How Many Backlinks Do I Need to Rank?

Today we’re tackling one of the most frequently asked questions in the world of link building and the bane of every SEO’s existence – How many backlinks does my website need?

Honestly, it’s a tough one to crack. Why? Because there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Like every other self-proclaimed SEO “guru” out there, we won’t send you home with a made-up number promising that it will take you to the top of the SERPs. 

Instead we’ll do you one better and teach you how to determine the number of links for yourself.

So stick around as we deliver the latest scoop on backlinks, and what strategies will get you the best ones to bump up your rankings. 

It’s time to get some real answers.

We’d love to say “It depends”, but it’s a tiny bit more nuanced than that.

Despite what some may think, getting as many links as possible isn’t the goal of link building. In fact, building too many links at once or building the wrong links can get you on Google’s radar. And not in a good way!

Only one thing is certain: The number depends entirely on your website, niche, keywords, and a number of other factors.

Plus, to reap any real benefits from backlinks, you need to cover the basics first. This includes high-quality content, site architecture, mobile-compatibility etc. But more on this later.

Back in 2016, Google’s Andrey Lipattsev announced that links, content, and RankBrain were the top three ranking factors.

However, Google seems to have backtracked on that statement by denouncing links in recent years. In the latest AMA by Gary Illyes in September 2023, he claimed that links were not even in Google’s top 3 ranking factors. 

So, does this mark the death of link building

Well, not quite. 

Illyes’ exact words were: “I think they are important, but I think people overestimate the importance of links. I don’t agree it’s in the top three. It hasn’t been for some time.”

It’s clear as day that he hasn’t completely called links irrelevant, he has just downplayed their importance in favor of content. And if you’ve been following Google’s statements over the years, you know it’s another vague SEO advice that can’t be taken literally.

Naturally, Google doesn’t want SEOs to outsmart the system. That’s why they’ll never be 100% transparent about the inner workings of their algorithms.

So, how do we know backlinks are still relevant?

Well, it’s a not-so-well-kept secret that Google still uses PageRank behind the scenes. PageRank is its original algorithm that ranks pages based on the number and quality of backlinks.

No matter how many times Google tries to denounce backlinks, it’s important to do your own research and experiments to inform your SEO strategy. The proof is in the pudding after all.

It’s finally time to get down to business and estimate just how many backlinks you’ll need to rank in the SERPs. 

As we mentioned before, the number depends on a couple of factors. Here’s how you can assess each one to come up with the right number of links:

1. Domain Authority (DA) & Domain Rating (DR)

Domain Authority (DA) is a score created by Moz. In short, a higher DA indicates a higher number of links pointing to your website.

Another, similar metrics is Domain Rating (DR) created by Ahrefs, and Authority Score (AS) – created by SEMRush. Both metrics indicate how strong your backlink profile is.

While these scores don’t  guarantee success on the SERPs, they’re good indicators to gauge the strength of your backlink profile and its ability to rank. 

That’s why the current DA and DR 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 might need fewer backlinks to rank for your chosen keywords.

2. Identify the Keywords to Rank

In the world of SEO, some keywords 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. 

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.

You can use tools like Google Search Console, Ahrefs, or Semrush to check out which keywords are currently landing you in the first three pages of Google. These keywords have a higher chance of earning you a coveted spot on the SERPs.

Going for relevant, targeted keywords that are not super competitive and high volume might reap better results than going after the big guns.

A “backlink gap” is the difference in the number and quality of backlinks between your website and your competitors’ websites. 

It’s a useful metric to understand how your site stacks up against others in your industry or niche. Here’s how it works in simple terms:

  • Find Your Competitors: These are the websites that rank well for the same keywords you’re targeting. Simply plug your targeted keyword into an SEO tool and find websites with similar DA that are ranking in the top 10.
  • Analyze Backlinks: Use SEO tools to look at the backlinks your competitors have. This includes seeing where their links come from, the quality of those links, and how many they have.
  • Identify the Gap: The difference between their backlinks and yours is the backlink gap. If they have links from 100 websites and you have links from 50, your gap is 50 websites. But it’s not just about quantity; the quality and relevance of those links matter too.
  • Close the Gap: If the gap is large, try to catch up by building more links, even if they’re 40 to 50 DA. But if there’s only a small gap, try to attain as many high-quality links as possible.

4. Anchor Text Ratio

Lastly, it’s not just about the number of backlinks. The clickable words in a hyperlink — what we call “anchor text”—play a huge role too.

Google looks at these words to figure out what the link is about, helping it understand your site’s relevance to certain topics.

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 a field where folks aren’t actively chasing links, your anchor text mix is likely to be different from theirs. You might need more links with a variety of anchor texts to stand out.

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.

In the end, the number of backlinks that’ll work for your website depends on a combination of these factors and more. Plus, it also depends on just how much you’re willing to spend on link building based on how good        of an ROI it can get you.

Effective link building is more than just numbers. It’s about strategic precision, quality, and relevance. That’s why our team goes beyond automated processes, manually analyzing SERP results and identifying your most relevant competitors. 

