Measuring Your Link Building ROI with Google Analytics

A link-building strategy needs to have goals, like any aspect of your business.

Link-building tactics serve to bring people directly to your site, and also to boost the ranking of your site in search engine results. The quantity of links is not the only measure of success; quality is also important. But how do you measure quality?

Whether you own your own business or provide services for Search Engine Optimization, it’s important to know and report on whether the work you put into link building is paying off. Here are some ways to measure your link building return on investment (ROI) with Google Analytics.

Google Analytics

Google analytics is a web analytics service that tracks and report website traffic. At a high level, Google Analytics provides a variety of information about your traffic:

  • Where it came from.
  • What brought the traffic to your site.
  • How much value was generated by that traffic.

The basic data to analyze is looking at how people got to your site; you built a link and people used it to get to your site. But you can look at much more than that.

Let’s look at the variety of ways to track the ROI of your link building.

Traffic Generated

First off, you will want to examine the traffic that comes to your site and the conversion rate of the traffic.

Google Analytics can give you various views of traffic, for instance:

  • Visits
  • Unique visitors
  • Page views
  • Pages per visit
  • Average visit duration
  • Bounce rate
  • Percentage of new visits

As long as you’re consistent with what you’re tracking and the time period (weekly, monthly, etc.), you will be able to get a view of improvement.

Here’s how to do it:

Under traffic sources, study the referrals report. This gives you a view of the external sites sending traffic to your site, and will allow you to identify which sites were a component of your link-building efforts. It provides data on pages per visit and time on site. It’s also important to use the “goals” and “e-commerce tracking” tools, which will provide a view to the conversions the links have generated.

Using this data, it would be valuable to build a report to benchmark prior to your link-building campaign, and then run the data on a regular basis to measure improvement.

If your business happens to have a mobile app, Google Analytics also has tracking for mobile apps, which reports how traffic that installs your app finds your marketplace page.

Custom Tagging

There’s also the option of building a custom advanced segment in Google Analytics, which will help you further break down the referral data.

Choose “source” and put in the URLs of the websites on which you have built links. This custom segment will review how traffic from those links interacted with your site. It can also provide data on what page of your site the users landed on, what other pages they visited, detailed e-commerce data and more.

Google’s URL Builder Tool will allow you to use campaign tags on URLs that you use in link building. This allows you to put in the traffic source information that you want to use.

Social Media

It isn’t always easy to determine whether Social Media has generated valuable leads to your website. But Google Analytics will show which social platforms are sending viewers to your site.

The Traffic Sources/Social tab will provide a few options, including information on how long people from Facebook, for instance, stay on your site versus visitors from Twitter.


Measuring and tracking the rankings of keywords in Search Engine Results Pages is not the most ideal way to measure link-building success.

While it’s true that being ranked Number 3 in a search is better than being back on Page 3, the ranking does not necessarily generate conversions. Other factors such as the landing page of the search result, or usability of your site, can also be important factors for conversion compared to ranking.

However, if you provide SEO services, many clients still want to know where they rank on searches. And for your own business, it’s still worth tracking. So while this isn’t a perfect measure, you can analyze your rankings to determine if link building is working.

There are tracking tools for this, but a small business owner can use a spreadsheet to track keywords, and do a daily or weekly analysis of rankings.

If nothing has changed with your site other than your link-building efforts, improvements in rankings on SERPs can be attributed to that strategy and efforts.


There are a few other intangible results that you may find important to track, particularly for your own business. While they may seem somewhat arbitrary or subjective, it’s worth keeping track of other ways you’re getting conversions.

An example is traffic that comes to you that creates conversions down the road, such as a comment or question from someone who reads a link-building article you’ve prepared for another website; another example is an email you receive from someone as a result of a link on another site.

It’s worth tracking these as they could lead to a future conversion. Perhaps the article on one site generated 5 conversions down the road, while another article ended up generating 15 future conversions.

An online analytics system won’t show you when a client comes on board in such subtle ways, but getting a client based on a link-building article is still a conversion.

Final Thoughts

Like with other components of Search Engine Optimization, there isn’t one tool, data, or report that provides all the answers on the value of a link-building campaign. Using the tools in Google Analytics, and even with other tools available to a business owner, makes it possible to generate a huge amount of data.

It’s important to focus on the data that will bring value to you in improving your business. Using Google Analytics effectively will provide you with the information you need to show whether your link-building efforts are providing a high return on investment for your business.


Author Bio: Danielle Canstello is party of the content marketing team at Pyramid Analytics. They provide enterprise level analytics and cloud business intelligence software. In her spare time, she writes around the web to spread her knowledge of the marketing, business intelligence and analytics industries.