Link building is crucial in getting your website to rank on Google.
It’s possible to appear on SERPs for your target keyword, but you won’t reach the top without authoritative backlinks.
That said, you should go out of your way and run a link building campaign, whether by getting an in-house team or a freelancer to do it for you.
However, the biggest concern here boils down to a single word: price.
I will answer these questions and more in this post. Once you’re done, you should be able to properly estimate a link building budget for your site based on different factors.
I’d like to kick this off by saying that I recently created a service called The Link Report which does everything that this article explains for you and it helps to give you a real analysis of exactly how many Tier 1 & Tier 2 links you need to build and where you need to send them based on competitor data.
If you’re already building backlinks on your site, you’re on the right track. However, there are other things you must ask yourself about link building to ensure you’re doing it right.
For instance, what kind of links are you getting for your site? Not all backlinks are the same – each are different based on their type, the site’s authority, anchor text, and others.
Also, what type of backlinks your competitors are getting for their sites? By knowing what kinds of links they have on their backlink profiles, especially if they’re ranking on top of Google SERPs, you get to know the type of backlinks you must get on your site.
Finally, how many new links are they getting regularly? Some sites run a well-oiled link building campaign machine for years. And by looking at their link profile, you may not be taking into account the incoming ones for the coming period. In doing so, you’ll know how many links you need to build regularly.
Add to the fact that links can get expensive, you’re looking at a very pricey monthly link building budget.
If you’re already doing that but are not aware of the factors above, then you’re probably just wasting your time and money. And if you’re still not ranking on organic search despite months into your link building campaign, you must take a step back and assess the situation.
Below, I’ll show you the steps on how to determine the right link building budget for your campaign. I’ll be using Ahrefs to gather the backlink data and help analyze your current situation.
Count Your Best Backlinks
At this point, you need to establish the information about your link profile before we move forward. Aside from the number of links you have, you need to determine its average quality based on the authority of the websites, among others.
Using Ahrefs, type in your domain URL on Site Explorer.
On the Overview page, you will immediately see how many backlinks and referring domains you have.
Between the two, Referring domains is much more important than the total number of backlinks. Google only counts the number of domains you have a backlink from. So it doesn’t matter if you have hundreds and thousands of links from the same domain.
In this example, the site has 257 referring domains of varying authority.
Looking here, we want to narrow down the number of referring domains to those that matter.
To do that, click on the Link type drop-down menu and filter the domains that have a dofollow link to your site.
Next, filter the results with at least a 30 DR (Domain Rating). There’s no option here to filter the results so you may have to export the data into a CSV file.
From here, you will be able to determine the exact number of domains with a DR of over 30.
Using this method, the domain currently has 16 dofollow backlinks from sites with over DR 30. Establishing this figure should bring us to the next step.
Count Your Competitor’s Best Backlinks (that You Don’t Have)
To put your link profile into context, you must compare it to your organic competitors ranking above you on SERPs. And their link profile may have something to do with it.
In this part, determine who your top competitors are and how many dofollow links from DR 30+ sites they have. This should help you know how many links you need to build for your site.
There are many ways to do this using Ahrefs. One is by building links to specific pages on your site only. You can find this out by checking the keywords where your site is ranking outside the first page of SERPs.
Go to Organic search > Organic keywords and filter the Position from 11 to 20. You should have a handy list of keywords that you will need some backlinks for your site.
You can change the range of position to whichever number you wish. The point is you want to move up your position on SERPs by finding out the page ranking ahead of you.
From here, click on the keyword and scroll down the page to view the SERP overview.
Among the data you’ll see in this section, the Domains column helps you identify the number of domains referring to the ranking page.
It’s normal for some of the top-ranking pages to not have lots of backlinks. However, at the very least, you should be able to see which ones seem to have a link-building campaign going on for that page.
Click on the domain you want to analyze and use the same filters (dofollow and DR 30+) as above to narrow down the results to their best backlinks.
This is a sufficient approach if you want to build links on your site on a page-to-page basis.
However, the problem with this method is there’s a chance that the domain of the page ranking above you for the same keyword is not an organic competitor. Maybe the ranking page is the only one that’s about the same topic as your website
Therefore, I’d suggest to take the site-wide approach when building links to your site. Doing so allows you to determine topically related sites that rank for the same keywords as yours.
