Link Building ROI: How to Know When A Link Building Campaign Makes Sense

How to measure it and make sure it's positive?
Published on 
April 24, 2024
Updated on 
April 24, 2024

When people talk about link building ROI, what they are really getting at is whether or not it makes sense to invest in backlinks.

What it really boils down to is how much you believe that organic traffic is the best kind of traffic for your business. 

The bottom line is that, in the vast majority of business cases, it is, for a couple of reasons. 

The first is that organic traffic is almost always the traffic with the highest purchase intent. When people search “how to buy an X” or “best X for Y,” they already know they want to purchase the product or service. 

On the other hand, when someone sees a paid Google Ad, of course, you do your market research and bid on the right keywords and all the rest. But you are still forcing your product or service on the person at the end of the day. 

They didn’t, in effect, come to you. 

Secondly, organic traffic is more cost-effective and sustainable long term. If you do good SEO and rank highly for specific keywords and phrases, the investment is upfront and it could end up paying major dividends over the years with little to no upkeep costs involved.

Paid advertising, on the other hand, requires spending money every time you need or want to buy more ad space. 

Which is not to say that paid advertising has no use, but when it comes to lifetime ROI, organic traffic is usually the better bet. 

So where do links come into play? 

The benefits of building links

It’s hard to pin Google down on anything when it comes to its PageRank algorithm, but one thing is a virtual certainty: content and links are what matter most when it comes to your search engine ranking. 

There have been myriad studies done by SEO specialists like Ahrefs and Brian Dean, which established quite conclusively that links are one of, if not the biggest single ranking factor. 

Links, by themselves, are not a cure-all

Backlinks vary in quality and SEO value. The aim of a link building campaign isn’t just to acquire links haphazardly but to find high authority backlinks that Google will like and reward you for. 

Recently, the Link Spam and Penguin Update radically changed the way Google’s algorithm evaluates links. 

Combined, they were a crackdown on spammy and manipulative link building tactics and represented a major shift in importance–from quantity to quality. 

This is why it is now more important than ever to build user-centric links–links from quality websites that are relevant and promote good user experience, with an eye to good, contextual anchor text and placement. 

The era of buying cheap links from links farms (or from freelance link builders on Fiverr selling them) is over.

At best, Google is neutralizing such links. Worst case scenario? You end up dealing with a manual action from Google for trying to manipulate PageRank and trying to reclaim your lost ranking and traffic over the next several months. 

You need to be confident that you’re building worthwhile links that are going to contribute to your SEO and provide you with good, long-term organic traffic. 

At dofollow, we are a link building agency that specializes in building these kinds of strategic, “ethically sourced” and Google-friendly links. 

Our link building tactics land our clients relevant, high authority links from some of the web’s biggest sites, blogs and webzines: 

If you’re already looking into link building ROI, then you likely already have a solid link building base, but it is worth your while to keep reading as we go more into depth. 

Link building can be expensive and, done wrong, a huge waste of time and money. 

The building blocks of a successful link building strategy

We’ve worked with companies all over the world, of varying sizes and at various stages of the business life cycle. 

Some businesses come to us because they want to take their link building in a completely different direction. 

Others contact us because they don’t know where to start. We’ve taken some clients from Zero traffic/monthly conversions to thousands in monthly traffic

What we sometimes see when prospective new clients come to us, however, is that people  don’t have the right link building foundation in place. 

This foundation is comprised of a few key elements. 

Your on page SEO

Building a bunch of links to a site that hasn’t done good on page SEO is, to be blunt, a waste of time and money. 

If your website is weaker than your competitors when it comes to how well you’ve done your on page SEO–speed, UX, content and structure–link building is only going to do so much for you. 

A sleek, well-designed website with few(er) links will almost always outperform a clunky, poorly-designed one with a lot of backlinks. 

This is why it makes sense to use SEO tools like SurferSEO.

Or PageOptimizer Pro...

To ensure you are setting up the individual pages you want to build links to for success. 

You also want to make sure you’re getting things like meta-titles, internal linking and page structure right, too–easy to learn, but they require diligence when putting into practice. 

Creating the content

Backlinks go to content. 

