Link building effectiveness metrics

Link building is ONLY an important part of SEO

In my professional career as an SEO consultant, I have seen countless companies that try to improve their visibility by working only on their domain authority, neglecting many other factors of on-page SEO as well as reputation and brand presence. We should not forget that link building is only a part (important) of the overall SEO.

Whenever this conversation comes up with other professionals in the industry, I usually put this analogy on the table that I also mention in my book about ethical link building.

In Formula 1, during a pit stop, a team of up to twenty people work simultaneously on the vehicle with the goal of performing designated operations in a quick and efficient manner. Coordination and precision are key to winning a race, with tire changers being essential. However, despite their importance, their contribution is rarely highlighted, as victory or defeat is attributed to the good or bad teamwork and of course the driver’s execution. Link building would be that technician who, although it is a fundamental part of the overall SEO strategy, the visibility result will depend on many other factors. So, how can we measure the results within our link building strategy?


Mathematical authority (DR, DA, TF, AS). Relative value 🙁

For many, authority metrics, such as Ahrefs’ Domain Rating (DR) or Semrush’s Authority Score, are essential for evaluating the performance of a link building campaign. In Ahrefs’ own documentation, it is shown that DR can vary regardless of your actions, as it also depends on the actions of third parties.


For this reason, I believe that, while these metrics are very useful for our day-to-day work as link builders, I do not consider them to be key when reporting value to our clients.

Surely when DR goes up, you will be happy to include it in a report, but think if you would add it in case it goes down, knowing that it does not depend exclusively on your actions.

When I start an audit with a client, I include this type of metrics as a reference, but it should not be the main objective or a KPI to evaluate and report the results of the campaigns.

SEO has changed a lot in recent years and we need to understand that link building is no longer the construction of mathematical authority based on Pagerank but the construction of brand awareness.

It is important to highlight that authority metrics, such as Domain Rating (DR), are susceptible to manipulation and do not accurately represent the real benefits in terms of search engine ranking. I advise you to be wary of those who offer services to increase DR or any other mathematical authority metric.

In many cases, clients come asking for improvements in these metrics, and as Alberto Fernandez of IngenieroSEO says.

In some cases, customers demand metrics of that style placed on an Excel spreadsheet. Logically, in the link validation phase, we take into account the website traffic, outgoing links, incoming links, as well as the semantic affinity with our objective.  Alberto Fernandez CEO IngenieroSEO

On the other hand, SEO expert David Ayala tells us:

The report is customized based on the goal we want to achieve with that client, but I never rely on metrics from tools like PA/DA or similar. – David Ayala – CEO SEO Rosa


Referral domains. They don't depend only on my actions 🙁

A commonly used metric for reporting on link building strategies (at least for a while) is the number of referral domains, or the number of domains linking to your website.

In the case of campaigns for small projects, such as link building for a local hair salon, the monthly referral domain indicator can reflect changes depending on the techniques you have used, making it easier to attribute results obtained by your actions.

However, in the context of more sophisticated campaigns in which many other actions are executed in parallel, the number of referral domains can fluctuate considerably. In this case, link building actions will only constitute a part of the SEO actions, which in turn are a fraction of the global marketing actions. Therefore, it would be biased to use this indicator as a basis for attributing performance results.

In this example, you can see that 397 new domains have linked to Coca-Cola’s website in the last week. This is clearly not an action of the link building team. Although it will always be interesting to keep this indicator in mind, it should make you think about whether to include it as a KPI in your reports.

If we add to this that link building work is sometimes done to disavow or even remove links that harm your domain, it makes even less sense.

At this point, I would like to recommend that you also be wary of agencies or professionals who offer you a monthly number of links as a strategy. On the other hand, if you are the one selling this type of services, I do not recommend selling your services by links. A few years ago, this may not have been so crazy, but today, a good link is worth much more than 100 irrelevant links. Sell your clients a concrete strategy of digital public relations, ethical link building, and brand building, regardless of the number of links you achieve.

URL ranking. They are not solely a reflection of my efforts 🙁

Do you remember the F1 analogy?

Of course, you need to measure the visibility of the URLs you are working on in your campaigns. But you can be doing the best link building in the world, and it’s not working because your client has serious on-page SEO problems, content duplication, speed issues, or anything else.

For a link building strategy to work, the rest of the SEO actions must be correct.

Although this indicator is important and can serve as a KPI for us, it can also help us detect problems that are not related to links. If we work exclusively in the link building area and we see that the results are not as expected, it is interesting to meet with the on-page SEO team to see if something is happening that we are not controlling.

SERP visibility. Depends on global SEO 🙁

Every SEO action, including link building actions, aims to improve the presence in search results, so it would make no sense to ignore these appearances and the number of clicks that users make when they find your project in the results to their query. Just like the rest of the indicators, you should keep in mind that whether the results are positive or negative, you cannot assign this indicator solely to your link building actions. 

