Complete Guide to Link Building Dashboards in Excel

Link building is an important part of a SEO campaign and marketers need to continuously track the campaigns’ performance in order to optimize them.

One way of measuring the link building performance is through keywords performance analysis in terms of rankings, traffic and conversions.

Another way is through link building dashboards.

I am going to set up powerful and actionable link building performance dashboards for you.

But before we dive deep, let us get on the same page about the value of links.

What is the commercial value of a back link?

I thought hard and deep about how the commercial value of links can be evaluated in a scalable way and came to the following conclusion:

A link which generates traffic and conversions is a high value link and the link which doesn’t is a low-value link.

Once a link has generated traffic and conversions, it has served its commercial purpose.

I like keeping things simple.

Consequently I discounted following attributes of back links in reporting for good:

  1. Page Rank of the linking page
  2. No follow status
  3. Anchor text
  4. Topical relevance
  5. Geo relevance
  6. Trust and authority (DA, PA, trust flow etc)
  7. Branded, non-branded
  8. Partial/exact match phrase

The main reason for not reporting these metrics is that they don’t align with business objectives and we are committed to reporting something which is ‘business bottomline impacting’.

The other but personal reason is that I don’t want to look stupid by talking about partial/exact match anchor texts or followed/no followed links in front of my clients.

Honestly who cares about such vanity metrics in the business world.

However feel free to use these metrics for internal reporting/ work.

Back link is a referrer domain

I know we all know it.

But you need to start treating back link as ‘referrer domain’ loudly and openly and not just sub-consciously.

This will help you in evaluating the value of a link.

For example, let us suppose your blog got a back link from the website.

Now how you will evaluate the commercial value of this link?

The answer is straightforward.

Go to Referrals report (under Acquisition > All Traffic in Google Analytics) and then determine the traffic and conversions generated by the domain from which you got the back link.

Soon you will realize that  not all back links are referrer domains and that is perfectly normal.

They never sent any traffic to your site, so Google Analytics never recorded them.

Often such links are from free and paid directories, article submissions sites, low quality guest posts, link networks etc.

We don’t need to talk about such links in external reporting.

At best they can be reported as raw number of links built (if you still insist).

So if we are doing high quality link building then the number of referrer domains must increase every month and there should be traffic and conversions through these domains.

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Referral traffic analysis

Referral traffic analysis is the best way to evaluate the performance of links acquired through a marketing campaign.

But before we start our analysis, we need to keep in mind that not all referral traffic is because of link building efforts esp. if your client is doing multi channel marketing.

Your website may also get referral traffic because of PPC campaigns, Affiliates or other personal web properties.

Therefore while counting the number of referrer domains generated through link building, you need to exclude:

1. All the other websites which are owned by the client. There can be hundreds of such sites if your client is very big.

2. All the affiliate websites. The traffic from affiliate websites can be treated as referral traffic by Google Analytics.

3. All Adwords placement domains.

When you run Display ads via Google Adwords, you get traffic from websites which is also treated as referral traffic by Google analytics.

For example, if you are running display ads on and you are getting traffic.

Then will be treated as referrer domain by Google analytics.

4. All the referrer domains which are built by other marketing agency or some other campaigns.

I create and apply advanced segments to exclude all such domains from my referral traffic report in Google Analytics while evaluating the performance of  link building campaigns.

Once I have applied the advanced segments, I download the data and create the following dashboards in Excel.

Yes the real dashboards are created in Excel :)

You can get the number of referrer domains through Google Analytics ‘Referral’ report.

Through ‘Referral Visits vs. Bounce Rate’ chart I am determining the quality of the referral traffic.

The ‘Referral Visits vs. Conversions’ and ‘Referral Visits vs. Revenue’ charts give additional insight into the quality of the referral traffic.

If visitors through referrer domains are engaging with my site content then bounce rate is going to be lower.

But what if this engagement is for all the wrong reasons?

For example, if visitors are engaging with my website for all the wrong reasons then how can I be sure of this.

