10 New Link Building Statistics To Change How You Think in 2024

Link building has undergone a lot these days.

One day, Google says it doesn’t matter as much, and the next day, someone leaks their algorithm, which clearly shows otherwise.

Looking at Google Trends to check its popularity shows that link building is almost the same, if not slightly up, from five years ago.

google trends link building stat

What has changed is the effectiveness of different link building strategies and tactics.

For me, coming from an agency, I’ve seen many waning strategies and many holding firm.

So, I’ve analyzed other people’s studies to extract data that tell a story about what is working and why.

These are the ten link building statistics that should change (or reinforce) how you think about SEO.

1. Guest Posting is the Most Popular Link Building Tactic in 2024

There is somewhat conflicting data about tactics. But, the most used and influential are very different when you get into it. In the screenshot below, you’ll see that Authority Hacker found that guest posting, followed by link exchanges, and creating content were the top link building tactics used today.

authority hacker link building stat

Aira’s report found that content-led link building was most popular, with guest posting actually last.

aira link building stat about which techniques people use

Looking at uSERP’s study in 2022, we see that digital PR and content marketing were most popular with guest posting in third.

userp's state of backlinks

So, we know that a lot of SEOs are using guest posting. But, when it comes down to what is most effective, the latest study I’ve seen was from Editorial.link, which found that digital PR is the most effective tactic:

editorial.link's link building tactic that's most effective

While guest posting is the second most effective, it shows that just because something is the most used doesn’t mean it’s the most impactful for your business.

Guest posting (also called guest blogging) is so popular because it is easy to use. You typically enter your information into a database and choose the sites you want to post.

But are those the kinds of links you want?

Not always. You’ll see it in the next statistic.

What does it mean for you?
“Most popular” doesn’t equal “most effective.” Do your due diligence before deciding where to spend your budget.

2. The Average Cost For a Guest Post is $77.80

Ahrefs determined that the average price for a guest post was $77.80. They based this on sending 150 emails to guest posting sites across various industries. This link building stat stood out to me because the average DR of the sites he contacted was around 20.

DR distribution of blogs selling guest posts by ahrefs

I came across a slightly higher number when I contacted the sites mentioned in our guest posting sites list.

guest post outreach example with a cost for a link of $250
guest post outreach for $249 example

This is unsurprising, as most site owners charge more if they have a high authority site that can potentially get you more eyeballs on your post.

In fact, site owners seem to have an idea of the market based on third-party calculators like the one mentioned in this response below. (I asked if there was any wiggle room in the cost for placement.)

a clip from an email that shows where to cross verify backlink costs

What stood out to me the most is that back 5-6 years ago, the industry wasn’t as highly monetized. Now, every site sees the revenue potential in selling guest posting placements.

However, to truly maximize the value of your investment, you must consider higher quality than  at least 55-60 DR. (The only exception is if the site is newer, hyper-relevant, and has solid SEO. In that case, it’s OK to invest in a lower DR site.)

What does it mean for you? Guest posting can be effective if you focus on high-end sites with real users and exposure. However, that will cost way more than $77.80.

My estimate is above $600. As you’ll see next, low-cost guest post sites are low quality and not worth the money (because most are garbage.)

3. Less Than 1/3 of “Guest Posting Sites” Are Quality

A few months back, I set out to put together a list of high-quality guest posting sites. I combined all of the lists from top-ranking posts and filtered them based on the criteria below:

  • Domain Rating above 50
  • Monthly Organic Traffic is above 10,000
  • They provide follow links (and not just to government sites)
  • Author names are displayed (vs something like “admin” or “guest”)
  • The website is quality, meaning they display E-E-A-T and content is high quality, well-written

I’ll admit this isn’t a scientific analysis, but it is directionally accurate.

After the Helpful Content Update in May, I’ve felt even more confident that the number of quality guest post sites is dwindling. And it may even be too high.

Whenever someone contacts me with a shared Google Sheet of “guest posting sites,” I run a handful through Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Each time, I find that the sites have had considerable dips in traffic since March 2024.

