How to understand that links work: metrics and link building KPIs

    You got a bold link from Habr - and what next? We show on fingers how to mark up links and where to look in analytics to evaluate the exhaust from them. Let's analyze the metrics and methods of calculating KPI link building.

    A few years ago, link building had a clear task - to bring the site to the top of Yandex and Google. The quality of links was evaluated using purely technical metrics (donor TCI, trust, spamming).

    These times are gone. Changes in search engine algorithms have left mass and unsystematic link buying in the past. Webmasters began to carefully analyze donors in terms of traffic and audience activity, to think of ways to naturally sow links.

    Over time, marketers joined the link building, and he stopped solving only SEO problems. Now, with its help, attract customers, increase brand awareness and trust. And with one increase in the site’s visibility, the effect of link building can no longer be estimated - you need a relevant system of metrics and KPI.

    Metrics and KPI - what is the difference?

    The difference between the metric and KPI is about the same as between the number of hours worked and salary. A watch is a metric. In isolation from other indicators, it is useless. Well, really, no one brags about how much time he spent at the machine ... And the salary is KPI. She is real. And you always want more.

    Seriously, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are the criteria by which the achievement of the tasks set for a specialist / department / company is evaluated. They are most often complex and based on metrics - specific indicators related to link building.

    To assess the effectiveness of link building, you need to monitor both metrics and KPI. We will analyze in detail how to evaluate them and where to get the data from.

    Link Building Metrics

    1. Number and type of links

    Purpose: to understand how many links are placed, on which sites, to check the correctness of the placement.

    What indicators to monitor:

    • the number and dynamics of affixed and indexed links;
    • number of deleted links;
    • ratio of follow and nofollow links.

    To collect data about the placed links, keep a report. It can consist of three blocks:

    1. References:

    • Landing page URL;
    • method and date of implantation of the link;
    • type (follow / nofollow);
    • anchor.

    2. Donor parameters:

    • subjects;
    • X;
    • monthly traffic;
    • Citation Flow and Trust Flow (or other indicators characterizing the credibility of the reference mass of the donor);
    • the number of referring pages and domains.

    3. Costs:

    • payment method (one-time / monthly);
    • link posting cost (payment to the donor);
    • content creation costs;
    • the cost of advertising a page with a link or post (paid reposts, contextual / targeted advertising).

    From the report you will know how many links were placed over the period and how much money was spent.

    Link placement is just the beginning. It happens that webmasters after payment remove them or add the attribute rel = "nofollow". Or links for various reasons are not indexed. These points need to be tracked.

    Part of the information is in Yandex.Webmaster in the "Links / External Links" section. Here you will see:

    • Which links are currently indexed (Current Links tab);

    • what links and when exactly deleted (tab "Deleted links").

    To analyze links indexed by Google, go to the Search Console in the "Links" section (the "Sites that link most often" / "Advanced" section).

    The problem is that the new version of Search Console does not indicate which pages are linked from. Data is presented only by domain. Also here, as in Yandex.Metrica, there is no monitoring of link types (follow / nofollow).

    For comprehensive monitoring of links, special services are convenient - Ahrefs , Majestic , Link Explorer from MOZ. It aggregates information on internal and external links - including the follow / nofollow section.

    For example, to view nofollow links in Link Explorer, go to the “Inbound Links” section and select “nofollow” (or another interesting option) under “Link Type”.

    The lack of services is in price. Ahrefs basic package costs $ 99 per month, Majestic - $ 49.99 per month, MOZ Pro - $ 179 per month. If you need to monitor a small number of links, then buying a subscription is not profitable.

    Another way to track links is through the Natural Links module from PromoPult. It closes all basic monitoring tasks:

    • systematization of work with links (you see how many links are placed, on which pages, and where the placement is planned);
    • monitoring the availability of links (the system scans links every day, and if they are inaccessible or are closed from indexing by the attribute rel = "nofollow", you will see this);
    • traffic accounting (for each donor page, the system collects data on click links for the last year; if you don’t have enough experience / time to work with UTM tags, which we will discuss later, this functionality will become a simpler alternative).

    In addition, the module collects relevant sites from the TOP-20 of Yandex and Google, on which it is profitable to place links, and allows you to transfer link building to full outsourcing.

    2. Referral traffic

    Purpose: to understand how many visitors come from links, and which links lead to better traffic.

    What indicators to track:

    • dynamics of referral traffic;
    • Referral traffic conversion rate
    • behavioral metrics of visitors following links (time and depth of viewing, failures).

    Yandex.Metrica and Google Analytics are used for general traffic monitoring . They fix the transitions in the context of enlarged channels. You will see how many visitors followed the links, but will not know from which pages and by which links.

    For accurate monitoring, you need tracking links using tags.

    An important point. From the point of view of classical SEO, tagging links is not the most effective method, because the search engine will know that the links are advertising (and therefore obtained artificially). But understanding the nature and nature of traffic in the current development of search technologies and the market as a whole is more important than building “links for SEO”.

    Yandex.Metrica supports link markup using UTM, OpenStat, and From tags, and Google Analytics only supports UTM. Therefore, it is better to use UTM tags. They are universal and allow you to transfer the most data.

