Website Income

How Many Backlinks Do You Need to Rank on the First Page of Google? Is 1 Link Enough?

Are you wanting to know how many links you need to rank number 1 in Google. Well … unfortunately no one has that answer, but…

What I do have today is an experiment about the power of one very high authority backlink shooting a site from the 5th page to the first page and having it stick there.

One thing I want to make sure is emphasized is that the site used in this experiment is very high quality with 2,000 words of my own writing about a topic I am knowledgeable and it includes several useful videos. If you don’t have a quality site that deserves to be ranking on the first page of Google than throwing good links at a bad site is lipstick on a pig.

BETA TESTERS WANTED– Based on requests from existing customers of my relevant done for you private blog network service I am testing out offering a new service to a limited number of people at a steep discount to be beta testers…

lightning-rank(BETA Testers Wanted – PA 40+, DA30+ VERY Limited PBN)

If it is sold out sign up to the LightningRank email list to be notified when it re-opens and receive a discount


Over the last few months I have invested a lot and quietly built up an extremely powerful private network (PA over 40, DA over 30, 100% SPAM Free). Along with a partner (John Shea of who will handle all of the customer service it is now open accepting a small number of beta testers. If you are interested in seeing what kind of impact some extremely powerful backlinks can do for your sites rankings apply here.


Back to the Experiment…

I built a really high quality website around a passion hobby of mine with the intent of reviewing some high ticket products and earning affiliate income from it.

Because it was a passion project I did not have any of my VA’s helping me promote it. Once the site was built with 7 posts including a 2,000 word homepage post complete with 4 videos I did nothing to promote it.


Initial Results

Not surprising because of the quality of the content it did get picked up by Google and it started to be ranked around the 50’s. Not great but with no links to it and no effort spent promoting it I couldn’t really expect anything else.




Time to Start Promoting

When I got some time at the start of this year to start building out my passive income website portfolio I had this site on my list to kick start.

I thought instead of doing what I usually do and set up a system involving several strategies running simultaneously why not run an isolated experiment.


Number of Links Required to Rank Experiment…

The experiment was simple…

  1. Create a relevant post on a very high authority (PA 45) expired domain in my personal network
  2. Monitor rankings
  3. Once the rankings have stabilized add another very high authority link
  4. Rinse and repeat measuring the movement each time


Case Study Results

Well I never got a chance to move past number 2 (monitor rankings) since the site didn’t level off right away, it has kept moving up.

Within 3 days of the link being placed the rankings shot up from in the 50’s to the low 20’s and it has been gradually climbed the rest of the way to page #1.




Lessons Learned

This is obviously a very small sample size of one so we should all take any conclusions from it with a grain of salt.

But here is what I take away from it…

  • Even if you have the best content for a given query you still need to get it in front of people in order to get natural sharing to occur
  • Ranking improvements from quality links can be immediate and very significant


Next Steps

Part 1 – It has now been relatively stable for a couple weeks and I am going to continue the experiment adding some more links from my premium PA 40+ DA 30+ network of sites.

Part 2 – I am looking to test the power of this network with other people’s sites as well. If you are interested in being a beta tester of the service you can apply here to get some high authority backlinks from my premium network.

Part 3 – In 1-2 months I will give an update on the increased rankings for all the sites my own and others involved in the test.

About the Author Authority

Leave a Comment:

Winston says March 17, 2014

Another very interesting experiment. I love it when you make these! Looks like a very promising venture.

Wanted to ask you on the site automatically ranking without links. Do you have an outline on how this happens? I’ve been monitoring the new sites I’ve built and indexing is quite fast without pinging.

But when it comes to the site going up from 500+ to under 100 w/o any links it’s very random. Some do, some don’t. I can’t seem to figure out the difference.

It would be great if you could shed light on this.

    Jon says March 17, 2014

    Hi Winston, these are some of my favorite posts when I get to breakdown the data.

    I don’t have any theories on why some sites will rank with no links and some won’t. I am sure the on page quality signals will play a large role.

