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October 30, 2009

How Many Links Does It Take To Get To The Middle Of Google Page One?

Everyday it seems, people are asking me the optimum numbers of inbound links they need to acquire for their website in order to rank well in Google.

My answer is going to seem a little flip, but it is the honest, best answer.

Answer: You need more inbound links – of equal or higher quality – than what your competitors have.

Albert Einstein argued that any mathematical formula that required pages of calculations did not contain within it “the mind of God”.

So when Albert Einstein developed E=mc2, then Einstein had fulfilled the promise of a simple formula that could encompass the brilliance of God.

When people wonder as to how many inbound links they might need to acquire in order to rank in the Top 4 of Google’s search results or even the Top 10 of Google’s SERPs, they are generally hoping that someone will be able to give them a numeric answer, so that they know whether they can afford to undertake the process or not.

I understand the WHY of the question, but there is no canned answer that will work for everyone.

Remember, your competitor may be asking the same question and undertaking the same processes as you are, trying to accomplish the same goal.

No one can truly begin to understand the answer to this question, until one has take the time to do an Inbound Link Comparison Analysis of all of your competitors in the Top 10 spots of Google’s SERPs.

  • You need to look at the Top 10 listings in Google for a particular keyword.
  • You need to do backlink checks for all ten URLs in Google’s search listings, and you need to check those numbers across a variety of sources, including Google, Yahoo and any other tool you can find to do a check. (Google and Yahoo both tend to understate the actual link counts. While Yahoo will show you more than what Google does, they also show a number of “no consequence” links in their results.)
  • You need to look at the quality of a few of the pages that offer links to the URLs in the search results.

This is not an easy process to undertake. I have done it before, but the best you can hope for is a “snapshot” of what is out there, and therefore, what you need to accomplish.

Note: If Wikipedia turns up in your search query, few people with small budgets will ever be able to dislodge Wikipedia in the search results. What they make up for in a small number of inbound links, they more than make up for with links from dozens or hundreds of PR4, PR5 and PR6 pages. Wikipedia is the king of Internal Linking, and they use that to a great degree to rank extraordinarily high in Google’s search listings.

Your analysis should seek to uncover how many links a page has to it.

As a general rule of thumb, Google will show you less than 1% of the existing number of links for a web page. Yahoo will sometimes show closer to 5% of the existing number of links for a web page, but they will not show you the highest quality of those links.

So, as you strive to gain a “snapshot” picture of the playing field, you want to take Google’s Inbound Links number and multiply that by at least 100. Then you want to take Yahoo’s Inbound Links number and multiply that by at least 20, then cut the number in half to acknowledge the number of worthless crap links they have in their database. Once you have achieved these two numbers, then I tend to call the truth “somewhere in the middle”.

With your “somewhere in the middle” number in hand, then you need to look at the quality of links to a few of those search listings, to get an idea of whether those links exist on higher quality pages or simply junk pages.

If those links are on junk pages, then the goal could be achieved by just working the numbers. But if there are a lot of high PageRank pages in the mix, then whatever number is in your hand, should be multiplied, perhaps 100-fold, to overcome the quality of pages that link to your competitors.

If you get the idea that my simple formula leads to a complicated answer, then you are right.

All of the numbers that I have included in my sample formula are based on rough speculation, as the “snapshot” offers you your best hope of understanding the challenge in front of you.

While the number of inbound links may be relatively easy to determine, the link quality is a factor that is really hard to pin down.

  • If you determine that you only need 300 inbound links to rank with the big boys, you may be right.
  • Your 300 inbound links number should also be quantified against the number of links that Google will count worthy, so you may need 1200 links to get 300 links that Google will deem worthy. This calculation depends more on the “quality of your content”, rather than the “quantity of your content”.
  • When all is said and done and your 300 Google-worthy links have not yet put you on page one, then you know that the quality of the links pointing at your competitors is greater than the quality of the links pointing to you.

If you were hoping for an easy answer, I am sorry that I could not help you with that.

But with this explanation of the challenge, you may be better prepared to answer the big question, the question that is really on your mind:

=== Are my hopes of achieving good rankings in Google within my reach?

I tend to throw “worry” to the wind and just start working. I don’t worry if I can afford to do it or not. I simply start doing, and I know that in one month, one year or five, I will have built enough value in my website that my competitors are going to be the ones who are trying to figure out if they can unseat me!


Bill Platt has provided SEO services since 2004. In 2009, he transformed his SEO service, into one that helps people defeat negative search results in Google. By improving the rank of positive website reviews in the search results, negative search listings begin to disappear from the public eye. If you would like to learn more about how Bill’s Reputation Management SEO service can help your business, visit: http://911reputation.com/ Bill has also owned http://thePhantomWriters.com/ since 2001.

Read more articles written by: Bill Platt

18 Responses to “How Many Links Does It Take To Get To The Middle Of Google Page One?

    Good read. And I guess the “big” question can not be answered in a easier way.

    avatar Debbie says:

    Very nice post. The bigger problem is how to explain this to your clients :-)

    […] SiteProNews: Webmaster News & Resources » Blog Archive » How Many … […]

    avatar Mark Eddison says:

    Good read but still clouding the issue that good content on an informative site will easily beat even a slightly poorer site with 000’s of links.

    avatar MasterLinker says:

    Bill wrote a pretty good article, but it’s a little too simplified to really be valuable.

    Two points he failed to really accentuate are:

    1. Anchor text in the links is extremely important
    2. The amount of “Link Juice” each link provides is equally important

    While the overall number of links to your website helps increase your site’s overall credibility (i.e. – PageRank), what is more important in trying to rank higher in search results for a specific keyword are the links you have for that keyword.

