How Many Backlinks Does A Website Need To Rank On Page One?
Many of you if not everyone in Google’s history wants to know what it takes to rank #1.
With so much conflicting SEO information on the internet, finding good backlink strategies that work can feel like a lost cause.
As backlinks are the most important part of SEO, I’ll try to answer the question of how many backlinks does a website needs to rank on the first page of Google.
The answer is 23.
Wouldn’t it be great if it were that simple?
The truth is there is no magic formula that can tell us exactly how many backlinks your website should have to rank on page one of Google.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t get a really good idea of what it will take.
Let’s get into the factors that determine how many backlinks you will need and then how to figure out a really good range to shoot for.
Factor #1: Homepage Brand Trust
If you have followed anything written by me on SEOJet’s blog or in my emails you have heard me enforce and then reinforce the importance of building homepage brand trust.
The more rank data I see from SEOJet users, the more I realize how important it is.
Doing homepage SEO the right way is how you build the foundation that will determine if any of your other pages are going to rank on page one.
Without building proper brand trust on your homepage you will find the rest of your SEO efforts to be frustrating and extremely disappointing.
So how many backlinks should a website have pointing to their homepage in order to establish homepage brand trust?
As many as it takes.
If you are ranking #1 when you search for your brand name on Google, you have some brand authority. If you have other pages on your site that are ranking for non-branded search terms then you definitely have established brand trust.
The way to build brand trust is actually pretty simple.
Build backlinks to your homepage using branded anchors.
If you look at big brands (or websites that dominate the SERPs) you will find a common theme among all of them.
They all have a lot of links that point to their homepage and 85%-95% of those links have one of the following as the anchor text: their brand name, their URL, or their URL written like “Website.com”.
That is the signal to Google that your website is a legitimate brand.
So what does this have to do with getting to the number of backlinks you will need to rank?
What I have seen over and over again is that pages that rank in the top ten of Google separate themselves from the competition by really crushing one or more of the following things: homepage brand trust, content, and backlinks (detailed examples of these 3 things later).
Factor #2: Your Website Niche
Not all niches are created equally.
For example, if I am trying to rank for an SEO term I am competing against all other SEO’s who also understand how to do SEO, including those that know how to do it better than anyone. That makes the SEO niche one of most (if not the most) difficult niches to try to rank in.
The amount of backlinks to my homepage and to any other page is going to be vastly different for me than it will for someone who sells flowers.
You understand your niche and know how competitive it is in terms of SEO. How many backlinks do I need if I’m a lawyer versus a lawn care professional? I can tell you from 17 years of SEO experience that lawyers have to be much more aggressive than lawn care guys in order to compete.
If you are in a competitive niche, it is going to take more backlinks.
Factor #3: How Niche Specific Is Your Website
One of the ways that I have been able to get rankings with 70% less links than my competitors is by building a website that is extremely niche specific.
By niche specific I am referring to a website that only covers one specific topic but covers it 100% thoroughly.
For example, there is a big difference between a home improvement website and a website that only covers the topic of plumbing. If the plumbing website covers that niche in depth with great pieces of useful content, it will be able to rank for plumbing related key phrases with much fewer links than a general home improvement website can.
You could even go more niche and say a site that only covers hot water heaters instead of all plumbing topics will more easily rank for hot water heater related key phrases.
Google loves niche specific sites that cover a topic completely.
Factor #4: Is Your Page A Power Page Or Sub-Page?
In case you haven’t heard me talk about power pages, a power page is a page on your site that is (mostly) non-promotional, is content heavy (2000+ words) with amazing content, and usually goes in depth to solve a problem for your target audience. It is your best content.
The reason it is important to differentiate between a regular subpage in your website and a power page is that a power page has enough amazing content that it won’t look unnatural to build lots of backlinks to that page.
It is important for you to be honest about the page that you are trying to rank. Just because it is one of your money pages, that doesn’t mean it is a power page and should be promoted as one.
