Link building is one of the best online marketing strategies in use today, thanks to its synergy with other marketing strategies and its incredibly high return on investment (ROI). Link building basics are easy to grasp, even if you’re completely new to the strategy, but if you want to succeed long-term, you’ll need something more: the ability to measure and analyze data related to your campaign.
So why are data analysis skills so important here, and what steps can you take to improve your results?
Link Building Basics
Let’s start by covering the basics of link building, in case you aren’t familiar. Link building is the process of establishing natural links pointing back to your site on other, external domains. Spamming links will get you penalized by Google, so the most common approach here is to write articles for high-profile publishers, including a link back to your content as a functional citation. This way, the content is valuable for both readers and publishers, and the link works well in context.
Links provide many benefits. For starters, they pass authority to your domain (and the specific page they point to), boosting your trustworthiness within search engine algorithms and increasing your search engine rankings overall. They can also be clicked, like any link, giving you the ability to attract more referral traffic to your site. On top of that, you could get brand recognition just by including your brand name, and eventually work your way to bigger and more powerful publishers.
The Role of Data Analysis
So why is data analysis so important to succeed in this area?
There are a handful of principles that are important to keep in mind. First, some links are better than others, and it’s not always obvious which ones are which. Data analysis can help you figure out which ones are performing better and which ones are lagging, so you can optimize your strategy to favor links similar to ones that have worked in the past. Second, there are many potential directions you can take your link building strategy, catering to one or more of its beneficial effects. Data analysis can help you figure out which of these directions will be most effective for your brand, so you can minimize wasted time and effort, and customize your strategy to best fit your brand.
There are several areas of research that can help you here:
- Competitor analysis. High-level competitive analysis is a staple for pretty much any marketing campaign, but for link building, it’s even more important. Researching your competitors’ link building approaches can help you discover some of the best publishers for your industry, or provide you with ideas for areas your competitors haven’t yet touched. You don’t want to copy your competitors’ strategies directly, but you can definitely learn from them and improve upon them.
- Referral traffic. You’ll also want to study the referral traffic you’re getting from each link you build. By relying on Google Analytics, you can accurately measure the number of visitors you get from each referring domain, as well as each individual link. This can tell you the referring power of each of your links, and help you estimate which publishers are most valuable to you.
- Domain authority and ranking effects. It’s a little harder to measure the domain effects and ranking effects of your links, but it’s another important area for analysis. Pay close attention to how your domain authority changes over time, especially when you build links on a new domain. Ideally, you’ll see your domain and page-level authority tracking steadily upward, with comparable improvements in your search engine rankings. If this isn’t the case, it may be a sign you need to change your approach.
- Secondary performance metrics. There are more benefits to link building than just search rank increases and referral traffic. Data analysis can help you determine the impact of your links in other areas as well, including your brand visibility, social media impact, and your reputation within various publication circles. Some of these are subjective, and harder to measure, but with metrics like brand awareness and social shares, you can run a decent analysis.
- Overall ROI. All of these metrics can also be held in consideration with the amount of time and money you spent building the links in the first place. This can lead you to a definitive, all-around ROI, which is the theoretical best measure of your links’ value.
Building links indiscriminately, without measuring or analyzing your performance, isn’t going to help you in the long term. If you want to stand a chance of outperforming your competitors, and getting the most value out of your marketing investment, you need to incorporate data analysis into your link building strategy.