As SEOs, content marketers, or link builders, we pay attention to a lot of different link metrics. These metrics can help you determine the link equity or “value” of a link.
By understanding these link building metrics you can determine if a link is worth acquiring or if you should pass on it and move onto the next opportunity.
The main reason it’s important to understand this for your link building campaign is because it can help you keep your cost in check which can help you create sustainable link building campaigns that generate the most amount of links within your budget.
Another reason is because these link metrics will help you figure out how much of an impact a single link can have on your website.
Let’s take a look at eight important link building metrics you’ll want to pay attention to when determining what links you want to go after.
1. Domain Authority / Domain Rating
If you’ve been in SEO for any amount of time, you’ve likely heard of domain authority and domain rating.
Domain authority is a number from 0-100 that provides insight into how strong a domain is. This number is calculated by Moz and uses a crawler to determine how well a domain performs in the search results based on how many links it has.
Domain rating is essentially the same thing but this metric is provided by the SEO research tool Ahrefs.
The objective is to obtain as many links as possible from websites that have the highest domain authority possible. You can use the domain authority checker from Moz to figure out the domain authority of a site that you might be interested in getting a link from.
According to the tool, Ahrefs.com has a domain authority of 84 which gives you an idea of how powerful a link from that website would be.
It’s important to understand that while this is a powerful and accurate metric, it’s just that. Moz calculates this number based on a variety of factors that are different from how Google actually determines your ranking in the search engines.
Nothing can completely replicate how Google determines your search engine ranking but this metric can be used to maximize your link building efforts. The higher the domain authority, the more of an impact a link from that website can have on your rankings.
PageRank can be a bit more challenging to figure out because Google doesn’t update it anymore. That said, this is the official metric used to determine the power or authority of a webpage.
The purpose of PageRank is to ensure that users on Google receive only the most relevant results when they look for something. Google assigns a PageRank ranging from 0-1 with 1 being the highest.
While we’re no longer able to see our PageRank, we can still use this information in our link building campaign.
“Yes, we do use PageRank internally, among many, many other signals. It’s not quite the same as the original paper, there are lots of quirks (eg, disavowed links, ignored links, etc.), and, again, we use a lot of other signals that can be much stronger.”John Mueller, Google
You might be saying…. How?
It’s important to understand where SEO metrics come from and how they’re determined in the first place. If we can simply understand what makes our PageRank go up, then we can assume that by doing enough of those things, we can make the score go up without even seeing it.
So, unlike domain authority and page authority, PageRank is deemed to be determined entirely by the number of quality links you have pointing to your website.
That would tell us that the more high authority linking domains we have sending link juice to our site, the better chance we have of ranking higher. Building links the slow way by providing value to people is the only tried and true way to increase PageRank and ultimately, increase your organic traffic.
3. Number of Links / Referring Domains
Understanding the number of links and referring domains you have is important for a couple reasons. First, it helps you track how well your link building campaign is going. Even more importantly, it helps you see how you stack up to the competition.
If we look at this example for the phrase “best smart watch” you’ll see that this is a super competitive keyword. The top ranking pages on Google all have thousands of backlinks from hundreds of linking root domains.
This would be a challenging keyword to ever rank for and we can tell by looking at the top ranking websites that these are well established sites with high domain ratings.
If you look at this example, you’ll see that even though these websites have a high domain rating, the specific pages don’t have that many links.
This means that it might be a bit easier to rank for this phrase. Of course, ranking for “do dogs like snow” wouldn’t be as positive as ranking for “best smart watch” so that’s likely why the competition is so much lower.
Regardless, by understanding these link metrics, you can determine how difficult it will be to compete with some of the top ranking websites on Google.
You also want to pay attention to the number of links a webpage has that you’re trying to get a link from. This is again, where link equity comes into play. A link from a web page with 50 links is a lot more powerful than a link from a webpage with 5 links. Make sure you’re paying attention to these SEO metrics when deciding what websites you want to build a campaign around.
4. Page Authority / URL Rating
Page Authority is another Moz metric used to determine the strength of an individual page. The main difference between this and Domain Authority is that Page Authority focuses on the specific link attributes of a single page.
On Ahrefs, this is called “URL Rating.”
The higher the Page Authority of a page, the bigger chance it has of impacting your organic search rankings.