    For example, if you want to rank first for “Home-made chili recipes” and you have 1,000 backlinks pointing to your website with “cooking ideas” as the anchor text, then those links will NOT help you rank higher than your competitor who has 50 backlinks with “home-made chili recipes” in the anchor text for all of its backlinks.

    However, this assumes all backlinks are valued equally by Google and other search engines, which we know is not true.

    So you could have 1,000 backlinks to your website with “home-made chili recipes” as the anchor text and your competitor could have 50 backlinks with the same anchor text, and they could rank MUCH higher in search results that you. How is that possible? It all depends upon how much “link juice” each link passes to your website. If all of your links are from PR0 or PR1 websites and your competitor’s links are from PR5 and PR6 websites you competitor will have a LOT more link juice coming into their website for those keywords and they will rank higher.

    So boiling down how to rank higher than your competitors in search results to the overall number of links as the determining factor in ranking higher in search results is very misleading. The correct analysis is much more in-depth.

    avatar MasterLinker says:

    A counter-point to Mark Edison’s point shown above:

    According to Google (Matt Cutts) if you have 500 pages of EXCELLENT content but no links, that content will not help you. The reason is the more links you have to your website, the deeper GoogleBot will crawl your website. If you have few links to your website then GoogleBot will NOT take the time to deeply crawl your site and index all of that valuable content.

    So, content is very important but backlinks are still they key to ranking higher in search results.

    The important point to remember about this post is this is not my opinion, it is factual information directly from Google.

    Good luck everybody in your efforts to top search results!

    avatar Paul Heim says:

    Very well put article. Thank you for your candid answers. I have been doing just that formula but your advice has shown me I was on the right road.

    avatar Dave Kuchler says:

    The value of a web page is based not on the content, but the content.
    ok so that makes no sense, nor does the amount of incoming links, in relation to you’re page ranking in Google.
    I have few inbound links, most come from fairly ranked web sites though, and yet if you type almost all my keywords, with the city and state, our site is page one, why i have no idea, how i have no idea, but it is, i rarely update the site, which i know helps, its not that informational, which i know would help, and yet the results are the same. If the day comes when someone can nail down exactly what it takes to get to the top, we will all be in trouble because we can not all be at the top.
    Best of Luck with You’re web sites, and a Great Day ahead.

    avatar Brye says:

    Some good food for thought above… It’s true the search engines have a vested interest in keeping you in the dark regarding the true number of back links pointing to any particular site, perhaps to counter reverse engineering. The important facts are quality of inbound link – relevance of the linking site – anchor text linking to your site – number of links and depth of linking i.e. linking to deeper pages within the site with silo structures… I suggest using a link building tool to automate the process and concentrate on building relevant, quality anchor text back links. The tool I use if free…

    avatar Ty Whalin says:

    Great guick read. It brings to light how difficult it can be to achieve higher rankings with just links from various places. Nica analogy if you ask me…

    avatar Jim Johnson says:

    Well Bill I am interested in what you can do for my site. fha-mortgage-everett

    avatar Bob Jupiter says:

    Some keywords we have built articles and links for and had great success. Other keywords we have followed the exact same process for link building and had more challenges. I find it bizarre!

    avatar myPhysio says:

    Thanks for the information. It helps explain why some of my links dont show on Google and/or Yahoo.

    avatar Bill Platt says:

    Hello Everyone. I have enjoyed reading your comments.

    MasterLinker: You are right about the keyword text being important and that my article was oversimplified, by omiting that mention. The goal of the article was to attempt to simplify the difficult challenge of understanding the process.

    Bob Jupiter: Your experience is part of the reason why this article was written. To understand how one set of articles can achieve one set of results, while the next set cannot achieve the same results, is more often a refelection of what your competition has done before you came along. 😉

    There is no easy way to understand all of the factors involved in getting top rankings in Google, but this article should have at least laid a good solid foundation for understanding some of the challenges.

    avatar sargon Odisho says:

    From my experience. Yes and No, first true Google will show you may be 1% of links however Yahoo site explorer will show you almost 100% of index links in Yahoo.
    my real question is for you. how do you spot the link quality? and particular how to spot the bad links that will have negative effect on your site.

    avatar MasterLinker says:

    Sargon,

    Google will only show you a small percentage of links if you type LINKS:sitename into their browser. However, if you register for a Google Webmaster account you will see a much larger percentage of your links. Google did this to help limit your competitors’ access to your link info.

    Regarding spotting link quality, that is very difficult. Right now the only gauge available is Google PageRank, despite the fact that Google says this is no longer a true representation of a site’s value.

    Spotting bad links to your website is not necessary. Google has publicly stated on many occasions that bad links to your site won’t count against you because you don’t have control over who links TO your site. Otherwise, people could send a ton of bad links to their competitors’ sites and get them penalized by Google. As a result, Google disregards these links to your site and you don’t get any credit for them (good or bad).

    However, your outbound links are another story since you have complete control who you link to from your site. If you have outbound links to bad sites or bad neighborhoods, Google WILL penalize you for these links. So you must be very judicious in who you link to.

    Again, this information is not my opinion…it is directly from Google.

    I hope this helps…good luck!

    Tom

    avatar Annarogers says:

    Nice information, I really appreciate the way you presented.

    well 2 years later, and our page has slipped down many pages in some searches, depends on teh keyword used. I have added outbound links, and have tripled our inbound links with quality inbound links, content is updated regular, and now im going backwards. HELP
    a search of trucking oakland, and you find Fargo.com as first non paid link, this site is incredibly poor, yet we are page 10 under this search term with 10 times the content, and updated links, and everything works, now first page this search is ABtrucking.com, paid, which has half the links at the bottom of the first page broken, absolutely incredible this site could rank # 1 paid.

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