How Many Backlinks Do You Need To Rank On Google?

By joanne on October 26, 2016

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Backlinks For SEO

This is one of the most frequent questions we hear from newcomers to SEO, and sometimes even from those who’ve been working with it for awhile but are looking for new strategies:

    “How many backlinks do we need to rank on Google?”

Well, right off the bat, here’s the spoiler: There’s no single answer to the question. There’s no good answer to the question. In a lot of ways, it’s the wrong question to ask when analyzing backlinks for SEO, because the entire issue of backlinking revolves around quality over quantity.

So today, we’re going to take an in-depth look at backlinks: How Google views them, what backlinks bring the most SEO juice, and strategies you can deploy to try to increase your quality backlink count.

Let’s begin with the basics…

Backlinks And PageRank: How You’re Judged By The Company You Keep

Backlinks For SEO

The value of an incoming link to a web page is largely based on the PageRank of the page the link is coming from, plus the relevance of the topic.

PageRank is one of the many indicators that Google uses to determine a webpage’s overall search engine results page (SERP) placement. It’s one of their oldest indicators, and it’s also believed to be among the most important overall when deciding on SERP ranking.

A website being linked to by many sites with a strong PageRanks is virtually guaranteed to be high up on the results page.

Simply put, the principle behind PageRank is this: The more links a web page receives from other pages, the more important that page must be. And the more reputable those linking pages are, the more reputable the linked page must be.

PageRank is expressed as a value from 0-10. A page with PR0 is junk, like some random teenager’s personal blog or a page that’s clearly machine-written. A PR10 rank is nearly unheard of since it would basically indicate a page which is both among the top destinations online AND with an impeccable reputation. Even incredibly popular pages, such as ESPN or eBay, will generally only have PageRanks of PR8 or PR9.

It’s also worth mentioning that PageRank is not a linear scale, it’s (roughly) exponential. A PR3 page link is about ten times as valuable as a PR2 page.

This is why we say that quality backlinks for SEO are the key, and raw linking numbers simply don’t matter. A single link from a single page with a high PageRank score, like PR5 or above, is literally worth more than hundreds of low-quality links.

Which brings us to the next major question:

What Makes A High-Quality Backlink?

Backlinks For SEO

Obviously, everyone would love to be directly linked to by the front pages of Wikipedia, Amazon, Facebook, or one of the other top-twenty websites with PR9 ratings, but that’s not on the plate for most growing businesses.

For lower-tier (but still important) websites with strong mid-range PageRanks, these are the major criteria Google uses when evaluating the quality of the link:

  • It’s from a relevant source, on the same topic or general field of interest.
  • It’s a trusted source, with a high PageRank of its own and/or plenty of links from other relevant pages.
  • It sees relatively high traffic levels.
  • The linking anchor text is a close match to the page being linked to. That is, a link for “baseball statistics” does indeed go to baseball statistics, rather than football.
  • Other links are nearby which are also to high-quality or high-authority websites.
  • The links are from varied sources, not just a single linker.
  • The page has relatively few backlinks. ie, it’s not a link-aggregator like Reddit.
  • The links are not paid for or part of a quid-pro-quo arrangement.

If the pages linking to you meet most of these criteria, you will almost undoubtedly see big boosts to your SERP based on it. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s not always necessary to meet all of these criteria. Huge volumes of traffic can outweigh somewhat lower relevance.

On the other hand, an excess of poor, spammy, or especially paid-for links can do great harm to your SERP ranking.

Now, of course, we come to the crux of the problem: How do you get high-quality backlinks when you cannot, of course, directly control other web pages?

Being A Good Neighbor: Do As You’d Like Done

Backlinks For SEO

First, let’s talk about your web page. Then we’ll talk about things you, personally, can do to try to influence your backlinks for SEO.

The first and biggest suggestion is simply to always link to others in the same way you’d like to be linked to. Be the change you want to see, as the old motivational phrase puts it.

  • Always look for high-quality, relevant, and trustworthy links to support your articles.
  • Use anchor text which is a close match to their own page name and\or topic.
  • Link to pages with high traffic levels, or at least higher than yours.
  • Link to a variety of sources, rather than only one or two pages.
  • Focus on links which will be genuinely useful to your readers.
  • Don’t spam links or fill up a page with nonstop links. (Besides, too many links are also distracting to readers.)
  • Never, ever accept payments of any sort for links.

The next step is to work on your own on-page optimization. The better your page is optimized for SEO in general, the more authority that will give to your own links. And that’s a very important aspect to remember: In the same way that bad web pages linking to you will drag your SERP ranking down, you don’t want to be the bad web page dragging someone else’s SERP down either.

Don’t be the jerk.

Here are some of the major SEO optimizations you can perform which should have the biggest impact on your authority and relevance.

