Ranking well within search engines is something that every webmaster wants. But getting there is not always easy. Here, we answer the question ‘How many backlinks do I need?’ by looking at how quality backlinks can help you achieve better rankings.

What is a Backlink?

A backlink is an incoming, clickable text link that links back from one website to another.  These types of links are traditionally used to help boost search engine rankings and are generally considered beneficial to both websites. For them to be useful however, they need to link to good quality sites and be highly contextual.  You can’t just throw a load of links from other sites into your website and hope for the best. You must only insert links to other websites that are both authoritative and relevant to the content on your own site.  If you have too many backlinks, or ones that are broken or not of good quality, Google can penalise you for using these tactics.

The number of backlinks that you need depends on your specific goal. If you simply want to get your site ranked, you can achieve this with only a few backlinks. But this will likely be for low competition keywords and it won’t attract a lot of traffic to your website. However, if you want to rank on top of Google’s search engine results for competing keywords, you need as many backlinks as possible.

But note that these backlinks should be high-quality links from high authority, relevant sources. There is no one answer for how many backlinks a site should have as no specific number of backlinks will work for everyone. It depends on your business, your specific goals, the industry you are in, etc. As a rough guideline, if you are a small business, you can start by looking at 40 – 50 backlinks to give you a good start for your first few keywords.

Ongoing SEO Efforts

Your total number of backlinks should not be a set target. It should rather be an ongoing process to gradually build your backlinks as much as possible. Even if you do reach the top of Google for a specific search term, you should not stop building quality backlinks. The moment you stop building links you’ll give your competitors and they might just outrank you.

A good guideline to follow is to research your competitors and see how many backlinks they have on average. This will help you to get an idea of what you should aim for if you want to outrank them for a specific keyword. You can even see how many backlinks point to a specific page on their website, to see which pages rank best within results.

One mistake you should never make is thinking that the number of backlinks is more important than the quality. One high-quality backlink can be worth more than 50 low-quality ones, so keep this in mind. As a guide, here are a few of the criteria when looking at backlinks:

  • Must be from a trusted source
  • Must send quality traffic
  • Must match the exact anchor text used
  • Must not be reciprocal
  • Must not be a lot of other backlinks on the same page
  • Must not be paid for

On-site SEO Optimization

Even if you have a well designed and optimised website, you still need to consider how many backlinks you should have. You’ll need a lot more backlinks if you have a poorly optimised site. That’s why on-site SEO optimisation is so important. The reason is that high-quality websites will offer a lot more quality content that is relevant, as opposed to a poorly optimised website.

Remember that your most important web pages should never be more than three clicks away from your homepage. You should always check that you’ve used the relevant keywords within your web copy and consistency check for any broken links. You can also link pages to one another and remove any unnecessary outbound links. If you have pages with very little or irrelevant info on them, merge them with other pages as they won’t help your rankings otherwise.

Matt Cutts from Google Webmasters talks about how many links you should use in your website

Though deciding how many backlinks your site should have and acting on this will boost your SEO efforts, you should always remember that great content is at the heart of your website’s success. Speak to the experts at The Content Works to help you craft great content for your website, and to help boost your incoming links.


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