If you are actively building links as part of your SEO efforts, you are probably tracking your metrics, but are your metrics helping you? You should be actively watching KPI’s to ensure your link building is heading in the right direction. This begs two questions two questions: What KPI’s do I track and how do you record these metrics so that they are actionable?
The second question is pretty easy – you should be tracking your KPI’s in a dashboard. This is great because it allows you to see trending data for your important metrics that should be shaping your link building efforts. I have made a link building dashboard template that you can download here.
So what metrics should you be tracking? You should be watching KPI’s that indicate the results of your efforts so that you can reshape your link building efforts as needed. The following are the metrics that I track, as they impact how I focus my time:
This is pretty straightforward – How many external links are pointing to your entire domain. If you want to create a competitive intelligence dashboard, you can also include your competitor’s links. I recommend using Google Webmaster tools data for this KPI – Don’t forget to subtract internal links as Google includes this number in WMT.
Number of Linking Domains
While it is good to know the number of links pointing to your site, the number of linking domains has a higher correlation with good rankings and is vital to track. This is really good to watch alongside your total links graph as it will help you understand if you are getting a lot of contextual links or if you are getting less valuable links, like sidebar links.
Number of Linking Domains Gained
How successful are your efforts? How many linking domains are you gaining each week? This is a good number to look at to judge the scalability of your efforts in order to help evaluate your effectiveness. If you are putting a lot of effort in but are only getting a few mediocre links, then you should probably look into a different tactic.
Number of Phrase Match Anchors
I like to know the number of links I am building with targeted anchors. I track how many links use phrases containing the anchors that I am targeting. While the raw number is helpful for seeing the effectiveness of your efforts, it is really important to look at this as a proportion of your links. You want to make sure you don’t have 50% of your links being targeted anchors as this is indicative of targeted link building efforts that could easily be detected by search engines.
Number of Branded Links
How many links contain your brand name? Create a percentage of the number of branded links compared to your entire backlink profile. You should know your competitive landscape and what the branded backlink portfolio of your competitors looks like.
Links to the Homepage
How many of your links are pointing to your homepage? You want to create a dashboard that will show you the ratio of links going to your homepage. Compare this ratio against that of your competitors and the top ranking sites. The purpose of this is to make sure that you are still building links in the appropriate ratio to corresponding pages so that your backlink profile doesn’t appear unnatural.
I created a template that you can download and put your own data in that you can download here.
While there are a huge number of other metrics you can track, and that you should probably look at, these are the KPIs I track consistently. As this is for a dashboard, you want to only include the vital metrics that give you a quick overview of the performance of your link building; you should be able to tell if something looks off and needs further investigation.