According to a recent study, analytics help 80% of businesses make better decisions. And over 90 percent of these businesses agree that measuring their efforts and results improved their reporting and planning. Yes, this statistic applies to link building.
Let’s face it.
You can’t improve what you can’t measure.
Meanwhile, ITSMA and Vision Edge Marketing showed that 74% of marketers couldn’t track or justify their marketing efforts. If you’re in this boat of marketers here’s your solution.
You can track your link building ROI using metrics and tactics classified into three groups,
- Determine ROI using Rankings
- Determining ROI using Traffic
- Determining ROI using Social Media Relevance
Let’s dig in.
How to Determine ROI Using Rankings
‘Rankings’ is common parlance among all SEO enthusiasts and bloggers alike. It refers to your position in the search engines for your optimized keywords.
It is the simplest way to check the effectiveness of your link building efforts. This method compares your SERP on the search engines after link building to its previous position.
How Ranking Influences ROI
You stand huge gains from ranking high on the search engines. In fact, users almost don’t check page two of a Google search engine report.
A spot on page two is probably just right for the motivation it gives you to build push for page one of the SERP. Otherwise, a page two rank mostly signifies a humongous potential for conversions and sales.
I’m sure being stuck on page two isn’t what you want.
Just how much does being on page one matter?
Well, a whopping 95% of users who search for a keyword click only on first page links. And even on the first page, the first result garners 32.5% of all the first-page traffic. This share reduces as you scroll downwards. The seventh search result owns a paltry 3.5%.
By now you should know that measuring your link building ROI is not up for questioning.
The Need for Usability
Usability refers to how relevant your web link is to a user’s problem. This means that while you may end up on the first page of Google search result, you aren’t guaranteed to make a killing.
Humans use the search engines, and Google watches for their behaviors to rank your web pages up or down the SERPs. So you want to optimize your meta description to grab their attention.
If your meta description doesn’t convince users to click through to your page, you’ll keep losing them to the next search result.
To further illustrate the relevance of your meta description, look at the screenshot below. I used the keyword How to repair my engine water pump.
Notice the results. The snippets in red are the most relevant, and they’re not in the first position of the SERP. The ones in yellow, while applicable, don’t solve my problem. I only want to repair; NOT replace my pump after all.
Users will click only on snippets that promise to solve their problem. So, ensure that you don’t shortchange yourself; tweak your titles and descriptions to command the click.
Tracking Your Rankings
If you’re a small business trying to rank for a few keywords, then don’t bother with complicated tools. Just create a spreadsheet for this purpose.
Create a column for your keywords. Next, create and label a few other update columns. In these columns, you will record your SERP on your keyword progress. You can even create a reminder so that you don’t forget.
Once you have established a link building strategy, check your SERP for the keyword you want to rank for and record it on the first update column.
Let’s take for instance you want to rank for the long tail keyword Replacing computer keyboards after spills.
- Note the position of your website at this point, you can use tools like Monitor Backlinks for this purpose since it offers free 30 days trial.
- Record your page’s position on the first update column.
- Next, proceed to execute your link building strategy.
- After completion of the execution, check your page’s position on the engines for that keyword again.
- You should do this according to set intervals. It could be every month, week or even every 12 hours.
- Now record your position as it changes from time to time.
If you carried out an effective link building strategy, then your SERP should see a boost. In brilliant cases, you can even see a leap to the first page!
Your link building ROI would be a combination of factors here,
- The Chief ROI: The number of jumps from your previous position to your current position on the SERP
- Supporting ROI: The amount of traffic increase from organic search and from those new links
- Supporting ROI: Increase in sales and conversions due to traffic growth
For startups with a sizable marketing budget, mid-scale enterprises, corporations and large businesses, you can leverage tools like Moz and AuthorityLabs.
Moz: This tool helps you track both your keyword ranking and that of your competition. This is a paid tool but is incredibly useful as you can watch metrics from multiple search engines at once.
Moz supports Google, Yahoo, and Bing search engines.
