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Understanding your link building campaign’s ROI can be more than confusing unless you know which link building metrics to look at.
But this is where the heart of the problem is: it’s hard to pinpoint exactly which link building metrics to monitor.
So we decided to do the legwork for you by asking the experts who are already down in the trenches for their link building metrics. Of the 65 folks we spoke to, 52.31% are in the B2C services/products industry, 26.15% are agencies, and 21.54% are in the B2B services/products industry.
Here’s what we’ll get into today:
All the folks we talked to share they run link-building outreach campaigns. 89.23% of the surveyed companies run them regularly, while the rest (10.77%) run them occasionally.
When it comes to reporting on link building metrics though, we found our respondents were divided into two camps:
Essentially, both camps use a handful of tools — we’ll talk about them below — for link building reporting.
One camp, however, goes an extra mile to streamline its processes by curating data from all available tools into a dashboard. This way, all their link building metrics are displayed on one central dashboard, helping them better read, digest, and plan according to the numbers they review.
Related: 30 Free Link Building Tips for Building Links On Little-to-No Budget
Ahrefs is the most used tool for link building campaigns — used by a whooping 80% of our contributors. This is followed by other two SEO tools, SEMrush and Moz.
Then, comes Hunter for gathering email addresses for outreach. Other popular tools include Mailchimp, BuzzStream, Monitor Backlinks, MajesticSEO, CognitiveSEO, and more.
Briefly, most of our respondents include the following in their link-building outreach campaign reports:
Let’s get into the details next. Here’s the list of all the link building metrics that we’ll discuss:
At Respona, the team looks at the number of new backlinks earned in a week along with the links’ DR and whether they’re DoFollow or NoFollow links according to Vlad Orlov.
“Our target goal is DR 40+ backlinks every single week. This way, we constantly have new sources of traffic, and our own DR is constantly growing,” Orlov points out.
“In fact, we managed to grow it from 0 to 76 in just about two years. As of traffic, we were able to raise it from 0 to 95k in the same amount of time, and a big portion of that is thanks to link building.”
Related: 37 Ways High-Ranking Marketers Improve Their Website Domain Authority
Entire Looks’ Ansar Hammad agrees. “In my experience, the most important metric in this report is the total number of links and referring domains. This gives us a good look at the direct impact our campaign has had, and it’s easy to compare that number to what we started with.”
“In the past year, we added 324 new links and referring domains, which represents a 14% increase in total links and a 9% increase in total referring domains,” comments Hammad.
“This is particularly impressive considering the average growth rate for sites of our size is 1% for each metric. While this is certainly impressive, what’s even more exciting about our campaign is that we were able to accomplish this feat without any penalty from Google.”
“A lot of companies will use tactics that will get them penalized by Google,” Hammad adds. “which can lead to drops in ranking that are difficult to recover from. While we don’t anticipate being penalized because of the way we’ve approached our campaign, it was nice to see that we managed to avoid any penalties so far.”
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This is similar to the point above. However, Anton Soderstrom from Dagens Fokus shares pairing time spent to getting a link is an important link building metric to look at.
“With several years of link-building to my name, I’ve come to the conclusion that the single most important metric is: time/number of links,” writes Soderstrom.
“Getting one link, in exchange for 30 minutes of your time, is great. Even one hour. After that, you’ll need to analyze where your time is best spent,” Soderstrom points out.
“I have worked with too many people who smile brightly after acquiring one great link — but it took them almost 2 days of campaigning to get it. That’s not efficient. No matter the power of the link.”
“There are, of course, several important metrics to keep an eye on. But a lot of link campaigns fail, not because of the lack of links, but the time and work it took to get them. Businesses are built on time. Too sloppy and inefficient time management is an extremely costly loss.”
Summarizing, Soderstrom shares, “The best thing we ever did with our campaigns, was to start measuring the time it took to acquire the final amount of links. That gave us more insights on what to improve and how to improve it. Not to mention, it saved us a lot of money.”
“The most important link building metric would be niche relevance,” opines David Morgan from Snorkel-Mart. “For example, the websites linking back to my profile, how relevant they are to my niche.”
“I use my competitor’s profile to create a benchmark against which I can analyze the growth of my enterprise. This includes our direct and indirect competitors with a similar target audience as our company,” Morgan continues.
Related: 10 Creative Ways to Build Links And Outrank Your Competitors
“When creating an outreach campaign, we make sure to make it a win-win situation by exchanging backlinks. Ideally, we exchange quality backlinks from as many quality websites as possible. This can help generate traffic and would even help in skyrocketing your domain authority.”