I can determine this through ‘Referral Visits vs. Conversions’ and ‘Referral Visits vs. Revenue’ charts.

If user engagement is not distraction and is truly profitable for your business then the referral traffic should convert.

Related PostHow to Separate User Engagement from Distraction

From the charts above we can see that though the referral traffic is increasing month after month the revenue and conversions through referrer domains is still going down.

This means we have got a work to do.

We need to determine what is going wrong on our website and why referral traffic is not converting well.

May be we are targeting wrong linking partners.

The ‘Transactions vs. Average Order Value’ chart gives further insight into why the revenue through referral traffic is going down.

The main problem seems to be ‘average order value’ which has been going down since August.

What could be the reason of low value orders placed on the website?

We need to determine this.

These are the examples of some of the things you can do with the link building dashboards.

Another post you may find useful7 Powerful KPIs to Measure your Link Building Outreach


What is the difference between Digital Analytics and Google Analytics?

99.99% of course creators themselves don’t know the difference between Digital analytics, Google Analytics (GA) and Google Tag Manager (GTM).

So they are teaching GA and GTM in the name of teaching Digital analytics.

They just copy each other. Monkey see, monkey do.

But Digital analytics is not about GA, GTM.

It is about analyzing and interpreting data, setting up goals, strategies and KPIs.

It’s about creating strategic roadmap for your business.

Digital Analytics is the core skill. Google Analytics is just a tool used to implement ‘Digital Analytics’.

You can also implement ‘Digital analytics’ via other tools like ‘adobe analytics’, ‘kissmetrics’ etc.

Using Google Analytics without the good understanding of ‘Digital analytics’ is like driving around in a car, in a big city without understanding the traffic rules and road signs.

You are either likely to end up somewhere other than your destination or you get involved in an accident.

You learn data analysis and interpretation from Digital analytics and not from Google Analytics.

The direction in which your analysis will move, will determine the direction in which your marketing campaigns and eventually your company will move to get the highest possible return on investment.

You get that direction from ‘Digital analytics’ and not from ‘Google Analytics’.

You learn to set up KPIs, strategies and measurement framework for your business from ‘Digital analytics’ and not from ‘Google Analytics’.

So if you are taking a course only on 'Digital Analytics’, you are learning to use one of the tools of ‘Digital analytics’. You are not learning the ‘Digital analytics’ itself.

Since any person can learn to use Google Analytics in couple of weeks, you do no get any competitive advantage in the marketplace just by knowing GA.

You need to know lot more than GA in order to work in digital analytics and marketing field.

So what I have done, if you are interested, is I have put together a completely free training that will teach you exactly how I have been able to leverage digital analytics to generate floods of news sales and customers and how you can literally copy what I have done to get similar results.

You can sign up for the free training here:

I truly hope you find it helpful.  

My best selling books on Digital Analytics and Conversion Optimization

Maths and Stats for Web Analytics and Conversion Optimization
This expert guide will teach you how to leverage the knowledge of maths and statistics in order to accurately interpret data and take actions, which can quickly improve the bottom-line of your online business.

Master the Essentials of Email Marketing Analytics
This book focuses solely on the ‘analytics’ that power your email marketing optimization program and will help you dramatically reduce your cost per acquisition and increase marketing ROI by tracking the performance of the various KPIs and metrics used for email marketing.

Attribution Modelling in Google Analytics and Beyond
Attribution modelling is the process of determining the most effective marketing channels for investment. This book has been written to help you implement attribution modelling. It will teach you how to leverage the knowledge of attribution modelling in order to allocate marketing budget and understand buying behaviour.

Attribution Modelling in Google Ads and Facebook
This book has been written to help you implement attribution modelling in Google Ads (Google AdWords) and Facebook. It will teach you, how to leverage the knowledge of attribution modelling in order to understand the customer purchasing journey and determine the most effective marketing channels for investment.

Himanshu Sharma

Digital Marketing Consultant and Founder of

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 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 which 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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