SEO isn’t a sprint, it’s a rat race, and keeping track of your progress is as essential a task as you will find in the SEO process. Sloppy SEO starts with ignorance of writing down your links and your website’s expenses. Sometimes it can be as easy as just jotting down your current linking partners and a few potential new ones. Being able to have some records of your website’s link building campaign & expenses has many advantages. For one, if you decide going out of house with SEO, your outsource company knows your progress and what approach to take. Yes, there are many tools out there on the web that do some of this for you, and you could easily register with one of them for this very task, but not everyone has this advantage.
First things first, you’re going to want to keep track of your directory listings. This is as basic a link as there is, and it’s fairly easy to track. Either with Google Spreadsheets or with Excel, create a new spreadsheet. For those who haven’t started submitting to directories, browse Google for a few web directory lists, and then copy and paste your findings onto the first column of your spreadsheet*. Then on the top row, create some columns with the following names: (A1) Directories, (A2) Pricing, (A3) Date Submitted, (A4) Date Link Confirmed, (A5) Notes. The pricing column is good to keep track of so if you come across an extra few dollars in your budget, you have an idea on which directories you could afford to submit to if you wanted to go in that direction. Always have a date submitted column so you know whether or not you have submitted before. The fourth column is optional, but it lets me know if I actually end up getting a link from there or not (use Site Explorers for this). And the Notes column helps me keep track of miscellaneous information, such as if I had to create an account, if my site got rejected, etc.
*For those who have started submitting to directories and have no progress recorded, try and use Site Explorers or Backlink Checkers to find out which directories you are listed on. You could also try by finding a list and going by memory, or even starting over all together & by submitting to all of them. Based on your individual situation, use your own judgment.
If you’re SEO campaign is legitimate, chances are you will try and submit your articles/posts to article directories. It’s vital to keep track of which articles you have submitted where and when, so you know what to submit, where the submit it, and when to submit it. Create another spreadsheet, and this time put the article/content directories on the top row. Then, make the second row for account/author information (most sites require you to register an account as an author). Next, make the first column all of your different article titles. Now, when you submit an article to a site, mark down the date in the appropriate box (you don’t want too many articles in a short amount of time; I like 2/3 a week per site).
It’s good to keep track of social bookmarking so you know which pages you have bookmarked on which sites. Start by creating another spreadsheet, and make the top row different bookmarking sites. As we did with article submissions, make the second row account information. Then make the first column all of the different URLs of each page on your site (depending on your site, you can use all or some of the pages on your site). Mark down the dates of when you submitted each page at each site to know if you have bookmarked it yet.
Based on what tools you have available, you can keep track of your inbound links. For those who don’t have any paid tools, let’s use what we have. For now, we can use Yahoo! Site Explorer to export the first 1000 results to a TSV file. You can also use Open Site Explorer, or any number of smaller backlink checker tools. On your spreadsheet, mark down any of your top links, any sites that come up a lot in the backlink checkers, which sites linked to you without request or submission, and any other interesting notes. Try and come up with a rough draft of different link partners and the number of page links you have pointing to your site.
Using the same tools, you can find who is linking to your competitors. Perform the same tasks as you did above but for at least a couple of your top competitors. Once you have a decent list of different websites linking to them, you will have an idea of who is linking, and what they’re linking to. If a lot of sites are linking to a particular piece of linkbait on a competitor’s site, check out what it is and how you could improve it, or all together creating a 2.0 version of it. Get thinking about what you need to add to your site to start building your link portfolio.
A great SEO practice is to keep track of expenses that are SEO related. Keep track of any tools you are paying for and how much they cost. Mark down any paid directories you are in, any featured content you are paying for, and even any online advertising you’re dishing out to. This can help you understand what you are missing and what you have too much of. For example, if you get an extra few bucks in the budget, you can see how many tools, directories, or advertising you are paying for, so you have a better idea on where to put the money. On the other hand, if you need to cutback expenses in the future, you have an idea on what you can cut back to meet your new budget.
In SEO there are truly so many things you can keep track of, and the more you do, the more prepared you are for changes in staffing and even in algorithms. You can see your progress, which link building techniques you’ve put into play, and where improvements could be made (by analyzing your competitor’s links).