For David Brent at David Brent SEO too, referring domains is a key link building metric. However, the reasoning behind it is similar to Morgan’s point on niche relevance.
“For us, the important thing is to ensure we’re getting links from the sites that actually get read by our target audience. Often referring domains is one way to cover the rough number, as long as those are within the right category according to the outreach campaign.”
Matt LaClear from Your SEO Squad takes the same approach. “The main thing I look for in a site are real levels of organic traffic as reported by AHREFS and SPYFU. Once a site passes that test, I make sure that its traffic is relevant to the page we are promoting.
If it is we then scour the site looking for negative footprints that fake sites often have on them. If a site passes those tests, we pursue the link.”
Referring domains or linking domains are websites that link to your page. “Each referring domain is like a vote of confidence for our website,” in the words of Marc Lamber from Lamber Goodnow Injury Lawyers.
“It is a high-impacting factor that contributes to our search optimization efforts. Therefore, this metric is a must-have in our link-building reports, and we focus on constantly increasing the number of referring domains.”
Explains Lamber: “We look for new quality domains instead of a high number of new backlinks from a few websites. I have observed that the first link found by Google on a referring domain has the most impact than the subsequent ones. Subsequent links can be helpful, but they have a diminishing impact.”
“So we keep our links per domain between 2 and 3; anything higher is counterproductive,” shares Lamber.
It’s also worth noting here that if a site or referring domain consistently links to your page, it can come across as spam to Google.
The reason: this is not how natural linking works. That is: a site would normally link to you a few times — not several times. When building links, it’s important to keep this natural linking behavior in mind to save your efforts from coming across as spammy to the search engine.
Another noteworthy point here: “With the outreach campaign, we want to ensure we don’t bother the same people over and over,” Lamber notes. “This KPI keeps our outreach team focused on what’s best for SEO and something that does less PR harm.” Not to mention, this approach helps you build good relationships with sites you reach out to for links.
Related: 28 Techniques for Increasing the Number of Referring Domains to Your Website
FishingBooker’s Joris Zantvoort not only looks at the number but also the uniqueness of referring domains. In Zantvoort’s words, “At FishingBooker, we use the quantity of unique referring domain as the main metric, with a health metric that limits us to domains of 20+ DR.”
“In addition, we have quality control that states that the links must be from relevant sites. In our case, that means sites in travel, tourism, outdoors, fishing, hobbies, lifestyle, sports, and some more verticals/categories,” Zantvoort outlines.
“You need these quality guidelines, but the main thing the link builder can influence within those guidelines is the number of domains they get links from.”
“Domain rating (DR) shows the power of my website’s backlinks compared to similar sites on a 100-point scale,” defines Draftsim’s Dan Troha who shares DR is at the top of the link building metrics they monitor.
“My blog DR doubled in less than two years with great article writing and link building,” Troha reveals. “You will also want to keep an eye on your Backlink Profile. Backlinks are any links that lead you to my website. I have achieved phenomenal growth for the blog alone in backlinks, now numbering 316, with 27 referring domains.”
“You also want to keep an eye on the CTLDs distribution to find out where you are drawing traffic from the international community,” Troha goes on.
“I have seen much more backlink traffic via large countries such as the UK, Brazil, India, Russia, and many countries in the EU as well as the US in the past two years. This helps me see where my audience is and then find ways to cater to their needs and interests better.”
To this end, Daniyal Khan from Digital Mazdori advises you to look at the linking site’s traffic. “Check traffic of the website but not just traffic, check the area or location as well. If traffic is from your target location, then it’s best to go for that website. Also, check traffic sources as well but it’s optional. I have applied these techniques to my clients’ websites and got 45x more traffic and sales.”
Related: 100+ Marketers Share The Link-Building Techniques That Work Best
“To me, one of the top metrics for backlinks is anchor text,” shares Trenton Erker of Seattle PPC Agency.
“The overall domain authority of both the target site and the links you’re going after, but something that is missed is the anchor text. If you have a profitable keyword that you want to rank for, the percentage of optimized anchor text should increase.”
Essentially, the anchor text’s job is to give contextual information to readers and search engines. With it, readers can tell what’s in the link added to the text. As for the search engine, it uses the anchor text to index and rank pages. So you can’t gloss over this detail.
Now that you know which link building metrics to track, make monitoring them easy. That is: instead of looking at a ton of different sources, plug all the sources in Databox and see them displayed on one screen.
Creating such a dashboard with Databox not only makes it effortless to track the key link building metrics but also makes it simple to analyze them.
Ready to create a central dashboard for your next link building campaign? Sign up for Databox for free and get to work today.
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