Managing and measuring link building efforts is a lot like being a detective. You have to search for clues, then track them until you can find out what is working for you and what isn’t. Sometimes it’s easy to find where a conversion has come from, but often it takes more work than you would expect. Link building from credible and authoritative sources, in general, will always make your site stronger and help build a solid SEO presence. Yet finding and measuring which links really drive traffic to your site is a challenge. Let’s review some tactics we use to find out the ROI on different link building tactics.
Tracking Your SERP Rankings
If you’re running a big business that has hundreds of relevant keywords, you’ll need a paid link tool (like Moz) to accurately gather information. For smaller sites, the information available in Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) will suffice.
In my experience, small businesses can manually track where their keywords appear on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) using the Search Analytics report in Search Console. I don’t recommend doing periodic searches on your browser as search results are now personalized due to browsing history, location and a bunch of other factors. Even if you’re in “incognito mode” the ranking results can be skewed.
By using the Search Analytics report and downloading data (only 90 days worth of data is available at a time, but Google have hinted this may be extended with coming Search Console updates) into a spreadsheet, you can monitor how your overall website’s and each page’s organic placement over time. Therefore, if you’ve acquired new links, you can see how they have helped you in organic search.
Getting Stuck In Traffic
First, I should make the difference between traffic and traffic that converts or leads to a conversion. Getting more website visits is important. However, new visitors need to translate into more conversions. Otherwise, it’s really worthless… unless you’re looking to sell ads on your site. That said, conversions aren’t always instant. Considered purchases or complex products/service will most likely have a time lag between visits and goal completions. Don’t despair if it takes a bit for your numbers to go up.
Tracking your traffic is fairly straightforward and is easily done through Google Analytics. You can pay for software products, but Google Analytics will give you most of the information you need. As with checking the SERP page you simply need to track the data over time and note when it increases, and where the increases come from. You can track visits, page views or unique visitors…. whichever seems to match your goals the best.
Going Deeper In Analytics
The simplest place to look for the results and measuring link building efforts in Google Analytics is the Referrals report. To find that you first go to Traffic Sources, then Referrals. Here you will see when someone has clicked to visit your site from another site that is linking to you. If you’re running a complicated link building campaign, it may be worth creating a custom report to filter out other links that appear here. For example, filter out your own social media post referrals so you can clearly see what fruit your link building is bearing.
Measuring Link Building
Unfortunately, there isn’t just one place you can look to see if your link building tactics are working. If you regularly check where your keywords are shown in the SERP (via Search Console) and keep an eye on your Analytics data, you will be able to see your link profile is improving (or not). The goal here is to find which links are giving you more “SEO juice” and add new similar sources.
How are you measuring links?