AuthorityLabs: This is another tool similar to SEOMoz and pretty much offers the same benefits. It also features global and local tracking. This local and global search feature helps you visualize your performance in your local and international markets.
How to Determine ROI Using Traffic
Traffic is the currency of the internet.
In short, if your business isn’t getting sufficient online traffic, it is dead. So the second metric we’d consider for measuring ROI on your link building effort is TRAFFIC.
Unlike search engine rankings, traffic is not entirely dependent on SERPs. In this case, backlinks from authority sources can send you traffic as well and are equally valuable assets.
How Traffic Influences ROI
The popularity of inbound traffic as a metric for measuring ROI is based on the principle of converting visitors to buyers. It follows thus that the more people visit your site, the more leads you can secure and then the more sales you make.
Utilizing Non-Paying Traffic Profitably
As you probably know, not all traffic converts to paying customers. That’s alright because you can use that traffic to benefit your site’s lead conversions indirectly.
So how do you utilize your non-paying traffic profitably?
Tracking Your Traffic
To track your link building ROI using traffic you want to quantify your website’s traffic growth and that traffic’s engagement with your website. Here are metrics to use:
- Number of unique visitors – the number of visitors who are discovering your site for the first time
- Number of visitors – the total number of visitors who visited your site during a period
- Page views – the total number of times visitors opened pages on your website
- Pages per visit – the average number of pages each visitor opened on your website
- Average visit duration – the average time visitors spend on your site
- Bounce rate (in percentage) – The likelihood of your visitors to leave your page after checking it out
- Percentage of new visitors – The percentage of new visitors as a ratio to regular visitors
Google Analytics is a fantastic (and free) software you can use to track these traffic metrics. The more traffic you earn and the more these traffic engages with your content, the more conversions you get from that traffic even if you don’t gain more traffic.
Determining Link Building ROI with Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a full-featured tool for tracking traffic sources and their ROI. It is very thorough in monitoring traffic volume and how much value you can hope to get from that traffic.
I’ll explore three practical ways to employ Google Analytics in traffic evaluation. These are:
- Referral reports
- Custom advance segments
- Campaign tags
Let’s dive in.
Using Referrals Report
Referral links are backlinks. They’re those links on other websites that point to a page on your site. In link building, backlinks are SEO goldmines. Especially if they come from authoritative websites or websites with high Domain Authority and Page Authority.
Albeit, you want to measure the ROI of these links. It shows you the type and volume of visitors that are a direct consequence of those links.
Here’s how to do it:
- Log into your Google Analytics accounts
- Click on customization and then custom report. Now click on “new custom report.”
- Give it a title. For instance, “Link Building Custom Report.” Also, name the custom report accordingly.
- Now proceed to add columns to the report. Click on metrics and select ‘Users.’
- Now add the metrics you want to analyze to the report
- Add dimensions (rows) to your sheet. Go to ‘acquisition’ and select source. That’s it, you have a custom report ready.
- Now save this setting.
- To apply this custom report to your website by choosing the web property from the drop-down menu as shown below.
- Now you should see all the links and how well they have performed on your website. Here’s an example below.
The good thing about using referrals report is the simplicity of the results. It can help you, almost instantly, decide whether your link building effort was worthwhile or not.
Using Custom Advanced Segments
Imagine a scenario where you secured multiple backlinks from different websites. And all these backlinks point to the same page on your domain.
How can you tell which website gave you the most visitors?
Using the technique for referral reports only shows you the visitor volumes coming from those backlinks. So, it’s insufficient here. You’ll need something more thorough.
And you are in luck!
Google Analytics has a feature that lets you track traffic from particular sources. In this case, you can segregate the different websites from which you secured backlinks. And investigate them for their contributions to your total traffic volume.
Say “hello” to Advanced Segmentation. Here’s how to use this technique:
- Go to your Google Analytics home page and click on ‘Audience’ and then ‘overview.’ Click on ‘Add segment’ and then ‘New segment.’
- Go to Traffic Sources tab. There you’ll modify the filters to show you only reports from the websites linking to you.
