How many Backlinks do I need to rank on the first page of Google?
Update: You can now read the second part of my backlink experiment after 6 months. What works for Google and what doesn’t?
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How many times have you asked yourself this question? Maybe 10, 50 or more than 100 times?
Well, I have good news for you. You don’t need thousands or even hundreds of backlinks.
It turns out you don’t need that much, and that’s good because Google has changed its algorithm from quantity, to quantity and quality. But quality is more important now.
In fact, you can make it to the first page of Google with just a few backlinks and I bet you can count them with the fingers from your hands and feet. Do you want me to prove it?
Let’s make an experiment!
After one year of creating Stream SEO, I’ve built around 4,100 backlinks (verified with Majestic SEO) and I have a few articles positioned in the first page of Google already. Some of them are even on the first 3 results shown, and those are bringing me a good chunk of traffic now.
But guess what?
I haven’t build a lot of backlinks to those articles. Some of them have 2-3 backlinks. The best ones have 10-15 backlinks only. And I’m not the only one saying this. There’s a recent article at SEOMOZ explaining how a guy achieved this with 13 backlinks. All of them with different anchor text.
So, let’s make an experiment again. I’ll try to rank one of my recent articles on the first page of Google and see how it works. I might need some help from you here, but I’ll do my best on my own and show you all the results.
Have a look at the keyword research analysis at Market Samurai. I’m using phrase match type and here’s the number of visitors I could receive on a monthly basis while being at the first result on Google search results.
So basically, that is 546 visits per month on the Squarespace Review keyword, and 302 visits if I rank first on the Squarespace vs WordPress keyword.
Right now, I’m already ranking with both of them on the first 100 results, but not on the first 10 results (first page). Here are my rank tracker results so I can be totally transparent with you:
The first column shows Google’s search engine rankings and then comes Bing and Yahoo. It usually takes a lot more to rank on Bing and Yahoo (a few months) while it takes me a pair of weeks to get into the first 100 results on Google.
So right now I’m in number 18 and 21, and as you can see, I’ve moved up and down on both keywords recently (red means going down and green means going up!).
Now this test wouldn’t be interesting it the keywords were super easy to beat, or extremely difficult. Both keywords have some competitors. Some of them easy to beat and some of them not that much. Here’s how it looks.
As you can see, there are a lof of reviews out there, and one of them comes from a Youtube video. Also, results #7 and 8 are directly from the squarespace official page, but those are from one of their apps, not directly form their web hosting service.
Squarespace vs WordPress:
Now this one looks more interesting. The results look easier to beat, but there’s a powerful result coming from the Forbes magazine website. Aside from that, the first result comes from a page with exact match domain (who said Google’s EMD update took all of them away?) and result #9 comes from Squarespace forum.
My plan – How many backlinks do I need?
I’m going to start testing this week, from February 10 (2013). I’ll try to build no more than 1-3 backlinks per week (quality backlinks, no SPAM or spun content) and then track everything back with Market Samurai’s rank tracker as I’ve shown you before.
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Then I’ll quickly update this article every week and let you know the results. I want you to notice everything in the process, so I’m including the pages where I’m getting the backlinks and even the anchor text.
And about anchor text, I’ll be very careful and use different anchor text every time, or at least keep my main keyword no higher than 25% of the backlinks created.
I’ll try different keywords like:
- Squarespace Review
- Squarespace 6 Review
- Squarespace vs WordPress
- Squarespace vs. WordPress
- WordPress vs Squarespace
- WordPress alternatives
- and know knows what else depending on the topic
Week 0: February 10
- Backlinks created this week: 0
- Position on Google (Squarespace Review): 21
- Position on Google (Squarespace vs WordPress): 18
This was the first week and the articles had 0 backlinks. However, if I remember correctly, I created a few (less than 5 backlinks) while commenting on commentluv enabled plugins. Both articles are on the 2nd or 3rd page of Google and they’ve been there for almost a month or so.
Week 1: February 17
- Backlinks Created this week: 2
- Position on Google (Squarespace Review): 18
- Position on Google (Squarespace vs WordPress): 14
- Position on Yahoo (Squarespace vs WordPress): 5
This week I decided to create 2 backlinks from different domains: Hubpages and Squidoo.
Those aren’t backlinks on cheap comments or articles just made for get a backlink with a low quality content. I wrote 2 different articles which I think will rank well on both sites both of them related to Squarespace.
For my Squarespace Review both backlinks have the same Anchor Text: “Review”
For my Squarespace vs WordPress comparison, one of them has “Squarespace vs WordPress Analysis” as anchor text and the other one is “Squarespace vs WordPress Comparison“.
As you can see, both of them got better rankings and are know located on position 14 and 18 on the second page of google.
Additionally, I’d like to pop out that my Squarespace vs WordPress comparison appeared on the first page of Yahoo this week! How? I don’t know. But I’ve seen that many times when i have a good article ranked on Google, it will rank high on Yahoo and Bing too. If I’m on the 2nd or 3rd page of Google, most probably I’m on the first page of Yahoo and/or Bing already.
Less competition, I guess…
Week 2: February 24
To be Honest this has been a pretty hectic week for me. I’ve been working until late at the office and had no time to build backlinks to my articles. As you can see, I barely posted 1 new article here at Stream SEO too. However, here are the good news:
- Backlinks Created this week: 0
- Position on Google (Squarespace Review): 16
- Position on Google (Squarespace vs WordPress): 11
- Position on Bing (Squarespace vs WordPress): 4
- Position on Yahoo (Squarespace vs WordPress): 6
The new surprise here is that even when I didn’t make any extra backlinks this week, I was still able to scale 2-4 more places on Google search rankings.
