Tracking Results and Measuring Success : Competitive and Diagnostic Search Metrics (part 3) - Measuring the value of a link

11/8/2012 2:55:13 AM
3.3. Other third-party link-building tools

A variety of additional third-party link-building tools are also available. Enquisite Optimizer (, for one, offers a variety of link-building reports. For example, one of the best ways to discover when you have received a new link is to monitor new referrers. Enquisite Optimizer builds this in, and will report to you links that never sent you traffic in the past. To help evaluate their importance, the tool provides you with the Alexa Rank, PageRank, mozRank, and Compete Rank for each link. Enquisite Optimizer offers many other link-building reports, including those that enable you to:

  • See places on the Web where you are referenced, but the reference is not implemented as a link

  • See who is linking to your competitors but not to you

  • See who is linking to sites in your neighborhood but not to you

Developed by Bruce Clay, Inc., LinkMaps allows you to map the backlinks of any website, including your competitors’. LinkMaps gathers the initial data from the search engines and then adds some advanced filtering, including:

  • Removing pages that return 404 errors

  • Removing pages that do not have a link

  • Limiting results to no more than four pages per domain

  • Filtering out guestbooks

  • Identifying possible link farms

LinkMaps also shows you which search engines found the link and which did not. In addition, LinkMaps will build pages that contain links to the pages that link to you. The page is NoIndexed, so it will not show up in the search engines, but you can use it to help the search engines discover the links to your site.

Not too long ago, the European link-building agency launched its link building toolkit, which includes a link juice analyzer, common inbound links (between you and a competitor), common outbound links, and an anchor text analyzer.

Squid is a tool developed by Searchreturn to help link builders project manage the link-building process. You let Squid know the site you are building links for, and tell it to fetch a Yahoo! link report for that site. Then you give it a list of your competitors’ sites (or of sites that you want to backlink for some reason).

Squid then builds a list of people who link to those other sites but do not link to you. The initial data looks something like Figure 12.

Figure 12. Squid screen shot

The results are sorted in descending order based on common links. The number in the Common Links column represents the number of other sites that the page links to. So, when someone links to five competitive sites but not to you, that makes for a juicy link target!

The columns on the right of Figure 9-25 contain the status of the link request process, using the following definitions:

  • Inv = Investigate

  • F = Follow up

  • L? = Make a link request

  • L! = Got the link

  • X = Rejected, either because they said no or you decided they were not a good target

Another impressive toolset for link building is Raven. One of Raven’s key features is the Link Manager, which tracks links that you plan on acquiring, have requested, or have successfully built. Raven includes conversion and ROI tracking, as well a Firefox toolbar that makes it easier to add websites to your queue of link acquisition targets. Raven, like Squid, will go out and automatically check the identified pages to see whether you have acquired a link on them, and it will tell you the results—thus automating the process of identifying targets and tracking the progress of one’s campaign on an ongoing basis.

3.3.1. Google Blog Search

It is well known that the link: command works poorly in Google Web Search. For whatever reason, Google has decided to return only a small sampling of data when people use that command. However, interestingly enough, you can get more data on your backlinks using Google Blog Search (and it reports more than just the blog links); see Figure 13.

Figure 13. Google Blog Search screen shot

3.3.2. Technorati

Technorati provides a look at the number of blog reactions to a website. For a site with a major blog such as SEOmoz, this can provide extremely valuable data. Figure 14 shows an example.

Figure 14. Technorati blog reactions data

3.3.3. Exalead

Exalead, a European search engine, offers capabilities that include a link: command. What make Exalead particularly interesting are the advanced filtering capabilities it provides, as you can see in Figure 15.

Figure 15. Exalead link data

Note the ability to pick language as well as all the other options, which could be useful for segmenting link data.

3.4. Measuring the value of a link

One of the big questions that people ask is what is the value of a particular inbound link? There is no simple way to answer that question, but you can look at some of the metrics that can give you a feeling for how important a link might be:

Most important elements to determining a link’s value

Where does the linking page rank for the term/phrase you want to rank for?

