As an agency offering link building services, we very often get this question from our clients: ‘How many links should I build to rank for a certain keyword?’. Of course, this is a very difficult question to answer. We are all well aware that links are not the only ranking factor. Though they are one of the top two alongside content, so it is a very good starting point.
What is really important to understand is that every SEO strategy has to evolve around competition, do it better than how your competitor is doing it, offer more value and relevance to users than them and Google will reward you by ranking your results higher. Links are no exception to this simplistic SEO rule.
What is link planning?
Link planning is the process of calculating how many links you should build to your important pages to rank for your targeted keywords. The planning report is based on analysis of competitors that already rank for the chosen keywords. This is a good approach because they already rank, so they must be doing it right.
Link planning can help you to optimally distribute your links over your pages. This way, you:
- Achieve the best results for your overall SEO campaign.
- Avoid a penalty from Google by staying in line with everyone else.
- Don’t waste money on links you don’t need.
- Know how many links you need, so you won’t get too few links.
Which keyword to target
In general, we believe that targeting a single keyword is a very dated SEO method. Instead, we would go with semantically related keywords or a cloud of keywords. People do not search in one single way; we need to take this into consideration. This is exactly why most of your SEO efforts should start with a keyword research.
For the sake of simplicity though, we are going to choose one keyword: “medical negligence”. A keyword that we have worked with in the past on one of our most successful projects.
Ideally the URL that we want to rank looks like this: https://www.yourbrand.co.uk/medical-negligence.
We want to know:
How many links do I need to rank?
The link planning process has three steps that are explained below.
- Step 1 – Overview
- Step 2 – Link Quality vs Quantity
- Step 3 – Link Plan
Let’s take them one by one.
Step 1 – Overview
To start, we learn the context of our analysis by having a look at the top 9 sites that rank for the target keyword (“medical negligence”) on google.co.uk. In order to compile this data we use SEMrush to get the websites ranking on positions 1 – 9 for the term.
We only select recent links (fresh majestic index) and the data sheet looks like this:
Step 2 – Quality vs Quantity
Links are not just a number. It is very important to understand that one good link equals 100’s of lower quality ones. In order to get an overview of the quality vs quantity needed, we can aggregate all of the links built per domain per month over the last six months to get a better estimation of the amount of links each competitor is getting (some pivot table skills are required to do this.) At the same time, we split the amount of links based on their Trust Flow, (this is our preferred link metric).
Finally, we come up with a graph that looks like this:
This shows the amount of new domains (not links) that ALL of the competitors got in the last 6 months, divided by Trust Flow bands.
It is evident that most of the links were between TF 11 and 50. In general we do not want to build links that are weaker from the domain they are pointing to, so we would focus on only links with a TF 20 plus.
The above graph also shows to us that the industry we are researching (legal – medical) is getting some high quality links as well (TF<80). This is a good indicator that if we want to compete in this industry we should definitely consider some very high quality editorial links.
Step 3 – Link Plan
Everything should be very straightforward now. You need to divide the amount of links per month and per TF band. This can be done manually, just fire up a calculator or a simple excel formula. Usually, as we handle large amounts of data, we use more complicated solutions. In any case, you just need to come up with a number.
This is a 12 month link plan. You will notice that the number of links increase after month two, this is a recommendation in case your domain is new to link building in order for everything to appear natural to search engines.
Does this look like a big challenge? We are always happy to help, just get in touch.