Measuring Success of Link Building Campaigns:
7 Crucial KPI's to Use
Today, businesses like yours are looking for ways to grow their online presence. Of course, having an optimized and well-run website is the first step in building brand awareness. And don’t forget to nurture and feed your social media channels!
Every organization wants to tap into one of the best sources of growth online: organic traffic. And sure enough, there are many tricks of the trade when it comes to improving your SEO and moving up the SERP.
Link building is just one way in which to help increase and improve your organic traffic. While the concept may seem simple, there are many factors to consider when implementing a link-building strategy. With many types of marketing, there are requisite customer experience KPIs to monitor.
But link-building campaigns are a different type of animal. And successfully guiding the campaign requires metrics that help us think like the machines that rule the web. In this article, we will go over crucial metrics to consider when constructing your link-building campaign.
What Is Link Building?
Link building is a method of search engine optimization (SEO) that involves building inbound traffic via hyperlinks from other websites and web pages. As part of an SEO strategy, link building can demonstrate the relevance and credibility of your website from its association with similar and authoritative web pages.
The goal of search engines is to get the user to the most relevant and useful web page in regard to their query. A user may type in a query like “what does VoIP mean”. Link building is one of the strategies that could help a communication platform get to the top of that list.
Complex algorithms, that are constantly updated, can do this by looking at a large number of characteristics. And one of the factors analyzed is the number of links aimed at websites and their pages. For the example above, this means that a VoIP technology platform can boost its ranking through strategic link building.
By implementing link building into your SEO strategy, you should be able to see a large increase in organic traffic to your website. But this is something that takes a lot of planning and patience. Depending on the industry and how niche a market is, link building can take between 2 -12 months to have an effect. But once the search engines take notice, you can expect the visitors to increase exponentially over time!
Why Use Link Building?
When done with a well-implemented plan, Link Building has many benefits for businesses and organizations.
Increase Website Traffic
Every added inbound link on the web is another source of traffic and lead generation for your business. And whether it’s for sales or increased brand awareness, any business can benefit from a greater online presence. Link building can also work within a strategy of SEO for affiliate marketing.
Better Search Engine Rankings
Link building can indicate relevance and authority to search engine crawlers and algorithms which can only improve your rankings. If you want to get on that first page, you’ll need to build links until the cows come home.
Better Credibility and Reputation
This comes from a higher position in SERPs but also from inbound traffic directed to you by authoritative sources like news outlets and review sites. If you offer something like a voice over IP service, links on SaaS and business communication sites will help paint your brand with layers of authority and respect.
Having more links gives you more potential sources for leads and conversions. But the associated rise in perceived authority or credibility will also help you to gain higher quality leads. Always remember to have a schedule in place so you know exactly when to follow up on leads.
Networking within your niche
By building links with relevant websites and companies, you’ll be building bridges between your brands. This means there will be a likelihood of more partner marketing opportunities and other mutually beneficial relationships.
How to Measure the Success of Link Building
Because a link-building campaign requires a lot of time and effort, it’s important to know how to monitor it for success. Sure, you can just watch the amount of traffic and leads generated. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Unlike many types of business strategies, there’s no follow up email to find out why a link-building campaign is working or not. And most of the time, it will take several leaps up the rankings before you see a difference in traffic generation. This means we need to look at other metrics to keep the ship on course.
If you’re on a boat sailing across the Atlantic, how do you know you’re moving in the right direction? Do you just wait until you see land? Of course (pun intended) not! Sailors look to things like the stars and tradewinds. And then there’s always GPS.
But the point is, you can’t just wait around for the end result to see if you got things right. With that being said, today we will go over seven crucial KPIs you can use to help guide your campaign to link-building success. Let’s get started.
Domain authority, also known as domain strength, is a metric that depicts a value representing the total authority a domain has online. The most well know domain authority metric is developed by Moz and scored domains on a scale of 0-100 relative to all other domains.
This is calculated from several signals taken from the Moz crawler. The score is a predictor of how well a domain will perform in search results. You can view Moz DA score from the Linkody dashboard with plenty of other handy ranking and analysis to get stuck into.
By tracking your own website's domain authority, you can see how it changes as you grow your link-building campaign. This will be your first point of reference that all is well and going in the right direction. Make sure to build links within your industry. If you offer software by subscription, ensure you are targeting SaaS backlinks with good domain authority as part of your campaign.
Secondly, you should be using domain authority to validate your link-building targets. Work to place your links on websites with the highest authority scores. These include major websites for news, higher education, non-profit organizations, and industry leaders. For example, CNN or BBC News would have much higher domain authority than your local or niche news site.
Page authority is a similar metric to domain authority, albeit much more specific. In this case, the metric only applies to a single web page. This could mean something like a link to your website in a review or a top ten list on a website.
Page authority is another Moz metric based on a 100-point logarithmic scale. Because it’s logarithmic, this means every 10 points on the scale is another order of magnitude. Therefore, it’s far easier to go from a score of 20 to 30 than 80 to 90.
Page authority can be used similarly to domain authority. Use it to monitor your progress but also use it to better target your link-building campaign. Implement it to decide if specific web pages are worth your link-building efforts or how to allocate your link-building resources.
Google PageRank is a different metric from that of Page Authority. It is a simpler metric and is based on the number and quality of links pointing to a specific web page. And unlike page authority, it’s scored on a scale of 0-1, with 1 being the highest.
As Google crawlers index the web, they assign a PageRank score to every page. Since the internet is fluid and in constant change, this score is maintained and updated in real-time.
