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How to Measure the ROI of Building Backlinks

How to Measure the ROI of Building Backlinks

Building backlinks is one of the essential SEO strategies because it helps you rank higher in search engines. Many factors determine how well your website will rank on Google for targeted keywords. Having a significant amount of quality links leading back to your website is one of those factors.

How do you know which links are considered “high-quality backlinks”? They should have the following characteristics:

  • Relevance – Links are relevant to your page’s topics and are not spammy.
  • Uniqueness – The links lead mostly to informational resources.
  • Traffic – They bring in a big number of visitors.
  • Authority – The links come from domains with high authority, i.e. well-trusted websites

We are now going to focus on authority. A link from a distinctly authoritative website is more valuable than receiving five links from websites with low domain authority.

It’s the principle of quality over quantity. Getting backlinks from authority websites is a must and it will benefit the ROI of your backlink campaigns.

But before measuring the success of your backlinks campaigns, let’s explain what exactly is domain authority, domain ranking and talk about the two main tools that use these metrics.

The Four Characteristics of High Quality Backlinks

The Four Characteristics of High-Quality Backlinks, Source: cognitiveSEO

What Is the Difference Between Domain Rating (DR) by Ahrefs and Domain Authority (DA) by Moz?

Different tools measure differently the quality of website links. The most used ones are the Domain Rating metric (DR) by Ahrefs and the Domain Authority (DA), invented by Moz.

Let’s take a look at both.

Ahrefs Domain Rating (DR) & Website Authority Checker

As Ahrefs defines the DR, this is:

a metric that shows the link popularity of your website compared to all other websites on a scale from 0 to 100.

Usually the higher the number, the stronger and more authoritative the website is. The tool where you can check your Ahrefs DR is called Website Authority Checker. It will calculate its rating by looking at:

  • How many unique domains link to the specific website
  • The authority of those linking domains
  • How many unique domains each of those sites link to
  • The math and coding to calculate the scores
  • The score on a 100-point scale

Keep in mind the tool doesn’t measure link spam, traffic or domain age. If you are wondering how you can improve your domain rating score, the answer is by getting backlinks from more unique websites.

Domain Authority (DA), Moz

The Domain Authority ranking score, developed by Moz

predicts how well the website will rank on search engine result pages.

The DA by Moz score ranges from one to 100. Again, the higher the number the higher the website will rank on search engines.

The free domain SEO analysis tool you can use to calculate your domain authority. The free version has a limit on the number of websites you can research daily.

As Moz states the DA is calculated by using multiple factors such as:

  • Link root domains
  • Number of total links
  • The quality of incoming and outgoing links

It’s important to note that there is yet another metric you might be interested in and it’s called Page Authority. The difference between the two is that Page Authority predicts how well a particular page will rank in search engines while the other two metrics focus on the domains.

As you can see both Domain Authority and Domain Rating provide similar information and you can use them to analyze the strength of a certain domain. Which one to choose is up to you and depends on what you need to measure.

If we check the Domain Authority on Moz, we see a DA score of 76.

ahrefs domain authority on MOZ

If we examine in Ahrefs’s Domain Rating the score is 89. in Ahrefs’s Website Authority Checker

Which tool should you use? It depends on what you want to measure. Both metrics DR and DA are similar, but not the same and they actually measure slightly different things.

To sum up,

  • the Domain Rating (DR) by Ahref’s gives you an idea of the strength of a website’s backlinks. The main factor Ahrefs takes into consideration are backlinks.
  • the Domain Authority (DA) by Moz provides information on which site will rank higher in SERPs by measuring linking root domains, the number of quality incoming and outgoing links, etc.

Link building campaigns are an obligatory part of each marketing and SEO strategy. If your website has a significant amount of quality backlinks the chances of higher ranking in Google are greater.

But there is more. If other websites with a higher domain authority link to your website, you will rank better for the keywords you’ve optimized for. In addition, if a website with a higher DA link to yours this means you are doing a great job and you’ve produced great content.

Related: Why Your Backlinks Aren’t Being Indexed

Let’s now move on to how you can tell if your efforts to obtain high-quality links are paying off.

1. Conduct Backlink Analysis

Backlink Analysis tools

The first step is to conduct a backlink analysis. This way you will have an idea regarding the condition of the links on your website.

The analysis will show you the links that are coming from authority websites and have a positive effect on your SEO strategy. It will also show you the links coming from spammy websites so you can identify and remove them from your website.

To conduct the backlinks analysis you can use:

Let’s discuss what data you need to monitor when conducting your backlink analysis. (We are going to use Ubersuggest in the examples, but you are free to work with another tool.)

Related: Top Ten Link Building Automation Tools

What do you need to pay attention to when conducting backlink analysis:

  • Number of backlinks and referring domains
Number of backlinks and referring domains 1

Number of backlinks and referring domains – Ahrefs

Let’s use the websites of Ahrefs and Moz to compare. When you do a backlinks audit you can start with the basics – the number of backlinks and referring domains.

The above screenshot is from Ubersuggest. It shows that Ahrefs has 1,052,152 backlinks coming from 64,725 domains. However these numbers mean much if you don’t compare them with the competition.

Let’s examine how many backlinks and referral domains Moz has:

Number of backlinks and referring domains MOZ

Number of backlinks and referring domains MOZ

As you can see Moz has a bigger number of backlinks than Ahrefs – 6,673,261 backlinks from 75,166 domains. From this comparison we can assume that Ahrefs has a smaller amount of links than the competitor Moz.