  1. Position important pages only one or two clicks away from your homepage. Watch your page viewing stats, and look to organize your site so the most-visited pages are also the most easily accessible.
  2. Look to increase your domain authority, which is the assessment of your website as a whole, rather than individual pages.
  3. Always stay on top of broken links, and fix them immediately. Too many broken links – or even an excess of 301 redirects – can harm your reputability.
  4. Police your outbound links, and remove links which are too outdated, disreputable, or simply inapplicable sources. The “quality over quantity” principle applies to your own links too.
  5. Remove pages which are rarely or never accessed by visitors, unless you have a very good reason for keeping them around. Too much “cruft” on a site reflects poorly on you.
  6. Vary your anchor texts, especially if you’re repeatedly linking to the same source, such as a favorite Wikipedia article you use as a reference. Otherwise, it could look like spam to Google.

That basically covers what you can do with your web page. Now, let’s look at other activities you can engage in which can potentially boost your quality backlink numbers.

Getting Proactive: Improving Backlinks For SEO

Backlinks For SEO

So, what else can you do to improve your backlink quality? This is a tricky topic since many of these techniques involve direct person-to-person outreach to other webmasters. Nothing says they’ll necessarily go along with your suggestions, so bring your best people skills.

1) Research Your Competitors

Backlinks For SEO

As a broad guideline, you’ll want at least as many high-quality backlinks as they have when competing for specific keywords. This gives you a rough goal to shoot for.

2) Trade Guest Blogs

Backlinks For SEO

This is one of the best ways to get some extra backlinks, as well as extra viewers. If you can make a few contacts with similar blogs to yours, trading off guest blogs is pretty much always a win-win proposition. The same is also true of podcasts, vlogs, or other media outreach types.

3) Network Via Social Media

Backlinks For SEO

It’s extremely bad form to simply email another website asking them to link to you, and they probably won’t do it. However, getting connected with them via social media and then posting some of your materials can sometimes make it happen.

4) Attend More Industry Gatherings

Backlinks For SEO

Conferences, trade shows, and similar in-person events are excellent opportunities to network and meet like-minded webmasters you could collaborate with later.

5) Join Into Industry Initiatives

Backlinks For SEO

Is someone pushing for change in your industry, or even trying to organize some sort of charity drive for cancer or something like that? Get onboard! Everyone involved will likely be sharing links, so you’ll get some SEO juice as well as engaging in useful activities.

6) Ask For Link Takedowns

Backlinks For SEO

This is tricky, but if there are certain pages you find linking to you that you don’t want, contact them directly and ask to have your links removed. Unfortunately, there’s no telling how their webmaster will react because it’s almost unavoidably an insulting request.

Lastly, there’s one special case we should address:

The Big Asterisk: Press Releases

Backlinks For SEO

A few years ago, it was common for online businesses to issue press releases for anything and everything since websites like PRWeb would publish them with little or no editorial oversight. Accordingly, these press releases would also tend to be full of links and keywords, sometimes to the point that they were barely human-readable.

However, beginning in 2013, Google began taking a very dim view towards such efforts. Major PR websites saw their relevance slashed, and those “heavily optimized” releases began being treated as extremely low-quality links. In other words, spammy press releases started truly being treated like spam and could begin harming a business’s SERP rankings.

Obviously, this does not mean you should cease issuing press releases entirely! They still have legitimate public outreach value. However, you should be aware that in most cases, they will do very little for your SEO. In worst cases, they can harm it.

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Broadly speaking, the only time you will see major SEO benefits from a press release is if actual reputable press sources pick it up and run with it. Then you benefit from their relevance and reputation.
  • Don’t issue online press releases without a good reason. In other words, treat them like you’re supposed to treat press releases: genuine news and announcements likely to have wide appeal.
  • Minimize your use of links. A couple links to your homepage and contact information is fine, but only have two or three links. More than that risks appearing spammy.
  • Whenever possible, include your logo, and don’t be afraid to include relevant graphics or images.
  • Focus on readability. Don’t cram in keywords just for the sake of having keywords. Again, you want actual press outlets running them.
  • Likewise, follow SEO-friendly press release formatting guidelines.
  • Consider adding “nofollow” tags to links in your press releases. These tell Google not to index linked-to pages. Since you’re not getting much –if any– SEO juice from them in the first place, it might be wiser to avoid risking any penalties.

Basically, press releases simply aren’t a good source for SEO boosts anymore and should only be used when there’s a good business or outreach-related reason.

In Summary: The Key Takeaways

Backlinks For SEO

The TL;DR is simply this: Quality backlinks are FAR more important than quantity. Make your own web page as high-quality and linkable as possible, while engaging in outreach aimed at bringing your site to the attention of larger pages whose links would boost your SEO.

Finally, it’s important to mention that Google’s search algorithms are constantly changing. Keep up with news on their latest initiatives so you can stay ahead of the curve on good SEO practices.

And if you’re looking for a great way to track your site’s performance, evaluate your SEO, watch backlinks, and get great improvement suggestions: check out SEOPressor Connect. It has the features you need for great SEO!

How many backlinks are too much for you? Have you ever get penalized from Google? Leave a comment down below to share your experience with us.

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Updated: 19 September 2017

Joanne

About Joanne

Joanne is an aspiring copywriter with an obsession for SEO. Curiosity is her motivation, love and life are her inspiration. She also enjoys reading fiction and contemporary as much as mac and cheese.

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