Whether you’re just starting out in the world of SEO or have been trying to build an online brand for quite some time already, “backlink” is a word you’ll have come across at some point. It’s a key part of the SEO puzzle – it boosts your site’s rankings on search engines.
So how come so many of us miss their importance and continue to flounder on Google like a boat without a paddle? Measuring your backlink campaigns helps you to get the best out of your SEO strategies, helping you to build better campaigns while ensuring you get more backlinks and build the right backlinks. Let’s investigate the importance of measuring backlink building campaigns – and how to take everything under control.
“Put your back(link) into it.”
When you measure your backlinks, you gain greater insights into how well your website is performing – but you also get the chance to learn more about your audience. For example, when you know where a backlink is coming from (ergo, the type of content), you can then build a better audience profile.
Once you know why sites are linking to you, and the kind of audience these sites have, you can then start to create content that is tailored more specifically, and which hits home with the right audience. This will help your readership to find you in the Google search results, and it will also encourage more related sites to link to you. In effect, you’ll be doubling, tripling or completely ballooning the effects of backlinks.
And unless you measure your backlink campaigns, you won’t know from where your links are coming. For example, are they all coming from the same site or different ones? Worse still, are lots of them coming from spam sites? This is an important metric, as the greater the number of websites that are linking to you, the higher up the rankings you will climb. Bingo.
You also need to consider how new links will impact your site. You’ll want to stay on top of new links for many reasons. These metrics keep you updated in regards the health of your site, its potential to climb the rankings, whether or not the links are relevant, and new incoming traffic sources. You can then use this knowledge to double down on your SEO strategy and make it work for you.
By measuring your backlinks via tools and methods, you can build up your knowledge of where your traffic is coming from. Tracking your ranking on Google each time you win or lose a backlink will also help. Then, you can execute a stronger SEO strategy that helps you to surge up the rankings. It’s powerful knowledge that, once acted on, can have powerful results.
Example of a backlink to Harvard Business School
Before we reveal the tools that will help you measure your backlink campaigns, let’s take a look at the backlink metrics you need to know:
1. Backlink Metrics
A Number of Referring Domains
This metric compares the number of referring domains to your site’s total external links.
The best way to analyze this metric is to look at the ratio. Google “detectives” are on the lookout for ratios of high backlinks and low referring domains. Why? Because it suggests that you are in charge of the referring domains. You’ve probably got a couple of other websites set up just to provide your main site with some link love.
A good ratio would be 500 incoming links from 300 referring domains as it suggests everything is legit and above board.
It’s not even just the number of referring domains you need to watch. You should also be monitoring the type of domains. If the content of these domains is irrelevant to your own site, it can harm your rankings.
A Number of Total Backlinks
This is self-explanatory and refers to the amount of total externals links directing to your site.
It’s a metric worth knowing because if your number of total backlinks plateaus or drops off, it suggests to Google that your site is derelict and not worth crawling anymore.
A Number of Referring IPs
Like the first metric we looked at, you want the number of referring IPs to be as high as possible. If it’s not, you could find yourself in hot water with Google.
An underhand tactic is to create numerous websites and link out to one main website for some link juice.
However, Google can easily sniff this tactic out because each of your websites will (most likely) be sharing the same IP address, and it won’t look good if you have hundreds of links but just one or two IP addresses.
Google wants backlinks to be as natural and as white-hat as possible, so keep a close eye on this metric.
A Number of Referring Subnets
Following on from the above metric, Google’s sharp-eyed detectives do a bit more digging to see how trusted your links are.
If you have numerous external links all coming from the same subnet, it suggests to Google that you own numerous websites and are manually building your own backlinks. In which case, you might get penalized with a low ranking.
Even if your IP addresses are different, Google will probe further to check on your subnets.
Just so we’re clear, having the same IP addresses and subnets aren’t “bad” per say. It just means that Google won’t rank you as highly as a site with a variety of IP addresses and subnets. So again, it’s a metric worth your attention.
2. Affected Metrics
A Number of Ranking Keywords of Your Site
Is your backlink campaign even working? Is it building momentum or should it be put on life support?
The surest way to test the health of your backlink campaign is to check your affected metrics, such as how many keywords are ranking well on your site.
