Over the last few years, SEOs have formed an unfavorable myth about the harmful effects of link promotion. They say, “Promoting links is dangerous and could be penalized by search engines” – and suddenly you’re worried that you’re buying something illegal.
As is usually the case, they threw the baby out with the bathwater. A link is a perfectly natural signal for search engine relevance and a way to deliver information to the target audience.
Link’s bad reputation comes from massive reckless purchases on irrelevant and compromised websites, on forum pages, and in comments on articles that have nothing to do with the project’s topic.
Nevertheless, backlinks, built wisely with the use of deep verification methods, beneficially affecting the website promotion. Building a link does not only mean working on positions in search engines but also is an effective way to bring targeted users from other websites and increase brand recognition.
This means that establishing KPIs and evaluating the effectiveness of linkbuilding should extend beyond technical SEO.
Let’s consider why we may need links, where they can be placed, and how this correlates with the completion of marketing and overall business tasks.
What objectives can linkbuilding help achieve?
If we stop for a minute and think of links not only as SEO tools, we can see that they can play a different role and help:
- improve positions in the search engine results.
- get targeted traffic from relevant pages.
- attract the attention of the audience, increase brand recognition and credibility.
When working on the second and third types of tasks, it is not technical, but rather PR/marketing criteria that are used to evaluate the quality of the link.
The same goes for link-building KPI. They cannot estimate a lead’s cost by simply dividing the cost per link by the number of conversions. Thus, we should look for other starting points.
Metrics are not KPIs
KPIs are the key criteria that you can use to assess the extent to which your link work meets your marketing objectives.
Metrics are quantitative indicators that can also help in this assessment.
You have to keep track of both. So, what metrics are worth fixing for further analysis?
Total number of links added
You can break it down into subcategories:
- total number of links set;
- the number of links removed/left;
- the number of links open (follow) and closed (nofollow) for indexing.
Use Linkbox mass backlink checker to effectively manage your links.
There can be an additional criterion – the number of links from reputable (high traffic, DA, etc.) and relevant (possible lower coverage and SEO indicators; bigger target audience) websites.
Referral traffic indicators
- referral traffic dynamics in percentage terms (grows/stays in place/falls);
- referral traffic conversion rate;
- engagement of the audience coming from other websites (time and depth of browsing, bounce rate, etc.)
- brand traffic dynamics;
- recognition, growth of brand mentions.
You can bring all these metrics together on a dashboard (or put them in tables) and watch the performance of the links inserted. This is how we monitor the process. The results are estimated based on KPI achieved.
Select KPI: CPC, CPL, CPS, and ROI of links
These indicators are easy to calculate:
- CPC (Cost per Click). Cost per click = cost per link/number of clicks.
- CPL (Cost per Lead). Cost per lead = cost per link/number of leads.
- CPS (Cost per Sale). Cost per sale = cost per link/number of sales.
- Total ROI = (return on investment – amount of investment) / amount of investment *100%.
- ROI for the period = (return on investment for the period – the amount of investment for the period) / amount of investment for the period *100%.
But to what extent can these figures be used as KPIs?
As always, it all depends on the model you adopted for the calculations. You can calculate CPC, CPL, CPS if you have such data in your analytics (marked transitions, linked data on leads, and sales from CRM). That way you can calculate the direct effect – what happened to those users who were ready to buy the product after clicking on the link.
What about those customers who have moved two or three steps down the funnel? The link has some impact, but you can’t possibly estimate it.
Probably the last item on the list (ROI over a period) in the long run can be one of the indicators of success as it considers the cumulative effect over time.
Even then, we limit ourselves to only one task: selling “here and now”. And the niches with a long cycle of purchasing decisions may show that linkbuilding gives very little results as there are fewer sales and the dependence is non-linear. Disappointment increases if the link-building work has little effect on the growth of positions in search results.
By not considering PR and the overall marketing element, we greatly limit our understanding of link-building’s effectiveness.
