Clients always ask us how many backlinks they need to rank number one, and our response has always remained the same.

It depends on so many factors, but the main ones are your niche, what you are trying to achieve, and the keywords you want to use.

While there isn’t a set way of calculating the numbers, we know that all rankings start with a particular keyword, so depending on that keyword, the number of backlinks required will vary.

But there is more to it than just the keyword, so we’re going to show you the exact steps we take to figure out the number of backlinks you roughly need to rank number one for your keyword.

  1. Keyword Research
  2. Backlink audit
  3. Identify your competitors 
  4. Analyse your competition
  5. On-site optimisation

1. Keyword Research

The first step we take to find out the number of backlinks you need is by analysing your keyword/keywords that you wish to rank for. 

Each keyword is different.

Low competition keywords with less traffic are generally easier to rank for and need fewer links, while high competition keywords will need more backlinks and time to see results.

Depending on what our clients want to achieve, we choose the most appropriate target keywords based on:

  1. Search volume 
  2. Relevancy 
  3. Competition 


2. Backlink Audit

Before we can go any further, we first make sure to get to know your website. 

The audit helps us gain insight into your existing backlinks and spot new keyword opportunities. 

Here are some of the important things we find out during an audit:

  1. How many backlinks do you have?
  2. What are the backlinks’ anchor text?
  3. How many referring domains are there?
  4. What are the authority of the referring domains?
  5. How many quality backlinks do you have?
  6. Are there any negative ones?
  7. What types of links do you currently have?

3. Identify Your Competitors 

Every industry has a different level of competition, and most websites on the first page, if not all, have implemented SEO strategies.

Just like anything else, studying the competition is the key ingredient to success, so after the keyword research and the backlink audit, we focus on finding your competitors.

We use the chosen keywords to find your top competitors on SERP and find out how many backlinks they have for those particular keywords.

In general, if you are in a competitive niche, you will need more backlinks to reach number one. 

For example, in our niche, we have to compete with other agencies and marketers who also know how to do SEO, and that makes it even more difficult to rank.

4. Analyse Your Competition 

Analysing your competition helps us discover how strong their backlinks and rankings are and what you need to outrank them.

So once we have figured out who number one is for your chosen keyword, we use Ahrefs to quickly find the number of backlinks they have built for that keyword to rank.

Although the numbers give us an idea of how many links you need to rank, we recognise and know the importance of discovering all the other factors that affect the numbers.

Let’s break it down – if your competitor has 80 backlinks for your chosen keyword and you build 90, there are no guarantees that you will outrank them.

That’s because not all backlinks have the same value, and the biggest mistake most marketers make is focusing solely on the numbers.

Google is now smarter than ever, and just like it can recognise keyword stuffing and duplicate content, it won’t appreciate and trust low quality links either.

So to give you the best estimate, we find as much as we can about their backlinks profile and here are some of the main details we focus on:

  1. Check their domain authority – According to Ahrefs, “ it shows how strong the overall backlink profile of a given website is on a logarithmic scale from 1 to 100 (with latter being the strongest).”
  2. Find the number of backlinks they have built for your targeted keyword
  3. Study and analyse the anchor texts in their backlinks
  4. Find the percentage of keyword-focused anchor texts
  5. Check the types of links 
  6. How many dofollows/nofollows – According to Google, “nofollows do not pass any PageRank”
  7. Asses the authority and relevancy of the sites providing their backlinks


5. On-Site Optimisation 

While backlinks will certainly help you reach number one, you also need to pay attention to on-page optimisation.

The closer we get your website to the first page, the more competitive it gets.

So we always recommend on-page SEO to make sure you get the most of the backlinks you build. 

If you focus on getting quality and relevant backlinks, but your on-page elements are not optimised, then you will lose out to your competitors instead.

Why is this important? It’s simple because all search engines find it difficult to crawl a poorly optimised website. 

Here are some of the main areas to focus on when optimising:

  1. Error codes
  2. Indexability issues
  3. Redirect chain issues
  4. Image size, alt, and broken analysis
  5. File size issues
  6. Performance issues such as loading times etc
  7. JS and CSS file issues
  8. The title tag, the header tag, and meta description issues
  9. Social Tag


Final Thoughts

Throughout the years, we have seen many clients stop building links as soon as they reach number one.

And every time a client stops, they suffer a serious drop in rankings, and we see their competitors quickly overtake them.

You need to understand that link building is an ongoing process, and there are no set formulas or numbers to reach and remain number one.

If you stop, you lose it all, and that is just how it works in the world of SEO, so make sure to continue building links naturally on a consistent basis using blogger outreach and niche edits.