Quantifying Success: Measuring the ROI of Your Link Building Campaign

By: Willem Rogers

Businesses, both big and small, invest heavily in their SEO as a means of ensuring that they remain competitive in a very crowded online marketplace. Link building is a critical component of any SEO strategy, offering business owners a way to get a leg up on their competition. 

Backlinks are a critical component of SEO, as they signal to Google that a page is trustworthy. Therefore, the more backlinks a piece of content or website has, the more Google believes a page will be able to answer user queries. Having an effective link building campaign can help grow organic traffic, improve your results page rankings, and establish your website as a source of authority.

While we know that links are the cornerstone of SEO, link building is a huge undertaking. An effective link building campaign requires an enormous amount of effort, manpower, and resources, and many who choose to pursue one are rightfully concerned about their ROI. 

So, how do you determine if your link building efforts have been successful? How do you track your results? Below, we cover some key performance indicators that allow you to determine your ROI. 

Before You Start Your Link Building Campaign

Before you’re able to determine your ROI, you must first have a benchmark with which you can compare your results. Understanding your site’s effectiveness will help point your campaign in the right direction.

Run a Backlink Profile Audit

A backlink audit allows you to take a look at all of the external links pointing to your website so you can determine their quality, quantity, and relevance to your website. Remember that not all backlinks are built equal, and in the worst situations, spammy or low quality backlinking techniques can actually earn you manual penalties from Google.

Audits are important in that they allow you to achieve several things.

  • Identify harmful backlinks
  • Understand your link profile
  • Benchmark your links against your competitors
  • Reclaim lost links
  • Determine which pages on your site naturally attract backlinks
  • Strategically plan for future link building efforts

It sounds like a lot of data to sift through, and it is! However, there are numerous tools out there at your disposal, such as Moz, Majestic, SEMRush, and Ahrefs, that can help ease you through the process.

Performing a backlink audit before you begin your link building campaign ensures that you have an accurate benchmark with which to measure your efforts. However, backlink audits are not a one-and-done deal. Instead, they are an essential ongoing practice in order to ensure that your backlink profile remains robust and free from harmful links, and to measure your ultimate success in comparison to your competitors.

Keep Track of Key Metrics

Before you get started with your link building campaign, it’s important to have a baseline understanding of your website’s current performance. After all, the goal of a link building campaign is to impact some sort o change, whether that be to overall site traffic, your standing in the SERPs for certain keywords, or overall website authority. Here’s why you should be tracking your metrics.

  • Establishing a Baseline: It’s challenging to measure the impact of your link building campaign without an understanding of exactly where you started. Tracking these metrics beforehand allows you to have a baseline to compare your post-campaign data.
  • Set Realistic Goals: When you’re aware of your starting point in terms of site performance and backlink profile, you can set clearer and more realistic objectives for your campaign. From there, you’ll be able to tell if your goals are too ambitious or not ambitious enough.
  • Resource Allocation: Once you understand your site’s strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be able to more strategically allocate your resources. For instance, if high-potential pages have fewer backlinks, you might focus more of your time and effort there.
  • Understanding Your Audience: Metrics like referral traffic, bounce rate, and time spent on a page can give you an understanding of the experience your audience has on your website and the kind of content they interact with.
  • Content Strategy Insights: By assessing which pages currently attract the most links or generate the most traffic, you can gain an insight as to which kind of content resonates with your audience and in turn, your link partners.
  • Managing Risk: By keeping an eye on your key metrics, you can rectify and identify potential issues early on.
  • Evaluate Strategy Effectiveness: Finally, without pre-campaign metrics, it becomes challenging to evaluate the effectiveness of your strategy once it concludes. Post-campaign evaluations are crucial for understanding what worked and what didn’t and how to refine future link building campaigns.

Keeping track of your keyword rankings, Domain and Page Authority, and overall site traffic serves as the benchmark for evaluating the impact of your link building campaign. As these metrics shift, you’ll be able to make before-and-after comparisons, determining whether the return on investment (ROI) for your link building efforts justifies the undertaking.

