How Many Backlinks Do I Need to Rank? 

How Many Backlinks Do I Need to Rank_  _ MediaOne Singapore

How Many Backlinks Do I Need to Rank? 

“Ah, the age-old question: how many backlinks does it take to get to the chocolaty centre of Google’s #1 spot? 

If only it were as simple as answering how many licks it takes to get to the centre of a Tootsie Pop. But unfortunately, Google’s algorithms are a tad more complex, and they don’t come with an adorable cartoon owl to give you the answer.

In the great cosmic bingo game that is Google’s ranking system, it’s not just about the number of backlinks — quality plays a hefty role, too.

But that aside, there are a few backlink “rules of thumb” you can go by.

I will show you the three-step approach you can use to work out exactly how many backlinks you’ll need to break into Google’s top spot for any keyword.

So, How Many Backlinks Do I Need?

Do you wish there was a simple answer? Well, there isn’t. 

Every niche, keyword, search query, and website is different. It’s not as simple as saying, “You need 50 backlinks to beat the competition”.

Your competitors may be rocking a few thousand backlinks or just a handful of Forbes-quality do-follows. There’s no definitive answer to “How many backlinks do I need?”

But with the right approach, you should get an idea of how many backlinks you’ll need to beat your competitors. 

The Three-Step Method for Backlink Analysis

No matter what niche or keyword you’re targeting, you can use this three-step method to work out how many backlinks you’ll need. Here are the steps:

Step #1: Determine Which Pages You’ll Need to Build Backlinks To

Step #2: Analyse Your Competitors’ Backlink Profiles and Determine the Backlink Gap Between You and Them

Step #3: Prioritize the Most Important Links and Build Them First

Step #1: Determine Which Pages You’ll Need to Build Backlinks To

Not every page on your website is worth backlinking to. 

If you’re targeting a keyword, it’s time to focus on the page that contains it. That page will be your primary target for building links. 

You also want to focus on pages that include keywords that generate leads and sales. For example, the “purchase” page should be your primary target if you sell a product.

It pays to perform keyword research too. Look for related keywords that have reasonable search volume and low competition. Once you’ve identified these, create content around them on your website—and focus on building backlinks to those pages.

Let me show you how to identify these pages:

First, look at the keywords your website already ranks for. You can use a tool like Google Search Console or the free version of Ahrefs to identify these pages.

These are the keywords to prioritize when building backlinks. 

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These keywords have the best chances of winning the top spots on Google.

You can use Google Search Console to find these pages as well. 

Log into Google Search Console, click “Performance” in the left-hand navigation bar, and click “Pages.” 

That will show you the top-performing pages on your website. Focus on building backlinks to these pages first.

Ideally, we suggest you use SEMrush or Ahrefs to identify these pages. They’ll give you more valuable data than Google Search Console.

You can also use these tools to find pages with good link opportunities. 

These pages have backlink potential but don’t have many or any links pointing to them. It’s a great opportunity to get more links and boost your rankings! 

Next, you want to identify keywords with more relevant commercial potential to your business. The idea is to avoid high traffic, high competition terms and go for less competitive keywords that you can rank for easily. 

Go for super-targeted keywords with a monthly search volume of 100 to 500. These low-competition keywords have a much better chance of ranking higher. 

Finally, consider creating content around long-tail keywords. These three or four-word phrases are more likely to be searched for and matched with your content.

Step 2: Calculate the Backlink Gap Between You and Your Competitors

After shortlisting your target keywords, you can calculate the backlink gap.

For the unacquainted, the backlink gap is the difference between the number of backlinks your competitors have and what you currently have.

It’s the estimated least number of backlinks you’ll need to rank in the top 3 results on Google.

Once you know how many backlinks you’ll need, you’ll figure out:

  • How much will it cost to get them 
  • How much time to build them 

The process is relatively simple:

First, use Ahrefs or SEMrush to analyse your target keywords. Run your target keywords one after the other and see how many websites in the top 10 search results have a similar domain authority as yours.

If most websites have higher domain authority, you will need to get more backlinks than they do. If your website has a higher DA than most competitors, then that means you can get away with fewer backlinks.

