Building a successful online business requires more than great content; it demands a strong website that stands out against the competition. A key method for achieving this is conducting a backlink audit using Semrush, a tool that has been essential in my journey as a self-taught entrepreneur.

From growing my website from 0 to over 100,000 monthly visitors, I’ve learned that a thorough backlink audit is crucial. This process identifies high-quality backlinks, eliminates harmful ones, and boosts overall SEO performance. Since backlinks are among Google’s top 3 ranking factors, these steps can significantly improve your website’s position.

Here, I’ll share my step-by-step process for a backlink audit, guiding you through the techniques I used to enhance my site’s presence. By following this guide, you’ll gain the tools and insights to optimize your backlink profile and drive substantial traffic to your online business.

Step 1: Identify Your Competitors

Semrush Backlink Analytics tool for comparing multiple competitor domains.

The first step in a backlink audit is to identify your competitors. Think of it as choosing your rivals in a friendly race. For demonstration, I selected two websites to act as my competitors. In Semrush, navigate to the Backlink Analytics tool. Here, you can enter up to 5 competitor domains. This gives you a broad view of where you stand.

Practical Tip:

  • Tool to Use: Semrush Backlink Analytics
  • Action: Input competitor domains
  • Goal: Compare your backlink profile against top competitors

Step 2: Analyze Authority Scores

Authority Scores view in Semrush when analyzing competitors.

Authority scores are like the street cred of websites. They tell you how trustworthy and influential a site is. Unsurprisingly, my new website ranked the lowest on this website authority checker. However, with perseverance, your score will increase gradually.

Key Metrics to Check:

  • Authority Score: Indicator of domain strength
  • Referring Domains: Total number of unique domains linking back
  • Organic Traffic: Insight into site performance

Step 3: Compare Referring Domains

Comparing Referring Domains view in Semrush for backlink audit.

This is where the rubber meets the road. One of my competitors, True North Social, boasted 3,000 referring domains and almost 10,000 monthly visits. Clearly, they were the leader of the pack. But remember, quality often trumps quantity in backlinks.


  • True North Social: 3,000 referring domains, 10,000 monthly visits
  • Quality vs Quantity: Focus on high-quality links rather than sheer numbers

Step 4: Evaluate Link Attributes

Link Attributes view in Semrush for backlinks audit.

Understanding link attributes, such as followed and nofollowed links, is crucial. Surprisingly, my competitors had a similar distribution of link attributes, which suggested a balanced backlink profile.

Key Attributes:

  • Followed Links: Pass on SEO value
  • Nofollowed Links: Do not pass on SEO value but can drive traffic

Step 5: Track Trends in Referring Domains

Comparing Referring Domains view in Semrush for backlink audit.

Backlink trends can reveal a lot about your competitors’ strategies. For example, my domain’s blue line indicated a spike in March 2024, showing a more aggressive link-building strategy. Monitoring these trends helps you adjust your strategies accordingly.

What to Watch For:

  • Spike in Backlinks: Indicates aggressive link-building
  • Consistency: Regular backlink growth is better than sudden spikes

Step 6: Assess Referring Domains by Authority Score

Backlink Audit by comparing Referring Domains by Authority Score in Semrush.

High authority backlinks are gold. For instance, True North Social had 14 backlinks from domains with an authority score above 80. This is where quality shines over quantity. My weaker competitor, Cornerstone DM, had just one high authority link.

Focus Points:

  • High Authority Domains: Aim for links from sites with high authority
  • Competitive Analysis: Learn from both strong and weak competitors

Step 7: Build Your Backlink Strategy

Finally, don’t get bogged down by the numbers. If True North Social has 3,000 backlinks, it doesn’t mean you need as many. Often, a few hundred high-quality backlinks can do the trick. Many links are from insignificant sources like business directories or social media sites that don’t significantly impact rankings.

Strategy Tips:

  • High-Quality Links: Focus on relevance and authority
  • Diversified Link Sources: Avoid reliance on one type of site
  • Competitive but Realistic Goals: Aim for a manageable number of high-quality links


Conducting a backlink audit with Semrush isn’t just about numbers; it’s about strategy and insight. As you delve into your backlink profile and that of your competitors, you’ll uncover actionable insights that can significantly impact your SEO efforts.

To make your backlink audit even more effective, I recommend using Semrush’s comprehensive tools. And here’s a bonus: through my partnership with Semrush, you can access a 14-day pro trial for free. This gives you ample time to dig deep into your backlink strategy and start making impactful changes.

If you find Semrush as beneficial as I do, consider upgrading to a paid plan. By using my affiliate link, you’ll support my work, and I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Key Takeaways:

  • Backlink Audit: Essential for understanding competitive landscape
  • Semrush: Powerful tool for in-depth analysis
  • Quality Over Quantity: Focus on high-authority, relevant backlinks

Start your backlink audit today and watch your website climb the ranks! If you’re ready to take the plunge, grab your 14-day Semrush PRO trial and get started.

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