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Create a Tangible Goal

Now that you’ve gained insight into your website’s current state concerning traffic, authority, and keyword rankings, it’s time to define clear goals for your link building campaign. Having a specific objective that you can achieve and against which you can measure your campaign’s progress is essential for accurately evaluating the ROI of your link building endeavors. Here are some common benchmarks that websites use as objectives for their link building efforts:

  • Enhancements in DA/PA
  • Acquisition of higher authority backlinks
  • Growth in organic and earned traffic
  • Change in keyword ranking
  • Brand awareness
  • Increased sales and conversions

Understanding your desired outcome is crucial for a number of reasons. For one, goals give your campaign a clear direction and focus, so you can allocate resources, budget, and energy toward achieving a target goal rather than being scattered or inconsistent in your efforts.

For example, if your goal is to increase your keyword ranking for a specific phrase, you can allocate resources, be that time, money, or manpower, to linkable content creation for that phrase and subsequent link building to those pages that you’re hoping to influence.

Ultimately, goals help you remain on track, guide your decision-making, and allow you to hold yourself accountable for progress. Regardless of your goals, link building is just one part of a long-term vision for the SEO of your website. Be sure that your short-term goals with link building are a part of the greater picture.

How Do You Measure the ROI of Your Link Building Efforts?

Determining the ROI of your link building efforts can sometimes feel like navigating a maze without a map. But there are a few ways you can go about tracking progress.

Before you dive into results, remember that results of backlink campaigns take time. Traffic improvements usually occur on a slow and steady upward trend, and metrics like Domain Authority are determined by a logarithmic scale, meaning that going from a DA of 20-30 is far easier than going from 70-80. Sites with higher starting metrics will see slower returns and improvements than sites beginning from zero.

Growth Trend of Referring Domains

One of the most tangible methods for gauging the effectiveness of a link building campaign involves examining the domains you’ve gained throughout your efforts. Effective tracking of backlinks should reveal a consistent increase in the number of new domains linking to your website month-over-month.

In an ideal link building campaign, you will have seen a positive increase in referring domains that are high-quality and relevant to your website.

Positive Changes in Target Page Positions in the SERPs

External measurements such as keyword rankings and Google results positions also paint a picture of the effectiveness of your link building campaign. Ideally, you would like to see a positive correlation to your target pages in the SERPs.

Depending on the competitiveness of your niche/the keywords/pages you’re after, this can take a long time. Even a couple of steps up is a win. Some niches simply exist in highly competitive backlink landscapes, so any sign of positive movement is cause for celebration.

If your position stagnates or remains the same, it’s time to do more searching to determine why.

Negative movement for keywords and SERP positions can indicate poor placement of your backlinks. If you lose positions in search results, chances are the referring domains are diminishing your authority in the eyes of Google. It can also mean that your competitors are doing more, better, faster.

Regardless, a quick backlink profile audit can help you analyze which backlinks are hurting your brand and will help you pinpoint what needs to be removed or replaced.

Ranking for New Keywords

New keyword rankings can be an encouraging sign of progress in your link building efforts. When a website begins to rank for new keywords, especially those related to its content and business, it indicates that search engines are recognizing the website as an authority or relevant source for those topics.

These new keyword rankings help benefit you with increased visibility with new audiences, improve your topical authority, and can help you rank for more long-tail phrases that have been previously untapped.

Organic Traffic Growth

Another measure of successful link building and a favorable return on investment is the rise in organic traffic. Augmented organic traffic stands as the primary objective of the majority of link building endeavors; therefore, its elevation signifies the arrival of promising outcomes.

The timeline for these enhancements in organic traffic varies based on the specific niche. It can take 3 to 12 months for these increases to take hold. The emergence of amplified organic traffic requires patience; however, link building campaigns remain among the most effective strategies for enhancing organic traffic. Improving your site’s authority and visibility through link building continues to drive organic traffic numbers for websites like few other link building strategies.

Benefits Beyond the Metrics

Metrics, while incredibly important for highlighting the effectiveness of a link building campaign, are not the only benefits you can measure your ROI against. Brand recognition, credibility as a source, and overall exposure are essential benefits that a proper link building campaign can yield.

