Data-Driven SEO and Link Building

Sławek Czajkowski
August 14, 2019

Inside this article:

On the last SEO meetup in Warsaw (Poland) I had an opportunity to present a Data-driven approach to website optimization and link building process, which both are the main SEO activities.

I received a bunch of requests to share my presentation, but simple slides can't communicate the entire message so I decided to write a short article which will help you to understand the whole process better and maybe convince you to base your decisions on real-time datasets.

What is Data-driven?

Data-driven is a process, in which decisions are based on datasets.
How to understand this statement?
In making decisions process we shouldn't rely on intuition, guesses or assumptions.

We should note, that search engines, such as Google's, are also based on real data. The algorithm doesn't have intuition or feelings. It can't judge or define real value without datasets.

Where Data-driven process is commonly used?

For instance in the internet marketing industry. Based on data provided by Google Analytics, marketers are making budget adjustments and decisions about next activities. Among the datasets, which are immensely helpful we can mention:

  • conversion rate,
  • conversion value,
  • bounce rate,
  • time spent on the website,
  • goals completed and much more.

The data-driven approach can be also used regarding website's positioning in Google's organic results, either for on-site optimization and link building process.

Website optimization process

During my presentation on mentioned SEO meetup, I presented a few examples of tests concerning a Data-driven website optimization. Among others I showed:

  • Steps that let me get into top10 Google's results for quite difficult YMYL phrase (Your Money Your Life) in 5 minutes by using Data-driven methodology.

A medical and financial industry was affected the most by Google's August update, this is why I was determined to conduct my SEO tests on the website that is related to YMYL.

Second experiment: Website optimization by the person without SEO experience

Website optimization by the person without SEO experience

We provided a few targeted phrases (tourist industry) and prepared datasets which contained:

  • list of relevant phrases and words to use in optimization (based on Surfer),
  • exact and semi match keyword density,
  • number of headers and paragraphs,
  • the number of images and other factors.

I expected the website will mark a presence in top100 Google's results, but the reality exceeded my expectations.

If Data-driven optimization is so efficient I was wondering how the similar methodology can be applied into link building process.

Data-driven Link Building based on Surfer

In order to conduct the Data-driven link building process, we need proper datasets. My first thought was that providing optimal sets of data would be difficult and complicated, but then I came up with an idea that's very simple and easy to implement in our daily SEO works.

A two links acquired in on week (orange line) – The top1 position in Google (green line)

Conducting the test I acquired only two links for my website (orange line). After the first link, you can notice a position rise from about 100th spot to 80th and then 50th. After the second link was acquired, website jump on the top1 position in Google (green line).

What your link building goals should look like?

I would like to distinguish two main goals, that are crucial for further SEO strategy:

  • Domain Authority
  • Position for particular phrases

We can argue if positions are always the most important goal and if spending budget for Domain Authority is legitimate.

In short-term perspective, I agree that high positions are a priority, but the Domain Authority should be an integrated part of long-term link building strategy. Every efficiently spent dollar for DA will bring great results in the future because the high authority domains tend to rank better in Google.

Therefore if your goal is to improve the authority metric for your domain, you should focus on acquiring links from strong domains. However, if your short-term goal is to improve the website positions in organic Google's ranking for particular phrases you should focus on acquiring thematically related links, maybe even with suitable anchor text to make the domain's link profile more relevant.

It's worth to point out, that there is a bunch of domains in almost every branch, that can be considered as topical and strong simultaneously. Link acquired from this kind of website helps us to achieve both goals, short and long-term, at the same time.

The main problem we are facing is:
"How to base our link building process on data to obtain a remarkable effect?"

The foundations of every Data-driven process is to use a right set of data, so dataset should be dependent on a chosen strategy.

1. DOMAIN AUTHORITY - Long Term Goal

Step 1 – Check websites that rank high in Google for targeted phrases manually or with Surfer.

Choose the lowest optimized competitors

Step 2 – Select questionable quality websites or the ones with low metrics like:

  • the lowest content amount and quality,
  • lack of keywords in content,
  • the highest TTFB and first meaningful paint time,
  • the lowest Lighthouse coefficients,
  • etc.

Step 3 - Use Ahrefs or Majestic to analyze the links profile of the lowest quality results, because questionable content optimization quality is compensated by trustworthy backlinks.

Having a better content optimization and the same links quality should help you to rank higher.


Step 1 - Pick a bunch of thematically related phrases you want to rank for.

Type any phrase you need to rank for

Step 2 – Check those phrases in Surfer and select URLs that have the highest number of unique external links. If a few of your competitors have been acquired links from the particular website already, it's very likely that you will replicate their actions and strengthen your links profile.

The highest number of external links

Using this efficient methodology as your preparation to link building process, you receive a list of high ranked websites that are thematically related to targeted phrases.

Acquiring a link from the website, which is eager to link to other websites seems to be relatively easy in comparison to websites that don't have any external links. The second very important aspect of having links from high ranked websites is the possibility of gaining a referral traffic.

As I showed on a few examples, Data-driven link building works. I hope that you are convinced to take advantage and try to use my methodology either for links acquisition or website optimization. With Surfer it's faster, easier and more efficient.

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