Earning links has become the number one strategy for off-site SEO but exactly how many links does a site need for it to become a boss on Google?
Most business owners realise that earning high authority links is one of the most powerful strategies when it comes to giving their site a boost in organic search but finding out just how many links they need to earn before they’ll overtake the competition and rule their keyword rankings is a little more difficult to pin down.
Of course the simple answer is ‘as many links as possible’ and providing they are high quality relevant links then there really will be no such thing as too many. We have run campaigns where a single press release has resulted in hundreds of links - for inspiration download our Greatest Hits.
But is there a magic number when it comes to link building that will guarantee success? Is 1,000 enough in some niches or do website owners need to be aiming at 100,000 links to own their niche?
As an experiment I typed ‘swimming pool installation’ into Google. (It’s a hot sunny day as I’m writing this and it would be nice to be able to dive into a swimming pool).
Ignoring the adverts, an online guide into how to install pools and the tradesmen finder websites then the first organic results from companies who provide this service are from originpools.co.uk, compass-pools.co.uk and tanbypools.co.uk.
Sticking these domains into Ahrefs paints an interesting picture with Compass Pools far ahead of the competition in every metric (full disclosure Motive has worked with Compass Pools in the past and helped them earn a pile of links).
Compass have 4,410 links at the time of writing this post, coming in from 1,249 referring domains. Tanby Pools has 1,308 backlinks originating in just 359 referring domains while Origin Pools has only 942 backlinks coming from 256 referring domains.
Yet despite this disparity Google is rewarding all three sites with page 1 listings for a competitive keyword. So Google sees all three as ‘good’ websites worthy of your attention.
But probably because of the superior backlink profile Ahrefs awards Compass with a Domain Rating of 46 – far ahead of Tanby on 24 and Origin on just 15. This means that across the board, for multiple different keyword searches, it would be fair to expect Compass to perform better than the other two sites and to attract more traffic.
Every niche is different and the number of links required to reach page one in search engine results will vary depending on how competitive the market is. But 1,000 backlinks from 250 referring domains would seem to be a reasonable target which every website should be able to achieve with a little targeted effort.
Will 1,000 links guarantee a site a listing on Page 1 for the desired keywords? No they won’t but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aiming for it. In your particular niche there may be 50 competitors who have already built 10,000 links each but that’s probably doubtful.
Local Search Results
If you’re focusing on local search then it should - in theory at least - be even easier to win a first page ranking.
Let’s look at another example shall we? I typed 'loft conversion Nottingham' into Google – and yes I am thinking of converting my loft into a bedroom and I happen to live in Nottingham.
The top three organic results apart from the tradesmen finder sites are roofrooms.co.uk, conversions-nottingham.co.uk and nottinghamconversions.co.uk.
Turning to Ahrefs I discover that conversions-nottingham.co.uk has a much healthier backlink profile than the other two and has probably invested in some SEO or digital PR in the past.
It has 3,359 backlinks from 258 domains and a DR of 20.Compare that to roofrooms.co.uk which has only 409 backlinks from 42 domains and nottinghamconversions.co.uk which has just 106 links coming from 35 referring domains.
This shows that it is easier to get on page one SERPs if targeting local searches. I can’t imagine roofrooms or nottinghamconversions would be faring well without the addition of the word Nottingham to the search query. But they probably only supply a service locally so could be happy with their localised page one hit.
In conclusion there is no magic number of links which will guarantee success in search and the number you will require to win a page one listing will depend both on how competitive your niche is and on the quality of the links coming in. The number of referring domains and IP addresses is also key.
But that said, if you are starting out on link building and off-site SEO for a new website then 1,000 quality links from at least 250 different referring domains is a sensible opening target.