Using Campaign Tracking To Measure Link Building Success

Ask any SEO what the most difficult, confounding and valuable part of optimization is, and you’ll invariably get a consensus: link building. Even the term “link building” has become so controversial that many marketers are shying away from it in favor of “content marketing” or “online PR.”

Marketers know to log, track and report on the volume of links they are creating over the course of the campaign, but very rarely do they consider the future business implications of these links. Since externally-placed content (like guest blog posts) now must be highly authoritative and highly relevant, it makes sense to anticipate actual traffic coming from the links within an article.

With all of the effort and care that is now put into crafting content for off-site placement, doesn’t it make sense to track whether it ever generated visits, leads or sales? Luckily, there’s an existing tool in the SEO toolkit that link builders can utilize to track any future results from their labor-intensive efforts. Enter: Google’s URL Builder[Need a URL Builder refresher? Read this post!]

Traditionally used to track paid, social or email campaigns, UTM tracking parameters can be just as effective for link building efforts. There are a few logical ways that link building tagging could be structured based on the insights you hope to gain.

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Goal: Focus on which content and placements drive results.

  • utm_medium: link-building
  • utm_source: name of linking domain (i.e. searchengineland.com)
  • utm_campaign: date of content placement (i.e. 2014-05-01)
  • utm_content: specific product, service or topic being written about (i.e. link-building, website-design)
  • utm_term: specific keyword being optimized-for, if any

This configuration will capture inbound visits from a link building campaign into a unique “link-building” medium that can quickly and easily be analyzed on its own. Drilling down into that medium by source or content will display the placements and topics that are most successful at generating traffic.

This configuration has the added bonus of incorporating a date of placement, which can alert you to renewed interest in an old post that may have been initially published months before.

Goal: Measure link building traffic against organic referral traffic

  • utm_medium: referral
  • utm_source: name of linking domain (i.e. searchengineland.com)
  • utm_campaign: link-building
  • utm_content: specific product, service or topic being written about (i.e. link-building, website-design)
  • utm_term: specific keyword being optimized-for, if any

By using a standard “referral” medium, inbound traffic will be lumped in at a top-level with other organic referral traffic, enabling an apples-to-apples comparison of visits via links. Agencies or large internal content teams can just as easily swap in a marketer’s name for utm_content in order to track the effectiveness of tactics utilized by various team members.

Businesses doing significant amounts of content generation for off-site usage will obviously reap the most benefit from gathering this link building intelligence. However, even casual guest post writers can achieve an Analytics ROI if they take the 30 seconds necessary to tag a URL.

Do you have other creative uses for campaign tracking? Share your uses in the comments below!