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How Many Backlinks Should a Website Have?

Link building remains a critical part of off-page SEO, but it isn’t an easy task. Rather than attempting to build links without a strategy, you first need to consider how many links you need to rank for your desired search terms.

May 14, 2024

7 m read

Although SEO can propel your website up the search engine result pages, a lot goes into a successful campaign before this can happen. One of these factors is backlinks. Without enough of them, it can be difficult or even impossible to rank for competitive keywords.

But most people end up wondering at some point: How many backlinks do I need to rise to the top of Google? In this guide, I’ll reveal some of the best methods for determining the number of links to target, as well as ways to get high-quality backlinks that offer more impact. I’ll also cover how to monitor your backlink profile for long-term growth.

What Are Backlinks?

A backlink is a link to one of your pages from another website.

Traffic follows links from one page to another across the internet, forming the web part of the worldwide web. When a link directs people to a page outside your website, it’s an outbound link. Likewise, links from the other direction are inbound links or backlinks.

So, why are backlinks important? Ever since the early days of search engines, backlinks have been an ideal metric for measuring a website’s value. When another website decides to link to yours, it’s the equivalent of a referral or a vote of confidence, so good resources naturally attract many backlinks.

If Google needs to decide between two pages where content quality and other factors are mostly equal, the page with more backlinks has an advantage because it appears to have more authority. Something similar happens when a website as a whole has many backlinks — individual pages of the site gain increased visibility over sites without many links.

Link Origin Matters

The source of a backlink — the referring domain — can be more important than the link itself, especially when deciding how many links a website should have. This is because the value a link transfers typically reflects the referring domain’s authority. In this way, backlinks from sites like Healthline or Wikipedia transfer much more authority and trust than links from a small blog might.

However, Google prefers pages with backlinks from several referring domains, so having one exceptionally high-quality backlink may not be enough to beat the competition with a more varied link profile. You’ll also see diminishing returns when multiple links come from the same referrer, so it’s best not to put all your eggs in one basket when building links.

How Many Backlinks Do I Need?

How many backlinks do you need for a specific keyword, and how many do you need to boost a page or an entire website’s rankings? Well, search engine rankings are relative, so the number depends mostly on your competition.

Keywords with a higher search volume or more lucrative traffic generally result in higher competition for visibility. For example, terms with a purchasing intent naturally attract people wanting to buy, so more sites gravitate to these keywords to maximize their sales.

That’s why we’ve found the best way to determine how many backlinks you need is to look at what’s already working for other people and analyze backward. You can do this by following these steps:

  1. Perform a Google Search: You might want to use a third-party SERPs checker for this, as Google likes to personalize search to the user, affecting the results you see. Search using specific keywords to gain intel on individual pages or use the primary term of your site’s keyword theme to gauge what you need to increase overall domain authority.
  2. Run the Results Through a Backlink Checker: Look at which sites rank highly for the terms you’re targeting, then run these sites or the individual pages through a backlink checker tool such as Ahrefs. Note the number of referring domains for each.
  3. Average and Compare the Results: Take the average number of referring domains from your research and compare it to the page you intend to rank. Based on the difference between that average and the page’s current link profile, you’ll immediately know how many more backlinks you need.

Of course, you’re probably also thinking: How many backlinks do I need if they’re from more authoritative sources than the competition? Most tools for checking backlinks, such as Semrush and Ahrefs, also offer ways to measure the authority of each referring domain. You’d need to look at this more in-depth when optimizing a page further.

Factors That Determine How Many Backlinks You Need

Now that you know how many backlinks are good as general targets when building your website’s authority, it’s also helpful to understand the main factors that impact this number.

Domain Authority

Domain authority is a proprietary metric that measures the overall value of a website. Most tools show domain authority as a score out of 100, derived from a calculation that considers all known backlinks. The score factors in both the number and source of these links.

While Google doesn’t specifically use domain authority, pages that rank the highest for a given search generally come from sites with higher domain authority. Basically, domain authority — along with page authority — is an indicator of rankability. Translated to the results pages, you can expect to need fewer backlinks to rank for a specific keyword if your website’s domain authority is much higher than the existing competition.

Want to see domain authority for yourself? You can do this with several tools:

  • Moz: Enter the URL in the Domain Analysis tool to see the domain authority, number of referring domains, and other info.
  • Semrush: Enter the URL in the main search bar, and you’ll find domain authority listed as Authority Score at the top of the page.
  • Ahrefs: Enter the URL in Site Explorer to see the Domain Rating and URL Rating.

Keyword Difficulty

Keyword difficulty is another metric in most SEO tools that appears under varying names. Like domain authority, it’s usually a score out of 100, with higher scores indicating increased difficulty in ranking for a specific term.

