The Use Of Metrics In Link Building – And Its Overuse


If you’ve been doing link building for a while (perhaps have even hired agencies/freelancers to do it), I’d imagine you have at some point used or contemplated using metrics to measure the sites you’re gaining links from.

Some of the most common used are probably:

  • Domain Authority and Page Authority (Moz)
  • Trust Flow and Citation Flow (Majestic SEO)

There are no Google metrics to use (since PageRank was removed some time ago), so we do need to use third-party metric tools.

They are very powerful and I do value them and utilise them myself. But at the same time, I believe there is a over-reliance on tools like these. And you shouldn’t make the mistake of basing an entire campaign on any one metric in this way.

Following one metric blindly in this way can only lead you into trouble further down the line.

The Dangers Of a Metric-Based Campaign

Here are a few arguments against using a metric tool:

  • No authority based metric tool measures relevance
  • If a website is new (but gaining popularity) it’ll fly under your metric number
  • Just having links from websites over a certain metric number, is in of itself, an unnatural link proflle. So its better to have a mixture of authorities anyway
  • Google actually stopped utilising PageRank as people focussed too much on the metric.
  • By focussing only on high authority websites, it limits your pool of sites, wastes time and actually reduces the momentum of your campaigns.

The Number One Metric: Relevance

This is the main focus that any link builder worth their salt should follow.

And it’s the basis of any prospecting that they’ll then employ and subsequently the direction their link building will go.

The more relevant the sites are, the more likely they are to have traffic containing your target audience and the more likely that traffic will subsequently click through to your site and buy your product.

Assessing Engagement

Once you’ve found a site which could have an audience overlapping with your own, you’ll want to check for signs of engagement.

You can gauge this by looking at the social activity with a tool like Buzzsumo and Semrush to estmate the amount of traffic coming through to the site.

If people seem to be commenting on the posts as well, its also a good sign of engagement.

These sites may also have low Citation or Trust Flow metrics, however, that is often the case for very new, but popular, up and coming blogs.

Here’s an example:

Say we had a product in the gardening niche. And we were looking for related sites with an audience overlap.

And say we came across this site.

Now, in a purely metric-based campaign, I know people that would skip over a site like this, as it only has a Domain Authority of 29. Not bad, but not huge. However, it is in the exact niche we need. In our target country as well (the UK).

And by clicking through to the posts, you can see there is also some real comments from users, so it is also receiving a small, but engaged audience.

Assessing Human Value

We also need to scrutinize any link targets, using something that no tool can assess – which is the human eye!

Is the content good quality, designed well, etc – i.e. does the site provide value?

So we want to check for things like:

  • Passionate and valuable writing
  • Some human personality to the writing
  • Some depth of knowledge/expert opinion
  • Good design
  • Easy to navigate
  • Fresh content always being added
  • Author is responding to comments on pages

And so much more.

In the gardening example above, I can see this person ticks almost all of these boxes, I can see their personality and passion in the writing, they have a Masters in Ethnobotany and is published author. So I don’t see why this relatively small blog, could turn into something much much bigger down the line. Which is only going to strengthen the link that we’ll be getting now.

Multiple Pillars

No collection of technical analysis tools are going to make the assessment for you efficiently enough.

You will need to use the human eye at some point – it’s a fact!

And it’ll require a holistic approach of trying to assess:

(1) Relevance (2) authority (3) Engagement (4) Content Quality.

If you restrict this by using DA, TF or whatever XYZ metric, is just going to narrow your view and strangle the growth of your link building campaign.

Think of those tools are just helpful “barometers”. You can get an idea or gauge of authority  – but by no means are they the be all and end all of assessing the website.

And as you develop your link profile in this way – you my even see it start to play on your own website. Rankings, traffic increase, engagement increases – but the Authority metric may not even increase by much. Don’t sweat it, on the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t affect you, and will eventually catch up with all your other increases anyway.

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