A study conducted by SimilarWeb and Majestic has revealed that there is still a positive correlation between the number of referring domains and a website’s traffic.
The two market intelligence companies published the rests of analysing 500,000 backlinks from 100,000 of the top websites on the internet to find a correlation associated with backlinks and traffic.
500,000 backlinks were analysed 100,000 of the world’s top websites, using traffic data for January 2016, revealing that referring domains had the highest correlation between all traffic groups in the study.
In fact, referring domains came out on top across the board, whilst external .gov and .edu backlinks showed a low correlation.
The data also showed that it is important for any website to diversify their backlink profile using a variety of domains. It was also able to confirm that building a number of of backlinks on the same sources is not as effective as getting links from a number of unique domains.
SimilarWeb published this data from their study:
Correlation Of Top 100,000 Websites In Global Rank:
- Referring domains – 0.8
- IP addressed – 0.69
- Referring domain Edu – 0.65
- External backlinks Gov – 0.59
- Referring domains Gov – 0.56
Correlation Of Top 100,000 Websites In The World By Organic Traffic:
- Referring domains – 0.67
- IP addresses – 0.66
- Referring domains Edu – 0.60
- Referring domains Gov – 0.51
- External backlinks Gov – 0.48
Correlation Of Top 100,000 Websites In The World By Referral Traffic:
- Referring domains – 0.62
- IP addresses – 0.54
- Referring domains Edu – 0.52
- External backlinks Gov – 0.49
- Referring domains Gov – 0.41
The study was also carried out on the top 100,000 websites in the world by PPC, Referral and Social traffic, of which referring domains had the highest correlation in each.
What Does This Mean For Link Building In 2016?
This data certainly suggests that link building still works well for the time being. However, should one suggest aiming to build backlinks across several domains, you should certainly make sure they are relevant links.
Majestic, who were involved in this study, have a great metrics for this – Trust Flow and Topical Trust Flow.
Trust Flow is a score based on a scale between 0-100. The score of a site is made up of data Majestic collated from many trusted seed sites based on a manual review of the web. Sites closely linked to a trusted seed site score higher, whereas sites that may have some questionable links has a much lower score. Many top link builders suggest not dropping below a score of 15.
Topical Trust Flow is an even more significant feature for link builders. Majestic categorised the web so users can see which industry sector the website has influence. The Topical Trust Flow can help users determine if this fits in with their website or not, whilst webmasters may use this to help determine if their site requires a link clean up.
Below is an example of a casino site that doesn’t have any casino sites. Their backlink profile is mainly made up of Pet-related links. If you’re building links to a casino site, I’d certainly advise not to build one here.
Overall, this data certainly suggests that backlinks have a high correlation with the level of traffic to a website.
Google actually confirmed similar themselves in late March. In a Q&A with Google, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, Andrey Lipattsev, said two of the three ranking factors were links and content (via Search Engine Land):
“I can tell you what they are. It is content. And it’s links pointing to your site.”
Though Mr Lipattsev never said which was the most important, the top three ranking factors now look like this:
- 1 & 2: Links & Content
- 3: RankBrain
Whilst link building still works in driving traffic and sales to your website it’s certainly worth doing, but the longer term strategy to consider should be PR and brand building in my opinion.
PR has always been at the forefront of a successful business – whether that’s building relationships with journalists or creating a viral story.
Having potential customers search directly for your brand is generally considered cheaper than link building and paid advertising for money keywords.
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