Depending on the tool, keyword difficulty generally evaluates domain authority, backlink profiles, the number of competing domains, and various other factors to reach a given score. All of these things impact how many backlinks you need to achieve the top result in search engines. Looking for keywords with lower difficulty ratings is a viable strategy to get more traffic until your website’s backlink profile grows.

The way you check keyword difficulty depends on the tool you’re using:

  • Moz: Type a term into the Keyword Research tool, and you’ll see the search volume, click-through rate, and difficulty.
  • Semrush: Start at the Keyword Overview page to see the difficulty for one term, or use Keyword Magic to compare it against similar and related terms.
  • Ahrefs: Enter a term into the Keyword Explorer tool to see the difficulty and other useful info, such as questions to target.


Competition varies dramatically across industries. For instance, look at the medical niche, and you’ll see several massive, highly trusted names, such as WebMD, Healthline, and Medscape. It’s much more difficult for newcomers to rank high when the search landscape looks like this.

However, the opposite is also true. While the internet continues to become more saturated, some industries still mainly attract small players or personal blogs. There’s also a difference between the level of competition you might expect from a small but tech-savvy site and one run by someone with little SEO experience.

In general, expect to need more backlinks from a greater number of referring domains if competition is exceptionally high in your industry. For an advantage, you’ll typically also want to gain link equity from some of the most authoritative sites in the niche.

How To Get High-Quality Backlinks

Although the number of backlinks directed at your site correlates with rankings, quality matters more than quantity. A single link from a highly trusted site within your industry almost always trumps numerous links from small blogs. Along that same vein, bad links built through spammy practices can actually hurt your rankings.

Link building is important to maintain and improve search visibility and expand your sources of referral traffic. Here are some of the best ways to approach it:

  • Guest Posting: Writing valuable and informative posts for other sites within your industry is a great way to get referral traffic and build your credibility. It also typically earns you a backlink. It’s not uncommon for guest posting to even lead to other forms of collaboration between two sites that give you more exposure to additional traffic sources.
  • Agency partnership: Work with an established link building agency to create an off-page SEO strategy.
  • Directory Submissions: When submitting to a directory, the key is to choose only niche-specific and credible directories. Some are incredibly valuable resources among people in a given industry.
  • Broken Link Building: Check for broken links on other sites and suggest a relevant page from your site as a replacement. The easiest way to find these opportunities is with tools such as Semrush.
  • Original Research: Writing your own case studies and performing original research not only positions your business as a topical authority but attracts many backlinks.
  • Social Media Sharing: Sharing your content on social media provides social traffic while also giving you more exposure. More exposure means more chances at attracting organic backlinks when people find your site.
  • Comprehensive Guides: Like original research, extensive articles and guides are highly link-worthy. To attract backlinks, aim for your pillar pages to be the most complete and helpful resource on a given topic.

The methods above fall into the category of white-hat link building — ethical practices that comply with search engine guidelines.

Black-hat techniques, in contrast, may deliver faster results with less effort, but you risk having your entire site penalized or de-listed by search engines. Avoid the following:

  • Purchasing spammy backlinks
  • Creating blog networks to direct authority back to your website
  • Engaging in link-exchange schemes
  • Using automated link-creation programs
  • Inserting spammy links into forum posts
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Tools To Monitor Your Backlink Profile

Monitoring your backlink profile is vital for two reasons:

  1. It allows you to assess the effectiveness of your link-building methods.
  2. It helps you spot spammy backlinks and negative SEO attacks.

Fortunately, you don’t have to scour the web manually to keep track of everything, as most good SEO tools include the capability to check backlinks. Here’s how to find the information you need:

  • Moz: The overview page includes a snapshot of your site’s backlink profile. You can also use the Link Explorer tool to check a competitor’s page or find more specific details about one of your own URLs.
  • Semrush: Looking at the main project page, scroll down until you see the Backlink Analytics widget. While the widget shows your backlink profile over the past 12 months, you can access further details by clicking on it or Backlink Analytics in the side menu. To find data for a specific page, navigate to the Indexed Pages section or type the URL in the top search bar.
  • Ahrefs: Site Explorer features an overview of your backlink profile. You can use it to check your entire site or specific pages. It’ll also reveal the backlink profile of your competitors if you enter those URLs.

Acquiring backlinks takes time, so regularly checking your backlink profile is essential. It’s also best to compare your profile to your competitors and set goals based on that. This will eventually allow your pages to outrank theirs when content quality and other on-page SEO factors are on point.

Build a Healthy Backlink Profile With a Dedicated Partner

As crucial as backlinks are, you can’t spend all your time worrying about them and neglecting other aspects of your SEO. Instead, leave the question of how many backlinks you need to the experts. Reach out for a free SEO consultation today, and we’ll help you build a healthy and sustainable backlink profile.

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