I’m a firm believer that any statement that begins “A question I’m often asked is…” is usually a total lie. Nobody has asked you about that thing, people aren’t even often asking you stuff, it’s just a lead in to a topic you want to talk about.
But… a question I’m often asked is “How many backlinks do I need?”
The problem with this question is that there is no right answer. The answer is almost certainly not an actual number. There’s no threshold you’re looking to cross, no magic number that you need to reach for Google to “like” you. In fact, Google has categorically said time and again that it’s not quantity that matters, but quality (not that everyone believes them).
In my experience the quality of your backlinks is definitely more important than their quantity, as many a webmaster has found out after buying a shady “1K backlinks for £5” plan on Fiverr.
All of which is basically useless when it comes to building a backlinking plan and motivating ourselves to do one of the toughest things in SEO… backlink outreach. Building backlinks is hard, gruelling work that involves a lot of manual work, tons of research, a lot of time, and a lot of rejections. Is it any wonder that people want to set a benchmark by which they can say “I’m done! I built my links!”
So, I’m going to give you a number. Your target number of backlinks is… 11.
What the actual hell? Eleven ? Is that it?
Eleven links doesn’t sound like an awful lot does it? Surely you need a lot more? Well, there are three reasons that I’ve picked this number and I stand by all of them:
- Quality matters over quantity. I’m only asking you to find eleven links – make it eleven good ones
- If you have eleven links, you’re probably in the top seven percent of websites
- If you fall short by one, you’ve still got ten and that puts you above 92% of other websites
No way, sites must be getting more links than that?
Nope, it turns out not. Following a recent analysis of data for 1 billion pages in Ahrefs’ Content Explorer, a new report revealed that over 65% of web pages have no backlinks at all.
How can this be right? Well, the vast majority of websites don’t have an SEO consultant, or anyone who knows about SEO working on them. They don’t have anyone doing “outreach” and trying to build links. They’re sitting there, minding their own business, not bothering anyone and relying on other people to graciously and spontaneously link to them.
For you that’s not a problem – it’s an opportunity.
Eleven links is all you need.
There is, of course, an exception to this rule (and, seriously, this is not an actual rule). The reason that there isn’t a fixed number of backlinks that’s right is because backlinks are only part of your overall SEO strategy and, rather than it being you vs. Google it’s actually you vs. your competitor.
If every other linking factor is equal, the quality and quantity of your links vs. those of your competitor could well be what it comes down to. So, if you’re looking to go up against Amazon, or Wikipedia, or Spotify… you may need more than eleven links.
But eleven would still be a start…