What’s the value of a link?

  • 1
  • December 11, 2017
Laura Crimmons

Laura Crimmons

Communications Director

Or a link building campaign? Or a Digital PR campaign? How do you measure the exact ROI of either each link or a campaign as a whole?

These are some of the most common questions I (or the team) get asked, and they’re also some of the most difficult to answer.

The reason they’re so difficult to answer is that it’s unpredictable and a formula doesn’t exist for us to be able to calculate this, at least not an accurate one.

There are two main ways in which you’ll drive value/ROI from a link:

  • Direct – from someone clicking on the link and then converting/making a purchase
  • Indirect – the link helps your overall SEO campaign which in turn increases your rankings and visibility brings you more traffic which will then convert/make a purchase

Direct is easy to measure, in Google Analytics you can go into your Conversions report, look at Assisted Conversion or Ecommerce view (more about using GA Assisted conversions in this post) then look at two things:

  1. Use Source as the Primary Dimension and then search for your links e.g. ‘Guardian’ to see the number and value of the conversions from each of your links.
  2. Use Landing Page URL as the Primary Dimension and then search for your campaign page e.g. client.com/campaign-name.

And, then you’ll start to see the direct value attributed to people visiting your campaign, e.g. if we wanted to see how much value a link we got on the Daily Mail for one of our campaigns achieved:

Google Analytics Assisted Conversion graph

Great, right?

Well, only kinda. Because, realistically this is always going to be low; most PR campaigns aren’t there to generate an immediate conversion. The campaigns are a brand awareness exercise and that doesn’t always mean someone would come back within the 90 days or even on the same device to be tracked.

Indirect is harder because links aren’t the only thing that will determine the success of an SEO campaign. We could drive the most amazing links in the world, but if the client’s site is being held back by technical/content/other issues that we don’t have control of, then we still won’t see the benefit (or at least not as much of it).

Example one

When we have a site in a strong position and we know that the end goal is to get links, then we can easily map the value of the link campaign. The example graph below shows the difference in visibility from when we launched our campaign, as indicated by the line on the graph, and performance since:

SEO Visibility graph

You can see this matches pretty much exactly with when the increase in links started coming into the site from the campaign (line on the same date):

Referring domains graph

Another way to measure the value of the campaign aside from visibility, is to look at a group of keywords that you’re trying to improve rankings for and see whether or not this happens. For the above campaign, we were trying to improve taxi insurance rankings and we can see the results show the same trend as visibility:

Taxi insurance keyword ranking increase

Example two

This is another client where we delivered a link building campaign with very similar results in terms of volume and quality of links and at a similar time, but we see pretty much no immediate change in visibility. The increases come further down the line:

Increase in SEO visibility graph

Graph showing referring domains increase

In summary

So, this is why it’s so difficult to say what the value of a link building campaign is, because ideally, we see the first example and the value is very clear, however we only see the second part some of the time. That’s not to say in the second example the links aren’t helping the performance overall, it’s just harder to map it back to the individual campaign.

We know that we need links because the value is there – direct and indirect – and every study or research piece published about SEO says that links are still important. We just need to understand that trying to map exact value to each campaign can sometimes prove difficult.

It is also worth pointing out that we rarely just run one link building campaign for a client, we will usually have multiple campaigns planned throughout a year as part of a strategy.

Coming back to the original question of ‘What’s the value of a link?’ when looking at the indirect value (the SEO value), there is no way to assign this to an individual link, it is simply a combination of all the links from the campaign that have made an impact.

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