As you embark on your link building journey with an aim to boost your rankings, the first question you’ll ask yourself is: How many backlinks do I need to rank?
That can be difficult to answer because it entirely depends upon a couple of dynamic variables. You have to figure out how competitive your keyword is, what domain authority you have currently, and how it compares to your competitors. Other considerations such as the quality of the links and anchor text profiles can also make a significant impact.
All of this combined can help you assess how many links are required to see the results you’re looking for. Let’s take an in-depth look into each variable to find out the number of links you’ll need to kickstart sustainable growth and higher rankings.
How Many Backlinks Do I Need to Build?
We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again, content is king when it comes to being in Google’s good books. Backlinks are the number two ranking factor on Google, which means high quality, relevant content is the first requirement you need to check off.
You have to ensure that the content you’re trying to rank, actually deserves to rank. If you’re lacking on this front, link building might not provide the spectacular results you’re expecting. But if your content is fully optimized, you are now ready to step into the link building arena and find out how many backlinks you’ll need to rank.
While there’s no magical formula to pin down the exact number of links, you can start off by exploring some of the variables it depends on. These include:
Domain Authority (DA) is a ranking score that determines if a website will rank in the search engine result pages (SERPs). The higher the DA, the more likely your website is to rank.
Backlinking aims to boost the domain authority of your website along with its important pages so you can rank on the SERPs. That’s why the current DA of your website can help you set a good starting point.
If you’ve just launched your website then you’re starting from square one and need a powerful link building strategy to build your DA. Conversely, if your website is well-established with a decent DA already, you’ll need fewer backlinks to rank for your chosen keywords.
The Keyword Difficulty
In the world of SEO, all keywords are not created equal. Some are easier to rank for while others can be quite tricky. The keyword difficulty score lets you know exactly how easy or difficult it will be to rank for them.
The higher the difficulty, the more backlinks you’ll need to rank. To make things more complicated, the number of backlinks required skyrockets as you increase the difficulty of the keyword. For example, for a keyword with a difficulty of 10, you might get away with building 10 backlinks. However, when you increase the difficulty to 50, you’ll most likely need over 100 backlinks to rank for it.
Assessing how many backlinks your competitors have for your chosen keywords can help you find out how many links you should be building.
For a quantitative analysis of the competitors’ backlinks, you can simply look at the number of links that point to each page. This will give you a rough estimate of the number of links you need.
QUALITY OF THE LINKS
It goes without saying that you should also match the quality of the links, not just the quantity in order to rank alongside your competitors.
Don’t make the grave mistake of assuming that all backlinks are the same. In the world of links, one high-quality, relevant backlink can be worth more than a hundred low quality ones.
The key is to strike the ideal balance between the quality and quantity of the backlinks. Try to find backlinks that meet most of the requirements mentioned below:
– Found from a trusted source
– Difficult to acquire
– Acquired from a relevant source
– On a high Authority website
– Directs traffic
ANCHOR TEXT PROFILE
Anchor text is used by Google to establish relevance. Sometimes, the number of links you need to build depends on the anchor text ratio you’re trying to achieve. This can differ depending on what kind of niche you’re trying to target.
If you’re in an industry where websites aren’t doing active link building, it’s highly likely that their anchor text ratios won’t match yours at all. In this case, you might have to build as many links as it takes to diversify your anchor text profile.
On the other hand, if you’re operating in a more competitive niche where your anchor text is around a 50% match with your competitors, things get a bit more predictable. Then it’s all about building enough links to match your competitors’ anchor text profile.
How to Assess Link Building Requirements
Now that you’re well aware of all the variables that can help you decide the quantity of backlinks, it’s time to get to work.
Here are some actionable steps you can take to start your link building journey:
IDENTIFY THE REFERRING DOMAIN GAP WITH COMPETITORS
We’ve already discussed how analyzing your competition can help you get a pretty good idea of your link building requirements. Unfortunately, it’s hard to do a one-to-one comparison with other web pages because the authority and relevance of the domains also play a huge role.
But to get started, you should get an idea of the referring domain gap between you and your competitors. Find out the gap in terms of overall domain strength as well the relative number of domains going to that interface and that’ll be your rough target.
USE TOOLS LIKE AHREFS
To get an accurate sense of metrics like the number of referring domains and relevancy, you can use a couple of tools. One tool that’s widely used in the industry is Ahrefs.
Ahrefs can give you a rough idea of the number of referring domains pointing to the overall domain and the inner page of the website for the keywords you’re competing for. This provides a rough estimate of how many links your competitors have and how many you need to get to that ranking.
CONSULT A PROFESSIONAL LINK BUILDING AGENCY
Matching the number of links may be a good beginners’ strategy, but as you get more sophisticated you’ll understand the importance of variables like domain authority and topical relevance. That’s why link building isn’t only about numbers, it’s a mixture of art and science that creates the perfect backlinking strategy.
That’s where a professional link building agency like Outreachmama can help you stand out from the rest. Outreachmama’s link auditing services use a proprietary relevance-based link scoring system to set accurate and realistic link building goals for your website.
Building Links to Homepage Vs. Inner Pages
To understand the difference between building links for your homepages vs. the inner pages, let’s start with an analogy.
Google is much like a rollercoaster at a carnival that has a minimum number of tickets and a height requirement. The height requirement is analogous to the overall DA while the tickets signify the DA of the inner pages you’re trying to rank.
If you’re really tall, you have a better chance of getting on that ride. This means that websites that have really high DA tend to rank quickly and easily for new content without any link building. Since Google already trusts them and sees them as a reputable resource, they don’t need any links in order to rank.
So, if you have a highly authoritative site, you might not need any links after all. In case your page isn’t as authoritative as your competitors, you need to turn to the DA of the inner pages.
SHOULD I BUILD LINKS TO HOMEPAGE OR TO INNER PAGES?
In general, it’s much better to focus on building the DA of your homepage until you have domain authority parity with your main competitors. Once your results for the homepage start to plateau for a given keyword, you can start targeting the inner pages individually.
There was once a time when inner page links used to matter quite a lot. But now Google gives way more weightage to the overall DA of your website.
In short, your goal is to build authoritative demand and the best way to do that is by building authoritative homepage links.
Finding the number of backlinks you need to rank is just the beginning of your link building journey. Even reaching the top of Google shouldn’t be your cue to stop building links.
Link building is an ongoing and dynamic process. Simply setting targets and meeting them isn’t good enough. You need a sustainable link building strategy to build links consistently and remain competitive.