7 Powerful KPIs to Measure your Link Building Outreach

We all know how time consuming outreach for link building can be.

We also know that time is money and majority of us charge per hour.

Therefore it becomes very important that we measure our outreach efforts and reduce outreach cost.

This post is all about measuring and optimizing link building outreach efforts like a pro.

In order to measure like a pro, we need to run and manage our outreach campaigns like a pro.

What can be a better way than running and measuring our outreach campaigns like professional email marketing campaigns.

When you run your outreach campaigns like email marketing campaigns, you can develop and use KPIs for your outreach efforts.

You are in a better position to optimize your efforts.

Present Challenges with Link Building Outreach Emails

#1 We have no idea whether our email has been delivered

#2 We have no idea where are our email ends up. Is it the ‘spam’ folder?

#3 We have no idea whether our email has been opened.

#4 We can’t guarantee to deliver emails in the ‘inbox’ and avoid the ‘spam’ folder/filters

#5 We can’t measure conversion rate of our outreach

#6 We have hard time reducing the cost of outreach

#7 We don’t calculate the ROI of our outreach.

My article is an attempt to overcome these challenges.

The first thing I would suggest you, is to stop using Gmail/Yahoo email accounts for link building outreach and use a professional email marketing software like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact.

These email platforms are super easy to use and quite cheap.

It will take you few minutes to get use to their interface.

The biggest advantage of using such platforms is that you get an access to a whole new level of metrics (like emails sent, bounces, bounced percent, opt-outs, clicks, CTR etc) for measuring your outreach efforts.

These metrics are not available in Google Analytics and are very important for measuring outreach.

For example, following is a screenshot form ‘mail chimp’ which shows the report of an outreach campaign:

From this report it is clear that out of 6 emails I sent, 3 were opened, 2 were unopened and 1 bounced. Out of 3 who opened my email one person unsubscribed.

I can also see that I got total of 3 clicks in my email.

I can dig further to find out who didn’t open my email, which email bounced and who unsubscribed.

You can’t get such type of valuable information from a standard analytics tool like Google Analytics.

Mail Chimp also let you connect its account with Google Analytics so that you can calculate the ROI.

But since outreach campaigns are not meant for directly generating revenue on a website, this metric won’t be useful for you as a link builder.

I will later show you how to calculate ROI of your outreach.

Seven Powerful KPIs to measure your Outreach Campaigns

#1. Delivery Rate

Delivery Rate = number of emails delivered/number of emails sent (measured in percentage)

Here number of emails delivered = number of emails sent – number of bounces

You can get this metric from mail chimp or other email marketing tool.

If you are neck deep into link building and you are sending out lot of emails every day then email delivery is going to cost you.

So in order to reduce your outreach cost you should aim for high delivery rate.

This is possible only when you get little to no bounce backs.

Keep your email list as clean as possible.

#2. Open Rate

Open Rate = number of emails opened/ number of emails delivered (measured in percentage)

Open rate is a great way to measure the effectiveness of your email subject line.

If your subject line looks spammy or deceptive then open rate is going to be low.

Take help of a professional email marketer to craft killer attention grabbing subject lines if possible.

Split test your subject lines.

Check out this good article on subject lines: 7 Email subject line myths exploded.

Another way of improving open rate is through the ‘From Field’.

Who has sent the email matter a lot to recipients.

If the sender’s email address is something like: [email protected] (this is a real spam email address), then the open rate is bound to be low.

If the email address is something like [email protected] then the open rate is bound to be high.

Use client’s official email address, if possible or at least use an email address which doesn’t look spammy.

#3. Opt-out Rate

Opt-out Rate= number of unsubscribes/number of emails opened (measured in percentage)

High opt-out rate is a strong signal of poor outreach.

You should aim to keep your opt-out rate to minimum.

Mail Chimp allows unsubscribers to give feedback about your email.

Unsubscribers can mark your email as spam.

You can see such report in the ‘complaints’ section (see the screenshot above).

High volume of unsubscribes or complains is a strong sign that something is terribly wrong with your targeting or value proposition.

ISPs may even start blocking your emails if they receive large number of complaints.

You should avoid following up with those who have unsubscribed.