    Before marking links with UTM parameters, configure the rel = "canonical" attribute. It will point the search engines to the main untagged landing page to be indexed. So you will not have duplicates (URL with tags) in the search results.

    Next, consider what values ​​each UTM parameter will transmit.

    Using the utm_source parameter, the site on which the link is located is identified:



    The utm_medium parameter is suitable for identifying the type of placement:





    Using the utm_campaign parameter, you can determine how the link is integrated:




    Или, как вариант, тип донора:




    In addition to the three required parameters, fill out the optional ones:

    utm_content и utm_term.

    С помощью параметра utm_content определяйте конкретную страницу, на которой размещена ссылка:


    If there are several links on the page, set your utm_content parameter for each of them:


    utm_content=kak-proverit-obratnye-ssylki-2 и т. п.

    Use the utm_term parameter to pass information about anchors:





    As a result, a typical link posted by a link builder will take the form: vkontakte&utm_medium=social-paid-post&utm_campaign=nishevij-public&utm_content=kak-proverit-obratnye-ssylki&utm_term=promopult

    Such a tagging system allows you to know exactly what links the traffic comes from and analyze their effectiveness by channels, donor types, integration methods, individual pages and anchors. For an analyst, working with such data is the same as getting into “all inclusive”.

    After marking up the links and the first placements, track the traffic. In Yandex.Metrica, go to “Reports” / “Standard Reports” / “Sources” / “UTM Tags”.

    In the context of the completed UTM tags, visits, number of visitors and behavioral metrics (refusals, viewing depth, time on the site) are indicated here. To add a metric to the table (for example, the goal conversion rate), click Metric and select a metric.

    UTM tag data is also available in Google Analytics. This system allows flexible data sampling according to the UTM parameters of interest. But here the UTM parameters are presented in different reports. This is the specifics of Google Analytics to be aware of.

    So, if you want to see statistics on utm_source and utm_medium parameters, go to the “Traffic Sources” / “All Traffic” section and select the “Source / Channel” report.

    Explain the logic of traffic tracking in Google Analytics. The system assigns its parameters to sources and channels. If the links are not marked with UTM tags, Google Analytics substitutes the default parameters.

    For example, if the system indicates “Google” as the source, this means that the visitor switched from Google search, and if “organic” is indicated in the channel, then the transition was from organic search. If the link was through a link on a site, the system will indicate the domain of this site in the source and the channel parameter “referral”. That is, even if you don’t mark up the links with UTM tags, at least with the help of Google Analytics you will know from which site the visitor came from.

    For deep analytics, this is not enough. Therefore, place the labels all the same.

    What happens when Google Analytics captures a click on a link with a UTM tag? In this case, instead of the default values ​​of the "Source" and "Channel" parameters in the report, you will see the utm_source and utm_medium UTM parameters specified in the link.

    To view data for the rest of the tags, go to the “Traffic Sources” / “Campaigns” section and select the “All Campaigns” report. The Campaign column displays utm_campaign parameters.

    To receive data on utm_content, click on the "Advanced parameter" button, in the drop-down list, find the "Advertising" section and select "Ad Content".

    The column “Content of the announcement” will appear in the table - it contains utm_content parameters.

    If, in the "Advanced parameter" drop-down list in the "Advertising" section, you select the "Keyword" item, a column of the same name will appear, in which utm_term parameters are indicated.

    Thus, with the help of UTM-markup of links you can see traffic, conversion and behavioral metrics for all referral links, individual groups and each link separately.

    3. Brand popularity

    Purpose: to understand how the increase in link mass affects the development of the brand.

    What indicators to track:

    • site positions for brand queries in Yandex / Google;
    • Search traffic from brand queries
    • brand mentions.

    Young sites do not occupy high positions in search results - even for brand queries. To strengthen the brand, they use links with brand anchors - with the name of the brand, company and / or site. With the right actions, positions will grow.

    Any position tracking service is suitable for monitoring. The question is how often to take statistics. For example, PromoPult’s position check tool allows you to do this once or on a schedule (once a month, once a week, or every day).

    It is important to find a middle ground here. If you post a couple of links per week, then there is no point in taking positions every day - just spend your money in vain. Once a week (and if the budget is limited, then once a month) will be enough.

    If your link building is put on stream and 5-7 new links appear every day, then the cost of daily parsing will be justified.

    Position monitoring is one side of the coin. Positions are important to compare with the number and quality of links. To do this, enter a table in which note the number of links (cumulatively) and the site’s position according to brand requests. For greater information content, break links into categories, for example, depending on the volume of donor traffic (category G - up to 30 thousand visits per month, C - up to 100 thousand, B - up to 1 million, A - more than 1 million). Categories can be distinguished by the level of Trust Flow and any other indicator.

    After you have accumulated enough data, evaluate the correlation between the categories of links and positions for various queries. This will help you determine which categories of links are more likely to influence line items.

    So, we figured out the positions. But the position does not reflect the popularity of the brand among users. To evaluate it, track traffic for brand queries.