To do this, go to Organic search > Competing domains. It will show you sites that share the same keywords your website is ranking for.
What’s important to see here is the Common keywords, % column. The higher the percentage, the more keywords you share with this domain on SERPs.
Check the referring domains of your top competitor and only show the best links from its profile.
Here’s what we have:
The competitor has 18 quality backlinks, just two more than our example above.
So, does that mean you only have to buy two backlinks to break even?
If you want to match the quality of the competitor’s current link profile, then yes. However, things are much more complicated than that.
For instance, you need to consider if the competitor has an on-going link building campaign. Check out for any new backlinks the site has. Go to Backlinks > New and you will see a calendar view of its latest backlinks for the past three months.
From the screenshot above, the site seems to be generating at least a backlink a day or 30 backlinks a month. I’ve filtered the results to only show dofollow links to narrow down the links you must analyze.
Also, since there’s no way to filter DR, some of the backlinks during this period may be from sites below DR 30.
To know this, scroll down the page and see the backlinks the site gained. I filtered the results to 60 days to get a better understanding of its long-term link building strategy assuming that it’s deliberate.
Over the course of two months, only five of the new dofollow backlinks built during this time are from sites with over DR 30. That’s almost ⅓ of the total backlinks that meet the quality criteria.
More importantly, you only get to analyze one competitor
Assuming that you have acquired the same amount and quality of backlinks as this one competitor of yours, you have a hundred more to worry about.
That means you have to repeat the process one by one until you have built a link profile comparable to your fiercest competitor. But once you’re done, other sites will have built new links to further boost their websites rankings. So you’re back to square one analyzing these new backlinks ad nauseam.
A possible solution to this is by using Ahrefs’ Link intersection feature. Enter as many competitor domain URLs as you want and the tool will analyze the backlinks they have that your site doesn’t.
After you entered all your competitors, click “Show link opportunities” to see backlinks from sites they have but you don’t.
The downsides with this method is you must determine which among the opportunities are dofollow backlinks from sites over DR 30. So you must export the list and filter these types of backlinks.
Also, it doesn’t help you identify new backlinks that your competitors recently acquired. You’ll have to manually do that by following the process above.
Other than those caveats, this makes the process of finding how many links you must build much easier and more efficient. Don’t analyze all your competitors in the Link intersect – just find between three to five competitor domain URLs to help you get started.
In the screenshot above, Ahrefs found over 2,000 link opportunities among the five competitors I entered. Filtering out the nofollow backlinks from low DR sites, expect to come up with around 300-500 high-quality links to build for your site (and additional 50-100 recurring backlinks a month).
Organize the Types of Links to Build
Having the complete list of backlink opportunities to build for your site, you must determine what kind of backlinks your competitors have that you don’t.
There are lots of backlink types that you can use. But below are two of the most popular ways to build nowadays:
- Editorial backlinks – Most of these links come at a high cost for a reason: The link is located in the body of the content. This reason is why they are the most popular and effective ones out there.
- Guest posting – While it’s possible to get a link from within the body, it is mostly found in the author byline of the article. It won’t cost you anything to get a backlink of this type but getting an opportunity to write a guest post is difficult and takes a long time.
There are other types of links such as business profiles (for local SEO), blog comments, forum posts, and others. However, the ones listed above are proven to work and give your search rankings a boost regardless of your industry.
Keeping these in mind, you need to run through each competitor backlink you find and determine the type of each.
From the Link intersect results page, click on the drop-down menu from the competitor column with the number that indicates how many links they have from that domain.
In the example above, one of the competitors got a dofollow link from Bustle, an online publication website. And upon visiting the page, I’ve determined the link as an editorial one because it’s found in the content body.
In this part, you must organize all referring domains according to their DR ranges. Ideally, you want to divided the domains into three DR ranges:
- DR 30-44
- DR 45-59
- DR – 60-above
These will come into play when you piece together your link building budget.
Once you’re done with the first domain, move on to the next domain until you’ve organized them in your handy list.
This is not a difficult task in a traditional sense because it doesn’t require you to flex your brain muscles just yet.
However, it is a very time-consuming process especially if you have over hundreds and thousands of domains to review and analyze. Here, it’s best to delegate this task to your VA or one of your employees.
Once you have completed and organized your list according to link type and DR range, it’s time for you to piece together your budget for a link building campaign.
