How many links will I need to rank for…

It’s a question I hear a lot from prospective clients.

  • Some SEOs say “one or two big links”
  • Some say it depends on the 300 other factors that affect Google Rankings
  • Some say it all depends on content
  • Others say content is irrelevant it is JUST about the links.

The problem is that none of these answers is especially helpful to the in-house SEO asking the question. If they are inexperienced they feel they are being fed a pat answer. If they are experience they already know that the answer is impossible to give.

They need numbers or graphics that they can put in-front of non-digital marketers and say “here’s my business case”. If – as SEOs – we are going to say links are an important element (And they are. For sure.), then we need to help them see what the scale of the challenge.

At Receptional, they have set their newest recruit, James Hare, onto generating relatively quick numbers to help a client see the scale of the challenge. They plan to use this analysis as part of a free link audit to help clients understand their position. Below is a table of the top sites on Google for the phrase “free bets”, showing the anchor text numbers directed towards the domain, and then anchor text relevant links to the deep url.

Website Goo Pos PR Dom. Links Ext. Links cont. “free” Ext. Links cont. “bets” 1 6 1,091 465 438 2 4 489 1,363 1,076 3 5 3,432 836 378 4 4 54 73 45 5 5 807 494 341 6 3 633 362 353 7 5 565 192 68 8 3 212 989 970 9 5 2,199 811 742 10 3 304 222 216

(Data from the Link Intelligence at Majestic SEO)

Now whilst everything is as clear as mud, with this data in isolation, it does signify the scale of the challenge ahead fro anyone wanting to enter this space. They are probably going to need citations from maybe 300-1000 sites to start competing with these guys. Can they get there with 2 instead of 300? unlikely in this case. Are many of those link in the table discounted by Google? Almost certainly. But in the natural scheme of things, These are the sites that Google has chosen to show you on that phrase from the UK today – and the table shows the relative spread of links to these deep URLS. Sure – there are 200-300 other factors. But the client asked about links.

Please don’t shout at me and tell me the table is without foundation! I know that in itself it is not enough. This is only the start of Receptional’s link audit process, and the tools coming online now are helping to push strategies toward quality over quantity (although JCPenny clearly shows that there is more than one way to skin a cat). Given that I don’t want to recommend the “let’s get links from non-related sites, just to trigger the algo” approach, what other metrics might you use to help the client quantify the risks and rewards ahead? Semrush and Majestic together looks like an impressive combination from where I site right now.

Thanks again to James Hare for putting together the table.