To measure this indicator, we will use Google Search Console, Bing Webmasters Tools, Yandex Webmaster Tools, or the tool provided by the search engine we want to analyze. In the Performance option, we can filter and measure performance by URL. 

Then, can we rate the tire mechanic?

All of these indicators are great and we assume that they can be taken into account as part of the link building strategy. But what happens when we only offer this type of service? How can we report our efforts and results?

Returning to the F1 analogy. The question would be: Can we accurately assess the tire technician, regardless of the fact that the final result depends on the entire team? The answer is a resounding YES. KPIs such as the time it takes to change a tire depend solely and exclusively on his efficiency. So where does this lead us? When you only perform link building tasks for a project, you are part of a team, but your efficiency must be measured in isolation. In any case, it is important to coordinate the rest of the SEO actions in link building strategies. Jose B. Moreno Independent consultant tells us

I don’t start link building until the content has been optimized. I usually wait two or three months after optimizing to do link building (this is to ensure that link building efforts are built on a solid and necessary foundation… because sometimes it’s not always necessary and I always look to minimize risks and costs) – Jose B. Moreno


So, how can we measure this efficiency independently?

Actions taken

Although many clients and agencies still believe that link building is based on link creation and the more the better, behind the correct execution of an effective link building campaign there is real work with media relations, brand awareness, optimization of thematic authority for both the brand and the experts who work within it, and other tasks that require time and resources.

It is essential to value and highlight actions that do not focus exclusively on the direct acquisition of links.

The renowned SEO and link building expert, Luis M. Villanueva, when asked about the indicators he takes into account for his reports, tells us:

Always report actions. I do not really use those indicators to report (it is another thing if we have indicators ourselves to assess the quality of a site internally). – Luis M. Villanueva CEO Webpositer

Adrián Vilacoba, SEO manager at ClickAge, tells us:

We report on what has been worked on in terms of ‘actions’ and also metrics, all in the same report – Adrián Vilacoba

There are tools in the market that will help you with this task. At Link Affinity, we give special importance to the reporting area so that agencies offering link-building services can showcase their efforts. Through customized reports, you can communicate any type of action you want to highlight to your clients. We have developed a CRM module for link building and digital public relations designed to highlight your efforts by sending press releases, requesting a change in a broken link, offering collaboration with your experts for a featured topic, or any other type of action. These reports can be exported to .CSV or .PDF.

Media impacts or link-building clipping

“Throughout my professional career, I have worked with teams solely focused on communication and public relations, where results were measured based on assessing the impact of secured publications. If we extrapolate these types of results to digital public relations and link building, we can take into account the following indicators:

  1. Publications in media
  2. Details of the mention or link obtained
  3. Organic traffic from the media where the impact was achieved
  4. Semantic affinity with the media


Naturalness of the link profile

It is important to analyze the link profile at the beginning of a project and work to improve its quality. Tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, Sistrix, and others can help detect if artificial linking strategies have been implemented, which may jeopardize the project’s visibility in search engines. This indicator depends on you, as link-building services include monitoring the link profile and taking any action to disavow links and detect linking strategies that go against Google’s guidelines. Therefore, it’s important to keep this indicator in mind.

I recommend that regardless of the tool you use, include this analysis in your reports to measure the evolution and detect potential problems in a timely manner. We work with the “Naturalness” indicator, which is an algorithm developed by Link Affinity that detects patterns of artificial linking. Unlike other tools, it doesn’t aim for higher authority but encourages a natural balance, avoiding outdated strategies such as buying links to gain authority

The perfect report

My advice for creating a perfect link building report is to include some metrics that, while not directly corresponding to 100% of the outcome of your actions, are part of the overall result. Also, include tasks for which you can directly take responsibility. 

Whatever type of report you deliver to your clients, keep in mind that you are part of the overall SEO team. On one hand, your actions can impact the project’s visibility in search engines, and on the other hand, on-page actions will affect the performance of your link-building strategies.

I recommend including the following indicators in your link-building reports:

If you are also responsible for on-page SEO, you can include these indicators in your overall SEO report.

  • Ranking for campaign target URLs
  • Impact on SERPs for these URLs
  • Team actions taken
  • Link building clipping
  • Naturalness of the link profile

Whatever type of report you deliver to your clients, keep in mind that you are part of the global SEO team. Therefore, your actions can impact the project’s search engine visibility, and on-page activities will, in one way or another, affect the performance of your link-building strategies. 

Trying to independently measure the ranking effectiveness of link building tasks alone would be like trying to separately measure the effectiveness of editing a tagging or tagging data while a whole team is working in parallel on other SEO actions, content, etc.

Returning one last time to the F1 analogy, as a tire change technician, you would report both the time it took to change the tire and, on the other hand, the general race data. Emphasize, in any case, that the overall results, whether good or bad, depend on the entire team.


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