Dive two feet deep into the pool of SEO and content marketing, and you’ll hear of link building.
Backlinks or inbound links, simply called links, are the currency of the web. For search engines like Google, more inbound links are a sign that your website is trustworthy and of good quality, thus deserving to rank higher. Put simply, the more the number of (legit) referring domains and links pointing to your website, the better your search engine rankings and traffic.
Link building is the practice of putting in dedicated, strategic efforts to acquire links from high domain authority (DA) websites. It involves finding and reaching out to relevant publishers to work with them for content contributions and mutually beneficial collaborations.
The goals? Improving your SaaS website’s search engine rankings for your desired keywords, increasing organic and referral traffic, and building stronger brand awareness and authority.
Sure, having a user-friendly website that loads fast and consistently publishing valuable content is the foundation of good SEO, but building a steady stream of backlinks is what’ll ultimately take you from the second page of Google to the first.
Being a continuous, long-term process that requires a considerable, ongoing investment of time, effort, and money — in-house or outsourced — you’d naturally want to know the return on that investment.
But unlike paid advertising wherein calculating the ROI is rather straightforward, measuring the ROI of link building as a separate activity has a few challenges. Let’s start with that.
The formula for calculating the ROI of link building goes like this:
Seems simple, right?
But there are a couple of caveats that render this formula or any sophisticated algorithm (such as the Monte Carlo Simulation) pretty much useless:
And so, all things considered, there’s no way to accurately put a number on your link-building gains.
Still, given how strongly link building correlates to SEO success, it shouldn’t stop you from putting in the effort into building links consistently and estimating your return on investment.
If there’s no concrete way to measure the business value of link building, then how do you show your work’s worth to your superiors or clients? How do you know if your hard work is driving results in the right direction?
Your best bet is to connect the dots between your link building efforts and your goals. As touched upon in the intro, building quality links has a strong and direct impact on your Google rankings, domain authority (DA), and overall monthly traffic.
Assuming all other SEO elements — site speed, UX, content, keywords, URLs, CWV, etc. — remain more or less constant, you can approach measuring the ROI in two phases.
While successful link building is about playing the long game, do it right and you will see tangible results within three to four months.
If you’ve just begun a link building campaign, here’s how you can track your ROI:
As your backlink profile becomes better, you can note an increase in the referral traffic coming from these backlinks.
To see this, navigate to Reports → Acquisition → Traffic Acquisition in Google Analytics 4. Then, scroll down to the table to find the Referral row. In this report, you can see the basic metrics such as how much referral traffic you’re getting and how long these visitors spend on your site on average.
To see the sites referring to you, type “referral” into the search bar and click the blue plus sign. Then, in the dropdown, choose Session Acquisition and then Session source. You’ll get a table broken down by how many referrals you’re getting from each referring site.
Analyzing the referrals report will show you where the referral traffic is coming from. Review the report and take note of the referral websites to check if they are resulting from your link building efforts. As referral traffic consists of visitors who arrive from relevant content pieces and are interested in checking out your business, it’s easier to convert this traffic into sign-ups.
Domain Rating (DR) is a proprietary metric developed by Ahrefs that considers the quantity and quality of external backlinks to a website. It runs on a scale of 0-100. The higher your DR, the more authoritative your website is in the eyes of Google and other webmasters. This, in turn, strongly correlates with a better average number of keyword rankings and organic traffic.
In the short term (2-3 months), you can also note an increase in your website’s DR thanks to the influx of new backlinks. For this, use the free Website Authority Checker tool by Ahrefs.
Essentially, as your DR increases, more and better quality websites will start linking to your website (instead of your competitors) organically, while search engines will start preferring your content for relevant queries, thus boosting your overall organic search visibility.
Keep at it for six or so months, and you’ll start realizing the snowball effect of link building. That is, the return on your constant investment becomes increasingly higher as more and more people link to your content, thereby creating further opportunities for backlinks from others.
As you build more and more links to your website, your site’s authority compounds. When you do this consistently for years, you’ll eventually have a website that Google considers super credible and authoritative — you publish a new piece and it ranks on the first page within weeks.
This is one of the most powerful benefits of link building in the long run. And here’s how you can measure your long-term link building gains:
While keyword rankings are determined by multiple factors such as content quality and usability of the landing page, long-term link building for business-important pages (such as the features page) on keyword-optimized anchors will render a tangible improvement in their rankings for desired keywords.
The higher these pages rank, the more organic traffic they’ll earn. And the greater the number of visitors, the greater your odds of generating more conversions — indirectly translating links into leads and revenue.
You can check your rankings for any keyword using Keyword Rank Checker by Ahrefs. You can also set up keyword tracking in Google Analytics.
A Sistrix study of billions of search results and over 80 million keywords suggests that the first organic result has an average click-through rate of 28.5%.
The average CTR falls sharply after position one, with the second and third spots having 15.7% and 11% CTR respectively.
So, as your rankings go from the tenth spot to the first spot, your click-through rate increases tenfold. Again, this means a bountiful increase in organic traffic, consequently improving brand awareness and lead generation.
For example, our aggressive link building outreach campaign and the creation of linkable assets for our client Mind the Graph led to a nearly 100% increase in referring domains, which in turn helped generate a 217% increase in organic traffic. For Whatfix, one of our long-running clients, we’ve built over 250 high-quality backlinks over the course of a year which helped them:
Thus, in the long term (over 12 months), consistent link building efforts will play a pivotal role in driving substantially greater website traffic (referral and organic), earning additional backlinks on autopilot, and improving your domain authority — all of which translates into higher rankings and better odds of more conversions.
If you’re running your link-building activities in-house, then there’s plenty you can do to maximize the ROI of your efforts. Here are our top three tips:
Oh, and before you go, check out our comprehensive guide on link building for SaaS to learn tried-and-tested tactics and outreach templates that’ll further help you maximize your link building ROI.
Measuring the worth of your link building efforts can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be, but owing to the countless variables involved, it’ll never be 100% accurate.
No matter how you approach it based on your goals, you must look at link building as a long-term investment. While it does bring short-term gains too, the benefits of link building compound over time. And so, your investments will bring real returns if you stay patient and consistent with your efforts.
If you need an experienced team of SaaS link building specialists who leverage trust-based publisher relationships to acquire high-quality links at scale, then you’re in the right place.
Our link builders understand your SaaS to do all the legwork and provide you with monthly ROI reports, so you and your team can focus on other important aspects of your business growth.
Interested? Get in touch with us today.
Featured image by Unsplash