“How fast should you build backlinks without getting penalized by Google?”
This has remained a hotly contested topic among SEOs and anyone who has been involved in building links for almost two decades. The debate still rages on!
For starters, this question is all about the concept of natural link velocity. Considering how much weight Google places on backlinks as a ranking factor, it’s crucial to your SEO strategy to have a good understanding of link velocity, as it DOES have an impact on your serp rankings!
In this latest guide, we explore everything you need to know about the speed at which to build backlinks for your website. Let’s jump straight into it!
Link velocity refers to the rate at which a website acquires backlinks over a given period. It is commonly measured in terms of links acquired per month or referring domains acquired per month.
In theory, the formula for calculating link velocity is:
Link Velocity=Links Acquired/Time
However, as an SEO metric, link velocity is more complex than it looks. Unless you conduct competitor research, there’s really no standard approach to calculating link-building velocity.
The best way to figure out your appropriate link-building velocity is first to determine the current rate at which you’re building links.
Here, you need to consider your existing referring domains as well as your existing backlinks. We like to use Ahrefs for this.
For example, let’s say Ahrefs shows your site’s current metrics as follows:
To determine your optimal link velocity, find the top 5 competitors in your niche. Again, you can use Ahrefs to check who your best competitors are.
Hint: Select the competitors whose referring domains are 40-60% more than your site.
Now with a list of your competitors, it’s time to track the growth of their backlink profiles, preferably over the last 30 days. The following is an example:
In this case, the average link velocity = (7+18+15+3+26)/5
Link velocity: 59/5=12
Your competitors are building an average of 12 backlinks per month.
Now, as much as benchmarking your competitors is a good idea, don’t get excited and start building 12 links per month right away. Link building velocity needs to be as natural as possible.
So, if your site is currently only averaging around one or two links per month, then jumping to 12 links per month would look like you’re trying to manipulate Google’s search rankings.
It's even worse if your backlinks don’t look as if they’re built naturally and organically. It would send negative signals to Google and you may get penalized.
There’s no definite number that indicates a good link velocity. In fact, Google has said before that it doesn’t care so much about the speed at which backlinks get added to a website (although you should always take such statements with a pinch of salt).
Rather, it cares about how natural and organic the links are. The number of backlinks that are added to a site needs to increase steadily over time. Put otherwise, link growth should be in line with your site growth.
For example, if you acquired 5 links this week, it would make sense to acquire 10 or 15 next week, but not 100.
Ideally, an organic link velocity needs to maintain some level of consistency without compromising link quality. Again, your link building quantity needs to have a natural curve comprising growth, peak, and a taper off.
Be careful not to follow a specific pattern, though. Google can detect patterns, too many backlinks acquired too quickly is a definite red flag! and if big G sees that, you risk getting your site penalized.
How we do it here at Profit Engine is to take a random approach to link building. For instance, if starting a campaign for a client from scratch, we try to structure their monthly link acquisition to look something like this:
Of course, we can sometimes break this rule and ramp things up a bit but even then it’s recommended to keep it looking natural. The last thing you want to do is to get slapped with a Penguin algorithm penalty.
This does not always pan out though, you may have high quality content that you promote through link outreach that gets a lot of links in a short space of time. The key is to keep up your link building even if its at a lesser velocity.
Also, if you were to build backlinks quickly, they better be contextual, niche-relevant, and from high-authority websites with real traffic. Exactly what our link-building playbook directs!
Ultimately, the most surefire way to guarantee the best link velocity is to work with a proven link building agency.
Link velocity is not a new concept in the SEO community. Indeed, it all started in 2003 with the discovery of a Google patent named Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data.
The patent, among other things, discusses some ideas about how the search engine should treat websites based on the growth of their backlink profile.
Worth mentioning is that the term “link velocity” isn’t explicitly mentioned anywhere in the patent. But there’s one particular passage that’s related to this idea.
This is what it says:
“While a spiky rate of growth in the number of backlinks may be a factor used by search engine 125 to score documents, it may also signal an attempt to spam search engine 125. Accordingly, in this situation, search engine 125 may actually lower the score of a document(s) to reduce the effect of spamming.”
As you can see, it mentions a “spiky rate of growth” in the number of backlinks and the possibility of getting demoted in the SERPs.