    Raheel Farooq says April 17, 2014

    As Jon pointed out, there may be on page signals which Google may have valued. But it’s still strange why Google positions these sites better than those with links. Now, here I think comes the relevancy indicator of backlinks. You may have built backlinks, but their relevancy score may even be minus. The trust, PR and other parameters of the pages that link to you may make you pay off rather than be paid. I know it because I’ve experienced it. That’s the only theory I have yet to justify the phenomenon! 😉

Maxime Sincerny says March 17, 2014

intitle:”[your keyword]” (remove brackets)
look at the top 10 who try to rank for you keyword ( what Page authority domain authority)
Does your domain authority is close to the competition?
Now Page authority look at thos pages in majestic or other tool. What are the backlinks anchors pointing to the page? Are they relevant to the keyword? Could you beat the number and authority of those links?
use phrase match anchors of your keyword
if you need more than 5 links don’t forget to add naked url and other brand general url to dillute your anchors. I never use exact match anchors, but everyone have their own recipies

    Jon says March 17, 2014

    Great tips, thanks for sharing. I really like your no exact match approach as well…easy way to stay on the safe side.

Josh Escusa says March 17, 2014

Looks like you’ve got quite the powerful network going on there. Coming from you, I’m sure the service is awesome as well. How many sites are in the network? And is each link built on a different site?

    Jon says March 17, 2014

    Right now the network is growing (hence why it is so limited for beta). There will always be enough sites that no ones URL is on 50% of the sites (often much less).

    Jon says March 17, 2014

    Your second question – Yes, each link is built on a different site.

      Josh Escusa says March 18, 2014

      Sold out in 24hours? Wow, you’re on fire.

Miki Vicioso says March 17, 2014

Is a beautiful thing to see those rank jumps 🙂 Hope it can stick. Would love to see more case studies like this one.

    Jon says March 17, 2014

    Will do Miki, I have a few tests in the works that will be fun to share and look promising.

Sandy says March 17, 2014

I saw the other website. Is that a monthly price? Can I pay just 1 month and have the article and backlinks forever? Do you have anything in the electrician niche?

    Jon says March 17, 2014

    Hi Sandy, it is monthly but you can cancel at any time. The articles will stay forever. Nothing directly in the electrician niche but some reasonably relevant sites (auto, home) etc.

Olayinka says March 17, 2014

With latest Google problem did you think that Link building still work..

    Jon says March 17, 2014

    Yes, link building is still working…low quality link building is not working.

James says March 17, 2014

Would you be able to post a list of the topics your blogs are on? Most of my sites are in the health niche and I’d like to know if you have enough relevant blogs as I’m interested in signing up for the premium package. Will every post be on a different blog – for example f I was a member for 4 months would I have backlinks from 20 different blogs?

    Jon says March 17, 2014

    Hi James

    Yes you are correct you would have links from 20 different sites which would never be more than 50% of the network.

    I can’t say they will all be perfectly relevant but some would be such as a former 24hr per day Gym Franchise and another government health lab.

    Let me know if you have any other questions.

Theodore Nwangene says March 17, 2014

This is a great idea Jon,
I’m sure many people will need this service. What I don’t really understand is what you meant by ” 1 New Home Page Blog Post Per Month”? Can you please shade more light on that sentence?

Does it it mean that you’ll be adding one home page blog post on the expired domain and then, link to the clients site per month or what?

Sorry if my question is irrelevant, just don’t get it.

Thanks for sharing Jon and, have a productive week.

    Jon says March 17, 2014

    Hi, the one post per month means for $75/month (BETA pricing) you would receive 1 post on Blog A this month, 1 post on Blog C next month and so on.

    Hopefully that answers the question.

Steve says March 17, 2014

Perfect timing. I just started a case study with pretty much the exact same thing! I’m going to be testing out the effects of links from my PBN on both sites that are sandboxed (500+) as well as some other things that I did with youtube videos. I’ll definitely be checking back to see any updates

    Jon says March 17, 2014

    Hi Steve, let me know when you share your results. They would be interesting.

