Once I year, I have to prepare myself for the arduous process of running a full link audit on my site. Is it fun? Not by any stretch of the imagination, but it is very important nonetheless and helps shape my link building campaign for the coming year. Conducting a full link audit on all of my sites (including my company site and external blogs) is a very time consuming process, but it’s imperative that it gets done. The same is true for you and your websites.

First off, conducting a full link audit means that not only do I gather the data on how many links my sites have, but I also visit each and every one of those links and categorize them. You should visit all of the inbound links your site has because it is the only way you’ll be able to see just what kind of link it is. Is it a blog comment, article link, press release link or other purposeful link building tactic? Or is it a natural link, like someone quoting one of your blog posts or republishing a Facebook link. By visiting each link you’ll get a better idea of how well your link building campaign is progressing. If you’ve kept track of all the places you tried to get a link over the year, you’ll be able to see which ones went live and which ones did not.

Visiting each of the links in your link portfolio can also give you a good idea of where the holes are in your link building campaign and where there is room for growth. Do you rely too heavily on one type of link? This puts your website in a vulnerable position. For instance, a few years ago link exchanges were a viable form of link building until Google declared them black hat. Sites that were heavily involved in link building saw a majority of their link portfolios go up in smoke and their SEO suffered. I’ve said time and time again how important it is that you take a diversified approach to your link building, and visiting each of the links in your link portfolio really shows how well you have been doing with that.

Running a full link audit also means checking in on the competition. If you feel like you did everything right with your SEO in 2011 and just can’t beat the competition, it may be that they have a stronger link portfolio. Do they simply have more quality links than you? Are they being more aggressive with their link building campaign? How much are they augmenting traditional link building with social signals? All of these factors and more can be uncovered when you run a full link audit.

Depending on how long you have actively been link building, you might have a lot of links to get through. There is no rule saying it all needs to get done at once. If you would rather spread it out, try getting through a few hundred links each week and slowly chip away at the project.