Links are important for online marketing. Search engines consider people’s linking to your website a vote of confidence, and use the number, type, and quality of your links to gauge your value to visitors — and therefore to decide where and when to offer you to searchers. Whether your site is brand new or well-established, adding links is a good thing to do.
If you’re doing it yourself or having someone in-house work on it in their spare time, you may not be thinking much about keeping track. After all, only 25-40% of your requests will result in links (assuming you’re being as bold as you should be), many of them won’t be active for weeks or even months, and linkbuilding is already so time-consuming that adding a lot of paperwork to the process threatens to make the return on your investment marginal.
Over time, though, you’ll be glad you kept track. Here’s why:
- By next year, no one in the office will remember who you requested links from, and you’ll have too many (if you’re doing it right) just to have a quick look at your incoming links and see. Webmasters who’ve already given you a link, or refused you one, will be miffed when they get a communication from you that makes it obvious that you don’t remember having communicated with them before. Directories won’t be miffed (dmoz is an exception), but you’ll have wasted your precious linkbuilding time.
- Comparing the sites that send you traffic with the list of sites you’ve gotten links from will give you important insights into the kind of linkbuilding that works best for you. Just seeing where you get the traffic from tells you something useful, of course, but adding the linkbuilding data adds more. For example, when I see that Google groups is sending traffic for a client, I might think I should add more links in Google groups. If I saw that they had lots of links there and only one sends traffic, I’d know that this link was a member of a different group of links for them — links, perhaps, within a particular community, or with a particular landing page or anchor text.
- You can more easily go back and change, correct, or try again.
- You can tell how you’re doing. If you get only one or two good links per hour, then linkbuilding isn’t a good use of your time, and you should hire someone more effective to do it for you. Ditto for any staff member you set to the task. If you don’t keep track, you’ll have no idea how effective you’re being.
How to keep track?
- A spreadsheet is the most obvious choice. Using a spreadsheet has the advantage of allowing you to sort the data. You can also decide for yourself what kind of data you want to track.
- There are software programs for the task. Raven is one of the most popular. I don’t use it myself, so I’m not recommending it, but it might be a starting point if you want to go this route.
- You can use paper, too. There aren’t really any great advantages to doing it this way, but if you find spreadsheets slow or difficult, don’t let that keep you from keeping records.