    Google Analytics doesn’t disclose what queries users clicked on. Therefore, we go to Yandex.Metrica. In the “Reports” / “Standard Reports” / “Sources” section, select the “Search Queries” report.

    Map traffic data from the report to line items. To do this, specify the Monday (or other) drilldown, select a period, and upload the table. It remains to compare the dynamics of brand traffic and positions and find a correlation.

    Another indicator of brand popularity is mentions. There are special services for tracking them - Brand Analytics, YouScan, etc. But subscribing to them is expensive (for example, the minimum YouScan package will cost from $ 500 per month). Buying it just for the sake of analyzing the effectiveness of link building is definitely not worth it. Moreover, there is a simple and free Google Alerts notification service .

    Set brand names in different spellings (Latin, Cyrillic, together, separately, with errors, etc.) and set up alerts. As soon as Google notices the appearance of the text with the specified name, it will send a notification in the mail.

    So, we looked at link building metrics. They will help you choose effective donors, types and methods of link implantation, and control link building. But metrics do not take into account the monetary component. On their basis it is impossible to judge the effectiveness of link building as a marketing tool. So we come to KPI ...

    KPI in link building

    1. Transition Cost (CPC)

    Purpose: to estimate how much it cost on average to go to a site using the links posted.

    In general, CPC is calculated as follows:

    CPC = link costs per period / link traffic

    Expenses are recorded for each link in the primary reporting form for link building (we talked about it in the first paragraph, “Number and type of links”). Where you can see traffic by links, you already know.

    It is important to evaluate not only the overall CPC, but also the CPC by individual link groups (for example, by donor, type of placement, implantation method, etc.). How to do it:

    1. Select links in the report on link building by the parameter you are interested in (for example, by the method of placing the "native frame").

    2. Summarize the costs of these links.

    3. If the placement method is passed by the utm_campaign parameter, go to the Google Analytics section “Traffic Sources” / “Campaigns”, open the “All Campaigns” report, set the period and export the data.

    4. Find the line with the value “nativnaja-vrezka” in the report (in your case, it may be a different value).

    5. Divide the total costs by native tie-ins for the month by the volume of traffic, and you will receive CPC for this type of placements (17879/1262 = 14.17 rubles).

    Similarly, calculate CPC for other UTM parameters, and you will have a complete picture of which links lead to cheaper traffic.

    2. Cost of lead (СPL), order (CPO), sale (CPS)

    Purpose: to estimate how much on average one lead (order, sale) received after clicking on the links placed.

    CPC characterizes the price of traffic. But the business does not need traffic, but customers, and at an affordable cost. CPL / CPO / CPS indicators will help to assess the cost of their attraction. They are calculated in the same way as CPC, only the denominator will not be the amount of traffic, but the number of leads / orders / sales.

    Which indicators to evaluate depends on the specifics of the business and the tasks set. If contact collection is important to you, evaluate CPL. If the site has the opportunity to order services online, evaluate the CPO. And if you have an online store, then CPS will be useful.

    To collect lead and bid data, you must first set up goals in Google Analytics. Information on conversions is in the “Source / Channel” report (for links with utm_source and utm_medium parameters) and the “All campaigns” report (for links with other UTM parameters).

    Compare the cost of lead, order and sale with similar indicators for other marketing tools. So you determine the most profitable ways to attract customers and optimally distribute the budget.

    3. ROI

    Purpose: to understand whether link building is profitable and to what extent.

    ROI is calculated by the formula:

    ROI = (referral visitors revenue - link costs) / link costs * 100%.

    Despite the simplicity of the formula, this is the most difficult indicator in terms of calculation. Everything is clear with the expenses - they are recorded in the report on the placed links.

    Income is more complicated. It is clear that in order to monitor incomes, it is necessary to set goals and their value. But user behavior is non-linear. A person can go to the site via the link, leave, return in a day through retargeting and make a conversion. And it will count towards another channel.

    The solution in this situation is to track associated conversions (the “Conversions” / “Multi-Channel Funnels” section). After the transition in the report, select the main parameter "Source / Channel".

    The “Associated Conversions” column shows the number of conversions in which the channel was secondary (not the last). The column on the right shows the value of such conversions for the channel. This value needs to be summed with the value of the last-click conversion, and you’ll get the income that the channel brought.

    The problem is that this report is approximate. Often the numbers in it do not coincide with the numbers in the Source / Conversions report. Therefore, to evaluate ROI, it is better to use the data from both reports to reach a more or less relevant figure.

    To summarize

    In order for you to have a complete picture of the effectiveness of link building:

    • take into account in the primary reporting form each link placed (indicating
      its type, placement method, donor parameters and costs);
    • periodically track indexed, deleted and broken links;
    • mark links with UTM tags and monitor the amount of traffic for them (in general and for individual groups);
    • evaluate the marketing effect of link building (brand-specific traffic and increasing brand mentions);
    • read KPIs (CPC, CPL, CPO, CPS, ROI) and compare them with KPIs for other marketing tools.

    As you can see, links are not just about SEO. Their business benefits go beyond purely technical influence on positions. This is a complete marketing tool. It which requires a comprehensive approach to assessing effectiveness and a serious analytical base.

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