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08 Apr 2014

Measuring Your Link Earning Success

Measuring Your Link Earning Success

Toxic links, deadly citations and Google penalties are far too common these days. We’re in a disaster zone requiring massive cleanup efforts. With so many sites being affected by penalties and so many of your backlinks coming on down, there’s no way link building could possibly have value anymore right? Wrong!

Links are not dead, but the way you’ve been looking at them previously is. No longer should links be just for SEO. “At it’s best, good link building is indistinguishable from good marketing” – Cyrus Shepard.

In this post you’ll learn about ways to measure the effectiveness of your link earning and uncover the real value behind good links. Tell the story about your marketing campaign by measuring the elements listed below.

Ranking Improvement

The usual go-to which illustrates link building success is through search rank monitoring. Input a myriad of keyword phrases you want your site to rank for and watch incremental improvements to specific rankings for a landing page and keyword. The assumption here is that as you build links around certain content optimized for those keywords, or on landing pages that help associate your site with those keywords that you’ll see lift in the rankings on those pages.

Please note: The premise that link building leads to ranking improvement is implied. Correlation but not necessarily causation is something to consider as you monitor results of link building.

When evaluating rankings data it’s important to look for patterns in the ups and downs you see. With hundreds and hundreds of keywords you could possibly monitor, look for ways to simplify the data to view trends in similar keywords, organize the data in groups or utilize a system that allows you to tag and organize sets of keywords for easy analysis.

authority-labsAuthority Labs is a tool we highly recommend, not just because we use it here at VM but because of their unique abilities to provide great data. As you know, ranking data is different based on where the user is, their browsing history and other personalization components. Authority Labs allows you to track rankings of keywords on a daily basis at a specific geo level such as city or zip code. Additionally a country specific option is available. You can start to become very granular with your examinations of ranking data.

This is only a small part of the whole picture of success, however. Industry professionals have touted the archaic nature of ranking monitoring, it’s important to look at the following as better metrics to marketing success.

Website Authority Increase

Being known as the most authoritative website in your industry no doubt will help your bottom line. In SEO, the most authoritative and relevant sites get the best rankings. Having a piece of content become the highest authority and most relevant piece of content on the web for that topic has the same effect. Evaluating the authority of your site and specific pages is an important metric to measure during a link building campaign. The assumption here is that as you build links around certain content that is well optimized and on authoritative relevant sites, you’ll see lift to the authority of your site and receive more traffic as a result.

Moz-Open-Site-Explorer-majestic-seo-logo-1Many tools exist such as Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO to aid in determining the authority of your site by comparing them with all the other sites they’ve indexed. I recommend on a quarterly basis, at least, examining the following metrics to showcase improvements to your authority over time:

Earlier I mentioned relevancy as a key component of authority. Although not always necessary, I recommend examination of the depth and breadth of authoritative terms your site is known for. As you develop more content, as you earn more links and become more authoritative, you’ll naturally be known for more terms (often longer terms) and generate more traffic. Get an idea of your viability online with the following tools.

  • Global Rank to determine popularity (Alexa)

  • Top Pages & Anchor  Text Distribution (OSE)

  • SEMRush Rank (SEMRush)

Additional Authority Resources

  1. The Authority Building Machine on Vertical Measures
  2. A Cheatsheet for Building High Ranking Authority…Without Cheating on QuickSprout
  3. Using Social Media to Build Site Authority on Search Engine Watch

Referral Traffic

One of my favorite link building stories to tell is about an intern we had almost three years ago helping promote a client we had in the outdoor lighting space. She found a very niche relevant forum about gardening and a specific thread discussing eco-friendly outdoor lighting options for gardens. After leaving a thoughtful comment about the unique line of eco-friendly outdoor lighting our client had she went about her merry way looking up instances on the web to leave thoughtful comments like this one. Little did we know that comment would generate almost a thousand visitors in less than a month, converting higher than some other sources (paid even!).

Never underestimate the powerful traffic that a link can generate. No follow, do follow… it doesn’t matter – a well placed link will generate traffic. Period.

google_analytics_logoUsing a tool like Google Analytics or other website analytics platforms provide insight into the links driving traffic on a regular basis. Review the “Acquisition” report in Google Analytics and select All Referrals to sort by sites referring traffic to you during the selected date period.

Review monthly data, quarterly and yearly as well to review all trends. There have been many times I’ve nearly missed seeing a measurable amount of referral traffic simply because I didn’t take into consideration the fact a source could consistently trickle in traffic over time. In the end it can make it perform better than all other referrals. Take the time to examine multiple data timelines to review it all before assuming you have a full analysis.

Additional Traffic Resources

  1. 25 Link Building Tips to Drive Traffic to Your Website on CIO.com
  2. Are Your Referral Links Driving Traffic on BrickMarketing.com

Conversions

Remember that story about the intern with the cleverly placed forum link? That link also drove a number of conversions on our client’s site. Google Analytics showed this information when we looked at the eCommerce section of the platform. Well placed links can drive conversions and it’s important to be on the look out for these instances.

Tracking URLs can also serve the purpose in link building should you wish to weigh the pros and cons. Often tracking code dilutes the value of a link, although some experts have claimed otherwise. But if you’re placing no follow links. a tracking code is harmless and recommended.

Using the URL builder for Google Analytics is easy. Fill in campaign data such as source, medium, term and content to categorize exactly where traffic would have originated. This information is then appended to your URL and a final URL is provided.

Additional Conversion Resources

  1. Where to Get Referral Traffic That Converts Into Sales on Receptional.com
  2. Three Ways to Measure Link Building ROI on Search Engine Watch
  3. The Future Proof Link Building Strategy on Search Engine Journal

Branding

social-mention-logoAs one can imagine, a well placed link can get in front of a large amount of people and affect their perception of your brand. It’s extremely hard to monitor this particular activity and will require tools such as SocialMention.com and Fresh Web Explorer.

Ultimately the goal is to monitor brand mentions across the web. The school of thought here is that as you place more links and your brand is affected, lift will be seen to mentions of your brand. Fresh Web Explorer allows you to monitor mentions and set up alerts to email you as they are found.

  1. Link Building in 2014 Is All About Building Your Brand & Reputation on Search Engine Watch
  2. Transform Link Building Into Brand Building on Search Engine Journal
  3. Brand Link Building – URL Mispellings on SEER Interactive

Whether it’s keyword rankings, traffic, conversions or branding ensure you’re examining all data when reporting link earning success. Don’t limit yourself to only seeing half the real picture. The wide array of benefits a well placed link can have is mind blowing. We’ve taught you how to measure the link authority of your content, now go out there and measure the value of your link earning. What data are you looking at today to measure your link earning success? Share with us in the comments below!