3 Powerful Metrics to Measure Your Link Building Campaign
Let’s face it, link building isn’t easy.
But without proper measures, it can become even more difficult.
If you want to improve, you need to identify what you are already doing well and where you could benefit from improvement.
Simply counting links won’t be enough, so you need other measures of success as well.
Not knowing what type of metric to use to measure the effectiveness of your link building makes it extremely difficult to get the results you want.
Besides that, it’s always good to know how you’re going to measure your link building campaign before you start building links.
This will help you set realistic goals while trying to make positive changes to your organic traffic growth trend.
When it comes to organic traffic growth, it’s worth mentioning early on that link building is only part of the complex SEO process.
Although links are extremely important, there are a number of other factors that can affect your site’s ranking.
There’s no point building a lot of top quality links if everything else is flawed, is there?
This means that your pages should be well optimized, paying attention to some basic things like titles and meta descriptions, mobile compatibility, etc.
Additionally, the pages you plan to boost via links should target keywords with decent search volume and, more importantly, should be backed by well-written content.
Once you’ve taken care of the basics of SEO, you’re ready to take your organic growth to the next level with data-driven link building.
Here are the top three metrics you can use to measure the effectiveness of your link building efforts.
1. Growth trend of new referring domains
Ok, this may be obvious, but the first metric you need to track is the number of referring domains acquired month over month.
This helps you determine if your link building machine is moving in the right direction.
Keep in mind that link building and overnight success rarely go hand in hand.
Developing a respectable backlink portfolio is a process that takes a lot of time and effort.
Normally you spend the first few months building relationships and getting a link or two here and there.
Only after this period can you expect links to start knocking on your door.
Typically, we need around 2-3 months to start building a solid number of links for niches we’ve never worked with. So yes, link building takes time!
But once you get there, it won’t take long for you to be able to double the number of referring domains acquired on a monthly basis. Ideally, you should see a trend like this:
Besides the growth of your backlink profile, it is also good to occasionally check the growth of your competitors’ referring domains.
If you see spikes in the number of their referring domains, that’s a positive sign that they’re into link building as well.
In fact, checking your rivals’ backlink profile on a monthly basis could become an endless source of inspiration for your own link building efforts.
Once your link building engine is up and running, you will likely see changes in Google rankings. This brings us to the second important metric.
2. Positive Changes in Target Page Positions in Google Search
One of the most important goals we try to achieve with link building is to improve the Google rankings of particular pages.
Ideally, we want to see our top posts in one of the top 3 positions, but the least we want to achieve is to have it rank on page 1.
That’s why the next metric you want to track should be the position of your target pages in Google search results.
Even though Google Search Console seems like the obvious place to track it, keep in mind that it doesn’t really show exact numbers but an average position.
So you will have to use a third-party position tracker if you want to get accurate data for this metric.
Personally, I use SEMrush to track exactly how my target pages are becoming more visible in Google’s SERPs.
To make the whole process easier, I use the tagging feature to tag search queries related to a page and easily filter them from the rest of the keywords.
In the screenshot below, I asked SEMrush to show me search terms tagged with the “email awareness” tag and their position changes in the last 30 days:
As you can see, the main keyword “email outreach” has remained in the same position and that is something that rings a bell.
If you are facing a similar situation, the next step is to learn more and find out why.
To find the answer, you need to go to Ahrefs Keyword Explorer tool and search for your keyword.
After that, you will see what types of pages are currently ranking on the first page of Google for that particular search query:
The main thing to focus on here is the number of referring domains.
You should compare the number of referring domains your page has with the number of pages that are currently outranking you.
Another important factor to consider is the Domain Rating (DR) of the website. How does your DR compare to the DR of pages that rank better?
In our case, Digital Olympus has a DR of only 61, while most of the pages in the top 10 results exceed 70, with some of them even having a DR of 90+.
This means that Digital Olympus needs to link 4-5 times more to a page to outrank those pages and that’s why our positions haven’t really increased over the last month.
The higher your DR, the easier it will be for your pages to rank.
More referring domains and better positions in Google search naturally lead to one thing: increased organic traffic to your website.
3. Organic traffic growth
After all, organic traffic growth is the main reason we care about link building. That’s why this should be the third essential step you need to follow.
Organic traffic growth can easily be tracked directly from your Google Analytics or Google Search Console account.
I prefer to use Google Search Console because it also allows me to check if the number of impressions and average positions are increasing for a particular page:
However, it is important to note that it may take some time for Google to reevaluate your site and make it more visible in the SERPs.
Depending on how competitive your niche is, it can take 3-12 months from the time the links are created to see significant changes.
To better understand how long it takes to start ranking well and receive a better flow of organic traffic, you can try analyzing the history of high-ranking pages from similar sites within your niche.
Here is a good example to better illustrate what I am talking about:
As you can see from the graph above, they started linking to this page in January 2019 and have managed to grow 34 referring domains so far.
And here is their organic traffic graph:
By comparing their organic traffic report to the backlink profile above, we can see that it takes around 12 months to start getting traffic.
Let’s look at another example of more recent link building data.
The screenshot below shows that Tidio started linking to his chatbot blog post in January 2020.
As you can see above, they relatively quickly managed to get up to 60 referring domains. But how quickly did that trickle down to their organic traffic?
The SEMrush report below shows that they got their first organic visitors in March. So we can conclude that it took about two months for the link building results to show.
As you can see from the examples above, link building takes time.
But once the results start showing, you’ll instantly know it was worth the wait.
The worst thing that can happen, however, is spending months working on link building with no tangible results.
To prevent this from happening, it is essential that you track your link building progress using the three essential metrics presented in this article.
If you count the number of new referring domains, track changes in search result position on the target page, and measure overall organic traffic growth, you should have a pretty good idea of how effective your link building is.
Featured image: Created by author, May 2020
All screenshots taken by author, May 2020