Defining Link Metrics that Impact SEO Link Building Development

April 30, 2012: As SEO becomes more involved in the marketing initiatives of the organization, search marketing professionals work in greater coordination with additional team members and departments. Last week our SEO team met with an organization’s marketing communications team. The goal being defining opportunities for outreach and understanding how we could assist in an effort to acquire high quality links.

Link Building
It is interesting how our teams use different metrics in evaluating opportunities, but still seek to provide similar outcomes. We all want our clients and organizations to receive quality traffic, provide visibility in appropriate markets, and drive measurable results (leads, visitors, etc). As the KoMarketing Associates’ team reflected on why we chose specific sites and publications for outreach, we discussed the following criteria leading to our recommendations for link acquisition.

Link-Specific Metrics

  • Location of the link opportunity – will the link be placed in the main body of text or some navigational location (like a blog sidebar or footer area)
  • Text used for and around the link (even though Google has acknowledging changes to how they handle anchor text this past month, obtaining keyword relevance should still be a focus where possible and applicable)
  • Accessibility of the page where the link will be placed – how easily search engines and users can access the page where the link will be located (by clicks and navigation from the home page)
  • Coding used in coordination with the link (IE, making sure rel=nofollow or JavaScript will not be used, impacting a search engines’ ability to crawl and understand the link)

SEO-Specific Metrics
There are SEO-specific link building tools that mash-up various metrics such as those listed above to create scores for links, and pages and domains that links are located on. These scores help evaluate future link opportunities and prioritize strategies.

  • Open Site Explorer Domain / Page Authority, mozRank, and mozTrust
  • Majestic SEO ACRank and ACRank Spread
  • Website’s number of domain-specific links (via Open Site Explorer)
  • Website’s total number of inbound links (via Open Site Explorer)

I recommend understanding the factors involved in SEO scoring, at least at a high level, for both Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO, or whatever commercial / free link building tool used to measure link importance.

Site Popularity-Specific Metrics

  • Compete Metrics (Visitor Traffic, Rank)
  • Quantcast Metrics (Traffic, Rank, Demographic Information)
  • Alexa Metrics (Reach, Rank)
  • Domain Age/History
  • Google Toolbar PageRank (More so for cross-referencing sites for outreach prioritization, but toolbar PageRank is not a regularly updated metric and has very limited value)

Social Media-Specific Metrics

  • Number of social media profiles being managed and general activity in those social media communities
  • Twitter-specific metrics (followers, follower/following ratios, frequency of updates, influencer metrics such as Klout score)
  • Facebook-specific metrics (likes, interaction ratios)
  • Google+ specific metrics (number of included circles, interactions)
  • Additional, publicly accessible popularity/success metrics based on specific social media site activity
  • Frequency of blog posts
  • Interactivity of blog posts (comments as well as shares in social sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, etc)
  • Significance and reach of contributing writers, bloggers, and site network as possible to identify

Site Owner-Specific Metrics
Are we able to find and determine the following details about the site owner, publisher, blogger, editors, etc:

  • Appropriate contact (name, title, etc)
  • Email address, phone number perhaps
  • Social media profile information
  • Editorial calendar or identification of the type of content assets the site owner is interested in

Business-Specific Metrics
There are certainly times when paying for a link is appropriate. Examples could be sponsorship, charitable donations, organizational memberships, or even direct sales/advertising opportunities in industry-specific sites. In this sense, consider how the link and visibility will have an impact beyond SEO. Some of the possible benchmarks include:

  • Cost per impression
  • Expected cost per lead or cost per visit
  • Traffic and demographic reports provided by site owner
  • Position and location on website or web page

Final Thoughts and Considerations
Are we able to evaluate every one of the metrics listed above?  That is pretty unlikely. Even when using link building tools, ranking systems, and prospective link scoring systems, common sense and market (and SEO) competence still dictate outreach and recommendation priority.

For example: It would be easy to get so weighed down in ranking data that a link builder ignores time investment in outreach or that the client already has easy to reach contacts that can be leveraged (but might not be the most valuable link from a scoring perspective)

The key is in evaluating search engine specific metrics (traffic, keyword visibility, leads) to make reasonable determinations on whether link building initiatives are having a positive impact on the website. What are your thoughts and perspective? I would love to read your comments below or let’s have a discussion on Facebook or Google+.

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  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/white-hat-link-building Nick Stamoulis

    Like any other marketing strategy, link building requires research. You don’t want a link from any old site. You want a link from an established site that gets traffic and is relevant to your audience. It takes time to find these sites and earn a link.

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