Remember, it’s not about the number of backlinks a site has but rather the quality of those backlinks. A backlink from a highly reputable website will have much more weight than one from a low-quality source.

Here’s an example:

Using the keyword “espresso bean vs. coffee beans” as an example, the top three results have a domain authority of 18, 60, and 20.

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The Da of these three sites isn’t exceptionally high, so you can probably get away with fewer backlinks than these sites have if you have a higher DA. 

Now let’s analyse their link profile. The first result has a total of 17 Dofollow backlinks, while the second result has 12 Dofollow backlinks, and the third result has only 1 Dofollow backlink.

First Result: 

Of the 17 DoFollow backlinks in the first results, only four are from high-authority websites. These are the links you should be concerned about. The first link is from a site with a DA of 76, the second link is from a site with a DA of 56, and the third and fourth links are from sites with DAs of 52 and 47.

So, on average, you should aim to have 4-5 backlinks from high-quality websites with a domain authority of at least 50. That should provide your website with enough ranking power to land on the first page of Google’s search results.

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Onto the second result:

Clicking on the number 2 ranking page (with 12 DoFollow backlinks), we can see that only three are from high-authority websites. The first link is from a website with a DA of 77, the second from a website with a DA of 34, and the third link is from a website with a DA of 21.

That averages to three links with a DA of 44, which is still relatively low. But remember, this site had a DA of 60, so it could rank with fewer backlinks than the first page (with a DA of 18).

Finally, the third result: 

The third result only has one dofollow link from a website with a DA of 56. That’s it. It was able to rank with only one high-quality backlink! 

So, to sum up: you don’t need a lot of backlinks to rank on the first page of Google – but you do need some quality backlinks from authoritative websites. Just make sure your content is well-written, relevant, and up-to-date.

Step #3: Get Your Hands Dirty

Once you’ve researched the kind and number of backlinks you need to rank on Google, it’s time to get your hands dirty.

Building backlinks is the hardest part of SEO but also the most rewarding. 

Some SEOs feel more comfortable doing it themselves, while others would rather hire someone else to do the job. 

Both options make sense as long as you understand what you’re doing.

If you decide to build your own backlinks, start by creating content that will attract links naturally. Detailed blog posts, infographics, and social media campaigns are all great ways to get high-quality editorial backlinks from other websites.

It doesn’t matter how good your link-building strategy is; if your content isn’t up to par, no one will link to it. 

Method #1: Replicate Your Competitors’ Backlinks

If you want to build up your backlink profile quickly, copying your competitors’ backlinks is one of the best strategies.

First, you want to identify your top competitors and then use a tool like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Majestic to see what kind of backlinks they have.

Run a quick Google search using your primary keyword, and you’ll quickly identify the top-ranking websites for the term.

Once you have identified your competitors, look at their backlink profiles to see what kind of links they have. You can use a tool like Ahrefs, Majestic, or SEMrush.

Use these tools to identify the best backlinks (backlinks with a DA of 20 and above). 

You want to replicate these backlinks and get them for your webpage or blog post.

So, now that you know where they obtained their links, the next thing you want to do is figure out how they obtained them. 

Was it through:

  • Blog comments?
  • Guest posting?
  • Submitting an infographic or press release?
  • Forum post?

Once you understand how they obtained their backlinks, it’s time to replicate them. 

If it’s a guest post, contact the website that published it and ask them if they are open to publishing similar content. 

Here’s why this approach is bound to work: 

  • If they accepted to link to your competitor, they will also link to you. 
  • You can get high-quality backlinks quicker and with little effort.

If it’s a press release, the idea is to find out what approach they used to write and submit their press release and do the same. 

Did they use a press release distribution service? If yes, you can use the same service to submit your press release. 

You can tell if they used a press release distribution service such as PRWeb, PR Newswire, etc., if the press release says sponsored or provided by any of these services.

Did they use HARO to connect with journalists? If yes, you can do the same. 

HARO, or Help a Reporter Out is a great platform to reach out to journalists and influencers in your niche and get high-quality backlinks. 

Here’s a complete guide on how to use HARO:

The Ultimate HARO Guide for Link Building

Method #2: Outsource Link Building to Agencies

If you don’t have the time or know-how to build your own backlinks, you can outsource this work to link-building agencies. 

