How Many Backlinks Do You Need to Rank?

Just how many links does it take to rank…

It’s a common question. If we knew how many links we needed to get a site to rank it would make life so much easier!

We would just have a formula for how many links we need to rank a certain keyword for a certain page… So simple, right!?

Like all good questions, the answer is:

It Depends

Every keyword and niche is different so there is no way a person can answer this question without deeper analysis.

The best way to get an idea is to analyze the competition. You can see how many internal and external links a URL has to get a rough estimate. But there are other factors in play which contribute to a page ranking in Google for a term.

So you can do some research to make an assumption about how many links are needed, but at best it’s just an educated guess.

Here are some of the main factors to research about the competition:

  1. Number of External links
  2. Authority of the external links
  3. Number of Internal links
  4. Authority of the internal links
  5. Length of the content
  6. Quality of the content
  7. Age of the URL
  8. Age of the internal & external links

For points 2 and 4, you can note the ranges of the authority so you can see how many links of a certain authority level you might need. You can use the metrics from Ahrefs, Majestic, Moz, etc… — Remember that all of the metrics are estimates so don’t treat them as gospel.

All this data can get you closer to an estimate of the number of links, but it’s just an educated guess. As you move forward building or obtaining links, you’ll have a better idea of what’s needed. You may find that the age of the links is a bigger factor than the number of links, or maybe the quality of the links is really important.

In project management, you often have to come up with some estimate based on incomplete data at the beginning of a project. You might have estimates that are certain from -50% to +150% which is a HUGE range. But you have to start somewhere, make assumptions, and get started.

Offsite SEO Questions

About the author: Doug Cunnington is the founder of Niche Site Project. He shows people how to create Affiliate Sites using project management and a proven, repeatable framework. Doug loves creating systems, using templates, and brewing beer (but usually not at the same time).

41 comments… add one
  • Hieu Nguyen Apr 17, 2014 @ 8:54

    I totally agree with you. I have the same ranking improvement with non relevant PBN. Because niche relevant PBN costs much more money to build or build links, so I choose general PBNs. Who know when it will be not effective anymore, but now it’s very powerful!

    • Doug cunnington Apr 17, 2014 @ 11:24

      Hey Hieu – Thanks for the comment.

      It’s pretty tough to find high authority domains that are relevant too. It’s good to just have the authority behind the links.

  • Winston Apr 17, 2014 @ 19:42

    Hey Doug,
    This is a bit out of topic, so hopefully you bear with me. I wanted to ask if you knew about getting penalties of -40 and -60. A couple of my sites suddenly got hit with them (one each). I think those are what hit them because that’s how they appeared. The rank moved exactly that much downwards.

    Granted I did make a few changes a couple of days ago, but they were very cosmetic in nature so I’m not sure. The thing is the 2 I did change were the ones hit.

    I was wondering if you had heard or seen anything of these penalties, and if there were link related (which one, anchor, bad links, etc) or content related, or anything else.


    • Doug cunnington Apr 18, 2014 @ 5:39

      Hey Winston – Sorry! That’s a huge bummer.

      I don’t know of anything specifically for -40/-60 drops. It does seem very odd they would both drop.

      What exactly did you change on the sites?

      • Winston Apr 18, 2014 @ 19:32

        I just figured it out. I did lose a couple of strong links. It did take a bit of digging to figure it out, since I use free ahrefs and majesticseo. The penalty was the first thing that crossed my mind because that’s what’s always the scary one I guess.

  • Ruan Oosthuizen Apr 18, 2014 @ 6:21

    Yeah, I was pretty floored by this too, Doug. It gets better though…the specific article is currently ranked at #10 (1st page!). Let’s see how far it goes up…

    BTW…you shared sometime here on NSP about getting Wikipedia links, remember? Well, I’m quite the action taker so I have 3 Wiki links pointing to this same site at the moment. Two are PR4 and the other PR6. They’re not crawled yet and thus not picked up by any backlink-checking service yet, but I bet those will surely help with trust- and citation flow in due time. Gosh, I just wish those were do-follow, eh? lol

    • Ruan Oosthuizen Apr 18, 2014 @ 6:25

      I forgot to ask (since no one else have yet), getting high-metric expired domains, any resources or services you’d like to share/recommend? Apart from Jon’s that is, as I am about to order my first package from him, but I just thought it would be nice to check out other services too. I know about DomainJawa too…

      • Doug cunnington Apr 18, 2014 @ 7:43

        Ruan – I have a source and I’ll email you directly.
        If anyone else is interested, email me.

