If there’s one thing that could be substituted as currency in SEO, it would be backlinks. A quality link from one website to another can bring high-converting referral traffic and pump up your page and domain authority. Backlinks present REAL VALUE. It’s the reason Google monitors them closely and has created many algorithmic filters to weed out scammers and spammers. So how many backlinks do you need to rank?
Before we dive into this question it must be noted that although backlinks are a very big ranking factor, they are not the most important. The intent of a search will always be the underlying priority Google is looking to solve. The answer to intent is always content, not how many backlinks a page has.
Even if a page made it to the top of Google based on backlinks, if the content was not giving users the solution they seek, it would be sent off the first page just as quickly as it got there.
An example of intent can be seen in the search for “best accounting company” where you can see the #1 result has ZERO links!
The reason links aren’t the deciding factor here is that content, ability to answer the search intent, and trust are heavier ranking factors than links. Clutch happens to be a very trusted site where companies have clients review their business. This is a great result to serve a user because they can choose between top-rated accounting firms-which matches the EXACT underlying intent to “best accounting services”
As you can see, the answer to how many backlinks you need to rank is more involved than a set number. There are many variables that determine how many backlinks you need to rank on the first page of Google. It’s something you need to keep in mind when developing your link-building strategy.
Nevertheless, here we’ll answer all your “How many backlinks…” questions to give you insight into the way to assess backlinks and how to use that information to your advantage.
How many backlinks does my website have?
To find out how many backlinks you have you can enter your domain in a popular SEO tool such as Ahrefs or SEMRush (there are plenty of others but these are the two we use). Ahrefs seems to be one of the best tools on the market because they index faster than any other tool we’ve used. This means you can find the most accurate number of backlinks using Ahrefs.
They offer a free backlink checker tool so you can see the first 100 backlinks that are pointing to your website. If you’re just starting out this should be more than enough for you to get a good idea of the quantity and quality of backlinks you have on your website.
This is a great starting point but even if you found out how many backlinks your website has it wouldn’t be a great indicator of how many backlinks you need to rank at the top of Google.
How many backlinks do I need to rank on the first page of Google?
Google ranks pages, not websites. When you enter a keyword to search Google, the Search Engine Result Page (SERP) lists pages you can visit. So how does this little bit of info help? To find out how many links you need, you need to see how many links your competition has acquired to rank in the top 10 positions for your keyword.
How to a link comparison using a free software
- Using your trusty free backlink checker tool, enter the URL of the competing website.
- Since the tool is free, you can’t export results so you’ll have to get the top links onto a spreadsheet manually.
- Do the same for your website.
- Now you have a side-by-side comparison of the backlinks your site has vs your competition.
- Do this 10 times (for each page that ranks in the top 10 positions).
Sound like a lot of work?
That’s because it is.
That’s also why we use paid tools for jobs like this that help us speed up the process.
How to find out what backlinks you need using a paid tool
Using a tool in Ahrefs called Link Intersect, or in SEMRush called Backlink Gap you can quickly find out what links your competition has that you don’t. Both SEMRush and Ahrefs have this function and it’s very easy to use.
- Enter the page of your site you want to rank
- Enter the pages that rank on the first page of Google for your keyword.
- Link intersect generates a list of links you can acquire to “catch up” with your competition.
What’s the fastest way to quickly analyze the SERP for the number of backlinks?
This method is one of the best ways to quickly determine if you NEED to go through the steps above. It allows you to quickly analyze the statistics of a web page directly from the SERP. Just do this:
- Install the Ahrefs toolbar for your browser (you can use the Moz toolbar and SEMRush has one too-but again, Ahrefs seems to have the most updated reports on links!)
- Perform any keyword search on Google and scan through the search results with all the stats on display directly on the SERP!
Using this method, you can decide whether it’s worth the effort to break down the links of each competitor. If every website has over a million links, you need to find a new keyword (assuming you don’t have any).
If most of the pages don’t have any links, you know you just need a few well-placed links from a quality website to put you on the map. In these cases, you might not even need any links, just really good content.
How many backlinks are good enough to rank?
When you know how many backlinks you have and how many your competition has, you can develop an accurate strategy on what links to build and how many. But how many backlinks are good enough to get you to rank? This is an area that gets a little funky because this comes down to the link builders’ knowledge of what makes a good backlink.
