Measuring Your Link Building ROI with Google Analytics

link building analysis

If you run a business with a website, including eCommerce sites, a link-building strategy is an important component for your profit and growth.

Link building, or having hyperlinks to your site from other websites, helps users navigate between different pages and helps search engines crawl between website pages.

Links from other sites, as well as within your own site, are vital for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Links help with search engine results because there’s a correlation between quality links, a good quantity of links to your site, and how much search traffic your site receives.

In other words, more links means more search traffic, which in turn means more visitors that hopefully convert into paying customers.

Knowing the importance, let’s say you’re embarking on a link-building strategy. Like your many other business strategies, you will want to measure the effectiveness of your efforts. How will know it worked? How will you know whether you’re getting a high return on investment (ROI)?

Before you actually execute on your strategy, it’s equally important to plan how you will measure its success, and make any adjustments if necessary. You can’t improve and make decisions without measuring your efforts.

How to do that? Let’s examine how to measure your link building ROI using Google Analytics. We have three ways to measure.

Measuring Link-Building ROI Using Traffic And Google Analytics

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Let’s start with the lifeblood of your website, traffic. After all, if you aren’t getting traffic to your website, your business is dead.

There’s a variety of ways traffic can get to your site, including search engine results as well as backlinks from authoritative sites. Traffic is an important metric for ROI based on the principle of conversion.

It follows that the more people that visit your site, the more leads you will get and the more sales you will make.

So before starting your link-building, plan out how you will measure traffic improvements from your link-building strategy.

This is where Google Analytics will support your tracking and measuring efforts. Google Analytics is free (bonus!) and can help track important traffic metrics, even if they don’t result in immediate conversions. So, assuming you have a Google Analytics account, start by logging in.

Once in your account, here are some key traffic metrics to track in Google Analytics:

  • Number of unique visitors: This measures the number of website visitors hitting your page for the first time.
  • Number of visitors: This is the total number of visitors to your website during a set period of time.
  • Average visit duration: This measures the time spent on your site.
  • Percentage of new visitors: This is the number of new visitors compared to regular visitors to the site.
  • Page views: This is the total number of times visitors opened individual pages on the site.
  • Pages per visit: This tracks the average number of pages each user opened on the site.
  • Bounce rate: This is reported in a percentage and is the likelihood of users leaving your page after checking it out.

Beyond those traffic metrics, here are three specific tactics to track the performance of specific links to your site.

  1. Custom Advanced Segments

This Google Analytics tool will allow you to measure the effectiveness of each link to your page. You can compare the different backlinks you’ve established and see which ones are driving the most traffic to your site.

Here’s how.

In the Google Analytics home page, view:

Audience – Overview – Add segment – New segment – Traffic Sources

In the sources tab, insert the websites linking to your page separated by a “pipe” sign. For instance:||

Under All Website Data, insert your web page.

This will give you a report comparing the performance of the links from the sites to your site.

  1. Campaign Tags

You can also tag your backlinks so that each one has a unique tag that Google Analytics will trace for you.

Here’s how:

In Google Analytics, view:

Google URL Builder tool

In the Website field, type in your link that you’re promoting.

In the Campaign Source field, insert the site that will hold your link.

In the Campaign Medium, insert Referral and then name your campaign.

This creates a unique URL and with that you will be able to track your link building performance.

  1. Referrals Report

Google Analytics will also generate a report on referrals, or specific links on other websites that point to a page on your site. You can generate a report that displays the type and volume of visitors from each of your links.

Here’s how:

In Google Analytics, view:

Customization – Custom Report – New Custom Report

Name the report, for instance “Backlink Report.”

Add columns to the report by clicking Users and Add Metrics, where you can select the metrics you want to analyze.

UnderAcquisitionselect Source, to insert the source of your backlink.

Under All Website Data, insert your website.

Your report will show you all the links and display the performance of each one of them.  This referrals report is ideal in that’s simple enough to show you automatically the results of your link building.

Measuring Link-Building ROI Using Rankings

Let’s switch to an easier yet important way to measure and improve your website, through rankings.

Your rankings refer to your website’s keywords position in search engine results. This is the easiest way to check the effectiveness of link building by comparing rankings before and after link building efforts.

It’s a known fact that most searchers don’t bother looking at page 2 of a Google search. If your site is on Page 2, it only means you have potential to move up and increase your online conversions.

But don’t forget that being on Page 1 of a Google search can’t be the only focus for your efforts. Your website must also be “usable,” or actually be relevant to the searcher’s problem.

In other words, you have to be sure the meta description that follows their search grabs the attention of the user and convinces them to click through to your website. Google pays attention to those behaviors and they play into your webpage ranking.

So make sure your titles and descriptions that follow keyword searches are relevant and “usable.”

Now, back to measuring your rankings. This can be done on your own with a simple spreadsheet and as many columns as possible to enable you to conduct regular checks. Be sure to do this before embarking on your link-building campaign.

Start by noting all the keywords you want to track in one column. Conduct a search for each keyword, including long tail keywords like questions framed in complete sentences. Note the ranking for each search including the date at the top of the column.

Once that’s complete, execute your link-building campaign.

Go back to the search test, searching each keyword again and noting the new ranking after link building. Continue with regular checks at set intervals, whether that’s daily, weekly or monthly. Each time you check, note the new position on your spreadsheet. If the link building worked, your ranking should improve.

Note that there are tools available to help you with the rankings tests, but it can be done in this way on your own.

While the main ROI you will be measuring will be the number of positions your rankings improve by, there are other supporting ROIs that you can look at.

You can measure the amount of traffic increase from the new links and from organic searches. And you can also measure any increase in conversions and sales from that increase in traffic.

Measuring Link-Building ROI Using Social Media And Google Analytics

Finally, let’s look at social media, which can be the trickiest to use to measure ROI. For one, social media links are often indirect.

People often share your content a few times, and those links aren’t easy to trace or directly traceable. Therefore, you’re left estimating their value.

As well, a link to your website or a business mention may be shared on social media, but you don’t have control over those links.

Luckily, Google Analytics can help with a tool that helps you check on social media links.

Here’s how:

In your Google account, view:

Acquisition – Social – Conversions

Then set up Goals and New Goal.

Insert a unique description of your goal, check the Destination button and click Continue.

Finally, fill in the link to the page you want to monitor and click Save.

Once again, set up advanced segments to watch all the social links separated by a “pipe” sign. So rather than the link building sites, insert social media sites:||

Type those in the Source field, and save.

This enables you to view the performance of your social media links.

Final Thoughts

A link-building campaign is a must for you to increase traffic to your site, and therefore increase conversions from that traffic.

But it’s important to know what’s working and what isn’t, so that you can make adjustments and better inform your decision-making.

Therefore, measuring the ROI on your link-building campaign is vital. You’ll be able to determine which are good links and which are poor links, gather insights on what campaigns to pursue in the future, and hopefully drive leads and sales with effective backlinks.

These strategies will help you measure and improve your link-building ROI.

Author Bio: Danielle Canstello is party of the content marketing team at Pyramid Analytics. They provide retail analytics solutions and business intelligence software. In her spare time, she writes around the web to spread her knowledge of the marketing, business intelligence and analytics industries.

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