However, it doesn’t directly mention that the rate of growth in backlinks is the reason why a website’s ranking score may get lowered. Instead, it says a spiky rate of growth “may also signal an attempt to spam search engines”.
If we interpret this message in detail, it means the search engine might lower a website’s ranking score if its rapid growth is due to spammy links.
Put simply, spammy links are backlinks that come from spam or poor authority sites. They usually cause a sharp spike in traffic to a domain and can attract a manual review from Google.
So, to be fair, it doesn’t really matter how quickly or how slowly your backlinks grow over time. What matters more is whether you acquired those links in line with Google’s guidelines.
In fact, according to Google’s John Mueller, the quality of links is what counts. While addressing the question of link velocity, he says:
“So it’s not so much a matter of how many links you get in which time period. It’s really just… if these are links that are unnatural or from our point of view problematic, then they would be problematic. It’s like it doesn’t really matter how many or in which time. “
But from our experience, Google continuously monitors how your links are built over time and won’t hesitate penalizing your site if it detects anything spammy.
As a rule, focus on creating high-quality backlinks and avoid anything that the search engine may interpret as black-hat SEO strategies.
There are a few key factors that affect the rate at which your website attracts links, including its authority, how often you link out and the amount and quality of content published.
When using tactics such as link building outreach, these same factors should determine your link velocity, and we’ll explain why below.
If you want to attract tons of fresh, high quality links without raising an alarm with Google, focus on publishing quality content regularly.
Depending on your niche, you may want to include stats, tips, and examples in your content. This helps readers get adequate information and increases your chances of getting natural links.
Besides, bloggers and industry experts are always on the lookout for useful content that they can link back to their websites.
Niche-relevant backlinks are a golden ticket to boosting your rankings on Google’s SERPs. They appear to search engines that the site is a credible resource for information about a given topic, product or service.
Bear in mind that relevancy can also be at the page level. If your site is about, say, dog food, and you get a link from a high DR general site on a page about dog health, that works too.
So if your site has lots of links coming from other websites or webpages that are not related to yours, Google’s algorithm could view this as spam. This sends negative signals to Google and can result in your site getting demoted in search rankings.
Site authority, also called domain authority (DA), refers to how powerful a website is in the eyes of Google which also determines its rankings on search results. Higher authority sites are usually considered trustworthy by users, industry experts, search engines, and even other websites.
Because these sites are popular and well-respected in their fields, they are likely to attract backlinks a lot quickly, hence a higher link velocity shouldn’t be a problem for them.
Typical examples of authority sites include The New York Times and Forbes, both of which can rake in hundreds of links per day without attracting the wrath of Google.
The ration behind this is that when you link out to other websites, the site owners are more likely to reciprocate by linking back to yours. In general, reciprocal linking occurs when webmasters agree to link to each other. At Profit Engine, we focus on reciprocal links as a key part of our campaigns.
Even so, you want to target high-authority websites within the same niche as (or those related to) yours and do it within reasonable limits. This way, you can justify why you’re gaining backlinks at a quicker pace than usual.
Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink. Using the same anchor text for all links pointing to your website is a bad idea. The reason is search engines consider this an attempt to manipulate rankings and this could result in severe punishment.
When building links, it’s important that you diversify your anchor texts to incorporate a mix of phrase match, partial match, brand and generic terms. The idea is to have your backlinks looking as natural as possible.
Competitor link velocity analysis is an integral part of any successful link building campaign. As we explained earlier, the goal here is to determine how many links you should be building vis-à-vis your competition.
Performing a competitive analysis of your competitors helps you know:
From this information, you can get a sense of what your competitors are doing and reverse engineer their link building strategy. You can then aim to build the same (or better) link profile to improve your odds of ranking higher in search engines.
There you have it! Whether you acquire links fast or slowly is not what matters the most. Instead, the quality of the links and how they are acquired is what drives results and enables you to avoid penalties.
Nonetheless, link velocity is a vital SEO metric that should not be ignored. If you don’t want to attract any unwanted attention from Google, focus on building links in a way that appears natural and organic, instead of just building them fast just because you can.
Are you looking to build high-quality backlinks that move your business up the search results and bring you customers organically? We can help.
Get in touch with us now for a free strategy call or conversation. You could be our next success story!