- Backlink Metrics
- Simple Measures
- C-Level & Client Metrics
- Proprietary Metrics
This guide covers off some more of the fundamentals of backlinks and really the language used to describe them and the data we use to measure them. If you are to understand your link profile or aim to improve it, you will need to be familiar with these metrics and the concepts that underpin them.
This are the most basic (bread & butter) metrics that you will need to be familiar with, we are assuming that you know what backlinks are and the value that they have… If not, head over and read our introduction to backlinks before reading this.
This is possibly the broadest, most top-level metric that you can look at. That said, it will give you an idea of the size of the project, if the site has 100 backlinks, you could review each one manually in a couple of hours (if you were so inclined!).
This metric is on a par with the total number of backlinks, if anything it will give a clearer picture of the backlink profile.
This metric provides context for the previous two metrics, as each on their own (like most data) doesn’t allow for much by way of insights to be concluded from it.
Simply divide the total number of backlinks by the total number of linking domains to get a number; this number represents the ratio of backlinks to referring domains.
If the number is high
If this number is in the thousands it is a broad indication that you might want to look at the top referring domains, to see if there is an outlier inflating this ratio.
If you have more than two links from one C-Class IP, this is not as valuable as having two links from two C-Class IPs. This works in a similar way to how referring domains and backlinks can be compared.
The more the better! These types of domain can only be owned by legitimate and inherently more trustworthy institutions than say .com domains which can be owned by anyone. Due to their inherent trust with Google and other search engines, links from these domains is a very strong indicator of trust or authenticity.
This is why most tools and analysis will split out .gov and .edu domains into their own category.
An anchor text ratio is the number of iterations of text, used in anchor text, as percentage of all the anchor text used to link to a page. For example, if a page is linked to 100 times throughout a website, you could use analyse the amount of times anchor text is used as a percentage, for example;
This is a much more important factor when considering back links to your website rather than internal links within the website. Due to the nature of template regions of a site containing links, it is likely that the most commonly used anchor text to your main pages will be that used in the main navigation.
Google is easily able to understand this and thus it is factored into the algorithm. It is only in extreme cases where thousands of internal links are created, in an unnatural way to a page all using identical anchor text where it could become an issue. Matt Cutts confirms this in a video from 2013.
That said it is always useful to vary the anchor text used to include variations of keywords, if you are running the risk of overusing a keyword in anchor text consider using generic anchor text on occasion such as “click here” or “for more information”.
It is only in severe scenarios where you are likely to incur some kind of algorithmic penalty from Google as a result of unnatural anchor text usage, though it can happen.
As an addendum to the above, we can also look at the percent of anchor text that is an exact match keyword to the total anchor text. This should be well under 50%.
These are links to pages other than the homepage of your site, any link deeper than the home page can be called a ‘deep link’.
Each time authority passes through a link or redirect it reduces, providing links to internal pages of a site delivers the value more directly to those pages. This helps to create a better distribution of authority around your site and helps to promote the pages being linked to.
This is the number of deep links divided by the total number of backlinks and is typically shown as a percentage… Such as; 20%, meaning that 20% of the links to the site are deep links.
These two are not necessarily metrics in the truest sense of the work, but are well worth looking at nonetheless.
This refers to the response code or status of the linking domain or page… Backlink data typically comes in two flavours, ‘recent’ and ‘old’; with recent being data discovered in the past few months and old being all other historical data. Consequently, when working old data its always worth checking if the page or domain are still there.
This metric takes the form of a response code, such as:
This is by no means a complete list, but these are the most common. The aim of this metric is to weed out domains and links that aren’t there anymore.
This looks at two things, and is more of an analysis than a typical metric, but they can be easily represented by a single value, which is why we have included them here. Each of the below will provide an indication of how trustworthy the linking domains are.
Is the site or page indexed?
Yes or no. If the site is not indexed, this is a good sign that Google does not value it.
Does the domain rank for brand name?
Yes or no. If the site does not rank for its own brand name, this is a good sign that Google does not value it.
Being in SEO it’s easy to get caught up in the detail of how many links you have and how good they are… C-level people (CEO, CMO, etc) and clients often don’t share the same level of appreciation for a link! Even if someone is paying you to build links, what they want is usually to make more online sales.
Backlinks provide the abstract and invisible authority to a site, but they can also provide traffic, which is what links are for right? With this in mind (and tracking and analytics in place) we can actually look at some interesting metrics.
You can look at any of the below data as a whole, or in most cases you can even look at individual sites or pages that sent traffic to your site.
Known as referral traffic, depending on the tool you use, this represents the number of user coming to your site through backlinks. We won’t go into the various permutations of this such as sessions and users, pageviews, etc… For the purpose of this guide, traffic is a great metric to measure the value of backlinks to a site.
Again, we are avoiding getting into specifics of what different tools call them, but a conversion is someone taking an action on your site that you want them to do. This could be adding an item to a cart, filling a form, clicking a link or making a purchase… In either case, simply segment your conversion data by source and look at converting users from your referral channels.
If your conversions have a value or if you have an eCommerce site, revenue from referral sources should be easy to pull out of any analytics package. This is really what clients and upper-level management most want to see!
We have omitted things like rankings from this list as there are many factors involved in rankings that will vary from site to site and strategy to strategy… That said, if you can demonstrate that rankings have increased as a result of link building, this would be a valid group of metrics.
