Backlinks: Is there a magic formula?

As you formulate your marketing strategy you’re bound to come across the topic of backlinks, and a question that many ask at this stage is, “How many links do I need to be ranked at number one in searches?” You’ve probably guessed that there is no simple answer to this. It’s another one of those frustrating ‘it depends’ scenarios because of the number of variables involved. Ultimately, you shouldn’t be concerned about the number of links but about the amount of money you’ll have to spend to reach number one. Let’s examine some of the options and considerations to make things clearer.

Research your competition

You’ll be able to fill in a lot of the picture by finding out what your main competitors are doing and where their links are coming from. To audit your competitors’ inbound link profile, simply do a search on the term you’re targeting and note down the top 10 websites that appear. Then use a tool like to find out how many links these sites have and where the links are coming from. While you are doing this, keep an eye out for any high-quality backlinks that you may also be able to obtain. For example, if one of your competitors has a backlink from a guest blog they did on a particular site, why not approach that site to see if they’d consider a contribution from your company as well? Writing a blog for every single link is hardly an efficient way to raise your ranking, so what about the cheaper and faster alternatives?

You get what you pay for

If you’ve spent any amount of time researching backlink strategy, you’ve no doubt been bombarded with ads for cheap backlink packages, usually offering a certain number of links for a set price. They are often sold either as tiered packages or as “high PR” backlinks, but are they really any good?

Tiered backlinks

Let’s say you pay $50 for a package offering 2,000 article directory backlinks, 50 social bookmarks, and 50 web 2.0 links in the first tier. The second tier consists of 10,000 blog comments pointing to the first tier – all using spun content to cut costs and avoid duplicates. The headline numbers might make this look like great value for money, but bear in mind that only a small percentage of those thousands of links will actually be indexed – all the rest are completely useless. Another reason to avoid packages that conjure up thousands of backlinks in just a few days is link velocity. Google monitors the rate at which your site accumulates (or loses) backlinks, and if you get 3,000 links in one single day but none for the rest of the month, it’s going to be quite obvious what you’re up to. Google’s Penguin and Panda algorithms are designed to go after this type of link, so you’re really just setting yourself –and your business – up for trouble.

High PR network links

This more expensive way of obtaining backlinks provides you with links directly from website homepages but may cost you something like $150 per month. Don’t be tempted into thinking that the higher cost must deliver better results, because Google is one step ahead of this kind of strategy too. Its Disavow tool allows website owners to reject backlinks from particular sites, and if enough people get cold feet and disavow purchased links, the entire network will be under Google’s scrutiny. Google’s constant efforts to crack down own web spam mean these kinds of packages will probably end up doing your rankings more harm than good in the long run.

Google hates link spam

Google has already taken great steps in combatting link spam and is committed to the continued fight against any new schemes that pop up. If you want to get those all-important rankings, it always seems to come back to ‘quality over quantity’. A few contextual backlinks can prove far more valuable than thousands of spammy ones. Aim for backlinks from authoritative sites in the same niche as you as some of that authority who will be transferred to your rankings through the links you obtain. You can now see that the question “How many links will it take to reach the top spot?” misses the point. The key is to get good-quality backlinks and keep building them up at a faster rate than your competitors. Forget those high-volume link packages as they will have little effect on your rankings in the long term and may even serve to damage the reputation of your business.

You don’t have to do it alone

Having established that a one-size-fits-all approach just won’t work, what are your options? Well, you could do some more research and try to set up a campaign by yourself, but this requires a lot of time and effort and the results could be quite hit-and-miss. The other option is to get help from an SEO expert. If you have a small business the cost of hiring a professional SEO agency may seem hard to justify. But can you afford not to, if your competitors already have their SEO strategy on track and are jumping ahead of you in the rankings? An SEO agency will begin by carrying out an SEO audit of your site to establish how it is currently set up. With the groundwork done, they will then start tweaking your site and putting a link-building strategy in place. This process may cost you around $2,000, but you will gain valuable insight into how you can rival your competitors through SEO. From there, you may be looking at anything between $1,000 and $5,000 per month for a solid link-building campaign, depending on the number and quality of the links provided. To find out how can help you with your SEO and link-building strategy, just drop us a line.