How to Develop Conversion-Oriented Link Building Strategies using Google Analytics

by Jason Acidre on June 19, 2012 · 47 comments · Conversion, Search


Sherlock HolmesAnalysis is a thought-process that has been widely used in SEO. This aspect of the practice allows many of us to outsmart competitors as well as the ever evolving field itself, including the drastic game-changing events/updates that Google continuously employ to its search algorithm.

That’s one reason why Google Analytics has been tremendously useful to SEOs (and it’s great that the tool is free), as it supplies its users with their site’s usage data which can help them improve its performance.

One of the main goals of many web-based businesses is to generate more revenue, conversions and/or transactions to their sites, and many of them invest on link building to serve as a 2nd tier to attain this goal (to mainly support the SEO process to achieve better search rankings).

That mantra for link building could be dead any time soon, seriously, seeing that links that can drive you conversions are the ones that will most likely impact your search rankings.

So instead of pushing your way to obtain higher search rankings through link building, why not use your link building efforts to hit two birds with one stone – to improve both rankings and conversions – by building two strong channels where you can generate conversions (via search and referrals).

In this post, I’ll be sharing a few tips on how you can utilize Google Analytics to mine better insights to develop more targeted and conversion-oriented link building strategies.

Set up Goals in Analytics

To start off, you’ll first need to identify your overall campaign’s objectives and to set up your goals in Google Analytics, to be able to measure and determine the areas where your campaign can work on improving.

There are 4 types of goals that you can set on Analytics (URL destination, visit duration, page/visit and event), but in this case we’ll just focus on URL destination to measure site transactions (product sales, services, subscriptions, downloads, etc…).

The first step is to go to your Google Analytics’ admin panel:

And then go to “Goals”:

Start creating a new Goal by inputting necessary information and details. You’ll also need to set up a “thank you” page on your site, which will serve as the “Goal URL” for the campaign to ensure that the visitors you’ll be measuring have completed a transaction.

You can also choose to add a value for your Goals, like for instance, I added $500 as the value of my thank you page when visited through my SEO services page, since it’s the minimum rate of our team’s consultation services.

Once you’ve filled up the information needed for your goal, you can then choose to use funnels, which is usually needed to determine how many visitors are abandoning your preferred landing pages or to help you monitor and improve the steps taken before a visitor completes a transaction.

Setting up a funnel can also give you a better view of how visitors flow within your site (from other pages of your site) before actually getting to your Goal URL.

As soon as you’re done setting up your goals, it’ll be much easier to devise link building strategies that will complement your conversion optimization efforts.

Conversion Link Building by Demographics/Location

Identify which locations have brought highly converted traffic to your site, and improve on this area to maximize growth in terms of lead and revenue generation. It’s best to track your site’s visitor demographics from the past 2 – 3 months to generate more precise results.

You can first start by going to Audience > Demographics > Location: On the top left corner of the map overlay, choose Goal Set:

After choosing the Goal Set, the data available below the map overlay will display conversion related metrics, which will make it easier for you to distinguish locations where you have strong market.

Click on the transactional goal that you have set up, and see which locations have high converting traffic but you haven’t really optimized your site for.

If you have highly interested audiences/market/potential customers from places you never expected to generate leads/sales from, then trying to increase the traffic you’re getting from these locations might just mean improving your site’s ability to convert more visitors as well.

So how would you increase referred traffic from these areas?

Find prospects by Location

Search for link opportunities from locations where your potential customers are from and build links from them (like offering guest blogs). You can also try requesting links to direct to your site’s linkable content from your prospected sites, since people from their location do find your content useful and relevant (based on Analytics).

Offer your content to be translated

For non-English speaking countries that still find your website’s content/products/services useful, you can choose to find content partners (high-traffic blogs based or hosted on that certain location) and offer your high-quality content to be translated and published on their sites. But make sure that the links you’ve placed within the original content will be kept intact and that they’ll give credit to your site as the original source of the content.

Improving internal linking and anchor text targeting through Top Landing Pages

There are 2 ways to strengthen your link building campaign through Google Analytics’ Site Content feature:

  • Internal linking the pages that constantly bring highly-engaged traffic to the site to the site’s money pages for maximum conversions.
  • Identifying the secondary keywords that yield search traffic to these high performing pages, and using them as variations for anchor texts to continuously improve their traffic generation capability.

Let’s start with how to determine strong pages to use for internal linking.

Go to Content > Site Content > Landing Pages:

Distinguish the top landing pages (aside from your homepage) of your site that have constantly brought traffic to the site from the past month(s), particularly the old ones that are still getting huge traffic.

You can then assess and decide to internally/contextually link some of these pages to your transactional pages (you can also enhance their calls-to-action to convert more of its incoming new visitors).

There’s also an advanced method to extract more accurate data from your top landing pages. On the top left part of the Landing Pages’ graph report, click on “Goal Set”:

Below the graph, the report will display a slightly different set of data, which are more on conversion-related metrics. Click on the transactional Goal conversion rate to show the results in order of pages that have generated higher conversions:

You can filter the results to exclude irrelevant pages by clicking on the advanced filters:

Choose “exclude” from the first drop-down option, and choose the “Goal Conversion Rate” you want to extract (services in my case). The second drop-down option will automatically show “Greater than”, you’ll have to enter the most realistic number that you’ve seen from your data (which in my case is below 12% is realistic). Lastly, click on “Apply”.

The presented data will show a more realistic standing of your top landing pages in terms of meeting your business’ objectives.

With these figures, you’ll have greater idea of what pages to enhance and build more links to (to increase the traffic they’re receiving as well as to improve their search rankings), since these pages are helping you drive more sales/conversions.

