How Do You Measure the Success of Your Link Building?

Matt Zajechowski

By Matt Zajechowski

With outreach, it can often feel like the emails you’re sending are shots in the dark. You sit by your computer hoping someone, anyone responds with an enthusiastic email saying they want to share your content with their audience. There are many surefire outreach techniques that can net you the results that you’re looking for from a successful outreach campaign (and some not so great approaches). But how do you know if outreach has truly been a success?

Obviously, direct feedback from the people you’ve pitched is a very clear signal as to how it was received. But what about after you’re done emailing?

Beyond Google Analytic’s awesome plethora of useful data, there are other tell-tale ways of determining link building outreach success.

Are you reaching your intended audience?

After an outreach campaign has come to an end and run its course, do a backlink analysis to gather up all of the links you’ve built. This will help you get a sense of all the sites that shared the content and linked back to you. Some backlink software can take months to update and find your backlinks, so it’s also good measure to use some search modifiers to find sites through Google that shared your content.

Typically, sites mention the company that created the infographic when sharing it and linking back for which you can set a Google Alert up for. After populating a list of linking domains, you’re going to categorize the links in a spreadsheet.

spreadsheet

The three columns that you absolutely need are:

  • URL
  • Vertical (a.k.a. Industry)
  • Link Quality Score

The Vertical column mainly exists so you can filter and sort by different verticals if your outreach campaign targeted multiple industries and you’d like to see how each vertical compared to the other. The big one to focus on is Link Quality Score. This metric will give you a great glimpse into the link success (or failure) of an outreach campaign.

How Link Quality Score Works

Link Quality Score is comprised of four determining factors, which have varying values that add up to 10. Together, they help you measure link success.

  • Domain Authority (out of 4)
  • Relevance (out of 3)
  • Site Quality (out of 2)
  • Engagement (out of 1)

Here’s a quick rundown on how to determine each score:

Domain Authority

Domain Authority is pretty cut and dry. Moz created this metric and they use a number of different determining factors to arrive at a number, the largest of which is quality of linking root domains. While it’s not a perfect metric, it’s a solid indication of a website’s equity.

How to determine Domain Authority for Link Quality Score:

  • 4 = DA of 70 and above
  • 3 = DA of 50 to 69 range
  • 2 = DA of 30 to 49
  • 1 = DA of 29 and under

Since we want to have consistent Links Quality Scores for all campaigns, it’s important to keep these numbers static and have a concrete range for all referring domains so there is a level foundation to compare all Link Quality Scores.

Relevance

The relevance metric depends heavily on your content as it relates to the site it has been placed on. For example, if you created an infographic about the Chicago Bears rivalry with the Packers and it was shared by the Chicago Sun-Times sports page, the relevancy score would be a 3 due to its high relevancy correlation.

For websites that aren’t related to the topic of the content, their relevancy score would be much lower. For example, if you’ve created an infographic that talks about the justice gap as it relates to access to lawyers in the U.S. and the linking page was a gourmet food website, then the relevancy score would be very low- most likely a 0.

Site Quality

This can be a tricky metric to determine. A few things to keep in mind when determining a site’s overall quality:

  • Does it have a “Write for Us” page? Typically, sites that have a dedicated landing page for guest submissions don’t have the best overall quality. These sites would usually accept guest posts about anything and post them in exchange for money.
  • Have they updated somewhat recently? A site that is regularly updated is often rewarded by Google’s algorithm under the theory that the site is providing consistent content to its users. This is not always the case, but it’s a good sign that a site is often updated and not dormant. Sites that aren’t updated often aren’t necessarily bad, but take a look at their last post and determine if the site has been sitting for a while.
  • Is there a theme and are they sticking to it? Back in the ol’ spammy guest posting days when people were abusing the practice, sites often allowed anyone to write about anything, as long as they received some cash or link back to their own site. Google’s Penguin update devalued many of the sites that they could identify that were doing this. A good rule of thumb is, if a site features all the categories in the world and they’re not a top level domain like Huffington Post or CNN, then the site isn’t usually considered to be of the best quality.

Obviously, there are exceptions but just make sure the site has quality, unique content before scoring them high. Sites that have a specific focus and create quality content completely unique to their site should be considered higher quality.

Domain Authority can be tricky as an indicator of site quality because domain age plays a part in DA. There may be a great new site pumping out quality content without many backlinks yet that purchased their new domain only 6 months prior. Often, those sites are great places to share you content; as the DA grows, the link equity to your site will also grow.

Engagement

This metric is very straightforward and is determined by a few things. First, have people commented on the post? If there’s engagement on the page itself in the form of comments, that is usually a great sign that the content elicited a passionate response (positive or negative responses alike; both can be good for your marketing purposes, depending on the situation). Pages that have a high level of engagement can carry more value for your backlink quality score.

Next, was it shared on social platforms?

Often sites will have social plugins that will show the number of shares on each medium. However, if the social buttons don’t show share totals (or they don’t have any at all), you can copy and paste the URL into Buzzsumo which calculates the social shares of that page. Keep in mind that link shorteners (like Bit.ly) and other social sharing methods might not all be accounted for as Buzzsumo finds social shares of that exact URL.

If a post has 5 comments and 25 social shares, there was a decent amount of engagement. That would typically result in a score of .5 where as a post has 200 Facebook likes and 45 tweets the score would be a full 1 out of a possible 1.

The Best Way To Calculate

Google Doc spreadsheets are a great way to categorize your outreach efforts. Sharing with your marketing will allow them to see it update in real-time. The easiest way to actually input the scores is to create a painfully simple formula as you go.

It looks something like this: =4+3+2+1

In order that would be DA score, Relevancy score, Site Quality score, and the Engagement score. Once you get the hang of it, you can blast through your list fairly fast. Also, if you input the data with this formula, you and your team can see the individual scores for each category.

Keep in mind that these scores are often highly dependent of the scorer themselves. You’ll want to have one person be in charge of all the scoring in order to have a consistent basis for which scoring can be compared to.

Talk with your marketing team to determine who the best person will be and walk through the different categories to make sure everyone is on the same page. Don’t forget to set goals when measuring your link earning success. Assess where you are now, and set clear goals for the types of external links you want to pursue as you bolster your site’s backlink profile.

It’s easy to get caught up in the number of links you can find by checking a backlink checker. But set goals to secure more placements with a higher backlink score, relative to your business.

In the end, Link Quality Scores in the 6.5-10 overall range are great scores. Average scores tend to be in the 4-6 range, while anything below a 4 is a usually an indicator that the link isn’t great and it’s probably not helping your SEO efforts, and possibly even hurting it.

Wrapping Up

While the Link Quality Score method isn’t perfect, it gives you a simple and quick way of determining your outreach campaign’s successes further than just looking at Domain Authority of linking domains.

Remember, quantity is still a metric you should take into account when talking about the number of backlinks earned while link building. But quality of inbound links has been become more of a determining factor in Google’s algorithm. Link Quality Score will give you a better idea of quality, but also take into account how many links you’ve built. This will give you a good holistic indication of an outreach campaign success.