The Average Rank of the Target Site
Self-explanatory. If your target site is rising in the rankings, your backlink campaign is doing well. If it’s plateauing or plummeting into the depths of pages 7, 8, 9, and 10, it’s a warning sign that something isn’t right. Measure this metric and then fix whatever needs fixing.
Tools And Methods
In this section, we’re going to take a look at the various tools and describe methods you can use to measure your backlink campaigns; without them you just won’t be able to automate the process and know what is working and what isn’t! These tools are insightful, easy to get to grips with, and more often than not offer free trial versions.
One of the most popular SEO tools for monitoring backlinks, Ahrefs offers a free version you can use to test it out and see how effective it is. This free trial lets you monitor up to two domains and ten backlinks per request.
To upgrade to the paid version, you will need to pay $79 a month. Doing so gives you access to a comprehensive analysis of your backlink profile, including a full link-profile overview, an in-depth study of your inbound and outbound links, and a broken backlink checker.
Like most tools featured in this list, SemRush has a free trial version which expires after two weeks. To upgrade to the full-fat version, you’ll be paying a one-off fee of $149.
With a comprehensive database that is constantly being updated, SemRush lets you check your backlinks with precision. It covers things in details, from the number of referring domains and subnets – to the countries which are giving you link juice.
SemRush also comes with a handy backlink comparison tool that lets you compare your campaign with your competitors.
OpenLinkProfiler is totally free and fairly extensive backlink monitoring tool that delivers as many as 200,000 links for each report. Its huge database is expansive, and it shows you the links that have been active during the past three months. You can export up to 100 backlinks as a .csv file, too. It’s perfect for anyone on a tight budget.
One of the most well-known all-in-one SEO tools on the planet, Moz is a fab way of researching your backlinks, discovering potentially harmful links (ones that are coming from spam websites), and finding new opportunities for link-building.
It’s a tool that comes with a sweet interface, and it goes in-depth into the whole business of monitoring your campaigns. It also updates by the hour so that you never miss fresh links, which helps you to nip those potentially harmful links in the bud straight away.
The best thing? It offers a free 30-day trial. Then, if you want to continue, you can choose from a few plans. The cheapest starts out at $99 per month, while the most expensive costs $599 per month.
Even though Monitor Backlinks hasn’t been around as long as the likes of Moz, it’s fast becoming one of the most popular ways to track your backlink profiles.
It allows you to check as many as ten results before you need to register to get access to all the features. To do so, you need to pay $25. However, the price goes up according to the package you want.
Monitor Backlinks is fairly comprehensive and covers SEO metrics, anchor text reports, and keyword rankings. It also lets you get rid of poor quality links.
Measure New Links
Google Webmaster Tools is an easy way to measure new links. If you haven’t already set up a Google Webmaster Tools account, you will need to do this first.
Pop on over to the site, and then just click on the “Search Traffic” tab, followed by “Link To Your Site.”
Then, click “More,” followed by “Download Latest Links.” You can then log your backlinks by exporting them to a shareable Google Spreadsheet. This is especially handy if you’ll be sharing the info with a client.
Observe Keyword Ranking Changes
This one is simple, and you can use an SEO tool like Moz to help.
Essentially, the more Google (and other search engines) trusts your website and sees it as a relevant and popular “voice” in your niche, the better it will rank your non-branded keywords.
Backlinks from sites that Google knows and trusts (in other words, authoritative websites) are like gold dust for you right now. They offer ringing endorsements that boost your position in the search engines.
Check For TLDs
TLDs (top level domains) tend to carry more weight and authority than other domains. These are domains that Google puts on a pedestal and trusts. They include but are not limited to:
Check Anchor Text
Anchor text is something else that needs to be taken into consideration when building better backlinks to your main website.
Relevant anchor text – such as SEO Moz for this blog post – is more meaningful than, say, just Moz. It’s a natural inbound link that is relevant, keyword rich, and should help to push your site up the rankings.
Be watchful of anchor text. If it has no real relevance to the page it’s linking to and doesn’t contain keywords, it might do more harm than good.
Every now and then we need to carry out a spring-clean on our website. And when we say every now and then, we pretty much mean every hour.
Monitoring your backlinks demands your attention, but the tools listed above can help to automate the process. Hey, it’s a lot easier than doing it manually.
And once you get into the groove of monitoring your campaign regularly, the long-term success of your site isn’t going to take long to improve.
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Featured Image: Nick Youngson