Why bother providing unsubscribe link in outreach emails?

Any unsolicited commercial message is classed as spam.

So when you are sending out an email especially in US, make sure your emails follow the CAN SPAM Act guidelines.

According to these guidelines, your email must contain an active unsubscribe link.

Violation of CAN SPAM act can result in hefty fine and even jail term.

It is also wise to get a written permission from your client (esp. the big one) to use their brand name in your outreach emails. Big companies are over protective of their brand image.

You don’t want to face a lawsuit later.

It is even better to get ‘professional indemnity insurance’ (or other similar insurance) to protect yourself from bearing the full cost of defending against a professional negligence claim made by your client in case they are sued by a recipient of your email which triggers a chain reaction.

There is this ‘culture of suing’ out there and it is safe to be prepared in advance: Man Successfully Sues McDonald’s For Making Him Fat , McDonald’s sued for tempting Californian mum’s daughter with Happy Meals toys

#4. Click to delivery rate

Click to delivery rate = number of clicks in the email/number of emails delivered (measured in percentage)

This is a great metric to measure the quality of the email body content.

If body content is relevant and effective and there are one or more links in the email then ‘click to delivery rate’ is going to be high.

Use this metric only when you have got active links in your emails.

#5. Response Rate

Response Rate = Total number of first time responses/total number of emails opened (measured in percentage)

Consider response rate as a micro conversion for your outreach campaigns.

This is a very important metric for measuring the overall quality of your outreach campaigns.

Response rate is directly tied to your authority in the client’s niche, the quality of the mailing list and how compelling your message is to inspire someone to response.

So if your campaign is not well targeted or the body content is not very effective than response rate is going to be low.

Response rate also depends upon the delivery day and time and the time when the email is read.

Note: I have deliberately used only first time responses in the calculation of ‘response rate’. If I include all the responses exchanged between a sender and recipients then it will drastically skew the whole metric. So once your email is opened and you get a response (whether positive or negative), you have achieved 100% response rate.

#6. Conversion Rate of outreach

Conversion Rate of outreach = (total number of links earned through outreach/total number of emails opened) (measured in percentage)

This metric decides the ultimate outcome of your outreach efforts and is therefore the most important metric of all.

Needless to say, you should always aim to improve the conversion rate of your outreach.

It doesn’t matter how many emails were opened or how many responses were exchanged.

What that matters in the end is, the number of links earned for every opened email.

#7. ROI of outreach

ROI of outreach = (Your income from SEO – Cost of outreach)/Cost of Outreach (measured in percentage)

Here income from SEO is your SEO fees i.e. what you charge for SEO.

It should not be confused with what your client earns through your SEO efforts.

ROI of outreach is an internal metric which is not reported to clients.

We calculate ROI internally to reduce the cost of our outreach.

If you want to report ROI to your client then you report the ROI of your SEO efforts.

#8. Cost of outreach

Cost of outreach = Cost of sending out emails + (number of hours spent in outreaching X Link Builder’s Salary per hour)

To reduce the outreach cost, consider spending less time in outreaching and avoid sending mass emails.

Remember the 80/20 rule.

80% of your output comes from 20% of your input.

Focus on the quality of your mailing list and your value proposition and not on the quantity of emails sent.

Give priority to outreach efforts through which you can earn hundreds of links in one go.

If you won’t focus on the quality than your outreach cost will be high, ROI will be low, conversion rate will plummet and above all you will be less profitable in your business.

Related Article: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) with Examples – Beginner’s guide

Other Posts you may find usefulHow to Translate Business Objectives into Measurable Goals


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Himanshu Sharma

Digital Marketing Consultant and Founder of Optimizesmart.com

Himanshu helps business owners and marketing professionals in generating more sales and ROI by fixing their website tracking issues, helping them understand their true customers' purchase journey and helping them determine the most effective marketing channels for investment.

He has over 12 years of experience in digital analytics and digital marketing.

He was nominated for the Digital Analytics Association's Awards for Excellence. The Digital Analytics Association is a world-renowned not-for-profit association that helps organisations overcome the challenges of data acquisition and application.

He is the author of four best-selling books on analytics and conversion optimization:

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