8 Reasons to Check Links and Rankings Beyond SEO


Over the years the Web has become more and more fragmented. In reality there are no real “webmasters” taking care of everything related to a website like in the early days anymore. We just use the term because it simplifies the writing process.

On the one hand there are the search engine optimizers, on the other hand there are the web developers. There are the writers and graphic designers. There are numerous other professions affecting the Web by now.

Many professionals just stay within their closely shielded realm.

Search engine optimizers tend to over optimize so that they ostracize potential visitors. Web developers care more for the code than the outcome of it sometimes. Writers get angry when they have to consider keywords for Google because they prefer juicy headlines instead. Graphic designers want to create impressive designs that border on works of art not considering the actual implementation on the Web.

When it comes to analytics many webmasters and business owners don’t care for so called SEO metrics like links and rankings.

They assume they are only about SEO. There are pretty valid reasons to check your incoming links and even Google rankings beyond just trying to pinpoint SEO progress.

Every member of a team should watch the analytics data that is available to site owners these days.

Yes not only SEOs but also web developers, writers and graphic designers should check key metrics including backlinks and rankings on Google. By checking so called SEO metrics Web professionals can get the bigger picture why their work matters and how.



For example a graphic designer who has provided some images and graphics for the latest relaunch might want to know that some Web design galleries have picked up the new site. The writer want to witness how the less juice but more down to earth headline has resulted in a top ranking for a quite popular search query.

Rankings and incoming links are not only about SEO in the strict sense most people outside the SEO industry apply to it.

You can tap these metrics to find out about:


customer demand

Both inbound links and Google rankings can tell you a whole lot about customer demand. For example you will get a lot of links from Pinterest on items that look attractive. Or bloggers link to products that are somewhat weird.

When checking Google rankings for so called long tail queries with three or more words you will notice that people are looking for very specific things you often do not offer yet but could with a little effort.

Customer demand is probably the most important thing to monitor and rankings plus backlinks can help you to determine it. It’s often astounding what you rank for accidentally and who links to you organically.

Questions are the best indicators of customer demand. They show what problems people are dealing with. You just have to provide solutions, be it products or informational content.


potential supporters

People who are linking to you once are likely to do it again. You just have to look up what they like enough to link to any who they are. Then you need to follow them and tip them off once you provide more of the same they have liked before.

Why reach out to influencers who have never heard of you before when you don’t even approach those who know and appreciate you already?

Similarly you can look up with whom you “compete” on Google. Above you will often see the giants of Google, Wikipedia, Amazon, Ebay or AOL but at the same time some small time bloggers and publishers like you you can work together.


technical issues

When looking up what I actually rank for I often discover potential technical issues. For example WordPress by default will link your images to themselves displaying them without any content on an extra page. So when you start with ranking with an empty page just displaying an image your bandwidth is most likely wasted.

Similarly you will sometimes end up ranking with something completely off topic where you might consider removing the content altogether. That’s not a big issue  though.

Checking backlinks can often prevent from people seeing a 404 “not found” error. In case you haven’t kept your old URLs when relaunching or when you have deleted some oudtaed items many sites will link to long gone or moved content. Technically that’s not a 404 you can find with an internal link checker.



As search engines like Google still don’t know what they are searching for or understand what they find there are often misunderstandings. You can rank for something that has an ambiguous meaning or is just a metaphor. For example I have been ranking for many crime and even suicide related queries on Google after I used the words “crimes” and “suicide” metaphorically in my blog posts.

When someone links to you it’s not always of admiration.

Many people still link to other websites by pointing out how awful or idiotic they are. In the past I have been even forced to block visitors from certain sites who assumed that SEO = SPAM and were trying to attack me verbally. These people who look at my site and vandalize it in the comments until I’ve found the source by checking my backlinks.


content theft (images and scrapers)

Ranking in Google image search is not advantageous these days. Ever since they have stopped just framing your images they simply repurpose them on Google. So most of the traffic stays on Google and you just get your images stolen by those who want to use them.

I even see many people pinning images on Pinterest right from Google search results so that your site doesn’t get the credit at all.

Likewise it can be helpful to find out whether scrapers (automated content thieves who republish your content) rank for you instead of you. Google often mistakes stolen content for the original. Checking your backlinks will also allow you to identify some scrapers as they often forget to remove internal so that they invariably link back to you.


market changes

The market changes all the time. Take electronics for example. One year netbooks were hugely popular and the next year they were almost forgotten when the tablet frenzy replaced the demand. I could monitor this change closely while checking my rankings for netbook related phrases in combination with tablet oriented backlinks. I used to write for a client blog about design, gadgets and technology trends at that time.

The hype moved from netbooks to tablets literally happened really over night.

At first the iPad killed off netbooks and other tablets and then a new kind of competition established itself with Android tablets. How exactly did I notice? At first the traffic from netbook related queries started to dwindle despite stable rankings. Then mentions of my tablet related posts got the backlinks instead of the formerly popular netbook articles.


outdated content

Do you publish for more than a few months? Then you have outdated content on your site. Unless many people view it it’s not a problem at first.

Quite often you will rank with outdated content, sometimes already not even displaying properly

as it has been devised before the latest relaunch for example. Articles from years ago with broken links or by now invalid information may get recommended by Google to new visitors who then assume that your site is low value or downright broken.

The same thing even happens with backlinks. People can reach an obsolete page via a link every day without you noticing, driving your bounce rate high.


(not provided) alternatives

For many years we have been accustomed to be able to easily find out what people have search for to land on our sites. No more. Now that data is (not provided) according to Google Analytics or simply encrypted. Advertisers can buy that data back from Google but that’s not the ideal alternative IMHO. One alternative to be able to know what people are searching for is of course checking rankings.

Combined with the reports showing which pages get the most visits from Google you can determine your best performing keywords based on ranking reports.

Checking incoming links can help here too. I often get so called “second tier” traffic from third party sites linking to me which rank in Google on their part. This way UI can see which keywords are so popular that even getting a link among many on a ranking site results in significant traffic flow.


How to Check?
How can you check incoming links and monitor search rankings? You can use SERPs.com tools among others.


More Elsewhere:

  1. How to Check Your Backlinks
  2. Why You Should Stop Using Google Rankings as Your Primary SEO KPI
  3. SEO Rankings Tanking? Check For Bad Incoming Links
  4. Is Google Webmaster Tools Ranking Data Useful for Tracking Your SEO Campaigns?
  5. Search Engine Rankings and SEO – A Complete Guide
  6. Competitive Link Analysis – Outsmarting Your Opponents
  7. How To Spot Your Potentially Harmful Links


* Creative Commons image by Ken Tegardin.