Not all links were created equal. Some are more valuable than others, but you knew that. Some are also much harder to track than others. It can be hard to gauge your success with link building when you’re only considering two or three types of links and discounting – or not realizing you have – others. Consider every type of link – and how best to track them – with these tips.
1. Monitor Links that Aren’t Yours
If you were to think of a type of link that benefits you but is as far removed from your site as possible, it would be these links. Specifically, picture the link that goes from a social media site – say, Facebook – to another blog that has posted your content for commentary. Note that this wouldn’t be copied content. Think, for example, of an infographic or video you produced. Another blog posts that content. This link still benefits you, because the blog embedding your content links back to you. It’s several degrees removed from your site, however, so it’s harder to monitor and track.
Your recourse for tracking this kind of link is to set up Google Alerts for keywords and phrases used to link to that content. When you set up this alert, you’ll be informed when someone links to your content, even if that content isn’t visible on your site.
These links aren’t that beneficial, as users would have to make an extra step or two just to get to your post. Few actually will. Instead, it’s a good indicator of how wide your content has spread. It helps you keep aware of your content in case it goes viral.
2. Unannounced Social Shares
When you receive a backlink from, say, Twitter, and someone clicks that link, it will show up in your link profile as a link from Twitter. However, if that person did not use your designated hashtag and did not @mention your account, you have no way to know about that link. For all you know, you gained the visitor from your own post of that link.
An incoming click is a click, right? Why do you particularly need to track incoming links from social sites? After all, you can assume if you post a link on Twitter or Facebook, someone is going to share that link. That’s the whole goal; to gain shares and retweets, to broaden your exposure and attract new users.
One good reason to track unannounced social shares is, like the third party links above, to see how widespread your content has gotten. It’s entirely possible a new conversation sprung up around your content without your notice. Particularly with Twitter, if someone posts your content without mentioning you, you can still identify them and step in to thank them for the share. That could earn you a new follower in the process.
To actually monitor such shares, you should use software like HootSuite. HootSuite in particular allows you to run searches for your specific URL. Put in the URL of the content and you’ll see any use of that link, even if it’s behind a URL shortener.
3. Third Party Incoming Links
A third type of third party indirect link is similar to the first entry in this list. You create and upload content like a video or infographic. Another blog or, in this case, infographic directory picks up your graphic. Their traffic is higher than yours due to their specialty and nature as an aggregator, so their instance of your content obtains a wide range of backlinks from all sorts of third party sites. These are distinct from social shares, because with social shares you can step in and remind users where the content came from. With blog posts it’s harder to do so, particularly when the attribution exists, even if it’s hard to see.
Fortunately, the process for tracking these links is the same as tracking social shares; use Google Alerts and set up a range of keywords. In this case it’s also a more active process, because you benefit from going and checking these third party links occasionally. If there are common keywords you didn’t use originally, you can add them to your alerts. This helps you filter out more of these links.
Again, these links aren’t directly beneficial as part of your link profile. Instead, think of them more as a link web; strands that don’t connect to your page but, like the spider in the center of the web, alert you when a new bit of audience has entered your domain.
4. Incoming Links
There are any number of ways to monitor your incoming links, starting with Google Analytics. The problem, as many find, is the delay in reporting and the effort necessary to dig through incoming traffic records. Sure, the information is already available to be tracked, but are you tracking it effectively?
One tool you can use is Linkstant. As the name implies, the specialty of Linkstant is instant reporting for incoming links. Like Google Analytics, the Linkstant site generates code for you to add to your site. From then on, any time a new incoming link is detected, that link is added to your Linkstant profile.
This tool is phenomenally useful for single sites, but if you run multiple blogs, you’ll find it harder to use. Even so, the ability to see valuable incoming links and be notified of new links within minutes is very useful.
5. Third Party Unattributed Links
Once again, in the situation where you created an infographic or video, it’s often the case that other sites will take and post that content, with or without significant commentary, and without a visible link back to your site. These instances of content misappropriation can be dangerous, particularly if you didn’t craft your content with an embedded link back to your site. This is why infographics should always contain a source footer and logo, preferably integrated enough to keep nefarious sites from cropping it out.
These links are useful to monitor so you can find such instances of seemingly-stolen content and contact the webmaster to get your link added to their post. Some will comply; others will not. Either way, you need to know about them.
As for finding them, you guessed it; it’s back to Google Alerts. You can also use Google’s Search By Image in the case of infographics to find places where your content has been posted without any of the associated keywords you’re monitoring.
6. Perfect Content Embeds
Consider the scenario above, except in this case the site used the code you created specifically for embedding. This is the ideal scenario; they shared your content, they linked back to you, and they did it the way you want them do. Now… are you tracking them properly?
The way to do this is to use UTM parameters in your embed code. Adding utm_source/utm_medium/utm_campaign tracking code to your link ensures that those links will show up in your Google Analytics without issue. Make sure you’re tracking this, or you’ll have a hard time differentiating between sites that copied your image and built their own link and the sites that used your embed code.
Once you’re tracking all of these various link sources, you’ll have a much clearer idea of how widespread your content has gotten.