For example:

example of organic traffic dipping after a hit

This site was already trending down from previous Helpful Content updates, but it got blasted down to zero in March.

What does it mean for you? No, guest blogging isn’t dead. But, you need to evaluate sites more closely. And if you can, avoid pitching to sites you find on lists. Instead, try to find real value from relevant sites in your niche. I outline an entire pitching strategy in my video below:

YouTube player

4. The Average Cost of Buying a Link Insertion is $361.44

This average cost of $361.44 per link is for what Ahrefs called “niche edits.” This average cost comes from analyzing the 450 sites he contacted from various industries.

I call these “link insertions.” As I discussed in my link insertion post, these links are only impactful when placed on high-quality and highly relevant sites.

So, digging into this stat from Ahrefs a bit more, we can see that Josh found the higher DR link insertions were closer to $600.

average link insert cost by domain rating

What does it mean for you? Realistically, a “high-quality” link that will move the needle will likely be above DR 75+, so assume this value skews higher.

I’ve said “high-quality” a lot at this point, so let’s look at this next.

5. High-End Links Can Cost Over $1000

This link building statistic about the cost of high-end links is an estimate from Ross Hudgens of Siege Media based on years of industry experience. (I also worked at Siege Media for six years, so I trust this number.)

Although it’s not specified in the article, high-end is in that 75+ range I mentioned above, and it most likely refers to news publications achieved through digital PR.

But as journalists are getting laid off, and the ones who are left are starting to write more and more affiliate-driven SEO content so that publications can stay afloat, there are fewer “links” to go around.

High-end news links from publishers like local news stations to sites like CNet, Time, and the New York Times are in high demand right now.

So, realistically, those high-end links are valued at closer to $2-2.5K.

What does it mean for you? Ultimately, your cost per link for high-end links like this comes down to the strength of a campaign. You aren’t going to hit home runs every campaign, either. So, give yourself (or an agency) a chance to prove a trust cost.

6. Most In-House SEOs’ Typical Monthly Budget is $5,000-$12,500

So, this one is technically a mix of two stat found in the report from Aira:

  • The most common budget range for in-house SEOs was $10,000-$25,000.
  • Over 80% of in-house SEOs dedicate up to 50% of their SEO budget to link building.

Combining the two, the most common monthly budget for in-house SEOs is between $5k and $12.5k. Although this is, again, not super scientific, it’s at least directionally accurate.

As stated by Aira, the budget in question here is “external agencies, freelancers or contractors.”

With these budgets, can brands actually make an impact?

Yes, but I’d think less about the cost per link and more about investing in a link-building asset.

As we saw in our analysis of digital PR’s impact on SEO, a content-led digital PR campaign clearly has an effect—especially when correlated with search volume.

For example, when WalletHub’s best cities for families post is published and (most likely pitched), you can see a concurrent boost in organic traffic and links.

Then, you can see subsequent traffic boosts each time they update it.

an image showing the impact of updating and refreshing posts

A study like this could easily cost $10,000-15,000, but it has over 650 unique links, putting that cost per link at something like $23.

And if you were doing this study yourself (instead of hiring out), you’d see that cost per link drop even lower.

You invest in one asset, and it gains links and traffic over time.

You can even see the indirect impact of a keyword on the traffic to product pages. For example, look at the traffic boost to a product page that is linked to this highly successful digital PR campaign about dirty car interiors:

indirect traffic boost through digital pr and internal linking

There’s no search volume attached to the piece itself, but it has a meaningful impact on organic traffic. And if your content’s topic is relevant to customers, and your site is correctly set up to convert those visitors, you can attach revenue to digital PR.

That, for me, is a more meaningful way to spend a link building budget than buying individual placements on sites or guest posts.

However, as we’ll see in the next stat, how many links do most campaigns actually generate?