Jeff says March 17, 2014

This looks like a great service jon – I went to check and see if I could sign up but the beta is already full for the level I need.
I’d love to see more case studies like this – I have a small PBN that you built that I dont think is very effective because it’s all on the same host (diff c block though) and I think I Need to move it to different hosting to get more of a jump from it.
I will be needing a service like this in the future, I just havent made enough money to justify the expense yet.

    Jon says March 17, 2014

    Hi Jeff, make sure to sign up for the early notification of it re-opening.

    Did I find the domains? Any PBN my team has built is on completely different hosts/IPs.

    Setting up and hosting a PBN is a lot of work!

      jeff says March 18, 2014

      You did find all the domains, but I transferred the hosting to my account at IX after you found them all. It looks like IX isnt getting as much juice as it should be, so I may start spreading them around to different hosts and see what happens when I do that.

      I signed up for the service. I have an ecommerce store I’d love to test it on. It was ranking #1 for its keyword, but after I switched hosts its now in the 180s.

        calvin bridges says October 19, 2016

        I left godaddy host only to find my keywords on a former website drop from $3.00 adsense on google search box above the fold to 0.02 cent when I switch over to a cheaper website hosting, also you may want to check out hosting, as welll as and wordpress engine blog platform these are high ranking as well. you can buy a wordpress package that under $150.00 a year and create unlimited blogs with unlimited domains, but as mention its a heck of a lot of work. I use to manage 200 blogs and it took me over 8+ hours a day and I was only making $3,000.00+ month it was just too much work, the most I ever made in a month was $5,000.00

Raweewan says March 17, 2014

Your experiment is great. I think I will try to test this with my second niche site. I’m on the way of outsourcing all articles with 2000 words for main article. I hope this idea would help me test how to rank my niche site too. Thanks for sharing, Jon. 🙂

Andy says March 18, 2014

Hi Jon, quick question on the new service. Will I be able to specify 5 new articles I want linked to every month, or do I specify 5 articles in the first month and then links will be directed at those 5 articles in all the following months?

Doug says March 18, 2014

Awesome Experiment! It’ll be really interesting to see how it progresses.

Alex says March 20, 2014

Would you mind sharing what’s on page 1, as you ranked it with relatively few links?
(eg. basic SEOQuake info/pr/incoming links/walmart or amazon pages?)

Also, what’s your opinion on putting 20% of a PBN on different (somewhat) reputable free hosting providers for diversity?

marco says March 20, 2014

So giving RankHero some competition eh?!
I think it’s a bit much to be charging more thank RankHero given you are a relative newbie compared to that team. I guess you charge whatever people are prepared to pay 🙂

Sibo says March 25, 2014

Hey Jon,

This is indeed an excellent experiment and more importantly it’s something that I am very interested and have been testing for almost 9 months now. Technically we can rank for any keyword, as long as we have a powerful enough PBN, however the question is how many powerful links are enough. Keyword research is a great help from the beginning in this case as we do not want to blindly rank for anything too competitive – using the keyword “bank” as an example – I don’t think I can ever rank No.1 in Google for “bank” unless I am Matt Cutts’ favorite cousin.

All the jokes aside, I have been using your services since day one. I bought 5 sites from you and set them up on my own hosting accounts, then bought another 5 sites from your 2nd round with the sites set up and managed by your team. Together with another 5 high PR sites I bought and set up myself from somewhere else a few months ago. Now I have over 15 sites in Fashion and Beauty section, but I still could barely rank any of my money sites to the bottom of the first page.

However I am still trying because I do see the evidence and believe I am just a little bit away from the success. The money site I am working on now has 1 main keyword and 30 secondary keywords. With all the powerful links I have in my PBN, I am able to reach top 15 of Google for 2 secondary keywords, between 20 to 30 of Google for another 7 secondary keywords. I just need more power to boost them up to the front page.

