Backlink Quality Vs Quantity: Which Is More Important for SEO Success?

Dibbyyan Nath
13 Min Read

Backlinks are the lifeblood of SEO, but should you prioritize quality or quantity? According to Google’s John Mueller, “We need very few links to rank pages.” He advises focusing on “satisfying users” over granular link tactics. Still, top-ranking pages average over 1,500 backlinks. So while quality matters most, volume remains crucial. This in-depth guide examines why both quality and quantity are important, compares their relative influence, and provides proven strategies to balance the two for maximum search visibility. You’ll learn why quality backlinks confer more direct ranking ability, and why accumulating quantity ethically is also key for SEO success.

John Mueller of Google says that the amount of backlinks to a website is not a factor that Google’s algorithm ranks on. Number of backlinks is less important than the quality of them.

During a Google Webmaster Central hangout on February 19th, Mueller advised not focusing on the total backlinks or unique referring domains. Google assesses each link individually for relevance, not by volume.

Mueller explained that “the total number [of backlinks] doesn’t matter at all. Because you could go off and create millions of links across millions of websites if you wanted to, and we could just ignore them all.”

He provided a hypothetical example of a page receiving one quality backlink from a major news homepage. Despite having few links overall, Google would see that one link as an important signal of relevance.

Google is all about the quality and relevance of each particular backlink, not the total number. Mueller pointed out that “one really strong link from a website that is, for us, a really good sign” can be as important as a million low-quality links.

The key takeaway is that website owners should focus on gaining a smaller number of high-quality, relevant backlinks rather than amassing a large volume of unimportant links.

At a recent search conference in Bulgaria, Google’s Gary Illyes made a provocative statement about links, saying “We need very few links to rank pages… Over the years we’ve made links less important.” (Patrick Stox, Twitter, 2024). Illyes later backtracked, tweeting “I shouldn’t have said that… I definitely shouldn’t have said that.”

Despite this retraction, data shows Google has been de-emphasizing links. In a 2023 PubCon talk, Illyes shared links were not even among the top 3 ranking factors. Google also quietly updated its spam policies in March 2024, changing:

“Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”


“Google uses links as a factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

In April 2024, John Mueller advised focusing less on links, saying “There are more important things for websites nowadays, and over-focusing on links will often result in you wasting your time.”

Illyes’ Bulgaria comments represented the culmination of Google’s multi-year link de-emphasis. See the timeline:

YearGoogle Action on Links
2023Illyes: Links not a top 3 ranking factor
2024Spam policy doc de-emphasizes links
2024Mueller advises focusing less on links
2024Illyes says links not that important

By systematically downplaying links over time, Google has made it clear they are no longer the dominant ranking factor they once were. Illyes’ controversial comments just confirmed this multi-year trend.

Google never says anything about domain authority (DA), this metric is introduced by Moz, it measures the strength and authority of a website. Links from high DA sites pass more equity and ranking power than those from lower DA sites.

For example, a link from the New York Times (DA 99) gives a much bigger boost than one from a small blog (DA 15).

Google’s John Mueller advises forgetting everything you’ve read about “link juice.” He says the concept is likely obsolete, wrong, and misleading. Instead, he recommends focusing on building a website that works well for users.

The idea of link juice stems from the early days of SEO when PageRank was a secret sauce. SEOs talked about sculpting PageRank flow to important pages. But algorithm updates make these tactics outdated.

Link Juice and page rank flow concept Infographic

Mueller argues SEO basics like site speed and mobile-friendliness are a starting point. The next level is understanding users and building popularity. Consider user experience, conversions, and accessibility. Don’t get lost optimizing minor details.

Focus on what makes your site popular with users. If something doesn’t work, pivot to what does. Granular link flows and PageRank sculpting is unimportant compared to real human interactions. Satisfy users and rankings will follow.

Knowing SEO basics protects against bad ideas. But don’t dwell on minutiae. Building lasting growth matters more than one-off tactics. The sites that succeed over time keep users happy. They provide the experience people want.

So forget link juice. It’s an archaic concept from a different era. Build a site that delights your audience. Make it easy for them to find and consume content. The rest will fall into place. SEO is important, but user experience is paramount.

Relevancy Matters

Backlinks are also evaluated based on their topical relevance. If a newspaper website links from their technology section to a page on your tech blog, it indicates an editorial endorsement of your content’s value on that specific topic.

But a link from their fashion section likely won’t confer as much relevance or help with search rankings for tech keywords.