Link building is a tough job that requires a lot of manual effort and, if done wrong, can even negatively impact your SEO.

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Even with a great link-building strategy, remember that link-building takes time, and many of the most effective links take months to show results. 

That’s why if you don’t have the resources, outsourcing to an experienced agency can be a great way to get high-quality backlinks quickly without having to worry about quality or penalties.

Remember, when we talk about outsourcing link building, we’re not talking about going to Fiverr or SEOclerk and buying spammy links. Outsourcing to an experienced agency means you get access to their expertise, experience, and insights. These sites don’t sell backlinks. They provide link-building services.

They’ll do everything we’ve mentioned above for you, from researching the most effective niches to build links in, finding high-quality websites that are likely to accept your link request, and creating content and outreach emails to get those backlinks. 

One such service is, owned by Matthew Wood (a veteran link builder and owner of search logistics) and his team of link builders. It’s worth mentioning that they’re not cheap. For instance, one backlink with a DA of between 50 and 80 will set you back US$327.

Why Do I Need to Build Backlinks?

Link building and SEO are almost synonymous. While many factors determine how high you rank on Google, having quality and relevant backlinks is definitely at the top.

It doesn’t matter how great your content is. If quality backlinks do not back it, you won’t rank well. That’s why link building is a critical part of any SEO strategy.

Search engines look at backlinks as a vote of confidence from one website to another. For example, if Forbes links to your site, that tells Google that even Forbes considers your content helpful enough to link to it.

So, Why Build Backlinks? 

Backlinks = Endorsement or Votes of Confidence 

When other websites link to yours, it’s like a vote of confidence – they endorse your content as helpful and trustworthy. Search engines consider these votes when ranking pages; the more quality backlinks you have, the higher you’ll rank.

It’s not necessarily a number game — the quality of your backlinks matters more than the quantity. You’re better off with a handful of links from relevant websites with an above-average Domain Authority (DA) than hundreds of links from random sites.

Backlinks = Increased Traffic 

When your article ranks higher, more people will see it. That means more organic traffic to your website, which is great for business.

The best part? The traffic is highly targeted. For example, if you’ve written an article about the latest iPhone model, people who click on it are likely interested in iPhones. They’re more likely to purchase something from your website or subscribe to your newsletter.

Backlinks = Credibility 

Think celebrity endorsements. When a well-known person or website shares your content, it gives you credibility in the eyes of customers and search engines. People are more likely to trust your products or services if they’ve seen an endorsement from someone they know and respect. 

Remember, the person linking to you also has a reputation to protect, so it’s in their best interest to only link to quality sources.

Backlinks = Networking Opportunities 

It’s through link building that you get to connect with like-minded people in your niche. When you contact the website owner, start a conversation beyond the link exchange and look for ways to collaborate.

You’ll find that networking with the right people can lead to more opportunities, such as guest blogging or interviews. So don’t just spam random websites — create meaningful connections and, most importantly, be sure you add value to their website.

Backlinks = More Authority 

One of the key benefits of backlinks is that they will help you establish authority in your industry. When Google sees, that other websites are linking to yours, they’ll recognize your website as an expert source and reward you with a higher rank.

For example, Moz will never link to you unless you have something of value to offer. The same applies to other influential websites in your industry.

And why do you need a strong authority?

The higher the authority, the harder it will be for your competitors to outrank you. 

The easier it will be for you to rank high for competitive keywords 

In other words, link building gives you strength against competition.

So, How Many Backlinks Do I Need to Rank? 

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as it depends on many factors, such as the quality of your content and the competitive landscape. However, here are a few tips to get you on the right track: 

Build quality backlinks from reputable websites 

Make sure you’re targeting relevant keywords in your content 

Focus on building relationships with like-minded people within your niche to create collaboration opportunities 

Monitor your progress and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly.  

Most importantly, remember the three-step process: 

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Analyse the top-ranking pages

Go through their link profile and look for their strongest backlinks. Be sure to only focus on do-follow links. 

Find out how they build those links and structure your link-building campaigns accordingly. Replicate what they did. For example, if they got a link by writing a guest article, you might want to consider doing the same.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Social Media




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