Backlink Generation Tips

It's No Longer A Numbers Game With Links

Tom Buckland 06 April 2018

We get a number of clients looking to build high-quality links.

It is very common that clients ask us “how many links can we build?”

The answer?


The issue?

You would not and should not want that many.

Backlinks are still the number 1 ranking factor in Google. Ahrefs even did a case study a year or so back that reviewed on-page ranking factors, determining they were less important than previously determined. Links are the single reason Google is where they are today and that is not going to change anytime soon.

What Has Changed?

In the last decade, the main elements that have changed include what links are classed as quality and which ones are classed as spammy.

Before Penguin, it was a numbers game – How many links could you build? This was an easy game because it was volume based. Ranking sites was incredibly easy and quick to do. Nowadays, as many business owners know, it is tough to rank. This is due to increased competition, but also mainly increased complexity of the algorithm.

Elements like searcher intent play a massive role in HOW you need to build out your specific ranking campaigns. This is something that everyone should learn about, as it is the core reason why websites do not rank in many cases.

Aside from searcher intent playing a major role, Google has become incredibly effective at determining spammy links, whereas previously you were penalised. In many cases now, spammy links simply have no effect on your rankings. Which is a great thing.

So what is the solution to building links in 2019 and onwards?

The Solution

Quality over Quantity

For the past 3 years it has been a quality over quantity game. However, as we go into more and more advanced algorithms (not AI yet), it is all about building an image to Google. That is all backlinks ever were. So now the importance of one or two backlinks does not actually mean all that much. Instead, it is about the overall picture your links paint.

For example, if we have 2 high quality links, great…. But no one cares.

If we have 12 great links from broad sources, again great but you will not rank all that well.


If you can generate a couple of dozen (20-30 in most cases for high competition keywords) that are extremely relevant and contain some authority, you will rank. End of. This is why you continue to see sites ranking without a  massive amount of links, but where Google ranks relevancy over authority.


We have seen this when analysing competition for a client’s niche. If you have a look at the screenshot below, you can see the SERPs look interesting.

Notice something interesting?

Relevancy outranks authority.

We have some very low authority sites ranking above the likes of and Amazon. This is something you do not see very often, but something that is a massive opportunity to an experienced optimisation company.

These are the search results we love to see, because they are easy to outrank.

In this case, having the correct on-page signals, ensuring you keep to the correct eCommerce optimisation techniques and avoid all the usual traps, plus 3 links from relevant sources, you would outrank the competition.

Why do we continue to look for “X number of links”, instead of look for “X opportunities”? I see many experienced marketers make the same mistake. Last week I wrote a highly detailed post about how we earnt 20X more as an agency, but utilising our same skills.

Forget playing the numbers game.

Instead, look for the opportunities relevant to your website or business.

Next Step?

Always remember, the two elements to a quality link: authority & relevancy.

This will not change in the near future and should be integrated into every marketing campaign, not just SEO or link building campaigns.

First, check the SERPs and see what ranks. If it is relevant, focus every part of your link building efforts on generating high quality hyper-relevant links. If it is more of an authority based serp, remember you will still need relevance, you should get those PR skills out.

Never keep score.

The scoring based mentality of link building needs to stop. Look into what is needed for a SERP, an analysis of whether achieving these links makes sense from an ROI point of view.

Oh and stop playing the “DA” game too.