not visible anywhere externally, just within LinkRisk. If you have different people working with you that come across the same site in their research, you can see the shared notes which acts as a kind of internal CRM system.
You should use this to add tags that are relevant to the domain you are looking at. This will prove invaluable once you get to the end of your research in Peek. If you have different people working with you that come across the same site in their research, you can each see the shared tags.
Import to Investigate or Export to CSV
Once you have a list of all your favourited sites and added your notes and tags, you will either need to return to Investigate and import the links from Peek so you can perform the full analysis there or export the links to csv.
Export links by added an advanced filter in Peek which only shows you the domains you have favourited (see below).
If you are going to pull the links back into Investigate, I would recommend that you make sure your previous analysis from Audit has been completed. I will explain why shortly.
Back in Investigate, you can import the links from Peek by ticking the box and selecting which ones you would like to import (All favourites or certain tags).
Editing Investigate Tags for Peek
Once the links have been imported, you can change the Tags within Investigate to match the work that you are doing. Historic tags for links you have already investigated will not be changed. For example, when you use Investigate from Audit, your tags are more likely going to be geared around disavow, approve, remove etc but doing this from Peek, they will be different.
Tags for Peek could look like:
Export to CSV or back to Peek
On completion of the work in Investigate, you can either export the data into a CSV or you can export it back into Peek where the tags you have added will be appended to the sites. Depending on what you are doing, exporting in both formats will most likely be needed so you can act upon the data and begin your outreach campaign.
Peek Email Search
The second method for using Peek is to search for a specific email address to find out more about that person. LinkRisk hold a lot of public data for individuals that will come in handy when you are doing outreach or just trying to find out more about a person.
Have a look at the screenshot below. All I entered was James Crawford’s email address and I got back a huge amount of data about him from his social profile usernames through to the different sites he is associated with.
Peek IP Search
The third and final way of using Peek is to search by IP or by domain to understand what other sites are on the same server or C Class. You can then drill down into each of these for further investigation.
For the search I did for www.koozai.com, I can see that there are 3 domains on the same IP and 94 on the same C Class.
Drilling down into the C Class information, I can look through to see the types of sites we have as neighbours. The one and only Russell Watson is hosted on the same server as Koozai
12 Minute Video Guide to Using Peek
If you want to watch a quick video guide on how to use Peek, you can click below.
Peek It Bookmarklet
We always come across sites that might be of interest to an outreach campaign on our travels. LinkRisk have created the Peek It Bookmarklet so you take look at a sites Peek data from wherever you are on the web.
The bookmarklet can be access here: https://peek.linkrisk.com/bookmarklet
When you click on the bookmarklet whilst on a site, the below screen will appear. You can see some nice top level information about the site and then you can choose to open the site in Peek for further analysis should you wish.
This is the last of the six modules and is a logical place to end as we have gone full circle on our link management campaign. Going back to the start of the process first we performed the audit, followed by the investigation which led us to conduct the link removal campaign. After that, we monitored the link profile to make sure the good ones stayed and the bad ones were actually removed. The next stage was moving onto the outreach campaign to push some good links back into the site to replace the bad ones we removed (Audit >> Investigate >> Monitor >> Peek). Rankings is there to help you keep track of the search engine positions for your important keywords; tracking the movement as you work hard to clean up your link profile and encourage new and better quality links.
Adding keywords to Rankings couldn’t be more straightforward. Simply add your keywords, select the location and choose whether you would like reports sent to you either Daily, Weekly, Monthly or Never.
Once you have added the keywords, depending on how many, LinkRisk should return the data to you within around 20 minutes or so.
You will be able to see the current Google ranking position for each keyword and this will begin to be plotted on the graph overtime as the data accumulates. Regardless of when you have said you want data reports, LinkRisk will check the ranking on a daily basis.
Within the Notifications section, you can ask LinkRisk to inform you via email instantly when:
- A ranking drops/gains from page one to page two
- A ranking drops from #1 or gains to #1
- A ranking drops/gains more than 10 places
The ranking data is displayed in a table as well as in a graph at the top of the page. LinkRisk give you a snapshot view of where your keywords are ranking within the top six boxes on the screen. You can see the number of keywords you are tracking, how many are in #1 position, how many are in #2 position, how many are on page one, how many are on page two and how many are on page 1 to 10.
If the graph is looking a little cluttered, you can simply click on the keywords next to the graph that you don’t want to see and the graph will recreate just containing those that you have left.
As with all areas within LinkRisk, you can export the data but this time, you can only export to CSV as there is no other app that would benefit from utilising this data.
So there you have it, my epic guide to using LinkRisk! At just over 6,000 words I do hope you have found it useful and I would love to hear your thoughts on the tool and whether there are any other ways you would recommend using it.
If you are not a customer of LinkRisk and would like to get a demo, you can get in touch with Gareth, Paul or Dom here.