Improving the Value of Links with Google Analytics

PushON | April 14th 2010

The phrase “link building” often means what it says; to build links to a website – but it also involves utilising any existing assets. As well as developing new links to a website it can be highly beneficial to tailor the existing ones to be better suited for the website. The method of tailoring links varies as it can involve asking for the link to be pointed at a different page, or maybe for the anchor text to be more relevant – but essentially it is all done towards the same goal; to improve traffic and search presence.

If you have been tasked with the link building for a website, you don’t necessarily have to look far from home to improve things. Google Analytics has its many uses, and with a little help it can get even better. To improve the value of existing links with Analytics, here are is a very useful custom filter.

Discovering the Full Referral URL

This feature should be available by default in Analytics, but even after all this time it isn’t. When looking at the referring traffic on a website you are only provided with the domain view as opposed to the specific page in which the referral came from. To see the full referral URL in Google Analytics an advanced custom filter is needed – and here’s how: (credit to Sebastien Page for posting this).

1. Log in to Analytics and click ‘Edit’ on the profile
2. Scroll down to the filters and chose ‘Add Filter’
3. Name the filter (eg ‘Full Referral URL’) then use the following options:

Filter Type: Custom Filter


Field A -> Extract A:         Referral               (.*)

Field B -> Extract B:         blank

Output To -> Constructor:            User Defined     $A1

Field A Required               Yes

Field B Required               No

Override Output Field    Yes

Case Sensitive   No

Display Full Referral URLs in Google Analytics

4. Save the changes

The custom filter won’t work retroactively, but after it has been applied you will be able to view the full referral by going to the ‘Visitors’ option in the navigation menu of the profile, and selecting ‘User Defined’.

Improving the Value of Links

Once you are able to see the full referring URL you have the ability to explore those links in more detail and improve the value (in some cases). Here are some instances in which you may wish to change how a link is being directed to a website:

  • The link is pointing to a non-primary URL (for example the non-www copy of the site)
  • The anchor text is irrelevant (or untargeted)
  • The link would be better suited to another page on the website
  • The link has the ‘nofollow’ attribute applied to it
  • The link is positioned around irrelevant content, such as headings that say “Sponsored Links”

Contacting a website owner to request a change to a link isn’t a difficult task, and you will find that most of the time they are willing to do so. It’s a quick and easy job for them, and if you could also offer them a bit of free link advice for themselves to sweeten the deal!