I am always surprised by the importance people assign to these domain-level metrics. I’ve been interviewing people and agencies throughout my career, and DA is always their preferred metric.
Domain-level metrics tell you very little about the value of the website section or the specific URL you are trying to get a link from. I would focus more on page-level metrics and try some more specific metrics in the link quality evaluation (e.g. traffic and keywords).
I am not a big fan of DA/DR/Authority scores. I often see this as a vanity metric and does not correlate with other metrics of a page/domain.
As a link builder, I never use DA to report on link quality. That’s because it’s a metric largely based on the age of a domain. A site could be of poor quality, but if it’s been around a long time, it will likely have a high DA. If you want to measure the domain-level authority of a site, I would recommend using DR as it’s based on the size and quality levels of a backlink profile. But a high DR doesn’t necessarily mean a decent quality site either! You must cross-reference it with keyword and traffic levels to check for any disparities, as DR scores can be manipulated too.
It still bugs me, as an SEO, to see that there are large numbers of people who use third-party metrics like DR and DA to measure the quality of the links they build.
Sure, they're helpful metrics to give you a vague idea as to how authoritative a link is, but it is in no way the be-all and end all!
I, personally, don't use metrics like these at all in my link building. If I get a link from a website that gets traffic, is relevant to the content I'm producing and has a good chance of driving some traffic to my site, I'm a happy SEO!
If you could only choose one metric to use, which one would it be?
Forcing the issue a little, we asked respondents to choose just one metric that they would use. The winner was Domain Rating from Ahrefs with 44% of the votes, followed by Domain Authority from Moz with 18% of the votes.
Knowing that nearly half of respondents would rely on Ahrefs Domain Rating as a sole determinant, consideration should be given as to whether to make this the industry standard for measuring page authority.
What primary KPI do you use to measure the effects of your link building efforts?
In this question, respondents could select up to three answers to indicate how they measure the effectiveness of their link building. The clear winner with 53% was rankings, followed by search visibility at 36%.
Volume of linking domains
Volume of links
Overall traffic to the website
Direct traffic generated to a domain via links built
Those who are not familiar with link building may think they would get more traffic to the site and traffic from that domain where the links were built.
Therefore it is good to see this study shows that link building is executed to improve search visibility, including rankings.
It is important stakeholders are aware of the KPIs of link building. Improving rankings does not always lead to more conversions as this study demonstrates.
Jo Juliana Turnbull
Link building shouldn't be performed individually. The best results are achieved in a multichannel campaign. Therefore, I would like to see ‘Direct traffic generated to a domain via links built’ with more responses in future. If traffic generated via a link is evergreen, it’s a strong signal of a valuable backlink.
It is highly unlikely that every piece of content you create will rank in the SERPs, so it seems unrealistic to make rankings the largest indicator of performance. Volume of LRDs, traffic to the site generated from the page, and conversions are no less important indicators of success.
If you needed to put a time estimate on how long it takes you to secure a single link, how long would you say it takes?
We asked SEOs how long it typically takes to build a single link and the most popular answer was 1-2 hours (32%). Next up was the 24% of people who said that it typically takes 3-5 hours to build a link.
It can be related to niche, language, and culture. With Arabic websites it is very hard to land a link, so it might take longer to convince a site admin to link to you, especially if people are seeking something in return. Green links are very hard to get.
Do you report on nofollow links, including sponsored and UGC attributes?
In terms of reporting on links that contain the nofollow, sponsored and UGC attributes, 69% of SEOs said that they do report these to stakeholders.
I'm surprised that such a high number of people are not reporting on nofollow links! We all know that nofollow links are considered a "hint" and while it's not clear exactly how much of an SEO impact these nofollow links will have, they will still likely be driving traffic and boosting brand awareness. It seems a shame that digital PRs are not reporting on what could be wonderful pieces of coverage - particularly when so many national titles these days are only giving out nofollow links anyway!
Do you count nofollow links, including sponsored and UGC attributes toward your overall link target?
Leading on from this, a slightly lower number of respondents (62%) said that they actually counted them toward link targets.
Yes, Follow links are the crème de la crème when it comes to link building, but studies have shown that NoFollow links have been found to have some impact. Most say NoFollow links could work as a hint for Google that you're trustworthy/authoritative on that topic. Therefore, NoFollows on hyper-relevant sites will be more beneficial.
In addition, NoFollows can drive other value such as traffic, and the coverage could help increase branded search too.
So with this in mind, we should definitely be reporting on them too and including them in our targets.
Do you report on brand mentions (i.e. no link) which occur as a result of link building activity?
67% of respondents said that they also report on brand mentions that happen as a result of their link building activity.
Do you think that brand mentions influence organic search rankings?
A higher number of respondents (80%) said that they believe brand mentions influence organic search rankings.
I’m quite shocked by how many respondents believe brand mentions affect organic search rankings. I’m undecided on the matter. I have no doubt that inferred links (i.e. unlinked brand mentions) may one day concretely influence rankings, but I’m yet to see any real evidence of this today.