Before we discuss specific metrics or measures for these components, it’s worth providing a summary of the concepts that underpin the metrics. All proprietary metrics and even Google’s algorithm is trying to establish and derive numbers to represent these concepts.
Authority reflects the ability of a domain or page on that domain to rank for target keywords, but independent of any specific keyword. If you are in the process of building links to your site, you will want to know the authority of any particular site from which you are potentially to acquire a link.
We often refer to authority rather than a specific measure like Domain Authority (DA) because you might not use Moz, who own that metric.
One of Google’s questions when they look at a site is ‘is this site trustworthy?’, because they don’t want to send their users to dodgy parts of the web. Sites can be deemed untrustworthy for a number of reasons, such as having malicious malware, spyware, viruses, illicit or illegal content, etc.
Untrustworthy sites are more likely to link to and be linked to from other untrustworthy sites, be careful where you link to and where you get your links from.
This concept underpins all metrics on trust, this is a murky subject being a lot less clear than authority.
This can be seen as an extension of trust or another way of looking at trust, it would very unlikely that you would have a high-quality site that is also untrustworthy.
We discuss this concept and trust in a lot more detail in our guide to bad links!
Here we describe some of the specific metrics that are created and owned by various well-known companies. These are all solid metrics, but you will typically have to sign up and pay for a subscription to get access to them… That said you will have to do this anyway to get any backlink data at all.
We don’t advise which of these you should use, as they are all good… Also, you will want to decide which tool you want to use more than which metric anyway. This is not a comprehensive list, but does cover the most common metrics.
Google do not give out metrics for authority or trust of a site… You can use Google and some of their tools to try and establish how must authority or trust a site has… But they don’t want the algorithm to be gamed, so they don’t give away information that could allow you to reverse engineer it.
Wikipedia describes PageRank as the following:
“PageRank is an algorithm used by Google Search to rank websites in their search engine results. PageRank was named after Larry Page, one of the founders of Google. PageRank is a way of measuring the importance of website pages.”
As mentioned, although Google still use PageRank, this is no longer available to the public… Even when it was available it was updated irregularly before eventually being phased out.
Flow Metrics are the trademark of Majestic, and they are used in a number of capacities to help describe, rate / score and assess the quality, relevance and authority of backlinks and sites.
These metrics can be used to analyse a single link or the aggregate of all links, groups of links, categories of links, etc. As such, these metrics are very useful when analysing or describing a back-link profile.
It is worth noting that these metrics are only available with membership to Majestic, and if you use another tool you will be using their metrics instead. We include this due to the ubiquitousness of Majestic within the SEO industry.
There are two Flow Metrics, which we describe below in more detail.
(TF) Trust Flow
Trust Flow (a registered trademark of Majestic) represents a ‘quality’ metric on a logarithmic scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the highest.
This metric is designed to provide insight into how trustworthy a site or page is, based on the Trust Flow of the sites and pages linking to it.
(CF) Citation Flow
Citation Flow (a registered trademark of Majestic) represents a ‘power’ or ‘authority’ metric, and also uses logarithmic scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the highest.
This metric is designed to provide insight into how influential a site or page is… This can be further used to see how influential a site or page is within a certain Majestic category.
(DA) Domain Authority
Moz use 40 signals to create a (100-point scale; 1-100) score that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines. It is also important to know that the score works along a logarithmic scale… A logarithmic scale is a non-linear scale:
Image Source: study.com
Essentially on a logarithmic scale each point is a magnitude higher than the previous mark / point. What this means in real terms for your website is that, improving your DA from 10-20 is a lot easier than improving from 90-100.
This is a great metric to use if comparing your website to that of competitors and for tracking DA over time, but like any metric it will not mean much in isolation. DA can also be a strong indicator of good domains from which to acquire links.
(PA) Page Authority
“Page Authority is a score (on a 100-point scale) developed by Moz that predicts how well a specific page will rank on search engines. It is based off data from the Mozscape web index and includes link counts, MozRank, MozTrust, and dozens of other factors.”
This metric provides a more granular analysis at page level of a site and can be another good indicator of how valuable a link from this page is.
“MozRank represents a link popularity score. It reflects the importance of any given web page on the Internet. Pages earn MozRank by the number and quality of other pages that link to them. The higher the quality of the incoming links, the higher the MozRank.”
This metric provides a similar granular analysis at page level to that of Page Authority (PA) but specifically refers to the authority received from back links.
Ahrefs are primarily a backlink data company, they mine, store and facilitate quick and easy access to this data for analysis through their tool, they have three metrics that we are interested in
URL Rating (UR)
URL Rating (UR) is measured on a 100-point logarithmic scale developed by Ahrefs, it is designed to measure the strength of a URL and predicts how well it will rank in Google.
UR and PageRank are not to be considered the same thing or interchangeable… As with Moz’s PA metric, this also contains a predictive power and attempts to correlate to rankings.
Domain Rating (DR)
URL Rating (UR) is measured on a 100-point logarithmic scale developed by Ahrefs, it is designed to measure the strength of a whole domain’s backlink profile. Like UR it is also geared towards a correlation with the likelihood the domain will rank… But this is not as strong a correlation as with UR.
Ahrefs Rank (AR)
This is a simple ranking system where every website in Ahrefs index is given a unique rank where 1 is the best, based on the strength of the site’s backlink profile. There are many other metrics like this such as Alexa Rank.