- List these websites separated by a pipe sign “|” inside the source field and save. i.e., www.huffingtonpost.com|www.forbes.com|www.entrepreneur.com
Now apply it to the website you want to monitor to view the analysis.
Using Campaign Tags
Instead of going through the stress of noting down all your backlinks sources, you can tag them.
The Google Analytics system allows for tagging of the links that you intend to share. This way each of the links you build will have a unique tag that the analytics tool can trace on the web.
- To do this, you have to use the Google URL Builder tool.
- In the website field, fill in the link you want to promote, i.e., www.yoursite.com/link-to-promote
- In the campaign source field, type in the site your link building site
- For campaign medium, fill in ‘referral’ Then proceed to name the campaign.
This generates a unique URL with which you can track your link building ROI on Google Analytics.
Summary: Google Analytics for Link Building ROI Analysis
Using Google Analytics for measuring ROI on link building is pretty neat and convenient. The array of tools makes it very reliable for analyzing traffic sources and their impact on your link building.
3. How to Determine ROI Using Social Media
In this era, social media is almost as relevant to link building as any other tactics. And most marketers are throwing their weight behind this new paradigm. No matter how much you loathe it, you should endeavor to leverage its power.
Why Tracking Link Building ROI Isn’t Straightforward On Social Media
Unfortunately, tracking return on investment on social media is tricky for some reasons. First, these links are indirect links most of the time.
Because people share good content across the web, you are sure to see yours shared a couple of times. These shared links are not easy or direct to trace. Hence, their value cannot be reliably estimated.
Secondly, your conversations on the social media may cause people to mention your business or share a link to your website. These mentions are good, but also mean that you don’t have much control over how people spread your links around social media.
But there’s no cause for panic.
Tracking Social Media ROI Using Google Analytics
Google Analytics folks have studied this trend and built in a tool to help check your links on the social media.
- Log into Google Analytics and click on acquisition -> social -> conversions
- Next, click on set up goals and then “new goal.”
- Fill the field for goal description which should describe your goal in a unique way
- Next, check the ‘destination’ button and click on continue
- Now fill in the link to the page you want to monitor and click save
Using Advanced Segmentation to Track Social Links
In this method, you should set up advanced segments to watch social links. So instead of using your link building sites, you would use social media sites like this:
This should be typed in the source field. After saving you can then view your social media links.
Removing Conversion Biases with Attribution Reports
Because social media does not feature landing pages, there is a chance that you are underrating its relevance. Most marketers attribute every conversion to a landing page and email marketing.
This is wrong.
Social media (for obvious reasons) cannot have landing pages or sign-up forms. But many times, traffic from social platforms are responsible for massive sales and conversions.
This tendency to underrate the social media relevance can also cause you to make poor assumptions on their ROI to your link building.
It is called ‘conversion bias’
To avoid this bias, you have to look at your attribution reports. These reports serve to record all your site’s traffic traceable to social media.
- Login to Google Analytics.
- Go to Conversions
- Model comparison tool.
If you haven’t used this tool before you’d find a small guide to set up your tracking parameters.
Here are the links you should look into once you’d set it up:
Last Indirect Links:
Since most social media links are indirect, it makes sense to look at this record. Also, direct links mean that the visitor was aware of your brand before seeking to engage your services.
This attribution takes note of the first point where your visitor discovered your link. That way, you will know for sure if the heavy lifting was done by social media marketing or not.
Now you can compare all the expenses incurred in the social media campaign to the leads and conversions.
An excellent way to estimate ROI from social media platform, isn’t it?
Bringing It All Together
Measuring your link building ROI on your campaigns is an absolute must. Not only are you able to tell apart the golden links from the poor ones, but you also gain an insight on what campaigns to pursue.
Tracking your link building ROI is invaluable information you can utilized to streamline your marketing strategy. And, of course, win those juicy leads and sales you’ve always desired.
If your link building is poor, it doesn’t matter that you tracked it. So start from building backlinks that work.
What’s the dream of 74% of all marketers?
To build white hat backlinks, like savvy marketers do! And without shooting in the dark.