While quality matters, you can’t neglect backlink quantity and volume either. Here’s why it remains important:

For competitive keywords, you’ll likely need hundreds or thousands of quality backlinks to rank against established sites. Even a small site can accumulate lots of poor-quality links at scale.

Once you have solid foundational relevance links, additional backlinks may still incrementally improve your rankings, even if their individual quality is low which is mostly supported by the SEO community. There are diminishing returns, but volume helps.

Quantity is Easier Than Quality

It takes far more effort to land links from high authority sites than bulky directories. So when starting out, volume helps while also pursuing quality.

Risks of Over-Prioritizing Quantity

Relying too heavily on weak links or shady tactics to build quantity risks a Google penalty. But when done ethically, more links certainly won’t hurt.

Combining Relevance with Volume

Ideally, you want to build quantity through links relevant to your content’s topic, not just any random links. Volume plus topical relevance is powerful.

So in summary, having enough backlink volume remains important for SEO success. But quality has a stronger influence on rankings.

What does Google think about spammy link-building?

When asked on Reddit about dealing with an increase in spammy backlinks, Google’s John Mueller advised focusing on improving the website rather than trying to remove the links. The questioner had noticed more spammy backlinks recently and felt this was hurting search rankings and “overall credibility.”

Can anyone help me on how to remove spammy backlinks?
byu/arpitadey15 inSEO

Mueller suggested not worrying about these poor-quality links, saying Google is “really good at dealing with random spammy links.” He recommended instead making the site more “awesome” and user-friendly.

Google ignore spam links infographic

Third-party metrics like Domain Authority don’t necessarily reflect how Google views a site. They simply provide one company’s opinion on a site’s authority compared to others. Even Google’s old PageRank metric didn’t accurately predict search performance.

Building high-quality backlinks takes time and effort. Here are some of the most effective tactics to focus on:

Guest Posting

Identify reputable websites accepting contributor posts related to your topics. Craft valuable guest posts linking back to relevant content. Don’t overly optimize anchor text.

Influencer Marketing

Build relationships with influencers in your niche. Offer helpful information and tips. If they find you credible, they may link to your content in their posts.

Create Link-Worthy Assets

Develop truly unique, helpful resources like viral tools, comprehensive guides, or eye-opening research that publishers naturally want to link to.

Blogger Outreach

Proactively connect with bloggers writing on related topics. Build relationships over time. Offer helpful information and suggest collaborations, rather than demanding links.

Press and Brand Mentions

Build general brand awareness and become a thought leader. News sites, magazines, and mainstream blogs may link when referencing your company or expertise.

Identify sites that could offer valuable links but currently aren’t. Reach out provide useful information and politely suggest linking to related content.

There are no magic formulas to acquire high-quality links consistently. It’s about being constantly inventive, creating great assets, and working with influencers to reach customers.

Once your site has established authoritative foundational backlinks, you can start scaling up the volume without compromising quality. Here are a few tips:

  • Conduct blogger outreach at scale focused on your niche. Personalize and vary messages. Offer value through helpful tips and collabs rather than just requesting links.
  • Strategically utilize automation tools without over-relying on them. Automate repetitive tasks like prospecting and initial contacts, but customize further communications.
  • Diversify anchor text away from over-optimized keywords. Vary between branded, generic, and relevant keywords for the most natural profile.
  • Build new links slowly over time, not suddenly in bursts. Consistent gradual growth looks far more natural to search engines.
  • Monitor your link profile routinely using tools like Ahrefs. As you uncover new low-quality links, disavow them through Google Search Console.
  • Participate actively in your niche communities and engage on relevant sites to build recognition.


Backlinks remain crucial, but quality trumps quantity. As Google’s John Mueller confirms, “one really good link” can outweigh millions of bad ones. Still, some volume is required. A 2020 study found pages ranking #1 had over 2,700 backlinks on average. The top 10 results averaged nearly 1,500 links each. So while quality drives rankings, you need substantial quantity too. Ultimately search visibility requires a balanced link-building strategy – earning high-value links from authoritative sites while also accumulating volume. With this nuanced approach, your content can rank for competitive keywords and satisfy searchers.

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Dibbyyan Nath is a well-known entrepreneur, philanthropist, and the Chief Creative Officer of Inteliqo Research and Services. Mr. Nath, over the past two decades, has donned a lot of hats, while writing has remained his first love. Now he aims to express his experiences, as the head of a digital marketing, content creating, and website development company, through his love for writing. To keep up with the young entrepreneur and his thoughts
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