In the world of SEO, we know that backlinks are an important part of your strategy and every article we have ever read about the subject would say that you need to include it in order to boost your website’s rankings.
However, backlink building is no easy task, especially if you’re a solo SEO managing multiple client websites. There is a lot of work that goes into searching for and vetting backlink sites as even one bad link can backfire and bring down all the hard work you had done for the site already.
Another thing is that if your website is new, getting backlinks is even more of a hassle. Just posting in free to post sites is not enough. You need to get quality links from well-known sites. But the problem is that most of these sites will be unwilling to share a link because your site is new and they will be wary about linking to yours.
Because of this, even getting started on the path to improving your website is a long and arduous journey. This is bolstered by the fact that SEO in general, even after getting everything in place, still takes a long time to register and finally show results.
That is why so many people tend to follow online tutors or ‘gurus’ who claim to be able to get you those backlinks (and other SEO methods) using their methods such as email outreach and forum postings. However, what they don’t tell you is that you will have to send out a few thousand backlink emails before you get any real results from it as the likelihood of getting a backlink through this method is about 1 – 3%.
Imagine having to send a thousand emails for 10 backlinks on your homepage, and then having to repeat that for all the pages on your site. Sounds almost impossible right? For someone with a full SEO team at their disposal, this is probably alright. But for someone like you who has to do it all solo, this method will just not cut it.
As SEO grows more popular and more people get involved in it, there have been more searches for ranking websites without the use of backlinks. And though backlinks are important and should be a part of your building plan, I do have some methods that allow me to grow my websites without the use of them.
These methods will work in almost any market (even the difficult ones) and can help your website get out of that initial phase and become more trustworthy as it grows. A website that is performing and is growing will garner way more attention from both users and other websites when compared to a new website.
Below I have gone through all the tips and tricks that I have learned in my time as an SEO. Please read through the whole article before you start on any of the methods. It is better to be more learned about the subject before jumping in headfirst.
Is it really possible to rank a website with no backlinks?
If you have been creating and trying to rank websites for a while, then you know that most times it is not possible to get them to grow without it. But, I am here to tell you that it is possible and that it can be done if you follow the steps I mention.
You have to keep in mind that there are more than 200 different ranking factors Google will use in order to determine the ranking of your website. Of these 200, backlinks are just one of those factors and there are so many more. Yes, backlinks are important but you don’t necessarily need to depend on them to grow your website.
The factor that I found to be the most important is – User Experience and Search Intent.
User experience – The way the site is designed and the way it presents itself to the user. If it is smooth and has a flow and good design, your chances of ranking will definitely increase.
Search intent – Your website should provide answers to the questions that users search for on Google. As long as your content provides value to the user, and their search is fulfilled, you will be given priority by Google.
Steps for ranking without backlinks
Using long-tail keywords
Many people tend to overlook these long-tail keywords because they do not have as much search volume compared to their more popular root keywords. Because of this, they are underutilized and therefore have a lot less competition. An example would be:
Root keyword – Lose weight
Long-tail keyword – Lose weight fast inside 8 weeks
So, if these keywords are not popular that must mean that they aren’t good right? No. And this is the beauty of it. Just because it is not popular does not mean that it is not useful. These keywords will actually be more useful for you as they are more specific than root keywords.
Let’s take the above example, If someone searches for “lose weight” on Google, are we able to immediately identify what his search intent is just based on that? No. He may be searching for reasons as to why he is losing weight, or he has a sickness and is Googling symptoms. There is a myriad of reasons as to why someone would search for a general keyword on Google and we can’t optimize for each of them.
However, if someone searches for “Lose weight fast inside 8 weeks” then we know exactly what they want and we can cater to that need. In this way, even though you will be getting less traffic, you will be getting more relevant traffic than a general keyword. People who found your website would have done so because they are interested in knowing more about the subject. As such, there will be more engagement and more conversions on your website.
Also, due to the lower competition, it will be much easier to rank for these keywords. This will make the process of building your site without backlinks that much easier.
If you haven’t used these keywords before and don’t know how to find them, I will list a few ways below:
- Using Google Search – When you type something on the Google search bar, you always see the dropdown box underneath that populates other search terms for you. These are the most popular searches that Google gets based on the keywords that you have typed in. So, if you were to type in your keywords, one at a time, then you can identify a list of long keywords that you can optimize for.