You can do this with your website and compare with your competitors. This way you can get a better idea if you need to improve your backlinks strategy and get more backlinks.

  • Check the backlinks growth over time
Ahrefs backlinks growth over time

Ahrefs backlinks growth over time

This is the Ahrefs backlinks growth from January 2019. The backlinks and the referring domains are constantly and slowly growing over time, which is good.

Let’s compare with Moz:

MOZ backlinks growth over time

MOZ backlinks growth over time

The graphic is similar. It seems both tools have been acquiring backlinks as well as referring domains constantly over the past year and a half.

To spice things up a bit. Let’s add another example – Ubersuggest, where we can monitor more spikes:

Ubersuggest backlinks growth over time

Ubersuggest backlinks growth over time

Ubersuggest doubled their backlinks between July 2019 and August 2019 to two million which indicates a successful campaign that has also kept growing.

  • Monitor massive link spikes
Monitor massive link spikes

Monitor massive link spikes, Source: Ahrefs

Contrary to the above example with Ubersuggest where there was a spike, followed by a constantly growing number of backlinks, here the situation is different.

Here we can see a significant spike in referring domains but then a sudden drop which could be a sign of a negative SEO attack.

Usually negative SEO tactics include building thousands of spam links, creating fake reviews, content scraping, sending fake link removal requests and more.

That’s why it is important to monitor such changes in your referral traffic, so you can fix any spam links.

  • Check the quality of the links

Check the anchor words
Check the domain score ratings of the websites that link to yours. In Ubersuggest the metric is called “Domain Score”. This way you can see if the links are coming from authoritative websites since search engines consider links coming from high authoritative websites as upvotes.

  • Check the anchor words

Check the quality of the links 1

People should naturally link to you by using branded anchor words or ones related to your business.

The example above shows the anchor text used by the websites linking to DevriX using the brand words like “DevriX”, “”. The anchor word “WordPress” is also a good one, since it’s connected to the DevriX business niche.

If you investigate your reports carefully you might discover anchor words that don’t make any sense and might be coming from spammy links.

Check the below example. This is report from Moz where you can monitor the anchor “mens health” which doesn’t have nothing in common with Moz’s services.

Check the anchor words 2

2. Check Your Referral Traffic

Referral traffic is a metric you can check on Google Analytics. It reports the visits to your website from sources outside the search engine.

Imagine if a page with high authority put out a link to your article. Then someone clicks on the hyperlink and it goes to your article. This is going to show as referral traffic in your Google Analytics.

This metric will not only give you an idea of where the traffic to your website has been coming from, it informs you of the quality of the links you are getting. You can see the top sources from where you are obtaining most of your referral traffic.

When speaking about referral traffic we can’t dismiss the guest bloggers who play a huge role in SEO and especially in getting backlinks from authoritative domains.

The idea of guest blogging revolves around brand awareness, receiving quality backlinks and PR purposes. Working with guest bloggers can help you with:

  • Increasing your domain authority
  • Getting more traffic to your blog and to your website which will lead to
  • More sales

Receiving pitched ideas from bloggers who produce outstanding and valuable content could be a sign that your authority as an expert grows.

3. Track Changes in Your Search Rankings

Search rankings are dynamic. One day you could be in the top SERP results, but the next, you could rank on the second page of Google. That’s why it is important to monitor any changes in your ranking and organic traffic.

If you want your website to convert and be visible you need to rank first in search engine results. Did you know the #1 result in Google’s organic search results has an average CTR of 31.7%?

.average CTR on Googles organic search results

Tracking the changes in your search rankings can definitely give you information if your link building strategies work. If your search rankings improve this means that your organic traffic will also grow.

4. Monitor Brand Mentions and Social Shares

Brand mentions always help and boost your link building ROI. To track the brand mentions you can use Google Alerts. When monitoring your brand mentions you can find new opportunities for linking or collaboration.

Another advantage of tracking social shares is that it will help you know what content your target audience likes. If they share your content this means they like it. And you can optimize it further for your content strategy.

In Google Analytics you can track the social conversions. The traffic that comes from social media can be categorized by owned and earned.

The owned traffic is represented by people who land on your page by clicking the link you shared. While earned traffic is the one that comes from links shared by your readers.

5. Keep an Eye on General Metrics

Don’t forget about the general metrics. Especially if you start a link building campaign, you can monitor the progress by checking:

  • Domain Strength – Links from “strong” domains will have a positive effect on your rankings.
  • Anchor Text – It should be as natural as possible.
  • Number of Links – It’s good to have a substantial number of links but don’t forget about the quality. If you receive a lot of backlinks this means your link building campaigns are working.
  • Relevance of Linking Page – The links should come from relevant to your page sources

Including also general metrics from Google Analytics:

  • Number of visitors
  • Unique visitors
  • Page views and Pages per visit
  • Bounce rate

The main reason to do a link building campaign is to generate more traffic to a specific page and increase the conversion. Not every person who enters your website will become your customer. That’s why with general metrics you can have a better idea of your backlinks ROI.

Wrapping up

Building backlinks is not an easy job. Although it is crucial if you want to rank higher in search engines, bring in more traffic and conversions.

We’ve listed five ways to measure the ROI associated with link building. Start with conducting a backlink analysis, then looking at the quality and spam links that lead to your website. Finally, use Google Analytics to track your referral traffic, and monitor your search rankings and brand mentions.


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