by John Eberhard

When one is engaged on a campaign to do search engine optimization and build up links to a web site, how do you tell if you’re doing a good job?

The purpose of SEO and a link building campaign, first of all, is to create thousands of links to a web site from other web sites, so that the ranking of that site will improve on Google and other search engines. Google has stated that its main criteria for deciding how high to rank your site is the number of links to your site from other sites.

And we want the rankings to improve ultimately in order to increase the amount of traffic to a web site coming from search engines. So unfortunately it’s a little indirect. We build links, so we can improve search engine rankings, so we can get more traffic. And we of course want more traffic so we can get more leads or sales from the web site.

So the first thing we use to measure whether we are doing a good job is the number of links to your web site. With my major link building clients I measure this monthly. The way to do this is to go to Google and enter a string like this:

“realwebmarketing.net” -site:realwebmarketing.net

That’s your web address, in quotes, a space, a dash, a colon, and the web address again, not in quotes. Every time I talk about how to do this I get complaints that it doesn’t work. But if you do it exactly the way I explain above it will work. Make sure the dash doesn’t get turned into an em dash.

I frequently get asked “How many links do I need?” That depends on what industry you are in and how many links your competitors have. In some industries you might do really well to have 3,000 links, while in others you might need 20,000 or 30,000 or more to compete effectively.

Google makes constant changes in how they count links, so it is not unusual for the number of links to drop off dramatically occasionally. The correct action is to continue the link building campaign and the number of links will shortly come back up to where it was and continue higher.

The next step in determining the success of a link building campaign is to take your list of keywords that you are targeting, i.e. that you want to be ranking well for, and checking how well you rank for them on Google, Yahoo and MSN.

I run a report on this monthly for clients, usually checking 100 or more keywords.
And no, I don’t sit there checking each keyword manually. I use software called Market Samurai for this. The final report looks like this:

Keyword – Monthly Searches Google Mar 11 Yahoo
Mar  11
Mar  11
Keyword 1 Not top 500 Not top 500 Not top 500
Keyword 2 Not top 500 Not top 500 Not top 500
Keyword 3 5 7 62
Keyword 4 1 1 1
Keyword 5 1 1 1
Keyword 6 6 23 24
Keyword 7 Not top 500 Not top 500 Not top 500
Keyword 8 16 50 50
Keyword 9 1 8 8

Then I count up the total number of #1 positions, top 10 positions, top 20, top 100 and top 500 positions. I track these month to month. Some people wonder why I bother to check the top 100 and top 500 positions, as anything lower than say position 20 is not going to result in additional traffic. That’s true, but by tracking it this way I can see the results of the campaign, and if the number in each category is improving each month I know the campaign is going well. If you only tracked the top 20, there would be all this improvement occurring that you’d never see until those keywords arrived in the top 20 down the line.

Finally, we make sure when we start with a client that he has Google Analytics on his site and we then track the number of visitors and page views on his site month to month. And we want to see that traffic steadily increasing over time.

That’s what we look for to tell us how well the SEO and link building is working.