What does it mean for you? Consider where and how you spend your budget. Guest posts and link insertions will only move the needle if they are on high-quality sites and in areas of the site that get a lot of visibility. Investing in a content marketing asset and pitching it via digital PR gives you more opportunities to impact SEO. Doing it yourself in-house is even cheaper.

7. Most Campaigns Get 1-9 Links (and That’s Considered a Success)

If you asked anyone inside of SEO or even digital PR how many links are a success, I’d say that virtually everyone would agree that around ten links is a solid campaign. That’s precisely what Aira found in their study.

Aira asked its respondents how many links they generated in campaigns in the last 12 months, and a majority said 1-9 links.

air found that 1-9 links was what most people generated

Then, they asked how many links you would want to get that are deemed a success.

aira found that 1-9 is considered a "successful" link building campaign

Tying this into our previous statistic, numbers may look bleak if you spend $5-10k monthly on a link-building asset and only get 1-9 links back.

Stakeholders or clients might feel the same. But it’s easy to fall into the quantity of links over the quality trap.

As mentioned before, high-end links that can move the needle are costly.

To support this more with data, let’s examine the quality of links on most sites.

I took a quick list of five random top-ranking sites in different industries.

Then, I used Ahref’s ‘Best Links’ feature to determine how many quality links they have. The filters are set only to show referring domains from DR 75+ sites that get an estimated 10,000 organic visits or more per month.

filtering out bad links using ahrefs best links filter

When we compare the total number of links to the filtered total of “best” links, there is a decrease of almost 98%!

best links decreases the total links

This doesn’t show link relevancy, freshness, or other factors influencing a link’s value.

But on the face of it, it just goes to show that quantity isn’t a reliable number.

What does it mean for you? Campaigns may get fewer links, but if they are quality links, that’s all that matters.

8. At Least 66.5% of Links to Sites in the Last 9 Years Are Dead

Link rot is a real thing. Although Ahrefs found that 66.5% of links in the last nine years have been lost to crawl errors, dropped pages, and redirects, I’ve found that most links last about two years.

There are a few main things to take from this strategically.

First, you’ll always need to build links to keep up.

Second, although some lost links are beyond your control, you can mitigate some of this by being more selective about how and where you build links.

Always ask if it makes sense to get a link from a site. And specifically, does it make sense in the area of this site?

For example, say you could get a backlink to CNN’s coupon area. Recently, Google has started penalizing sites that exploit site reputation abuse (“third-party content produced primarily for ranking purposes and without close oversight of a website owner”).

So, if the site’s content is unclear, your link will be lost sooner than expected.

Last, one of the major points the Google leak documentation made is that Google may prefer freshness—not only fresh content but also links from site-specific areas that get refreshed.

firstseendate from the google leak

So, does this mean that links that have been up for a while are worth less? Quite possibly.

It makes sense that Google wants fresh signals about a site, given how quickly information can change.

What does it mean for you? Think of it like farming. You can’t plant a crop and expect it to last a lifetime. You must continually grow every year, refresh the soil, etc. To keep up with decaying links, you must continually build links to grow your link profile consistently. Focusing on high-quality news sites may also help lower link decay.

9. Backlinks (and Higher DR) Correlate With More Traffic

Ahref’s search traffic study found that both backlinks and a higher DR correlate with more traffic. This is somewhat surprising statistic for link builders because Google reps have recently mentioned things like “links aren’t as important” (although they’ve then backtracked.)

patrick stox tweeted a quote from gary ilves of google about how links are less important

It’s unsurprising because anyone in the SEO game knows how important links are for success.

But it’s always nice to see data backing this up.

One of Ahrefs more compelling studies found some profound correlations between backlinks and traffic.

After pointing out that 96.55% of all pages in their index get zero traffic from Google, they dug into some correlations into what does get traffic.

They found that pages with more referring domains get more traffic.

pages with more referring domains get more traffic

And that pages with more referring domains rank for more keywords.

pages with more referring domains rank for more keywords

Specifically, they call out how competitive keywords are the ones where links really make a big difference.

