Link Building Basics For SEO In The Age Of Data Analytics

Here's how the age of data analytics has transformed SEO.

seo in the age of data analytics
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Big data is becoming more important to modern marketing. You can’t afford to ignore the benefits of data analytics in your marketing campaigns. It is especially important when it comes to SEO.

Search Engine Watch has a great article on using data analytics for SEO. This article is a great resource for SEO professionals that want to develop a more data intensive strategy. However, we felt it would be helpful to create a primer for laypeople.

The following article has an overview of the science of SEO. Afterwards, we will provide some additional information on creating a more data-driven SEO strategy, particularly around the theme of earning backlinks.

If you’re active in the world of online marketing, you’ve likely heard about the possibility of using link building for search engine optimization (SEO). But what exactly is link building, and is it the right strategy for every website?

In this guide, we’ll cover the basics.

What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Let’s start with a basic description of SEO. SEO is a collection of different tactics designed to improve your site’s visibility in search engines. With the right approach, you can increase your pages’ likelihood of showing up for relevant searches, and increase their relative rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs).

There are more than 200 ranking factors that play a role in how pages are ranked, so as you can imagine, SEO is complicated. But generally speaking, tactics can be categorized as onsite optimization or offsite optimization. Onsite tactics are designed to improve the functionality of your website and produce content that closely matches keywords and phrases searched by your target audience. Offsite tactics, like link building methods, are designed to increase the relative trustworthiness of your site.

Keep in mind that big data drives search engines in 2020. Google is one of the most advanced data-driven companies in the world. SEO professionals need to understand the role of big data in the context of search engine optimization.

Why Does Link Building Matter?

When Google generates a list of results for a given query, it considers two things: the relevance and authority of prospective rankings. Relevance refers to the contextual match of a page, and can be increased with keyword optimization. But if you want to build authority, you need the help of links.

Search engines use data mining tools to find links from other sites. These Hadoop based tools archive links and keep track of them. They use a sophisticated data-driven algorithm to assess the quality of these sites based on the volume and quantity of inbound links. This algorithm is known as Google PageRank.

The authority, or trustworthiness, of a domain (and of individual pages) is calculated by studying the quality and quantity of links pointing to it. Having more links, from more referring domains, is generally associated with a higher “authority,” and therefore higher search rankings. The higher the authority of the referring domain, the more valuable the link is going to be.

Some websites attempt to earn links completely naturally by developing the best possible content and hoping for external sites to link to them. However, this approach is unreliable and inconsistent. It’s often better to build links with the help of external content; writing guest posts for external publishers grants you an opportunity to link back to your site naturally.

Link building isn’t just about cultivating authority, however. Because these links are fully functional, they can also generate referral traffic—and increase your brand visibility at the same time.

Building Links the “Right” Way

At this point, you may be thinking that building links is a surefire way to increase your website’s visibility, but there’s an important catch—there are “right” ways and “wrong” ways to build links with big data.

Google and other search engines understand that links can be manipulated to increase rankings unfairly, so they’ve devised systems that can catch and penalize unscrupulous link builders. If you want to be successful, you need to use the right tactics, which include:

  • Relying on a backlink checker. First, you should be using a backlink checker to analyze your backlink profile and evaluate your performance over time. With this tool, you can quickly see how many links you’ve built, the number of referring domains you have, and the relative authority of each link. It’s a great way to weed out bad backlinks and find new linking opportunities.
  • Building links from many different domains. It’s a bad idea to link from the same domain, or the same cluster of domains repeatedly. Instead, it’s much more valuable to build links from a mix of different domains, assuming they’re at least somewhat relevant to your brand.
  • Targeting high-authority sites. The higher the authority of the referring domain, the more authority the link is going to pass. Accordingly, it’s in your best interest to target the highest-authority sites you can.
  • Building a mix of different links. Don’t keep building links to the same page of your site over and over; instead, build links to a mixture of different pages, including your homepage, your internal pages, and your blog posts.
  • Offering value to readers. Each link you build should provide value to readers. Oftentimes, this means citing a statistic or providing content for further reading.
  • Maintaining contextual relevance. Your link should be contextually relevant to the blog; in other words, it shouldn’t stand out as promotional. It should also be included with links to other sites.
  • Getting the anchor text right. The anchor text of a link is the text in which the link is housed. Your anchor text may include a keyword or phrase you’re trying to target, but it’s more important to ensure that your anchor text is natural and contextually relevant to the article.
  • Avoiding explosive growth. Too many novice link builders build as many links as possible, as fast as possible. This can trigger red flags. Instead, strive for steady, reliable growth curves.

As you can see, link building is simple in theory but complex in execution. If you decide to pursue link building as part of your SEO or overall online marketing strategy, you’ll need to be careful to build the best links you can—and avoid the pitfalls of “bad” link building. 

Taking on the work of link building can be daunting. The most important thing to keep in mind is that earning links (gaining links naturally versus “pursuing” them) is the most organic and effective way to achieve success as per this link building statistic. However, that is much easier said than done. Luckily, there are companies that offer a “natural”, merit-based approach to link building. This essentially bridges the gap between your “link-able” content, and the websites that would link to it.

Jon Kelly, a 16-year link specialist for, provides some insight on this: “Unfortunately, finding an SEO company that offers a merit-based or natural approach to link building can be difficult and is usually more expensive. The reasons being that it is more complex and time consuming to do it that way. However, it is also much more effective and safe in the long term. If you are looking to hire, a Google search for “natural link building” is a good place to start.”

How Can Big Data Assist With LinkBuilding?

This is obviously the crux of the article here. Big data is critical for linkbuilding in 2020. You can use data analytics to:

  • Discover new sites. A number of data mining tools discover platforms for building links.
  • Determine the quality of links. Even basic platforms like Google WebMaster Tools use big data to identify unnatural links. Big data SEO professionals can use this information to disavow links that might be hurting their rankings.
  • See which pages are attracting the most views. Google Analytics is a great data analytics resource. You can’t see which keywords are driving traffic anymore. However, their data analytics dashboard does still let you see which pages are getting traffic from organic search results. This can help you identify the keywords that are likely to drive more traffic.

Big data is incredibly important in modern SEO. You should use data analytics to get the most out of your linkbuilding strategy.

MATT BERTRAM, C.P.C., is the Co-Host of the most popular SEO podcast on iTunes. He is the Lead Digital Marketing Strategist and CEO at eWebResults, a top internet marketing agency since 1999 focused on driving traffic though multi-channel marketing built on Organic SEO as the backbone.