Computing for the Costs
Unless you have the resources, personnel, and – most importantly – experience to roll out a link building campaign, you’re better off buying links from service providers with a proven track record.
This way, you don’t have to worry about training people to get the job done. Just send over the details to the link builders and fill out the rest for you.
We at Get Me Links pride ourselves in providing clients with high-quality backlinks at reasonable prices. Our Niche Edits and Guest Posting services take away the guesswork from the process so you can sit back and relax while we secure the links for you in a timely manner.
That said, we are more than capable of delivering the needed links for your campaign and help grow your site’s organic rankings.
But first, let’s go back to the link opportunities you compiled. Hypothetically, let’s say you need 300 backlinks from the five competitors you analyzed using Ahrefs’ Link Intersect feature.
Below are some of the details of the backlinks you need for your site:
- DR 30-44 – 120 domains
- Guest posts – 80
- Niche edits – 40
- DR 45-59 – 100 domains
- Guest posts – 40
- Niche edits – 80
- DR 60-above – 80 domains
- Guest posts – 50
- Niche edits – 30
Again, these are just imaginary figures that we will use as an example to help plan your link-building budget.
Here are the costs for each guest post link:
Using the pricing table for both link types, below are the total costs for securing the backlink opportunities you found:
- DR 30-44 – 120 domains
- Guest posts – 80 – 80 x 160 = $12,800
- Niche edits – 40 – 40 x 120 = $4,800
- DR 45-59 – 100 domains
- Guest posts – 40 – 40 x 260 = $10,400
- Niche edits – 80 – 80 x 200 = $16,000
- DR 60-above – 80 domains
- Guest posts – 50 – 50 x 340 = $17,000
- Niche edits – 30 – 30 x 280 = $8,400
- TOTAL – $69,400
That’s the total amount you must spend to gain the links your competitors have but your site doesn’t. In an example like this, we would give you access to bulk pricing so that you could save when executing a larger plan.
To be clear, DR is not the be-all-end-all metric when determining from which links to build links.
For instance, it’s possible to have a site with a high DR but low traffic. You can see these characteristics from aged and expired websites used primarily for PBNs.
At very least, however, DR is a good indicator of an authoritative website.
Relatively new sites have low DR because of the absence of backlinks. And as we all know by this point, backlinks are the driving force behind high-ranking websites. The more links it has, the more powerful the backlinks you can get from it.
From here, you need to break down the website into its other SEO factors like ranking keywords, organic traffic, and more.
If you plan on buying these links, the provider should do his/her due diligence when checking website factors to help them figure out the best sites to place their client links.
Budgeting for the Links
At this point, you’re thinking of how you’ll pay for the links assuming that you want to move forward with your campaign.
If the costs are too much, you can spread out your campaign across 12 months or more. The velocity you go at is totally up to you but it’s about working out the overall plan and deciding how you want to execute that – check out my article on link velocity here.
This is also the preferred method for large orders on sites without a link profile yet. You don’t want to build hundreds of links within a month. Google might see the unnatural spike of links and could bring down the manual penalty hammer on your site.
In that case, you’ll only have to pay up $5,783.33/month (69,400 x 12). As mentioned, you can extend the length of the campaign for as long as you want to lower the monthly cost.
If you need help with this, send us a message and we’ll be happy to find the best approach to your situation and potentially give you a discount for your recurring orders.
What’s important here is you commit to a link-building campaign with a reliable service provider. A backlink from an authoritative website is never cheap.
Therefore, avoid link builders offering very low rates for the same quality and quantity. They’re probably linking your site to PBNs or sites with high SEO metrics like DR and DA (Domain Authority) but with almost zero organic traffic.
This is the fastest way to get penalized by Google and waste your life’s worth over spammy backlinks.
Link Building is More than Just Dropping Money
As you can see above, determining your link building budget is more than just knowing how much a link builder costs. Because the last thing you need are links from spammy websites that will do nothing to your keyword rankings except tank them.
You need to understand your current link profile and compare it to your competitors and see link opportunities. When done correctly, you get to know the kind of links you need to outrank them on SERPs.
This is easier said than done. Although I have listed down the steps on how to do this properly, following the process to a tee will take too much of your time.
If you want a more convenient way to analyze how many links you need to build for your site based on your competitors, then you can try out our auditing service.
We will do the heavy lifting of examining your site and its competitors to provide you with a custom quote. This way, you get the best bang for your buck.