Is the number of brand mentions growing? Is the nature of sales changing? Is the subscriber base expanding (email, social media)?
Tracking such metrics can help you better assess the beneficial effects of linkbuilding.
To assess the overall linkbuilding effectiveness, you should consider the short-term effect as well as the dynamics over long periods:
- calculate the CPL or CPS (which you can learn from analytics) to assess the short-term effectiveness of each link;
- calculate the ROI of all advertising activities to evaluate the effectiveness of linkbuilding for the period;
- track metrics – brand recognition and website visitor engagement – over time;
- estimate the increase in the subscriber base on all channels.
Let’s review the sources where you can take quality links that will help achieve specific KPIs.
You have plenty of links, both good and diverse, but you don’t know where to put them?
Keep in mind that while many websites do not allow you to put an open (dofollow) link, it does not make the website useless in terms of link-building.
This way you get referral traffic and an increase in brand recognition. Besides, the presence of nofollow links makes the link environment more natural for search engines. This only works with targeted websites.
This is one of the easiest ways to post links. Some site-specific features:
Facebook, Twitter, etc. All of these links are nofollow; but you can get a lot of traffic from these social media. Even considering the updates cutting back on coverage for businesses, you can still use these channels effectively.
Pinterest and Tumblr allow you to post dofollow links which is very valuable itself. Besides, the platforms provide good organic traffic from image search.
YouTube is another source of links and organic video traffic.
LinkedIn. Even though the links are only nofollow, they can be useful for link diversity. Well-written articles on LinkedIn are ranked very well by search engines. Sure, the inaccessibility of this website in Russia somewhat diminishes the value of the placement. But if your interests lie outside of Russia, feel free to post materials there.
Links from such services usually have rel=”nofollow” attribute. They can help diversify the link profile and, most importantly, work for brand recognition and provide targeted traffic.
- Medium.com. Links rel=”nofollow noopener”, but the website itself has a fairly high-quality audience, and the articles are well ranked by search engines.
- Blogger (Google service). It allows you to post dofollow links and is ranked quite well.
Placing links on forums is a long-lasting way of link-building (and crowdfunding, which intersects with it).
You need to assess the level of relevance of the website and the presence of “life” on it (traffic volume, the frequency of new messages, the number of active users).
And so that there were no unpleasant surprises, you should check the forum rules at once: some platforms do not allow posting links at all, while on others you have to earn a certain “karma”, pay the owner, etc.
Blogs and thematic media
Here you will need to make an effort to create interesting content.
Website owners gladly post useful content and share it on their social networks. Typically, you can get a dofollow link in exchange for unique content. An even stronger point in favor of such placements is referral traffic and improved brand reputation.
Here’s a clichéd yet working tip: if you don’t know what to write about, do some research in your field. Gather statistics, analyze trends, offer interesting insights. Such content would be valuable for thematic media, and there is a good chance that other authors will be referring to your material.
Be careful when analyzing content in the media. You can negate the effect if you add an article for beginners to a website that professionals read, and vice versa.
Lists of companies/services/products, ratings, and reviews
Such platforms rarely contain dofollow links. However, the goal here is to get traffic and develop brand recognition.
This is by no means a comprehensive list but it demonstrates an alternative approach to assessing the effectiveness of linkbuilding – when the growth of keyword positions is no longer the main priority.
Linkbuilding KPIs appear to be somewhere between the SEO, content marketing, PR, and SMM
You can measure success by these criteria, for example:
- CPL or CPS of each link and total for the period;
- ROI of all marketing activities;
- growth of positions in the search engine;
- organic traffic dynamics;
- branded keywords dynamics;
- referral traffic dynamics;
- increase in the number of brand mentions.
- the number of reads, likes, and shares of the article with the link;
- engagement of users from referral traffic (behavior on the website);
- article vitality (how long the traffic keeps coming from this source), etc.
Bear in mind that KPIs are key performance indicators, so for analysis, you should focus on several parameters that correspond to your specific business objectives.
The link-building strategy will change as marketing priorities change.
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