In an ideal world your power pages and money pages would be the same but oftentimes they aren’t.
It doesn’t look natural to have 100 backlinks pointing to your plumbing services page. That would never happen in the real world so Google knows it is manufactured. On the other hand, the world’s best 3000 word article that teaches you how to fix your own hot water heater could get 100 backlinks naturally.
What if the page I want to rank is a sub-page? How many backlinks is good?
If you are trying to rank your plumbing services page and now realize you can’t build a lot of backlinks to it, what you want to do instead is piggy-back off of the SEO juice of your power pages.
In other words, you build the majority of your backlinks to your homepage and your power pages, and then you make sure that you internally link to your services page from all of your power pages.
That is the natural way to pass SEO juice to your sub pages and it looks so much more natural that way.
You can still build some backlinks to your subpages, just make sure that it compares to others that rank in your niche.
Factor #5: How Natural Is Your Backlink Profile
We have already talked about building backlinks in a natural way to your homepage. Almost all of your homepage links need to have branded anchors and all of your links should be from real websites (read: not garbage PBN’s).
But what about your power pages?
One of the most common mistakes I see people make as they build backlinks to their pages is they want to rank for a particular key phrase so badly that they can’t help themselves from building a lot of exact match anchor backlinks.
In a #1 ranked backlink profile, Google expects to see less than 10% of your backlinks be exact match anchors. So what should the backlinks be?
If you are an SEOJet user then you already know exactly which links to build and can skip to the next section.
For those of you who don’t use SEOJet, backlink software that helps you always keep your backlink profile natural, here is the basic idea: Your backlinks need to be a mixture of natural anchors, blended anchors and exact match anchors.
Natural anchors are anchor texts that do not contain any key phrases. It would be things like your brand name, the full URL of the page you are linking to and random things like “click here” or “this article”.
Blended anchors are anchor texts that have all or part of your key phrase and then other words in the anchor as well. For example, if your key phrase was “wedding rings” a blended anchor might be “a good selection of wedding rings”.
Exact match anchors are when you use your key phrase by itself.
To make your profile look natural you need about 60% natural anchors, 35% blended anchors, and 5% exact match anchors. (Note as Google changes their algorithm these numbers also change)
Keep in mind that these percentages are created from taking the average of all #1 ranked pages across all industries.
One of the cool things about SEOJet is that we let you choose to build out a link map to these percentages or you can take the average of all of the top 10 pages that rank for your main key phrase.
As you can see from the snapshot that you can also pick and choose which competitors in the top 10 you want to use to create the percentages for your gauges. That way you can rule out sites like Wikipedia and Amazon.
This allows you to really customize how you want to build your backlinks and target more aggressively those in your exact niche.
Enough already, how many backlinks do you need?
Now that you have a solid understanding of the factors that cause Google to rank one website over another we can better answer the question of how many backlinks you need.
Do I Really Need To Build Backlinks To My Homepage?
In order to create brand authority with Google, you have to build branded anchor backlinks to your homepage.
If you don’t get Google to recognize you as a legitimate brand, your pages won’t rank.
How many links will it take?
It really depends on your niche. But the truth is you should always be building backlinks to your homepage.
How Many Backlinks To Inner-pages?
The most effective way to find this answer quickly is to search Google for the key phrase you want to rank for. Then you look at everyone in the top 10 and look at their homepage backlinks to see how strong their brand authority is and look at the backlinks to that specific page that is ranking.
You want to look at the outliers in the top 10. Which page has the least amount of backlinks. Which page has the least amount of homepage links. Who has the least combined?
Inside of SEOJet we have our Competitors tab that will show you the top 10 ranked pages for your main key phrase, along with how much content each page has, how many backlinks the page has and how many homepage links the site has.
It then gives you averages of everyone on page 1.
Let’s use the screenshot above to decide how many links it will take to rank for “backlink strategy”.
You can see that the total number of backlinks to each page that ranks in the top 10 ranges from 0 all the way to 1616.