The next step would be is to identify the keywords that your top landing pages are ranking for and send highly-engaged visitors to them as well (based on % of new visits and % of bounce rates).

You can first start by choosing a landing page from the list of your top performing landing pages:

Add a secondary dimension, and choose Traffic Sources > Keyword

It will then show all the keywords sending search traffic to the landing page you chose.

You can filter this result further to remove the (not provided) and (not set) keywords, which you can also use when extracting keywords from multiple landing pages or all of your site’s top landing pages. Here’s how:

Click on the advanced filters, choose “Exclude” from the first drop-down option, and on the second drop-down option, choose “Begins with” and then key in “(“ – to exclude all the (not provided) and (not set) keywords from the list. Then click on “Apply”.

Now you’ll have a huge list of keywords that your landing page(s) are already ranking for, a list that you can use to vary the anchor texts of links that will direct to your strong pages.

Choose the keywords that sends high amount of new visits and have low bounce rates, because these visitors are finding your content relevant to the queries they’ve used to find your page.

Just imagine if you can rank higher for multiple keywords for a single landing page, that could easily translate to higher conversions. Plus it’s easier to achieve better rankings from these keywords, since they are already being served to search users.

Also, another way to see which keywords are converting well to your campaign’s goals is to use the “Goal Set” data (on the top left corner of the landing page graph):

Then the conversion-based data of keywords below the graph will be displayed, where you can see which keywords may drive more customers to your business.

How to build links using your newly found keyword variations for your top landing pages:

  • Build more internal links to your top landing pages using the keyword variations you’ve uncovered from your analytics data.
  • Use these keyword variations as anchor texts when building links to them through your external content distribution campaign such as guest blogging, columns, community-based discussions or press releases. You can also check out my guest post on Searchbrat on promoting and building links to great content.

Understanding and replicating high-powered links through Top Referring Websites/Sources

Understand the links that help you drive more leads/conversions by analyzing link placements/positions, context, source and type. Have a process or a formula that will enable you to replicate your site’s existing incoming links that have proven value in increasing your site’s conversion rate, as it will definitely influence your mindset on how to acquire highly-efficient links (not just for rankings and traffic, but for conversions as well).

There are 3 different ways that you can do within Google Analytics to assess high-performing links to your site.

1. Traffic Sources > Referrals

Go to Traffic Sources > Sources > Referrals:

On the top left part of the referred traffic graph, click on the “Goal Set” data:

 The data displayed below that graph will then show the referring domains that have sent converted visitors to your site (click on your transactional goal’s conversion rate to categorize sites by conversion rate percentage).

You can also check on the domains individually to see which linking pages are driving easily-converted traffic to your site or to the page where they are linking to (by simply clicking on any website listed to see the referral path).

2. Assisted Conversions

Go to Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions

On the Basic Channel Grouping, choose “Referral”

Right from there, you’ll see the top referring domains that have driven possible leads/customers to your site:

3. Goal Flow

Go to Conversions > Goals > Goal Flow

From the Goal Flow map, click on the “Group Details”

A pop-up window will display, where you can choose “Top Segments” from the first dropdown option:

The window will display a list of referring domains that have eventually led a portion of the overall referred traffic to your transaction page (money page):

Once you have distinguished the sites and/or pages that are sending customers to your site, you can then start analyzing these links, particularly in understanding why/how they were able to directly help your site generate leads.

Here’s a quick sample:

97thfloor.com naturally linked to one of my recent posts last April (you can see the post here), and this link has sent 2 potential clients to me (4.44% conversion rate out of 45 visitors) these past 2 months.

By just observing this type of link, you can easily evaluate how the link was able to refer interested customers:

  • The link is very visible and was placed on the first sentence of the content
  • The content of the link’s destination page resonates with their audience
  • The context of the content that surrounds the link speaks positively about the destination page
  • It’s from an authority site that has its own readership/follower base

Once you fully understand how and why your existing links are sending you direct leads, you can easily build your own metrics to use in qualifying link prospects and methods (like the ones I’ve mentioned above).

Did that link influence the destination page’s search rankings? Yes. As far as I know, it’s the only authority link that’s linking to my “viral content ideas” post, and there are only few links pointing to it. Here’s a screenshot grabbed from a recent SEOmoz post about impact of authoritative links:

Methods that you can implement to amplify your link building based on your Top Referrers’ data:

2nd tier link building – help the pages linking to you that send high-value traffic to rank better on search engines, by building links to them and promoting them through social media. The more constant traffic these linking pages get, the more you can get good traffic and leads from them.

Find similar prospects – find sites that have the same audience as those that have linked to you (which send easily converted visitors). Try to acquire the same kind of link placements, exposure and visibility from them (whether through guest blogs, resource link requests, coverage, blogroll links, etc…). Here’s a good way to find related websites:

Pitch your site’s most linkable content (or accidental link baits) to related websites – since you know that your site’s linkable pieces have earned other reputable sites’ trust, you’ll have better chances of acquiring links from your other prospects.

Build more links from sites that are already sending you leads/customers– try to absorb more traffic from them by contributing more useful content on their sites (like guest blogs, regular column or helpful forum posts if you’re generating leads from forum websites). Replicate the position of links that have allowed you to increase your site’s conversions (highly visible links from high traffic pages).

If you liked this post, you should subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

Image Credit: Amanda Tolleson

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, marketing consultant for Affilorama and Traffic Travis, and also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre and on Google+.

More Posts - Twitter - Facebook - Google Plus

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Leave a Comment

{ 21 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: