Want to Rank High in Google SERPs? New Study Proves Your Website Needs 1000+ Backlinks

Do backlinks matter? 

Until recently, Google was trying to say no, or rather, not that much. 

Well, Google’s own Search API ranking factors leak (the internal documents behind the Document AI Warehouse), previous Google leaks, the US DoJ case against Google, and now, a detailed study proves that backlinks make a difference. 

Quite conclusively, if you have over 1000 backlinks (the higher quality the better), you’ve got a much better chance of ranking in the top 1 to 10 Google SERPs positions.

​​TL;DR:

  • Internet Marketing Ninjas conducted a study on backlinks. Crucially, they found that 96.3% of the sites that ranked in the top 10 have over 1,000 unique domain backlinks.”
  • Search Engine Land confirms that a lack of backlinks is bad for rankings: “Only 0.3% of websites ranking in the top 10 had less than 100 backlinks and none had 50 links or less, according to the new study.”
  • As the study shows: “it’s clear that a substantial number of backlinks are crucial for ranking well in Google.”

Read on for details 👇

What does the backlink study show?

As the Internet Marketing Ninjas 2024 study found, 96.3% of the sites that ranked in the top 10 have over 1,000 unique domain backlinks.”

In other words, if you have any hope of ranking for the keywords your website needs in the top 10 SERPs (search engine results pages) positions, then you need backlinks. 

Not having enough backlinks is bad for rankings. As Search Engine Land points out: “Only 0.3% of websites ranking in the top 10 had less than 100 backlinks and none had 50 links or less, according to the new study.”

Isn’t it enough to have < 999 backlinks? 

Not according to the study: “Only 3.4% (38 out of 1,113 sites) have between 100 and 1,000 unique domain backlinks.”

Having over 1000 unique domains (1 DA = 1 website, and the higher-ranking DA the better) backlinks is essential for securing top 10 spots in Google SERPs. 

As the study shows: “it’s clear that a substantial number of backlinks are crucial for ranking well in Google.”

Who did the study: how valid are the results?

Before we get too excited, let’s make sure the results are valid and actionable. 

The marketing agency that conducted the study, Internet Marketing Ninjas, has been around since 1999. We can be confident they know what they’re doing when it comes to SEO. Here’s the methodology from the study:

  • AI was used to create 200 search phrases 
  • With the list of 200 phrases, [they] scraped the first page of search results for each phrase and; 
  • Collected the top 10 URLs for each organic search results page
  • After processing the 200 search phrases and extracting all the organic results from page 1, we ended up with a total of 1,113 unique sites
  • Resulting in: 200 search phrases [across] 1,113 websites.
  • To find the unique domain backlinks of these 1,113 sites, we utilized four sources: Ahrefs, Moz, Majestic Historic, and SEMRush
  • As the author of the study knows: “Each of these four sources—Ahrefs, Moz, Majestic Historic, and SEMRush—has its strengths and weaknesses. They each maintain their own index of the web, which includes a mix of valuable URLs and irrelevant ones. None of these databases perfectly mimic Google’s index of “good,” “bad,” and “irrelevant” links.”

So, how did they average out the results? 

“We then recorded the highest number reported by any of the four sources in a column labeled “Highest Ref Dom” (for finding the highest/lowest Unique Referring Domains). For example, if Moz reported 100 unique domain backlinks for a site, Ahrefs reported 200, Majestic Historic reported 300, and SEMRush reported 400, we would enter “400” in the “Highest Ref Domain” column.”

As the table shows:

  • None (0.00%) of these sites has less than 50 unique domain backlinks going to them.
  • Only 0.03% (3 out of 1,113 sites) have between 50 and 100 links.
  • Only 3.4% (38 out of 1,113 sites) have between 100 and 1,000 unique domain backlinks.
  • 96.3% of the sites that ranked in the top 10 have over 1,000 unique domain backlinks.

Does the backlink study align with the recent Google Search API Ranking Factors Data Leak?

Yes, very much so. 

According to the Google Search API ranking factors leak, numerous experts analyzing the 2,500+ documents containing 14,014 “ranking factors” ⏤ including our analysis ⏤ backlinks play a valuable role in SERPs. 

Google does take backlinks, both their quality and quantity, into account as a ranking factor. 

This is despite numerous public denials: 

Links are not a top 3 Google Search ranking factor, says Gary Illyes ⏤ Search Engine Land ⏤ 25 Sept 2023. “I think they are important, but I think people overestimate the importance of links. I don’t agree it’s in the top three [ranking factors]. It hasn’t been for some time. …it is possible to rank without links.”

Google: Overfocusing On Links Could Be A Waste Of Time ⏤ SEJournal ⏤ 1 April, 2024. “Over the past six months, Google has been saying and hinting that links are less important than they used to be.”

Google: We Need Very Few Links To Rank Pages; Links Are Less Important ⏤ SERoundtable ⏤ 22 April 2024. “Gary reportedly said, ‘We need very few links to rank pages… Over the years we’ve made links less important.’”

The problem ⏤ and this ranking factors data leak has done nothing to improve this dynamic ⏤ is very few SEOs trust Google. It forces SEOs to discern the truth for ourselves, using data and our own work/experiences rather than relying on vague, misleading statements, and often, outright lies. 

As SEO Roundtable notes: “Even after the Google search API data leak, even after it was confirmed by Google, still [only] 10% of SEOs will continue to trust Google statements going forward. The wild thing is, this level of trust has not changed in the past decade when I ran a similar poll in 2014.”

Back to what the data tells us. As we and others noted in an analysis of the documents when it comes back backlinks:

Need SEO services to accelerate growth? Are you an agency that wants to offer SEO services to your clients? Book a call or contact us for a DFY SEO solution that will increase web traffic, search rankings, and sales leads.

According to Mike King, the Google API documents clearly show that “the higher the tier [of backlink], the more valuable the link. 

Pages that are considered “fresh” are also considered high quality. Suffice it to say, you want your links to come from pages that are either fresh or are otherwise featured in the top tier. 

This partially explains why getting rankings from highly ranking pages and from news pages yields better ranking performance.”

Link building and digital PR shouldn’t only focus on the Home page and one or two others. 

Whenever possible, a link building campaign should send domain authority and, therefore, ranking signals (and traffic) to dozens of pages, and keep doing that to ensure the links, traffic, and clicks are as fresh as possible. All of this plays a role in how Google ranks websites.

Clicks are important for link building and digital PR as for SEO, despite years of Google saying that “using clicks directly in rankings would be a mistake.” 

So, we can confidently state that the more clicks a website gets, the more weight that signal gives to Google that the website getting those clicks should be ranked higher.

Clicks are so important that Google created a whole new ranking factor to assess them, known as Navboost. One of the reasons for the existence of Google Chrome is to give Navboost more data to feed on.

As The Verge and other commentators have pointed out: “Testimony from the antitrust suit by the US Department of Justice previously revealed a ranking factor called Navboost that uses searchers’ clicks to elevate content in search.”

In the DoJ case against Google, VP of Search, Pandu Nayak, admitted that an algorithm called NavBoost collected data from Google’s Toolbar PageRank.

Google does give websites a weighting, or ranking factor called “siteAuthority.” In other words, very similar to what Moz and other tools call “Domain Authority” (DA). 

For link building, this means that higher DA-based backlinks are more valuable than lower-ranking links.

💡These documents, and now this backlink study prove that link building, guest posting, blogger outreach, and digital PR works, SEO makes a difference (new services coming soon!), and it’s important to have SEO audits and topical maps done before launching any kind of SEO campaign.

💡For a more detailed analysis of the Google Search API ranking factors leak, here is our: “What Does The Google Search API Ranking Factors Data Leak Mean for Linkbuilding, Digital PR, and SEO.”

What does the backlink study mean for link building, Digital PR, and SEO?

As we and numerous other SEO professionals and agencies have been saying for years ⏤ despite Google’s denials ⏤ backlinks do matter. 

Backlinks are important if you want to rank higher in Google SERPs. 

Link building, digital PR, and blogger outreach will make an impact on where your website ranks and the keywords it ranks for. If you want to achieve top 1 to 10 positions for high-value commercial keywords then, ideally, you need 1000+ backlinks. 

Working with a quality-focused partner with the publishing relationships you need can help you achieve this. Landing higher-quality (DA) backlinks will get you to those crucial top 1 to 10 SERPs positions faster.

Want to rank higher on Google? Need backlinks to secure more top 10 SERPs position?

Talk to us today about SEO services you can depend on. We can deliver link-building, guest posting, blogger outreach, and digital PR for clients and agencies. OutreachMama is trusted by over 300 companies worldwide to generate high-impact organic growth from Google. 

OutreachMama can deliver every SEO service you need to improve your rankings and drive more traffic, sales leads, and customers to your website.

Need SEO services to accelerate growth? Are you an agency that wants to offer SEO services to your clients? Book a call or contact us for a DFY SEO solution that will increase web traffic, search rankings, and sales leads.

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7+ years in the SEO industry, I’m an off-page optimization specialist with a track record of helping clients climb the search engine ladder. My focus? Building long-term client relationships founded on great results and customer satisfaction.Off the clock? You’ll find me behind the lens, capturing the world through photography, or catching NBA games (minus any recent All-Star debates) – or maybe even experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen! Let’s chat about SEO, strategy, or maybe even your favorite classic basketball moments.