Smart Link Building With Referrer Traffic

Referrer traffic monitoring. A great tactic for building good links which won’t harm your website.

New link and old links hitting the target

[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]Ask yourself a question, why did these people link to me and how can I earn more of these links?[/blockquote]

This one is real nice and easy, and everyone can do it. The chance is, your website likely already earns real natural links (if it doesn’t then you may have to look at what you’re doing wrong with your content anyway). Rather than hunting for new links blindly, why not taking a look at who linked to you, what pages were linked and why the link exists in the first place. An easy way to find out who links to you is by monitoring your referrer traffic.

Getting started

When was the last time you looked at your traffic stats in Google Analytics, Piwik, Webalizer or Awstats? You may have noticed that most statistics packages will truncate your full referrer URLs and show a basic version.

So something like this:

will turn into this:

(Not very useful is it?)

But of course you always have an option of analysing your own raw server log file which will contain all the referrer URLs intact. I advise not to do this manually as that could turn into a very dull and unproductive activity. There are some great offline log file analysis tools out there (Web Log Expert, Web Log Analyzer…etc) and they will do just fine. I should mention that there is hack for Google Analytics which you can use to reveal full URL strings, however I am not a big fan of it as it managed to mess up a few other things in our setup.

Pro Tip: Create a script which automatically retrieves all new referrers from your server log file and create a daily list, keep a good record and discover all new domains which linked for the first time.

What to look for

First time you do this it’s a good idea to get a wide date range and extract as many referring domains and sort them by the amount of traffic they’re sending. Typically those that send lots of traffic are higher in quality and will give you healthier ideas and targets.

Make a database or a spreadsheet of referring domains you picked and keep a good record. Next time you do this (say in the next 2-4 weeks) you will be able to run the new referrers against your old record and discover new links.

Your records might contain the following:

  1. Referring Domain
  2. Referring URL
  3. Target Page
  4. Traffic Received (optional)
  5. Contact Details (optional)
Pro tip: Look for any .edu or .gov links as they may discover high value pages on your domain. Government and educational institutions do not link lightly, but when they do, it’s something they consider to be of high value to their visitors.

[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]…drive your content strategy in the right direction and spend time on developing content your audience will appreciate the most…[/blockquote]

What to do next


Look at your “target page” column and determine which of your pages earned high numbers of links and/or traffic. With this knowledge you are able to drive your content strategy in the right direction and spend time on developing content your audience will appreciate the most.

Say thanks

Always approach people who linked to you and connect with them. Thank them for linking and stay in touch, these people are already on your side and by fostering already established relationships you will see them grow even more.

Be social

Connect with authors who linked to your content (Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook…etc). Share the page where you’re mentioned and include them (@username, +username). They will be glad you’re promoting their website/blog and will likely return the favour. This will result in higher popularity of the linking article and help you grow more followers in social channels.

Get ideas

Now that you’ve learned what type of content people enjoy and what type of people link to it, you’re ready to spark up new ideas for useful and linkable content. Do not rush in attempts to replicate existing great content and take time to create something that offers true value to your audience.

New outreach

Next time you produce a great piece of content you already know what type of websites and people are likely to link to it. Reach out to similar places and people using social media, email, phone or offline and tell them about your content. Don’t be pushy, stay social and engage. It’s not all about you and your website, take interest in what they do as well and offer people to engage with you. One great way to do that is to offer them to write for your blog (if you have one). The odds are, they will invite you to do the same for them.

Bonus Tip: Download Latest Links

Download New Links

Google has recently announced [1] that they have a “download latest links” option in Google Webmaster Tools:

Here’s a neat update to Google’s Webmaster Tools that you might have missed [*]. You can now download the external links to your pages sorted by date. Give it a shot — you can export them right into a Google Spreadsheet, so you never have to leave your browser! Also, author stats are back & we added quick previews in most places, so that you see what the mentioned URL looks like. 


[1] John Mueller, Google+


Fresh Link Finder:

Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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One thought on “Smart Link Building With Referrer Traffic”

  1. Great article Dan. We should always be analysing our stats to look at what’s working and what’s not, and to find opportunities. That script to record new referrers is a great idea!