IMPORTANT: Just because your competition is ranking on the first page doesn’t mean the links they have are all quality backlinks.
For example, consider a page ranking in the #5 position with the following:
- 5 backlinks from low-quality websites.
- 2 backlinks from some high-authority websites.
If ONE of those poor-quality websites was exposed for paid links or penalized for link building scheme, that link is not one you want for your website.
In fact, it may be that if that website DIDN’T have that link, it might be in the #1 position!
The main point here is that not all links you find on ranking pages will be good for your website. It’s extremely important to analyze the website before you link it. The old adage “look before your leap” can be applied here when it comes to linking so you don’t jump into a bad link neighborhood.
THINK BEFORE YOU LINK!
A general guideline for link building is:
- Prioritize your links based on relevance to the content of your page.
- Link from websites that can improve the quality of traffic your receive.
- Link from websites that can improve the authority of your page.
Finding the right number of backlinks that are good enough to rank takes time. Sometimes you can link once from a great site and leave the page alone. In a month it may rise without any other links required.
Other times you need to keep adding links to keep improving its organic ranking position.
The quantity of quality links required is also assessed and compared to the overall authority of your website. If your site has been around for 20 years or you have a million links pointing to all kinds of pages on your website the intrinsic link value of a new page is already very high.
When Forbes publishes a new article that page is much more likely to rank than if we published a blog post from a new HVAC website!
Google’s PageRank is explained in our resource section article, “What Determines if a Link is High Quality?”
How many backlinks per day?
One of the overarching rules of link building is to make your links appear as natural as possible. Google is the Gestapo of link building. It’s constantly looking to punish sites that demonstrate signs of synthetic link-building practices.
And they have no tolerance for it.
The question of how many links per day depends on your niche, the age of your website, and your current link velocity.
If you just launched your HVAC website and you suddenly acquire a link from 50 high-quality blog sites on the same day it doesn’t look right. It doesn’t look natural, especially if they’re all the same type of links!
A local HVAC business starts out slow. The first links are most likely from local directories. It makes sense that a new business website would build a local presence by signing up for directories that cater to their niche and location. It’s basic HVAC SEO.
If they did one guest post link, 3 web 2.0’s links, and 20 directory links in one month, they might double up the next. The goal is to find a consistent pace that allows you to grow every month without raising suspicion.
Create effective SMART goals by assessing the competition to provide you with insight on how many backlinks links per day are required to catch up to the top-ranking websites. Never force the issue. Play the long game for the most consistent and successful results.
How many backlinks are safe?
There is no set number of backlinks that are safe because the number changes between websites depending on the age and current link velocity. New websites need to start slowly and steadily. Older websites may already be acquiring a large number of links regularly and have more freedom to quite more links on a daily basis.
One of the best ways to get flagged for unnatural link building is to use software that builds huge volumes of links. When 1000 links show up in a weekend from spamming comment sections on blogs it’s a red flag.
Avoid Blackhat SEO tactics
Some experienced link builders know how to perform Blackhat SEO (any practices that are unnatural and against Google guidelines). While some get away with it, there’s always the risk that your site is penalized beyond recovery. Even if you’re able to re-index your website after a manual action, many website owners complain their site was marked and never could reach any decent rankings afterward.
The best link building is done by experienced professionals
The funny thing about link building is that no one can completely pin it down to an exact science. No one (but Google) has the exact formula for PageRank! That’s not to say you can’t top quality results from link-building efforts. Luckily there is a lot of consistency in link-building practices that have allowed us to use it to improve rankings. We do it every time for our clients who use our SEO services!
Our local Plano SEO services are perfect for local businesses who want to beat their competition. Since most local businesses don’t have experience in building links, the competition isn’t quite as difficult. Having said that, this makes our strategies perfect for companies in Fort Worth, Allen, Richardson and any city in North America to be honest!
Follow the guidelines that will keep your website safe and moving the right way in the search engine results.
Feel free to drop us a line if you want to talk shop, ask questions or want to know what opportunities you have waiting for you in a custom fit link building strategy.
Christian Carere heads the SEO team here at Austin Bryant Consulting. After building an SEO agency in Toronto (Digital Ducats Inc.) Christian was hired by founder Keith Hunn who has created a full-service digital marketing agency in Plano, TX. Christian has been published on Search Engine Watch, Venngage, Small Biz Daily, Grasshopper, Data Box, Socialnomics, and Mention.