Backlinks to your homepage are great, and they can certainly help you increase your Domain Authority, but ideally, you want to have a good mix of homepage links and links to your deeper pages–both your informational and commercial content. 

You maximize your link building ROI when you invest in good content–whether you hire good SEO writers to handle it for you or you do it yourself. 

The importance of non-commercial content

And you don’t want to just create commercial pages–product and service pages. 

These can be quite hard to build links to because, naturally, a lot of websites don’t like sending their visitors/readers to purely commercial pages.

They want to add value and good user experience, so your content has to provide that. 

This means spending time (and money) creating content that isn’t just blatant ad copy. 

This brings us to the last element of your website’s foundation. 

Conversion optimization (CRO)

Your website is ultimately designed to turn visitors into customers. This sounds like the most obvious thing in the world when you say it out loud, but a lot of site owners forget about this. 

You need things like calls to action in your blog content, pop-ups encouraging people to sign up for email lists and buttons prompting people to check out offers and deals. 

Why put all of that traffic-building effort in if you’re not planning on converting? 

Link building: the business case

Before you put any money into link building (which you will have to if you want to do it properly), ask and answer the following questions: 

Making a business case for your link building efforts 

It’s important that you are honest with yourself when it comes to making the business case for any link building campaign. 

Know what you’re getting yourself into and know how difficult it might be to ensure your link building provides a positive ROI. 

Our clients know that link building is important, which is why they’ve come to us, but we always want people to view links–whether link building services those gotten on their own–in terms of ROI. 

It’s always a bad idea to go into any investment without as much information as possible, link building included: 

That said, there are easy business cases to make for link building and more difficult ones. 

An easy/straightforward ROI case

The easiest business case to make for investing in link building is when your conversions are very high margin. 

For example, let’s say you are building links for a website where a single conversion (a specialized service or a software/CRM that costs hundreds-thousands of dollars per month) generates a lot of revenue. 

If you were either of these two hypothetical businesses, and you were paying dofollow $3000/month to build links for you, you would only need to convert a few visitors per month in order to turn a profit. 

Depending on your conversion rate, a few months' worth of link building costs could quadruple or quintuple your revenue for a comparatively low investment of your capital. 

This ROI is easy to see. 

More difficult ROI evaluations

It gets harder to make a business case for link building when certain variables start to stack up. 

If you’re in a low-commission niche where you need to bring in a ton of traffic in order to generate a relatively small amount of money, it becomes harder to make the business case for link building. 

In competitive affiliate spaces, for instance, you need to have a successful website in place already, with revenue to support the link building costs, before the ROI starts to make sense. 

If you’re entering a highly competitive niche as a new player, meaning you’re going up against established names with massive resources and competent SEO teams in place, the amount of money required to compete makes it more difficult to put forward a compelling business case. 

Success is largely industry-dependent

Link building is time and capital-intensive. If you are in an industry where even marginal gains in ranking and organic traffic can quickly make up for your link building expenditures, then building links is going to be a much easier decision. 

Risk-Reward Analysis

A big part of measuring link building ROI is coming to terms with risk vs reward. 

Does the risk involved in this SEO strategy come with not only high, but likely rewards? 

To measure the risk-reward of link building campaigns, consider the following four factors: 

Risk-reward variable #1: the potential profitability 

The value of a link essentially comes down to the amount of money you think you can make from the search traffic that link may generate. 

You build links to give your rankings and organic traffic a boost, but if those rankings don’t generate sales, then it doesn’t make much sense to dump a bunch of your capital into a link building campaign. 

If you are selling niche SaaS and you’ve got a good customer base already, then you probably already have the foundation in place to be profitable. The risks of link building here are comparatively low, the rewards are high. 

Conversely, if you run a Harry Potter blog that affiliate markets toys on Amazon, you probably have alright search potential, but your ability to generate revenue will likely be pretty low. 

What’s more, certain industries just don’t have very good built-in organic search potential, or even require you to do a ton of SEO. How good of a link builder, link quality and how many links you build aren’t as important. 

Risk-reward variable #2: Location and/or industry difficulty 

The second important part of that risk-reward analysis is how your industry and location impact your potential ROI. 

You need to understand who the big fish in your industry are and what it might take to get search traffic for the keywords you want to target. 