        • Ruan Oosthuizen Apr 18, 2014 @ 7:50

          Thanks buddy!

        • Stuart Apr 19, 2014 @ 1:50

          Be interested to know the prices they charge Doug, drop me a line. Cheers stu

        • Avi Lang Apr 18, 2014 @ 10:04

          Please email me as well

    • Doug cunnington Apr 18, 2014 @ 7:42

      Hey Ruan – It’s at #10 now. Wow!

      Yes, the Wikipedia tactic is very good. 🙂 That’s for email subscribers only…

      Fantastic about the other site linking to your site b/c of your wikipedia reference!

      • Ruan Oosthuizen Apr 18, 2014 @ 7:49

        Oh shucks, sorry – I didn’t realize! 🙂

        Yeah – I think I got pretty lucky with that link!

        • Doug cunnington Apr 18, 2014 @ 8:22

          No worries! It may entice people to sign up for the newsletter. 😉

        • Ruan Oosthuizen Apr 18, 2014 @ 8:27

          Well, they’d be CRAZY not to. I can vow it is well worth it! 🙂

  • John Apr 18, 2014 @ 6:31

    hi Doug,
    thanks for the email, or newsletter.. I now have 4 expired domains, planning to buy another 1 domain so total of 5 expired domains this April, the highest i paid was $115 against a proxy bid, but for the 3 domains i only paid like $12+ ..
    only 1 domain is up for now with 1 post with no links yet.. that domain is not directly related to my niche site but i will order an article that will mention my niche keyword…

    1. For the 5 domains most of them are not directly related but have .org and .edu links pointing at them, so since im new to this pbn thing, i cant say anything yet, but with my experience regarding relevance using newly created blogs — relevance got my amazon niche site rank number 3 way back 2011. so i say relevance greater than authority just like Jon said.

    2. I have seen a lot of expired domains like church, news, photography that are now being used as pbn, and the niche site they link to are ranking high, so i say old domains with lots of clean backlinks though pass the juice..

    3. Irrelevant expired domains used right away as the domain for the niche site still ranks very well, in fact i saw 2 domain names with personal names on them… the domain name 1. is personal website of a woman, domain 2. is a personal website of a car racer’ son. Both are ranking top 3 in google..

    4. And im very interested in your experiment now…

    • Doug cunnington Apr 18, 2014 @ 7:45

      Hey John, glad you’re enjoying the emails.

      Sounds like you’re building up a very nice stable of domains! Keep up the good work.

      • John Apr 18, 2014 @ 17:23

        Yup i am,
        i read Jon is offering 5 domain PBN but he is not hosting it on $1 hosting nor seo-hosting… how about your expired domains Doug, where you host it? now i have 1 in hostica, i learn about it from Alex becker.. but i may follow Jon on hosting to $3 to $5 hosts..

        • Doug cunnington Apr 28, 2014 @ 8:38

          Hey John, I host some domains on $1 – $2 per month hosting services and some others on HostNine. I really recommend HostNine if you are going to have about 10 or more domains. It just makes it easier to set up domains on separate C Blocks. Get the reseller account if you find that the HostNine plans work for you.

          Here is my affiliate link if you want to check it out:

    • Sam Noor Jul 6, 2015 @ 1:52

      Hey John, how best can i check the backlinks to my site ?

      • Doug Cunnington Jul 9, 2015 @ 15:30

        Sam, you can check in MOZ’s Open Site Explorer,, and majestic site explorers. They will all have slightly different backlinks but should give you a good idea.

  • Nathan Rossow Apr 18, 2014 @ 17:52

    Good info that’s interesting the effect it had even if the link wasn’t niche relevant. That is some good movement through Google. I’m about to add some PBN links to my niched site, hopefully it will finally start ranking for keywords again.

    • Doug cunnington Apr 28, 2014 @ 8:35

      Hey Nathan – Cool! Good luck. It’s been a few days now so has your site moved up in the rankings?