That’s really good.
And also my article is now ranking on the 4st result of Bing, while Yahoo decided to drop my article 1 position only. So basically, I’m on the first page of Yahoo and Bing, and 1 position away to appear on the first page of Google too! I’m happy.
But there’s more.
See that little number at the right of the URL on the image above? It’s showing backlinks (BLP).
That means I have 2 backlinks for my Squarespace Review but 8 backlinks to my Squarespace vs WordPress comparison???
So I fired the SEO competition module and added both URLs to get the source of those backlinks and i found something interesting. All these backlinks appearing on my rank tracker are backlinks created by commenting 1 month ago or so on January/December. They finally decided to appear here and they’re giving me some juice already!
Who said good quality comments on other blogs didn’t work?
Anyway, that’s how this business works. Work now and reap the rewards later. Also, I’m curious to know what will happen when my 2 articles created from Hubpages and Squidoo are added to the algorithm. Those, and a pair of extra backlinks I’m creating the next week on 2.0 websites (each one with it’s own original article).
Stay tuned! I’m so close to appear on the first page of the 3 mayor search engines, and then I’m fighting to get into the first 3 results.
Week 3: March 3
This week I’ve been creating backlinks from comments only. No more posts until I see if they’re getting indexed or not. Even though it’s difficult to know.
Most of the comments I’ve done have a backlink to those specific pages using commentluv and my comment strategy.
- Backlinks Created this week: 5 (comments)
- Position on Google (Squarespace Review): 22 (dropped)
- Position on Google (Squarespace vs WordPress): 3
- Position on Bing (Squarespace vs WordPress): 4
- Position on Yahoo (Squarespace vs WordPress): 5
As you can see, my Squarespace vs. WordPress article now ranks 3 on Google and it’s on 4 and 5 for Bing and Yahoo.
At this point, I’m getting around 20-30 visits per day on this article, which means I’m getting almost 1 thousand visitors per month. If you watch my first impressions on the number of visits I researched with Market Samurai, you’ll see that originally, I was expecting to get 300 more visitors when ranking on the first result, however I’m getting much more than that thanks to other long tail keywords which I’m not tracking yet.
In fact, just as I’m writing this update my keyword seems to be ranked on number 2! (Market Samurai’s Rank Tracker updates each Thursday.
This is why I always recommend to look for long tail keywords and expect at least Exact Match results (don’t expect broad results to appear ASAP).
My Squarespace review has dropped a few places and this looks natural to me. I didn’t build any backlinks for this article yet because I got happy about my results. It dropped 6 places and I hope to get it back later. For now, I’ll focus on the other article as it’s giving me results already.
Week 4: March 10
I went out to Cancun (yeah!) for business reasons I really wasn’t able to work on my experiment that much. That said, I was able to create at least 3 backlinks from comments, especially targeted to the WordPress vs. Squarespace article. Here are the results for this week!
- Backlinks Created this week: 3 (comments)
- Position on Google (Squarespace Review): 36 / 42 (read below)
- Position on Google (Squarespace vs WordPress): 2
- Position on Bing (Squarespace vs WordPress): 0 (dropped out from Bing)
- Position on Yahoo (Squarespace vs WordPress): 4
Let’s start with the Squarespace vs. WordPress article.
In short, it’s doing great. This week I’m receiving between 40-50 visits per day just for this article, which is WAY HIGHER than the original expectations from Exact Match results. This means I’m getting around 1,300 visitors per month just for this article (4 times bigger than expected) from different long tail keywords. I wonder how much traffic will I receive if I hit the number 1 spot.
Note aside, I’ve been dropped from Bing results this week. I don’t know why, but still, Bing wasn’t really giving me traffic. Google is my primary source and it’s rocking.
But if you didn’t notice, I now have 296 backlinks to this article! How is this possible if I haven’t build that much?
I fired up the SEO competition module and discovered that many backlinks are coming from a blog I don’t even know. I think I left a comment one day and since this blog is using the “Top Commenters” plugin I might have appeared on the sidebar for every page, creating so many backlinks at the time and now they’re indexed.
This is funny, because I’m not there anymore, and I wonder what will happen later when Google can’t find those backlinks anymore. Time will tell.
Here are my results for my Squarespace Review article:
Ugh, looking bad.
So bad that even my Squarespace comparison is ranking better than my review at this moment for the same keyword!
As you can notice, even though I build a few backlinks they’re not indexed yet, so I still see only 2 backlinks on my Market Samurai Tracker. I guess I’ll put more attention to this article now that other one is doing good alone.
This is where I could use some help
I’m not asking you to create backlinks or anything like that for me. But if you find this experiment interesting and would like to give me some feedback or simply want to share it with another person, please do so.
Share it, +1 it, like it, pin it or whatever.
I’d just like to make it easy and I’ll report updates every week. I want to probe I’m correct (or maybe not) and show you how I positioned some of my articles on the first page of Google.
This can be done again, and it’s all about creating quality backlinks. Forget about buying thousands of backlinks or using softwares and black-hat techniques. Those won’t help you. And if they do, it won’t last for that long. I promise. Shall we start?