You come up with a business concept and once you have a name for the business you register an accompanying domain name. In this case the link history may not be an issue since the SEO and link building would have been in your control from day one. The rules change when you purchase a pre-existing domain and redirect it to your site. When you do this you don’t just acquire the domain but all the history that comes with it. That’s when link history becomes your business.
A link audit and a thorough analysis of your anchor texts are necessary if you’ve bit hit by the Penguin update. This update was designed to penalize sites that resorted to webspam in a bid to gain an unfair advantage in the SERPs. Some bad practices included building links from unrelated sites and link networks, no diversity in the anchor texts and linking only to a few pages on a website. The fact that these practices were the norm provides good reason to do a link audit before you purchase a pre-existing domain. Once you acquire it you’re the one responsible for its history.
Purchasing a pre-existing domain is much like purchasing a pre-owned car. You might not know what the previous owner did but you need to do your best to find out as much as you can. One you get the car whatever you missed now becomes your responsibility to fix. The same rules apply when you purchase a pre-existing domain.
A link audit to see the site’s link history is just like having a mechanic go over your used car before you purchase it. Go to the individual links to the site and try to determine if it is hurting or helping the site’s SEO. Obvious red flags should be handled as soon as possible to avoid any search engine penalties to the domain.
Just as it is important to check up on the links of a pre-existing domain it is just as important to check up on the activities undertaken by any SEO consultant that you hire. How are they building links to your site? Where are the links coming from? Are they using practices that will lead to penalties down the road? These are important questions that you’ll need the answers to. Ask the consultant to send you a monthly report of links built and check them to identify any links that might get your site penalized. In the end any links to your site is solely your responsibility so make it your duty to audit and know what’s going on.