      • Nathan Rossow Apr 28, 2014 @ 10:15

        I’ve seen some movement. I only have on link from a PBN right now, and my few keywords that were on the 8th or 9th page have moved to the 5th, and 6th and a couple keywords that weren’t ranking showed up on the 7th page. So not bad, I have another link in the queue, and plan to add 1 or 2 a week for the next few weeks. Fingers crossed I’ll get on the 1st and 2nd in the next month or two, and start getting some traffic.

  • Curt Apr 21, 2014 @ 8:51

    Hey Doug, what did you use for anchor text? Exact, brand, URL…? Thanks, cool little experiment.

    • Doug cunnington Apr 28, 2014 @ 8:34

      Hey Curt – Sorry it took a while to get back to you here. 🙂

      It was exact match anchor text for a fairly long keyword phrase. It was within a sentence that was out of place in the article…but the sentence itself was on the topic of the target site.

  • angeladav May 13, 2014 @ 15:19

    Rank Tracker which is part of the Powersuite tools now has a feature
    called ‘keyword difficulty’ which works out how difficult it is to crack
    a keyword given the links that the competition has (which may make it
    easier for people) –

    I found for example that a site was sitting at #1 with only 30 links – but they were from PR3 / 4 type sites – which I guess goes to show it’s quality rather than quantity – I’m currently in the process of trying do the same

  • PrepperFarm Nov 10, 2014 @ 17:31

    I’d like to see a continuation of your experiment to see if a few additional links could really get it to the top 10. I’m wondering how severe the law of diminishing returns is and what rank you get topped out at.

  • Baba Vanga Jul 17, 2015 @ 1:51

    Hey Doug,
    Thanks for sharing your backlinks experiment. Want to share my experience with “building” backlinks for one of my blogs. It is in a low to moderate competition niche, but all those sites that came on the first page of google were not dedicated to that particular subject. In other words they just had a post about it, but that’s all – sites with high authority. So I decided to build up a blog from scratch that is entirely dedicated on the niche – or micro niche blog that only contains content on pretty much few keywords. I rolled up my sleeves and did about 95 articles – some long enough (800-1000 words) others much shorter. As you can imagine I only focused on putting up some content. After 1 month and a half, for one of the keywords I’m on 7th position in google, and for another major keyword I’m on the 11th position in google – NO BACK LINKS building whatsoever.
    So in my view, if you have a dedicated blog on one niche, and do a good number of quality posts, you can certainly outrank even sites that have very high PR, thousands of backlinks, and thousands of articles – at least that’s my experience.

    Anyhow, thank you Doug for sharing this helpful info – keep my email in your newsletter loop, as I want to be updated of other helpful tips and tricks regarding SEO!


    • Doug Cunnington Jul 21, 2015 @ 7:04

      Thanks Baba! Great case study on content with no backslinks.

  • Tonmoy Nov 4, 2015 @ 0:05

    Hello Dough,

    Thanks for the great content, man. Many guys just send mails to their sub list but they never response them. But you are the best guy who always response me 🙂

    • Doug Cunnington Nov 9, 2015 @ 12:26

      Hey Tonmoy, thanks for the comment. I appreciate the compliment.

  • sonia Dec 28, 2015 @ 14:47

    hi, thanks for such a nice experiment, i would not mine to do this experiment. will come back if it will help me.

  • Raj Apr 14, 2016 @ 8:02

    Hi Doug, Shall I use Fiverr guest posts? Are you done any experiment?

  • Randy Jun 25, 2016 @ 20:01

    Hi Doug,
    Do you have a post on your site that goes over how many PBN links to add over x amount of days? For example, best practice to add 1 PBN link to the page you’re promoting every 3-4 days or some other interval?

    • Doug Cunnington Jul 2, 2016 @ 12:06

      I do not have that data, Randy. Good question though…I think if you add a link once a week, that’s a good place to start. And I haven’t ever tried to see if there is a faster way, but I assume it won’t matter too much compared to several other factors. (Like the authority, anchor text, and so on…)

  • Raj Jul 2, 2016 @ 18:29

    Where I can buy Domains for pbn?

  • Abd Raaz Jul 5, 2019 @ 16:22

    If I use a lot of links from the same sites does it make sense?

  • abd Raaz Jul 17, 2019 @ 11:28

    Great and thanks for replying me. I have one more question?

    I just create a new website 3 page only and its for lead generation and my targeted keyword is “immigration solicitors leeds” the keyword difficulty is only 2, so I made 50 local citations and 100 social profile backlinks and what can I do to get it number 1-3 position?


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