In an April 2016 article on Moz by Kristina Kledzik, “How Long Does it Take for Link Building to Impact Rankings,” the author posits that new links take about 10 weeks to have an impact. Our findings show the exact opposite: High-end link building has an immediate and persistent positive impact. I’ll explain further and share our data here.
Kledzik’s study was on a moderately large site with roughly 200K pages and focused on moderately difficult keyword rankings. She correctly points out that with a multiplicity of variables, it is extremely difficult to pinpoint the impact of any given ranking factor (such as a link).
Our study was conducted entirely differently and, I think, gives a better picture of why, in our experience, the impact of links is immediate and persistent.
Background on the study
First, it is important to know that we work exclusively with the legal industry — which means we’re bringing high-end link building to small business websites — so the impact should be more extreme. Second, to try to isolate the impact of links, I’ve cherry-picked (just) four case studies for link-building projects over the past four years that fit all of the following criteria:
extremely successful in generating high-quality links;
for non-retainer clients (i.e., with no other SEO work being done); and
concentrated in a very short time frame, with the actual link-building component constrained to just a few days.
Fundamental differences in the studies:
Lower authority. In general, these small business sites have lower authority — therefore, we’d expect the impact of any changes to be more dramatic.
A massive influx of links. For these clients, we didn’t create just one or two new links, but rather made a concerted campaign to drive a large volume of high-quality, relevant links in a short period of time, sometimes increasing the volume of quality links by 50 percent to 300 percent in less than two weeks.
Focus on traffic instead of rankings. We use traffic as our metric of success, not rankings, because traffic captures long-tail queries and site-wide benefits to individual links and is more relevant as it translates into actual business. This is more pronounced with local businesses like law firms, as local results are heavily influenced by links; therefore, overall site traffic should grow faster with overall domain authority improvements. This is especially the case in hyper-competitive localized markets like legal, where all best-practice fundamentals are in place and a site’s authority profile is a tie-breaker when it comes to visibility.
Fewer variables. Because we are dealing with small business websites, there are fewer additional variables that could explain traffic fluctuations. For these sites, nothing else is happening beyond these link-building campaigns.
Methodology note: Some of these link-building campaigns were undertaken in response to current events. In the graphs below, I’ve filtered out SEO traffic going to that specific content because I wanted to note the difference in traffic to the rest of the content on the site.
So, while it’s only four data points, in each case where we’ve dramatically improved a site’s authority profile through high-quality links, we’ve seen an immediate and persistent improvement in search traffic performance.
Peter Zmijewski is the founder and CEO at KeywordSpy. His expert knowledge on Internet Marketing practices and techniques has earned him the title “Internet Marketing Guru“ He is also an innovator, investor and entrepreneur widely recognized by the top players in the industry