If the page is ranking #1 at Google for sliced bread and you want to be #1 at Google for sliced bread, guess what? That’s the #1 most valuable link you can get. Keep going down the list to about positions 25 to 30 and you’re still getting solid gold in link value.

Where does the linking page rank for one to two important, competitive terms in its title tag?

This will give you a very solid idea about how much overall link juice and respect the search engines are giving the page. It is also a good way to identify the global link value that could be provided.

Where does content on the linking domain generally rank for competitive terms in its pages’ respective title tags?

As in the preceding list item, we’re trying to identify how positively the engines view pages on the domain. If the pages generally rank in the top 20 results, you can rest assured that search engines think the domain’s value is pretty high, and that links from that domain will pass significant value.

Does the linking site carry any brokered sets of links?

Sites that sell links may lose their ability to pass link juice. This really applies to any type of low-quality, manipulative linking. If you can see it, chances are that Google might see it someday too. In addition, Google may penalize a site retroactively for repeated bad behavior, even if that behavior has been stopped.

What is the relevance of the linking page/site to your target page?

Answering this question requires you to think critically about the visitors to both the potential linking page and the domain. If the relevance of the subject matter to your site is high, the link will provide more semantic and topic-specific value.

Elements of secondary value for links

Links to high-ranking competitors

Although this isn’t always an indication of direct value, it can be a good signal. Your competitors are obviously ranking based on the strength of their links, so researching those sources can provide insight into where they derive that value.

Page strength

SEOmoz offers a free tool that computes a metric called Page Strength. Although it is tough to make too much out of the numerical calculation the tool offers, the other data returned is convenient and certainly valuable. If there are a lot of links from Wikipedia and DMOZ and the site has high PageRank, lots of inbound links, and blog links, there’s clearly some value to getting a link. Figure 16 shows a screen shot of the output of the tool.

PageRank of the domain

There is a notion that the PageRank of a domain would be the overall PageRank value Google would associate with the domain. This is not a value you can get at directly, but you can approximate it by looking at the PageRank of the website’s home page. Look at this to make sure it is not penalized and to see the overall link juice.

A PageRank 6 (or higher) home page clearly has some link love and respect, a Page Rank 2 obviously has less, a gray bar can be a good red flag, and seeing a PageRank 0 tells you that the domain is either new or completely invisible. However, as link-building expert Eric Ward points out, avoiding lower PageRank domains simply because they are PageRank 3 or 4 is not necessarily a good thing, as you could be missing out on very relevant links that, in volume, contribute to your relevance.

Inlinks to page (via Yahoo!)

Next, look at the links to the specific page you want to get a link from (or perhaps that already links to you). You want to know whether the domain links into this individual page heavily, or whether it is practically an orphan. See whether it is a page that other sites reference, both of which can help illuminate potential value.

Inlinks to domain (via Technorati or Google Blog Search)

The Technorati and Google Blog Search link data can show trends—if a site has been picking up many new links over the past few months, it might be a much better candidate than the PageRank or other link data might indicate.

Inlinks to domain (via Yahoo!)

This is a pretty indirect measurement, but it’s not completely useless. However, since the number often takes into account lots of links from a single domain, it can be misleading.

PageRank of page

Since pages that are relatively new (three to four months old) are shown on the Google Toolbar as having a PageRank of 0 (at least until Google updates the PageRank it shows on the Google Toolbar), and since so many valuable pages may have PageRanks that are only in the 1–3 range, it seems unwise to get caught up in the PageRank of a specific page. It is better to look at the domain and the attention it gives your page. However, this can be valuable if the page has been around for a while.

Number of external links on the page

Pages generally pass some of their link juice to each page they link to. Therefore, if you have a link from a page with 10 outbound links, it is far better than having a link from an equivalent page with 100 outbound links, so this is a parameter worth knowing about.

Figure 16. SEOmoz Page Strength tool

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