Analyzing Backlinks: How Many Do You Need?

We've discussed web page optimization, link building, and an effective link building strategy... so you know that you need backlinks to your pages in order for them to rank well in the major search engines.

But how many backlinks do you need?

The answer is: the number it takes to out-rank a competing page. If both pages are equally optimized for the same keyword phrase, and in most cases even if they're not, it's the number of backlinks that will determine who ranks highest for that search query. But not just the number of backlinks...

Why Some Sites Rank Higher Than Others... With Fewer Backlinks

Often, when analyzing backlinks, you'll notice that a page with fewer links outranks a page that has more. The reason for this is in the quality of those links. Link Popularity is the number of inbound links, Link Reputation is the quality of those links. Quality is determined by a number of factors:

The type of link - article directory, social bookmark, etc. The variation in link types. The location of the link (content area vs footer, for example). The relevancy of the page linking to it, the anchor text used in the link, etc.

Another factor is the total number of unique domains linking to that page. Three links from one domain will not carry as much weight as three links from three different domains.

A little digging in the competing page's list of backlinks can usually tell you exactly what it would take to outrank that page with your own. All you need is more total links, or higher quality links than theirs.

How To Analyze Backlinks

This method works well whether you want to analyze your own backlinks, or those of a web page you are competing with for placement in the search results.

Since inbound links (off-page optimization) carry so much weight in Google rankings, this is the one area you'll do most of your competition analysis.

Here’s the quick & easy process I use to analyze backlinks:

  • Search your chosen keyword phrase at
  • Click through the top results, and view the web page.
  • Copy the URL of that page from the address bar.
  • Go to and use the search bar…
  • Type in “link:” and then paste in the URL of the page.

example- link:

That will take you to Yahoo Site Explorer and will show you the total number of inbound links to that specific web page (URL). Once you’re there, you can use the drop-down box to select “except from this domain” to exclude all of that site's internal links and see only the inbound links from other domains.

It’s easier than it sounds once I type it all out – give it a try and you’ll see it actually only takes a minute tops. A lot of people use fancy software programs, browser plugins or various other methods. I like to keep it simple.

Let's walk through this together so you can see exactly how it's done:

Tip: use the buttons in the lower right hand corner of the video to view it in HQ (high quality), or to view it in full screen mode.

What you're looking for is the total number of backlinks to that page, and the total number of external backlinks (not including the site's own internal linking). I tend to go for less competitive keyword phrases, and rule out competing with large numbers of backlinks and/or obvious authority sites.

That said, sometimes the number of backlinks alone can be deceiving so you may want to dig a little deeper. If they have a lot of backlinks and you really want to compete for their spot, then you can analyze the quality of those backlinks.

When analyzing a list of backlinks, count the actual number of unique domains linking to that page. If there are 5 links from one domain, count that as just one. You can also click through each link in the list, and look for the backlink.

See where it is placed on the page, as links within the content area carry more weight than links in static areas of the site: sidebar, footer, navigation, etc.

How relevant is the content to the page it's linking to? Is it a pet site linking to a dog page (relevant), or a gardening blog leading to a dog page (not relevant)?

Also see if they are using your keyword phrase as the anchor text for that link.

The most important part of that research is to count the number of instances they use your keyword phrase in the anchor text. The total number of those links... will tell you how many links you need with that exact anchor text to out-rank the page.

While you're analyzing the backlinks of competing web pages, you'll often find great sources for inbound links for your own page. Look at who is linking to their page, and how, and make notes of places you can get your own link on that page - or on similar pages. Your competitors backlinks are a goldmine of link sources!

Watch the video, try it out, and see for yourself how simple this is 😉


p.s. Next we'll look at ways to get high quality inbound links, and exactly what types of links you'll need for your pages to rank well in the major search engines.

Be sure to subscribe below for updates by email so you don't miss a single tutorial in this in-depth Link Building series:

About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...more»


  1. Thank you so much for laying it all out in such simple terms: there is no reason now for anyone not to get started on building quality inbound links.

    I love your suggestion in the last paragraph: while researching your competition's links, find links that are perfect for your own page. Thanks for starting this series Lynn.

  2. Nice one Lynn. 🙂

    Interesting finding what sites link to you using this!

    Some surprises for me lol.


    p.s funny, someone found my blog through the search term "pot of gold" 😀 Thanks... whoever you are!

  3. Gary-(GanderCo) says

    Fantasamazing Lynn! That Video, was drop dead, drool down your chin simple, and yet put a few hundred puzzle piece's that's been floating around in my head all together in one big swoop!

    How do you do that so often?

    Gary Anderson II
    aka- @GanderCo
    aka- New word / concept inventor extraordinaire 🙂

  4. My key is this: I use free, easy, simple methods to research & analyze. While there are a ton of software programs and web-based tools (both paid and free) that you can use to do any number of these tasks... I find that they often exclude important data, or include too much unnecessary data.