Why doesn’t Google just automatically rank #1 the page with the most backlinks?
In my opinion, if you look at the top 10 rankings for this page there is one big outlier. In other words, there is one website that has way more backlinks than anyone else. Google can’t ignore this fact but it also might look a little unnatural. Google would expect to see all of these pages have a fairly similar number of backlinks. Since one is so much more than the rest they rank the page in the top 5 but not #1.
This is me speculating, I am not basing that off of anything I have read or heard from Google. But as you are building backlinks, try not to be an outlier.
The biggest takeaway as I look at this chart is that the minimum # of homepage links is over 300. If I am trying to compete for this phrase that is the number I know I have to shoot for before I will get any traction on page one.
Is it possible to get there with less homepage links? Sure it is. But I assume I will have to have at least 200 homepage links and then at least 60-80 links pointing to that page.
I don’t want these numbers to overwhelm you, as this is just one case and it is in the SEO niche. As I said before this is the hardest niche to rank in.
But I hope you are starting to get a feel for how many backlinks are good for a website to start ranking on page one. And I hope you are starting to see the importance of building out homepage branded anchor backlinks.
Let’s look at another example outside of the SEO niche.
The first thing that jumps out at me from the backlink numbers of the top 10 ranked pages is that the top 5 looks pretty stacked. You are going to need a really aggressive backlink strategy to rank in the top 5 for paleo meal plans.
As you move down to 6-10 on the list you have homepage backlinks as low as 190 and page backlinks as low as 1. So the backlink numbers in the bottom 5 look much more manageable.
I would expect to need around 200 homepage backlinks and 25-50 page backlinks to move into the bottom 5 on page one of Google.
As you can see from looking at these top 10 charts, knowing what everyone else in the top 10 has done in terms of backlinks and content is extremely helpful in determining how many backlinks your website needs to rank on page one.
Using this strategy can also help you avoid spending a lot of time and money targeting key phrases that you don’t have a realistic chance to rank for on the big G.
Let’s look at one more example in a much less competitive niche using a local search as an example. We’ll look at the key phrase “bed bug control Seattle”.
When you start dealing with local searches the number of links you are going to need will drop considerably in most industries.
The first thing you do is ignore the outliers on this list. Yelp, Thumbtack and the Government website are the outliers and won’t be direct competitors if you have a pest control company.
Looking at the rest of the list you can see that some websites have as few as 22 homepage links and most of the pages that actually rank have two or less backlinks.
For this site, I would say a good target for backlinks would be 25-75 homepage backlinks and maybe 0-5 backlinks to the page I’m trying to get ranked.
Obviously there are many nuances to why one page ranks over another but shooting for those ranges will definitely make you competitive.
The Sliding Scale Of Brand Authority, Content and Backlinks
When you are comparing websites side by side and trying to decipher why one website ranks above another, there are obviously many reasons websites do or don’t rank.
But when you master the right combination of the following three things, you can have great success with SEO.
- Build great brand trust on the homepage.
- Create content on power pages that crushes your competitors.
- Build high quality backlinks to that content.
If you do one of these extremely well you will probably rank.
If you do two of these extremely well you will definitely rank.
Do a good combination of all three and you will own Google.
If you are going to choose just one, choose #1. Build amazing brand trust.
Establishing Great Brand Authority
When a website has a ton of branded backlinks to their homepage with no backlinks or very few to their ranking page, that brand trust is so well established that all of their pages rank well in Google.
Yelp is an example of a website that falls into this category. With over 90k homepage backlinks Yelp has established amazing brand authority and so they don’t really need any links to other pages to rank. And their sub-pages rank in the top 3 of Google for almost everything that is relevant to the page.
Other sites that fall into this category, Amazon, Overstock, Walmart, Wikipedia etc.
Before you start to panic about the stupid amount of homepage backlinks Yelp has, remember that you only have to match or beat out your direct competitors in your niche.
Create Content That Crushes Your Competitors
You are not going to be able to just create amazing content and rank in Google, you will still need some homepage brand authority and some backlinks to the page.