Ideally, you want the linking page you’re targeting to have as high of a score as possible. Keep in mind that this is one of those fabricated metrics that is created by Moz. We can’t be entirely sure that a link from a high authority page will impact our rankings but we can use it as a benchmark to follow.
There are a ton of other factors that impact the actual “authority” of a page that fall outside the radar of Page Authority.
For example, the quality and authority of the linking root domain is important. A linking root domain is the main domain that provides the link to you.
In the example we provided above, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/ is the root domain which has a high domain authority. Just because the specific page doesn’t have a strong link profile, it can still have a good impact on your rankings. You want to pay attention to linking root domains as well when considering chasing after a link.
5. Anchor Text
Anchor text is the text used on the link that is pointing to a specific web page. The purpose of this text is to provide Google with some indication of what information the reader is going to receive when they click through the link.
This is important for two different reasons. First, it’s important from a user experience standpoint. You want to make sure that readers are getting what they bargained for when they click through. If the anchor text of the links pointing to your website have nothing to do with the content on your website, visitors will likely bounce which won’t look good for you.
Anchor text is also important from an SEO standpoint. If the target keyword of an article you’re trying to rank is “best fishing rod” and the link sends people to a review you have of the best fishing rods, you’re only strengthening your link profile.
It’s important that the linking root domains you target include relevant anchor text but you also don’t want to over-optimize in this way. You want to have a nice variety of anchor text.
There’s exact match, phrase match, partial match, and branded match anchor text. Having a good variety of these on your backlink profile will increase your niche relevance while also ensuring you don’t raise any red flags that could make Google want to penalize you.
The relevance of other websites with links pointing to you is incredibly important and it weighs heavily on your backlink profile.
6. Linking Page Relevance
There are many different types of backlinks and no matter how you generate quality backlinks, you need to make sure they come from websites that align with what you’re doing.
This doesn’t mean that every website needs to be in the same exact niche as you. For example, if you run an outdoor and gardening website, a link from a pest control business could be relevant without being “exactly” the same.
Link building metrics like this are often factors that many people don’t think about and that’s why they can provide you with a strategic advantage.
Make sure that the root domains providing you with quality backlinks are related to your website and they provide links to other websites in your niche as well. Our Link Prospecting guide can help you determine the best websites to target for link building.
7. Cost Per Link
It’s great if your link building campaign is generating a ton of links from high authority websites and you’re getting more organic traffic as a result. But, what is it costing you?
What is the ROI of your SEO campaign and does the good outweigh the bad?
It’s important that you understand the cost per link to determine if your link building efforts are sustainable or if you need to switch up a few things.
For example, if it costs you $200 to acquire a DR 30 link, how is that impacting your organic search performance?
This is one area where it helps to hire a professional link building agency like WeOutreach because we can tell you exactly what a link will cost and you can then determine if it’s worth the cost.
Either way, if you don’t know what your cost per link is, you’ll want to figure that out and make sure that you’re not paying too much for links that aren’t going to generate traffic and improve SEO performance.
8. Link Attributes
The final point we want to pay attention to is whether you’re chasing a nofollow link, sponsored link, or UGC (user-generated content).
Nofollow links receive a unique HTML tag that tells search engines to ignore the link. Even if you get links from quality websites, if they have nofollow tags, they will not impact search rankings.
Nofollow links are usually used if a website doesn’t want to pass value or in the case of social media and forums where links can be abused. Nofollow links will not increase your rankings so you won’t want to spend much time or money on acquiring them.
A sponsored link tag is used to label a link as a paid advertisement. For example, if you’re reviewing products and linking to Amazon, those are sponsored links.
If you sell a product on your website and someone provides you with a link, these are usually sponsored links so it doesn’t provide any link juice to your site.
Links given a UGC attribute are meant to be labeled as user-generated content. These are usually in the form of comments and these links won’t impact your link profile if someone posts spammy links on your blog post.
Understanding the various link attributes can help you determine the value of a link. While nofollow, sponsored, and UGC links won’t have much of an impact on your rankings, they still have a time and place if the price is right.
Final Thoughts on Link Building Metrics
Now that you’re familiar with the various metrics you can hopefully understand how each of these drives more organic traffic to your site and why you need to factor them into your campaigns.
Some links have more value than others so you’ll want to spend more time and money acquiring them. Keep each of these factors in mind as you build out your campaigns and work towards increasing your rankings and bringing in more revenue for your site!