I will follow along with your experiment and hopefully to buy more links from you to see some significant earnings (I really just mean over $100 per month).



Alex says April 16, 2014

Hi Jon,

Thanks for the awesome feedback ! Really impressive results for just one link !
Can’t wait to see the updates.

I have juste one question : what software or tool do you use for rank tracking ?

Thanks again and keep the good work !

Aamir says April 16, 2014

Its helpful post for the new person thanks a lot sir

Baratos says April 29, 2014

This is great for beginners like me. Thank you very much.

I have a question though. What software do you use to make your graphs?

Thank you,

    Jon says April 29, 2014

    The graphs are made with the rank tracking tool I use called SerpFox. For all other graphs on my website I use Excel.

Marcelo says June 27, 2014

Hi Jon,

I am brazilian and I have a site in portuguese. My nich is fast read and memorization. The mini site have 3 pages. This service can help me to put my site in first page ON google? Works with mini sites in portuguese? Thank you.

    Jon says July 1, 2014

    Great to hear.

Maksud says August 5, 2014

I am not clear at all. Someone please tell me how many backlinks need to place my website in google 1st page “in number”.

T. Gene Davis says November 10, 2014

I had a friend a few years back that claimed to have help construct the original Google ranking algorithm. He told me that a single link from a high ranked site will get your site a high ranking every time. Then he proved it with a demonstration very similar to your experiment.

Dave says January 18, 2015

Relevancy is subjective though. Ive seen backlinks are non-relevant but high PR/Authority sites increasing my SERP to crazy extents.

    Joshua says February 20, 2015

    yes, that’s right. Somehow non relevant backlinks does good effort to move the serp.
    lets see how it goes in the next couple week

Blogen says April 22, 2015

Link building is the most important part of SEO for me. I’m working on it.. Hope your tips will gimme more link juice…

Baba Vanga says July 17, 2015

Thanks for sharing Jon – I sincerely wish you luck in achieving your goal of 15 k a month. I personally get inspired when other bloggers and IM accomplish such goals, motivating me to reach the same.
Regarding your post for “how many backlinks are needed to rank a site”, I want to share my experience with “building” backlinks for one of my blogs. It is in a low to moderate competition niche, but all those sites that came on the first page of google were not dedicated to that particular subject. In other words they just had a post about it, but that’s all – sites with high authority. So I decided to build up a blog from scratch that is entirely dedicated on the niche – or micro niche blog that only contains content on pretty much few keywords. I rolled up my sleeves and did about 95 articles – some long enough (800-1000 words) others much shorter. As you can imagine I only focused on putting up some content. After 1 month and a half, for one of the keywords I’m on 7th position in google, and for another major keyword I’m on the 11th position in google – NO BACK LINKS building whatsoever.
So in my view, if you have a dedicated blog on one niche, and do a good number of quality posts, you can certainly outrank even sites that have very high PR, thousands of backlinks, and thousands of articles – at least that’s my experience.

Anyhow, thank you Jon for sharing this helpful info – keep my email in your newsletter loop, as I want to be updated of other helpful tips and tricks regarding SEO!


Benny says August 4, 2015

I really like those graphic. Which software are you using for checking?

BilqeesKenchi says September 26, 2015

Nice case study. But is this possible even after the new algorithm implementation? It is surprising to hear that a site with no content getting PR3. In the coming days it might get fixes. At-least hope like that.

Ajeng Ria says February 16, 2016

Great tips, thanks for sharing. I really like your no exact match approach as well…easy way to stay on the safe side.

Suhendi says May 5, 2016

Hi, Jon is a very good question that is in my mind too, thanks for your information.

Jyoti says June 20, 2016

Hi – I found your blog from the Empire Flippers podcast. Great post showing the power of high quality links. Could you tell me what software you are using to track your page rankings?

nazmu says June 28, 2016

How many sites in your network and is it secure more enough for niche link building ?


Bobby says July 7, 2016

This is a really good case study. Reinforces my belief that backlinks are still a good SEO strategy. Thanks for sharing!

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