Track your PageRank scores for all the pages on your website that you can manage. Over time, the ones most relevant to your link-building campaign should be gradually heading towards the number 1 mark.
You can use a website like prcchecker.info to monitor Google PageRank. These metrics will help you turn insight into action and steer your campaign towards success.
Like all things with Google, the algorithms for PageRank continue to evolve. This means that we cannot be sure exactly how PageRank is calculated, but regardless, it still plays a big role in their overall search rankings.
When you’re reading an article like this one, you may notice underlined, and hyperlinked text. These words and phrases are what is known as anchor text. When web crawlers index the internet, they take into consideration the anchor text that points to a website.
This means that if you are getting inbound links with anchor text like “worst X product ever made” or “cheap and useless X” then those links may not be helping to increase your rankings.
It can also give Google an indication of the content being linked to a page like “premium coffee grinder” or “hosted phone number”. These types of anchor text can help boost your web pages for relevant search queries as confirmed by Google’s John Mueller.
Like many things in SEO such as keywords, anchor text has been mostly over-utilized in an attempt to manipulate the rankings. So as changes are made, anchor text has diminishing returns. But it still has its usefulness in painting the overall picture of your website.
Make sure to have a healthy mix of anchor text phrases sending traffic to your site. Keep track of what is the most common and compare with the anchor text of your competitors. But also aim to have diverse anchor text that mentions the company or brand name.
Remember, keep it simple, and stupid (well, most of the time). Sometimes longer anchor text like “ecommerce analytics from data to decisions” is required to get your gist across.
Total Number of Inbound Links
Keeping track of the total number of links in a link-building campaign may seem fairly obvious but it’s important to not overlook this simple metric. It’s even more valuable when tracking the numbers against that of your competitors and industry leaders.
The total number of inbound links on a web page or website helps search engines like Google calculate and produce their SERPs. This means that as your link-building campaigns move forwards, you should be seeing the raw numbers (total inbound links) go up.
Total Number of Linking Root Domains
Cut from the same cloth, but uniquely different from total inbound links is the total number of linking root domains. The total number of linking domains can be even more powerful than the total number of inbound links.
Think of it as the US Senate. Every state regardless of the population gets an equal number of senators and in turn, votes. Only in this case, each separate root domain gets one vote for your website regardless of size.
So it helps search engines see just how many different entities are sending traffic to your website. And this is more valuable for user relevance than just one or two big domains sending hundreds or thousands of links to your site.
Again, you can use the Moz Link Explorer tool to quickly compare the number of linking domains and the total number of inbound links to your website. But also, don’t forget to track this for your competitors so you know what you’re up against.
When it comes to moving up the search engine rankings, not everything is about the keywords and anchor text. Search engines like Google also account for exactly where a link is placed on a web page.
Let’s say you’re a regional beer brewer in the midst of link-building strategy. You made a deal with a large online homebrew retailer. They place the link at the bottom of their website near other affiliate partners. Not only is this a paid inbound link, but being near the bottom indicates links aren't considered that important by the domain.
Now instead, let’s say the homebrew retailer places your inbound link at the top of a relevant webpage. Every visitor to this page can’t help but see the link. By being upfront and essentially in the customer’s face, Google will see this link as much more important than in the first example.
Google also aggregates link position data. So if the majority of your links are being placed in 2nd and 3rd tier locations, this may hurt your credibility. Use this data to make sure the majority of your link building is getting prime positions near the top of web pages or within the actual content.
If you are using a link broker or other link-building partner solutions, use link positions to track whether they are worth your time and money. If you aren’t getting the result you want, stop what you’re doing and regroup.
Target Page Positions
The most important goal of your link-building strategy will be to grow traffic to your website. And while there are many channels to explore, hopefully, much of that will come organically through search engine traffic.
Last time we checked the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west on this rock we call Earth. And likewise, Google is still king of the search engine universe. So while there are many alternatives to work with, Google is your first and last stop when it comes to tracking your link-building campaign.
Use the tools at your disposal to track the Google rankings of your target pages. If you offer a business communications platform, these could be pages targeting keyword phrases like “hosted IP” and “business phone.”
Google Search Console is a good place to start. From there, you can monitor the average position of each target page. If they aren’t trending positively then it may indicate that more needs to be done or it’s even time for a reset.
If you and your analytics team want to get a more granular view of this metric, SEMrush is a good option for keeping track of your SERP results. You can customize views and tags to track every time a page changes in position.
For comparative competitor analysis, you can turn to a tool like Ahrefs Keyword Explorer. Take note of your target SERPs and compare the statistics of the top-ranking pages with yours. Use this information to find what ways your links are lacking and re-align your strategy accordingly.
Link building isn’t for those who want to take the easy road. In fact, with so much competition online today, there is no such thing as easy or quick. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But with proper planning via a task management system, a link-building campaign can level up the growth of your business.
While your link building battle plan moves along, it’s a good idea to track and measure the success of each step. And really, a complete picture of your efforts can only be gained from a bird’s eye view. But just like how you might make phone call from computer, you need the right tools in place before you can get started.
The payoff will be more than worth the efforts of you and your team. But when everything does finally click into place with the SERPs and your target consumer profile, be prepared to be busier than ever before.
Richard Conn - Senior Director, Demand Generation, 8x8
Richard Conn is the Senior Director for Demand Generation at 8x8, a leading communication platform with integrated Microsoft Teams Phone, contact center, voice, video, and chat functionality. Richard is an analytical & results-driven digital marketing leader with a track record of achieving major ROI improvements in fast-paced, competitive B2B environments. Here is his LinkedIn.
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