Having other sites within your niche recognize you as a source of credibility and authority will help you earn natural backlinks in the future and increase your organic traffic without having to build backlinks yourself.

Building a brand and an image online are significant side effects that help showcase a link building campaign’s impact on your website.

Optimizing for Future Campaigns

The only way to improve from one link building campaign to the next is to note what worked and what didn’t. Keep track of the steps you took during the link building process and leave yourself notes on how each step impacted the overall campaign. Highlight the parts that worked well, but don’t lose track of what didn’t. Using previous campaign successes and failures will help you improve on the next one.

Spotting Red Flags and Addressing Them

Keep track of the issues that negatively impacted your link building campaign and think of ways to overcome these obstacles in future campaigns. One notable warning sign is a sustained drop in website traffic or keyword rankings over time, which could indicate low-quality or irrelevant backlinks. Addressing this involves thoroughly reviewing your linking strategy to remove or disavow problematic links and refocus on quality sources.

Maintaining a balance between quantity and quality is equally crucial. Accumulating numerous backlinks without considering their relevance and authority can lead to diminishing returns. Prioritizing authoritative and contextually relevant links enhances the overall impact of your campaign.

Diversification of Link Building Tactics

Much like an effective investment portfolio, having a diverse link building strategy will help you approach growth from different angles. One link building tactic isn’t enough to secure real growth for a website, so it’s important to branch out and try different strategies. This will help you pinpoint which methods work best for different niches.

Having a diverse link building strategy enables you to address industry changes before they have a tangible impact on your business.

As change is constant in SEO, a diverse approach to link building will enable you to weather the storm and beat your competitors.

For example, if resource link building loses effectiveness, you can focus instead on guest posting. If link reclamation starts to yield better results, lend fewer resources to digital PR. Find the right link building strategy that works for your niche, but don’t put all of your SEO eggs in one basket. 

Adapting to Algorithm Changes

As mentioned, the world of SEO is constantly changing and adapting. This is because search engines are always trying to improve their user experience through algorithm updates. Each time a new Google algorithm update drops, the SEO world goes silent in anticipation for a few days.

Adaptability is key in link building campaigns, and SEO in general, and being able to pivot and respond to updates will help improve future campaigns.

Exploring Your Next Steps

Measuring the ROI of link building campaigns is a complicated process that demands careful attention to various metrics and factors. A thorough understanding of your website’s current standing, encompassing elements such as domain authority, traffic patterns, and keyword rankings, serves as the baseline against which the success of your efforts is evaluated. These foundational metrics provide a precise reference point as your campaign progresses.

By defining tangible objectives, whether building authority, generating higher-quality backlinks, improving organic traffic, or boosting sales, you provide the framework for assessing your campaign’s progress and alignment with your broader business goals. It’s important to remember that the impact of link building campaigns may take time, requiring patience and periodic assessment. However, armed with a diverse strategy and an understanding of the gradual nature of link building’s effects, you can adeptly navigate the path to maximizing ROI in the dynamic landscape of digital marketing.


Why are new keyword rankings seen as an indicator of successful link building?

New keyword rankings suggest that search engines recognize the website’s content as relevant and authoritative for those topics. This often stems from quality backlinks pointing to the site, signaling its value and relevance.

How does content creation relate to link building?

Content creation and link building often go hand in hand. By producing high-quality, valuable content, websites can naturally attract backlinks from other sites that find the content relevant and worth referencing.

Should I prioritize link building over other SEO strategies?

Link building is a vital component of SEO, but it’s best to adopt a holistic approach to SEO for sustained success.

How long does it typically take to see results from link building efforts?

The results from link building can vary based on several factors, such as the website’s current authority, the quality of the acquired links, and the competition in the niche. Generally, some results can be observed within a few months, but it might take longer for significant improvements.

Are you serious about gaining a competitive edge in the digital realm? Our team of SEO experts is poised to transform your online visibility with state-of-the-art SEO and link building strategies. Contact us below to find out more!

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