    I am on a mission to stay super-focused, and do my work as quickly as possible. So loading software, or wading through screens, or trying to ignore all the distractions they include... only hinders my process.

    Most of these tools & programs pull their data from the same source anyway. So why not just use the source? It's a personal preference of course, but it works. Free & easy.

    • @Lynn I agree with you, I also used some tool for analysis backlink, but I do not get suitable results from those tools. The link analysing system that you mention here, really very simple and nice, You know I also do that, but not with the exact way that you say here.

  5. I'm glad I've been doing this right! The thing that always gets me hung up is the last part of the analyzing and going to all the individual pages to see what the anchor text was and to see if I can snag a link from there for myself as well. Makes me wish there were two of me 😉

  6. Thank you so much for these useful tips! I have been doing this only for a very short time in my new job, and this information will help me a lot.

  7. Free Article Directory says

    Thank for you the useful post. I am currently dealing with large sites as competitors, that have been around for years with over 200, 300 thousand back links each. I have been doing ok for several key words, being ranked on first page on google, so in my case, as time passes by and we grow larger, then we can compete for more competitive keywords. Thanks.

    • Right. It's good to target the longtail keyword phrases in the beginning because it's easier to rank for and brings in super targeted traffic. Later you get rankings more easily, and for higher traffic terms - but it's still great to target the longtail even then as it converts better, and it's a great way to "go wide" and have better market reach.

    • Fractional Airplane says

      I use the top five article directories almost exclusively because of page rank. But! If a new article directory would give me a compelling reason to use their site I would. Like for every unique article submitted a or a few off-site backlinks were generated to my article using the keywords. This would be a win-win as the directory would be generating deep links in areas that are easier to compete, while the writer would be getting juice to their article that, hopefully, passes to their site.

  8. Ah! Coffee.... wish you didn't say that 🙂

    I think you should do a tutorial on SEObook so your visitors can see at a glance how easy it is to rank.

  9. @Loretta
    >>Makes me wish there were two of me<<

    fully understandable, as wading through these masses of data and pages is very time consuming.
    I heard there are computers around to automate stuff ... 🙂 🙂

    • I don't spend more than a couple of minutes locating a longtail keyword phrase that's relatively easy to rank for. As you can see in the video - which took me 6 minutes total only because I was explaining it as I went... Definitely a good investment of time for the traffic you get in return.

      But then, I'm talking to a guy who only works one night a year. 😉

  10. Fantastic video! It really provided an "ah ha" moment for me.

    Thanks so much for doing this series. It's really helping to demystify all the information floating around out there.

    • Thank you, Bret - this is such a fun series! Are you listening in to the live Webinars on Tuesday's as well? If not you can register here: Free Webinars - We meet every Tuesday at Noon EST for a Live Q&A.

      • I am registered, but the of couple of times I've logged in, I can only see the chat space. The audio and video doesn't work for me.

        I think it's because I'm on a Macintosh (yes, I'm one of those annoying Mac die hards.)

        I do catch the recorded versions when you email them out. I'm not much of a live question person anyway, so it works. The Rosalind Gardner interview was fantastic!

        • Ahh - yes, that's been a major issue. They are working on a new plugin which would be great! And thank you. The interview with Rosalind was one of my favorites. 😉

  11. Video was great! I am definitely starting to get it. I get more and more excited about the potential as this series goes on. Really like the last tip about finding sources for inbound links as you do this analyzing.

    • Thank you Angie - really glad everyone is enjoying the link-building series so far! And yeah, you can definitely get a lot of creative ideas by looking at your competitors' inbound links... it's one of my favorite sources!

  12. Ok, this may sound like an obvious question, but.... when I am analyzing the sites backlinks in the Yahoo tool you showed us (thank you so much for doing this), I don't find that the sites were actually pointing to the exact page that was being ranked. It does point to the persons site I was analyzing, but not necessarily to the page (keyword phrase I'm trying to rank for).

    Ok, I might have confused you. I think I confused myself. 🙂 Analyzing these backlinks are very new to me.

    Do you understand what I am trying to say?


    • They are linking to the page, but not linking to it with the keyword anchor text? Or they are linking to another page on the site, not the page you are analyzing?

      Often you'll find they're not using your keyword phrase as the anchor text, which is good - that's one less link you're competing very hard with. Your goal is to get more links using that exact anchor text than the competing pages.

  13. Hi Lynn,

    Question for you regarding the Yahoo link tool. When I check backlinks to one of my sites using this tool, it only shows 2 external links. I know I have a lot more than two. So how long does it take for these links to show up in the Yahoo link tool? Thanks for your help.


    • I'm not sure how often they update their link database, but in addition I'm sure it also depends on how often the sites with the links are crawled and updated in the index as well. The bots have to first find the links, and then index them in the link list.

