UPDATE: Google has made it easier to find your backlinks. They are now named Trackbacks and the report can be found under Acquision:Social:Trackbacks. The report referenced below no longer exists.
Last week Google announced the addition of a backlinks report within the Social Report in Google Analytics. The data includes the links your pages have received from others across the web (referred to as backlinks) as well as the post titles and access to the page analytics. Over here at Alight Analytics, we have been exploring the new report and want to share what we have found. Before we jump into the uses of this new report, let’s cover where you can find the data.
The backlinks report is found under the Social Report, so to start, you need to go to Traffic Sources > Social > Pages.
Next, click on any one of the URLs in your list. Then select the Activity Stream tab.
In order to see the backlinks you must select the Events tab.
In this instance you will only see the backlinks for the specific URL you selected earlier. If you want to see all of your backlinks, go to the top of your screen and click on the ALL link within the breadcrumbs.
Now you will see all of the backlinks coming to your site as well as Google+ activity.
Now that you know who is linking to you, what do you do with the information? Why SEO, of course! Although the location of the backlinks report within Google Analytics suggests it is designed more for Social Media professionals, it is still very useful in terms of SEO. While there are a lot of backlinks tools out there, one of the biggest benefits of the Google Analytics backlinks report is the usability of it. A lot of backlinks tools created for SEOs require some manipulation in Excel to organize the data how you want it (or require you to fork over the dough). With the Google Analytics’ report, however, the filtering options and visualization graphs give you a lot of information with little to no effort (for free!), making it easier for SEOs and non-SEOs alike to use the report.
You can sort the backlinks report by the amount of activity the page has received, which makes it easy for you to identify the content/pages that are attracting the most interaction across the web. By clicking on the Data Hub Activity column, the report sorts the pages with the most links to the pages with the least links (or vice versa). This information can guide your decisions as far as what content/pages/products are most important and relevant to users. You can also reverse this idea and drill down to a specific page that you want to be ranking better in the SERPs and find out whether it is getting any attraction across the web. This allows you to easily see what kind of links you are already getting and how much work can still be done.
Another handy sorting/filtering option is the time frame. This is especially useful for a client who wants to check up on their SEO agency to see if their link building is improving their backlinks. (Of course, it is also useful for SEOs to check up on their own work.) If you hired an SEO agency last May, just set your time frame accordingly and see how your backlink graph has changed since then. You can also use Google Analytics’ Compare to Past option to make it even easier to see how your backlink graph has changed over time (i.e. compare this year to last year).
Visualizations – Graphs
With this report, you get a visual graph of the “Data Hub Activities” (AKA backlinks) alongside the total visits to the site. This allows you to visualize the impact of the backlinks and easily answer your most pertinent backlinks questions. When your backlinks increase, how does it affect your traffic? Do certain backlinks have a greater affect than others on site traffic? Once you know the backlinks that are having the most impact on your traffic, you can try to get more links like those by creating more relevant content and reaching out to the linkers directly.
So far, we are big fans of the backlinks data and see a lot of potential uses for it. What do you think of the new Google Analytics backlinks report?