One of the most common questions people ask once they understand the importance of links and authority-building is: how many links do I need to rank?
In some ways this is an immensely complicated question, and in others it’s very simple. I like to offer the Grizzly Solution in the form of the kind of word problem we used to get in math class:
The Grizzly Solution:
Let us imagine that you and I are taking a stroll in beautiful Yellowstone National Park. We are all alone in a large field when we hear a startling noise from the tree line. We turn to look and a fully grown grizzly bear, ursus horribilus, comes crashing out and charges straight at us, roaring with fury.
The fight or flight instinct takes over in both of our brains: we scream a high-pitched shriek and run for our lives. There’s no way we’re fighting that.
Now, a fully grow adult grizzly bear can run at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. So how fast do I have to run to avoid getting eaten by the bear?
Think about it for a moment: how fast do I need to run? If you answered 31 miles per hour, you chose… poorly.
The answer, of course, is that I just have to run faster than you. The bear catches you first, and I flee into the sunset while you get munched. And it’s the same with links: you need more than your competition.
Quantity & Quality
Of course, as we know by now, it’s not just a matter of the quantity of links that our site and our pages have. The quality of the links is even more important. We need to look not just at the raw number of links, but at the number of linking domains, at the authority of those domains, how related those pages and sites are to our site, the position of the links on the page, how much PageRank is flowing out of each of those links: the overall mix of link characteristics.
This, as you can see, is where it becomes immensely complicated. A page with a dozen linking domains can absolutely outrank a page with a hundred linking domains, if those dozen are better links, or more topically relevant links.
You can never say with certainty how many links you need because you can’t say with certainty exactly what the qualities of the links you’ll acquire are. It’s not just a matter of X PageRank 3 links and Y PageRank 4 links.
But from the big picture, the best rough estimate is that you probably want more linking domains than your competition (both to your site, and to your target page). Just know that higher quality links can allow you to rank faster, and low quality links may not count for anything at all.
And from the very big picture, the answer is that you always want more links.