      Obviously a more advanced tactic would be to get links from pages that are crawled/spidered frequently. More on this in the next post...

  14. I think the amount of link is much less important then the quality of the site (authority) and relevance.

  15. Ok Lynn, I just have to say that reading your blog is like reading a great book. All your added links is like flipping to the next page. I keep saying, "Ok,I'm going to read one more post and then I'm getting off the computer". But noooooo, you had to add in another fabulous link. 😉 And I just had to read it. But as I read through your blog, it helps me understand what readers truly need.....great content that speaks to them and helps them out! Thanks for your generosity and your wisdom! I look forward to being a regular on this blog!

  16. Currently, I am learning SEO. I really did not know about this method for analyzing backlinks of the page. It will very helpful to me. Thanks for this informative post. I will be waiting for the next posts.

  17. a lot simpler than i thought it would be, thanks for the info!

  18. Lynn, I'm working on a new computer w/o speakers at the moment so I watched some of the video but haven't listened. I checked my main url in Site Explorer and have a few hundred inlinks (not from my site). I'm confused about how I have come to have sooo many from a couple different sources. When I clicked on the link I didn't see any sign that I had been comment, etc.. I have rec'd the newsletter from these sites and have left at least one comment on one of these sights ... can you explain how I'd have inlinks from pages that I probably never linked to? Just curious. Trying to understand how this SEO stuff works. Thanks!

    • Hi Tracy,
      If it's a blog and you left a comment there, they may have a plugin in the sidebar that features recent comments. That would create a sitewide link back to your URL that you left in that comment.

      I've seen that a lot lately. Those plugins should really use the NoFollow attribute to avoid that flood of links, and the immediate disappearance of such a large number of links (when your comment moves off the widget).

  19. I'm finally getting around to reading this series. I had a question on analyzing the backlinks of competitors. When you say to count multiple links from the same domain as a single link, is that literally for all links from that domain, or all links from the same page in that domain?

    For example, would the following two backlinks count as one or two?

    Thanks so much for this very helpful material!

    • They each count as a backlink, but duplicate links from the same domain carry less weight than links from unique domains. So if a competing page has 10 backlinks and they all come from the same domain, you can probably beat them with a lot fewer backlinks if they are all from unique domains.

      I have no idea the exact science to that, only that all other things being equal - that makes a difference.

      • my experience says multiple backlinks from same domain still carry lot of weight.

        i did analysis of many domains related to my industry and found that a domain which has 1700 links from single domain and just 13 links from unique domain has PR 4.


  20. Thanks, Lynn. This is probably a factor working against my site right now, where I have more backlinks than several higher ranked sites, but a lot of my backlinks come from the same domain. I need to work on diversifying!

  21. I want to ask you why backlink from different Search Engine is have different result. Why the different is so big like in google I have found 4 backlink, but in Yahoo 381 backlink. It's happen ini another too like bing, altavista, alexa, exalead, and gigablast.

    Please tell me how the works / algorithm of backlink search in search engine.

  22. Alex Beevers says

    Lynn Terry,
    You have great information which I know will help many people increase their backlinks.I have picked up some pearls of wisdom from your posts and I really thank you.

  23. Jackie Lee says

    Just wondering how important the page rank of the site you are linking from is. Having a "discussion" with a lady on twitter about this.

  24. Hello and thank you for the video. I tested it with yahoo the way you explain but only a couple of links showed whereas I know I have submitted and had published several more articles in different directories. So in that case, why are they not showing as links? Any ideas please?

  25. Marathi Matrimonial says

    See, i got 50 links from one single website, though my page rank has not changed, after google updated links, once in 2-3 months, my ranking has improved from 21st to 18th i.e. on 2nd page.

    So, multiple links from single domain are considered good.\

  26. Offshore Software Outsourcing Development says

    Nice article. It really gave us a lot of information. To increase the page rank of website to 5 or above, how much link we usually need

  27. Ah-Ha! Thank you for this terrific post and video tutorial!



  28. But I know all links are not created equally. For one of my sites I have over 100 links to a post but I am still waaay back on page 3 on Google for the kw phrase. Ahead of me are sites with very few and even no backlinks. Backlinks are weird!

  29. Excellent article, will keep it in mind when doing backlinking

  30. spunkyduckling says

    But how is it that a squidoo site with no ranking and has not been updated for a few years ranks on the first page of google and climbing? I am trying to rank for a keyword where my competitor is number 6. I often see sites with no backlink outrank sites that has dozens.
    I had my own experience with a site where I never created one backlink for it and after one year it found its way to the top of google when it never existed anywhere before that for a keyword competition of millions.

  31. pavitraviah says

    See, i got confuse which links are good 20 links from one single website, or 20 links from different website for improrving page rank

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