This hands-on approach ensures that we truly understand the landscape you’re competing in. We then leverage our custom-made platform to conduct a thorough analysis of these competitors, offering insights that automated tools alone cannot provide. Our Backlink Audit doesn’t just stop at assessing the quantity of links you need; we place a significant emphasis on the quality and relevance of these links to your specific niche. 

Here is our step by step approach:

  1. We conduct a detailed analysis of your website, concentrating specifically on target pages and their keywords.
  2. Our approach includes pinpointing the most relevant competitors in your keyword space within SERP, offering insights into the competitive environment.
  3. We use our specialized platform to perform an in-depth analysis of your website’s backlinks for precise insights.
  4. Then, we extend our analysis to your competitors, examining up to 150 URLs to gauge their backlink strategies.
  5. The analysis includes a deep dive into anchor texts, leading to a custom approach for each page on your site.
  6. As a result, you get a unique Link Building Strategy, specifically designed to fit your website’s unique requirements.

We believe in a balanced approach where each link is meticulously chosen for its potential impact, helping you build a backlink profile that’s not just robust in numbers, but also in the value it brings to your SEO efforts.

So, how do you ensure you’re doing link building right? Well, there are a couple of best practices that all SEOs swear by. 

However, the best course of action might differ depending on whether your website is new or already established.

If you have an all-new website on your hands, you’re basically starting from scratch. 

To maximize the effectiveness of your link building efforts, it’s wise to focus on other crucial SEO elements for about 4 to 6 months prior to starting your link-building. During this initial period, try to get your site up to speed with high-quality, useful content and other SEO ranking factors.

Now you can start building links by getting listed on reputable directories, business listings, and social media profiles. These are easy wins for new sites.

You can also reach out to business partners, suppliers, and even customers to secure initial backlinks. Other tactics such as guest blogging, outreach, digital PR and HARO,  might be useful as well.

For a completely new website, 50% of the backlinks should go toward your homepage with the rest going to internal pages.

If your site is already established, you need to start conducting a backlink analysis to identify and address the link gaps. 

To catch up to your competitors, add and update existing content to remain relevant and try to earn backlinks from high-authority sites in your industry. This might involve more outreach and networking.

Another great way is to find broken links on other websites that you can replace with content from your site. Also try to improve internal linking to help distribute page authority throughout your site.

Common Best Practices

Here are some link building best practices that will work for you regardless of whether your website is old or new:

  • Create Great Content: The best way to get good links is by having awesome content that others want to share or link to.
  • Balance Quality and Quantity: You don’t always have to aim for the highest DR websites but you shouldn’t settle for the lowest ones either. The goal is to look for trusted and relevant websites to strike the right balance.
  • Internal vs Homepage Links: In general, it’s much better to focus on building the DR 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.
  • Keep Adding: Getting backlinks is not something you do just once. Try to get more good links over time.
  • Grow Naturally: Search engines like it when your website gets links slowly and naturally. If you get a lot of links too fast, it might look suspicious.

Other Crucial Ranking Factors

We know this article is about link building but we can’t overlook the other important ranking factors that matter to Google. 

That’s because without fine-tuning a website’s technical aspects and on-page content, reaching the top of the SERPs remains out of reach.

On top of the bucket list is helpful, people-first content crafted according to Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines.

You have to ensure that the content you’re trying to rank, actually deserves to rank. Without high-quality content that meets the searchers’ needs, climbing to the top of the SEO ladder is impossible.

Alongside content and links, you should also focus on some other factors such as passing Google’s Core Web Vitals test, securing an SSL certificate, ensuring mobile friendliness, and nailing your website’s architecture.

Understanding the number of backlinks needed is just the start; the best part is acquiring these links and seeing your website soar. 

Here’s how you can begin to secure those valuable links:

Link Building Strategies: This involves a range of techniques from creating link-worthy content to reaching out to other websites for potential link opportunities. For a deep dive into these strategies, check out How to Build High-Quality Backlinks.

Guest Posting: Guest posting on well-regarded sites in your industry is an excellent link building strategy. This not only helps you gain a backlink but also exposes your brand to a broader audience. 

At OutreachMama, we’ve got your back when it comes to boosting your SEO through guest posting. We take care of everything – from crafting compelling content to reaching out to top blogs and securing guest post spots. All you need to do is relax and watch the SEO benefits roll in!

Professional Link Building Services: Sometimes, the most effective strategy to gain backlinks is to let the experts take the wheel. 

OutreachMama can help you secure relevant and high-quality backlinks from reputable sites within your niche. Our Link Building Service stands out because we prioritize strong metrics, high relevance, and effectiveness, ensuring your backlinks contribute significantly to your SEO success.

Onwards and Upwards

Now, armed with a solid ballpark of the links you need and the smartest ways to snag them, you’re all set.

But remember, link building is not a one-and-done deal. You need a strategy that keeps you in the game, constantly earning those valuable links to stay on top.

Article by

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.

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