If you’re an upstart cannabis company in California, for example, trying to compete with names that have been in that market for a long time, you are going to need some serious capital and a long-term strategy. 

If, on the other hand, you’re a local mortgage broker in a market where most of your competitors have never even heard the term SEO, you might start cleaning up in short order. 

And it’s not always the case that the most profitable industries are the hardest to make a go of. 

You will sometimes stumble upon sites with low DR, and very few backlinks, but generating a ton of organic traffic (30,000+ per month). 

These sites rank for amazing “buyer intent” search terms, and if they were to put money into building backlinks, they would probably make a ton of money. 


Location is another important part of the equation here. 

Smaller, English-speaking countries like Canada or Australia are usually easier to penetrate than the United States because Google changes the search results on a country-by-country basis 

If you’re relying on local SEO, the city you’re targeting can have a major impact as well. 

If you’re an optometrist in a small-to-mid-sized city in the midwestern U.S., you’ll likely get better ROI on your local SEO than you would in Los Angeles. 

Risk-reward variable #3: traffic potential 

The ROI of any SEO campaign is predicated on the amount of traffic you can expect to generate.  

Determining the traffic potential of a niche and its organic keywords is the third component in your risk-reward analysis. How much revenue you can expect to make depends on how many people will visit your website. 

The best way to calculate traffic potential is to use an SEO analytics tool like Ahrefs.

Of course, the higher up the search engine results page you are, the more people you can expect to visit your page/site–25% of Google users click on the first result. 

But different niches and industries have different traffic potential. 

You might find that the total search volume for your list of target keywords is quite low. 

If you’re selling high-margin products and services and think you can capture a sizeable enough portion of the market with a relatively low upfront investment to make it worth your while, then link building could still work well for you. 

If, on the other hand, the traffic potential of the keywords that you want (or, depending on the competition, are capable of) to rank for is very low, and the margins small, then it might be too risky investing a bunch of money into a big link building campaign. 

Risk-reward variable #4: scalability 

The fourth and final variable in your risk-reward analysis when trying to measure link building ROI is scalability. 

Essentially, you want to know how far you can get with SEO and link building? 

The ROI of link building is largely dependent on when it stops working, and for some businesses and some industries, there is only so far you can get with search engine optimization. 

An example

Hubspot, the world’s biggest and best CRM with respect to SEO, has scaled itself into a ton of different niches and they pump a lot of money into link building. 

Their sales system is fantastic and easily handles large influxes of new leads, which essentially allows them infinite growth insofar as the client base goes. 

On the other side of this example is a small local physiotherapist. There are much fewer keywords to rank for in this space, as well as a hard limit on the number of clients you can take on. 

Link building in this space is likely going to work great, provided you are in a local market where you can compete, and you handle the other components of your SEO well. But it will come up against a ceiling after a while. 

Link building will eventually stop producing meaningful results.

Data-backed link building 

All link building strategies need to be backed by data. You need to know what it’s going to take (in terms of time, money and groundwork) so that you can reliably calculate your ROI. 

Once you’ve taken the plunge, you need to know how to use platforms like Google Analytics and Google Search Console so you can monitor your progress as you go and make adjustments as needed to maximize your link building ROI. 

All of this, of course, takes a lot of time and money, especially if you choose to do it on your own. Make the wrong moves or ignore certain data and you could waste a lot of resources. 

For this reason, among others, a lot of businesses choose to work with an experienced, competent, Google-friendly link building agency. 

Reach out to dofollow today and find out more about our performance-based, data-backed, user-centric link building methods. 

Why Trust Us On SEO

Eric Carrell & Sebastian Schaffer have been working in SEO for over a decade, building their own projects - understanding and testing SEO strategy, along with building hundreds of white hat links per month for our projects. They take their learnings and experience and apply them to the strategy that drives our link building strategy for our clients.

Eric & Seb have always believed in quality over quantity, doing things the right way so we future proof our client’s websites against future Google updates and the evolving industry of search.

While Seb handles the company strategy around culture, processes and structure, Eric is constantly working to improve our service offering, customer experience, and following the industry in parallel with Google’s Quality Guidelines so that we are always one step ahead of our competition and aligned with what Google wants to see for your site to rank higher.

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