Another study from Authority Hacker found that referring domains are still the most strongly correlated factor for SEO success.

the number of referring domains correlates with top google search ranking

And finally, a third study from Backlinko shows that #1 result in Google has an average of 3.8x more backlinks than positions #2-#10.

backlinkos study found the #1 result in google has 3.8x more backlinks than positions 2-10

Both Authority Hacker and Backlinko really show the impact of links on ranking #1.

But what about just being on page one? Isn’t that enough?

According to another study from Backlinko, the number one result in Google gets over a quarter of all clicks (27.6%).

the #1 result in google has the highest organic ctr

This stat is huge for SEOs looking to pitch the value of ranking. It can mean the difference between a sale and a no-sale.

However, one thing to remember going forward is that AI Overviews may impact this number.

In the same way that Featured Snippets took clicks away from the SERP results, we may see AI Overviews take away from users’ clicks.

In fact, Google reps have already said, “…we see that the links included in AI Overviews get more clicks than if the page had appeared as a traditional web listing for that query.”

So, the last burning question is: What does it take to be included in the AI Overview, and will it impact you?

What does it mean for you?Even if Google says that links aren’t as valuable, we have compelling evidence to prove otherwise. Even if the reason you get more links as you get closer to number one is because you have more visibility, that still means you want to build links.

10. 84.72% of AI Overviews Link to at Least One Domain From the Top 10 Search Results

SE Ranking has compiled a great list of results from their most recent study on AI Overviews (AIOs).

There aren’t any prescriptive takeaways regarding Domain Rating or the number of backlinks required to appear in an AI Overview, but the data shows that almost 85% of the AIOs appear in the top 10 SERP results.

links from the top 10 Serp positions show up in the AI Overviews

So, do referring domains equal showing up in AIO?

There is no direct data, but you can easily connect the dots. We know that it takes links to rank well in the SERPs. So, getting links may increase the likelihood of appearing in the AI Overviews.

Google has also been struggling with AIO not showing correct information (like drinking urine to pass a kidney stone). So much so that they need to provide a disclaimer that it is still experimental:

a clip showing the generative AI is experimental

So, in many cases, Google must do some type of fact-checking behind the information they display.

How better to do this?

I believe that they will fall back on links and authority metrics.

What does it mean for you? AI Overviews are still very new. We have some data, but this is a changing landscape. The more Google gets pushback that AIO results aren’t helpful or incorrect, the more they will (most likely) lean on links and traditional ranking metrics.

The Problem With Statistics

The problem with most link building statistics and studies is that they are usually correlation studies. We don’t know anything for sure.

We have access to leaked information about Google’s algorithm, which helps us connect the dots. But so much of SEO is a mix of intuition and critical thinking. As Nick LeRoy said in our podcast, SEO is “really trying to just take in as much information as possible, process it, use critical thinking, which I think is a skill that a lot of SEOs and link builders struggle with because we just want what we want to work.”

Don’t just rely on what you hear and read. Test it out yourself.

If statistics, data, and case studies tell you one thing, but it doesn’t seem to work on your site, don’t do it.

You need to be able to think on your feet.

Things change VERY quickly in the SEO world. Strong convictions are OK, but you don’t want to be stuck in the mud if things change.

Think beyond the statistics.

Remember, at the end of the day, whether you are doing link outreach or writing content to rank, real people read it at the other end.

Write for them.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been in SEO for 10+ years, but seeing purely SEO-driven content or receiving a generic email is like a slap in the face to me.

The stuff that sticks out is when users go the extra mile to provide something useful or surprising — either in an email or a piece of content.

Vince Nero

Vince Nero

Vince is the Director of Content Marketing at Buzzstream. He thinks content marketers should solve for users, not just Google. He also loves finding creative content online. His previous work includes content marketing agency Siege Media for six years, Homebuyer.com, and The Grit Group. Outside of work, you can catch Vince running, playing with his 2 kids, enjoying some video games, or watching Phillies baseball.
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Website: https://buzzstream.com

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