But creating a power page with content that is far and away better than all of the other top ten competitors can help you overcome your lack of backlinks.
Here is an example of a site who is in the top 3 for their main keyphrase but they have far less backlinks than everyone else in the top 10. Brand authority is much less and links to the ranking page is far less.
But look how much content their page has compared to everyone else.
They have written a piece of content that is over 5000 words when everyone else on page one is in the 1000-2000 range. So they can get away with 80%-90% less homepage backlinks than those that rank around them and a mere 8 backlinks to the ranking page.
They have positioned themselves as the authority on the topic by virtue of having far superior content than everyone else in the niche. Google loves authoritative content.
Build High Quality Backlinks To Content
For many of us trying to build more homepage backlinks than our competition isn’t financially realistic. And maybe it isn’t possible to have your content be heads and shoulders better than those same competitors. So you beat them with high-quality backlinks to the page you want to rank.
Here is an example of a website that doesn’t have the best homepage brand trust in the niche and so he decided to write good content that at least matched everyone else and then built way more backlinks to the money page than everyone else.
As you can see from the screenshot above, GotchSEO ranks #3 for the key phrase “build backlinks” and focuses on building high quantities of backlinks to the pages that they are trying to rank and builds enough homepage backlinks so that Google will trust them as a brand.
Gotch has about 380 homepage backlinks which may seem like a lot until you look at data from the rest of the websites on page one inside of SEOJet.
By comparison, the two websites above Gotch and two below them in the rankings have on average 14,777 homepage backlinks but only 295 backlinks to the page that actually is ranking in Google. So Gotch had to build out a much higher quantity of backlinks to that page to make up for his lack of homepage backlinks.
These are the 3 different strategies you can choose from to get one of your pages to rank.
Again, you must choose one or more of the three things outlined here as your backlink strategy (brand trust, great content, ton of quality backlinks) in order to compete on page one of Google.
The temptation is going to be for you to go out and get as many links to your homepage as quickly as you can with the right anchor text so you can establish brand trust.
Just remember that quality and relevance still matter. Getting links from garbage sites is not going to help you.
How Many Backlinks Per Day Is Safe
What about link frequency? How many backlinks per day is safe to build to your website.
This is one of the big link building myths that I hear so often from SEO agencies.
You can build as many links to your website every day as long as the backlinks come from quality sites and your anchor text profile looks natural.
Let’s say you just published the most viral blog post ever on floral arrangements and everyone in the floral world decided to link to that blog post. Is that unnatural? Of course not.
But Google will expect that the anchor text profile will look a very specific way if it happened naturally.
Something else to consider is what we have already talked about which is you can’t build a lot of backlinks to pages that shouldn’t get a lot of backlinks.
Going back to the plumbing website example, you can’t build a lot of links to your plumbing services page so the answer to the question of how many backlinks per day is safe for that page is zero or very few.
Building backlinks to a homepage or power page is different and you can be much more aggressive as long as the anchor profile looks good.
This is why I stress so hard that you should be building power pages for your website and that the majority of your backlinks should point to your homepage and power pages. Then you don’t have to worry about how fast you can safely build backlinks to your website.
How Does SEOJet Help With Backlinks?
As you have seen in this article, the screenshots are inside of SEOJet’s backlink management software. So what is SEOJet?
SEOJet helps you become a backlink building ninja.
The software looks at your current backlinks and shows you how natural it looks compared to other top 10 ranked pages, and then tells you what backlinks you need next.
It takes all of the guesswork out of building backlinks for yourself or for your SEO clients.
So as you are building the right amount of backlinks, SEOJet helps you choose the right anchor text to make sure you get the most out of every backlink.
We also have a built-in guest posting service to help you get links from authority blogs that have real organic traffic from Google.
We have also created a proprietary scoring system called JetRank to give a score to every single page you enter into SEOJet to let you know how well the SEO and link building are going with each page and which pages you should focus on.