- Google Keyword Planner – This is a free tool given by Google that allows you to see the popularity of keywords based on their search volume. There are multiple keyword tools out there, but this is the most accurate in terms of data because it is pulled straight from Google itself. This tool will show you how popular the keyword you have chosen is and if that is enough for your purposes.
- Keyword tools – There are many other free and paid tools available online. These are sometimes better than Google Keyword Planner as they have other statistics such as competition levels and search difficulties (which tells you how hard it is to rank that keyword). Using these, especially a paid one like Jaaxy may be more beneficial to you if you are starting out.
Write a blog
Here’s the thing, a website with only a few pages on it is not going to be able to rank. Due to the policy changes made by Google, they are now prioritizing content and authenticity. Therefore, empty websites with only a few product pages, and a couple of other general pages will not work. Especially if you are in a very competitive market, you will stand almost no chance.
This is why blogs are important because:
- a) they provide content to your visitors
- b) you are able to write content for different unique search terms
- c) you can rank for a lot of unusual keywords and not lose that potential.
If you focus only on your site’s main pages and not on the blogs, then you will not be able to rank for different keyword variations. Most time, it will not look normal to use long-tail keyword variations on main pages or product pages.
By using the methods mentioned in #1, you can identify new keywords that you didn’t think about targeting and write a blog about it. This way you can bring in these new users who would never have come across your site otherwise.
Also, you don’t need to be a really good writer that knows the ins and outs of blogging. You just need to do your research about what you’re writing about and be clear in your writing so that your content makes sense to the person reading it. As long as the information you write is providing value and can’t be found word-for-word on another internet post, then you will be fine.
A blog that is written in a more personable manner is also more likely to get more engagement from casual users than a blog that is written in very formal language. If you feel that your writing is not the best, then you can do yourself a favor and sign up for an online blog writing class that will teach you the basics, because the basics are all you need.
If you want, I will give you my recommendation for this, which is the place that I learned everything about blogging and running my own website – Wealthy Affiliate. The point of this website is to do with affiliate marketing but they have a ton of lessons and information about blogging and websites that I think will really help you out if you need it.
Don’t take long pauses
You need to show Google that your site is relevant, updated well, and that there are actual people behind it rather than a bot. This is the best way to get their attention and make them start sending ranking points your way.
You can do this by making sure that you always keep your content fresh by uploading regularly and making necessary changes on your site when needed. If you do this on a consistent basis, then over time Google will notice that you are running the site well and so the trust between the two will improve. This is really important as trustworthiness is a really important ranking factor as well.
How often you blog will entirely depend on your time management, market, and whether it is just you working on the website. It will also depend on how old your website is and where you want it to be in a few months. Doing it too many times can also be viewed as spam content by Google so make sure you always upload quality content as that is more important than quantity. You could do a blog twice or even once a week and still see results.
Using Google Trends
Did you know that you can use Google Trends to set up notifications and alerts for a particular topic in your niche? This way, when any person or website puts out some content with that selected keyword, you will be notified about it.
This is important because you can use it to find out how popular that keyword is and find new keyword ideas that are still not being utilized by others. This method is very unconventional and a lot of people don’t use it because they are unaware of how useful it really is.
To use this tool, you need to visit Google trends and on the search bar, you can type in your industry or a general keyword that you want to find information on. Then you will have to scroll down through all the information till you get to the “Related Topics” section which will show the most popular topics that are related to your keyword. Next to it, there is another section called “Related queries” which tells you the most popular search terms that people use in relation to your keyword.
The best part is that you are not limited to only this information. A simple click on one of the topics or queries that are shown will take you even further to find more information about that one that you clicked as well.
The information that you get on this page will be new data and new keywords that are not very popular. Using this plus the methods mentioned on #1 of this list, you can find new keywords to write new content about. Since this is recent data, and there is still interest in the keywords you find, you can start ranking better for them than other general keywords.
Linking internally on your website
Were you aware that backlinks aren’t the only form of links you should be having on your site? Yes, the internal links that you place between your pages are also a ranking factor and it does matter when ranking your site.
Why does it matter? Because it affects the user experience and that is something that Google cares about. Having clear internal links will make it easy for visitors to move from page to page and even go back to the homepage with one click if they desire.
The other reason is that it provides a structure to your website which again Google wants from a website. By proper use of the anchor text and linking every page correctly, Google will have a good idea of what each page is about and it has a clear structure in place that provides a good flow.
You can also help pages that are struggling to rank by using this method. You need to identify which of your pages are doing the best and which are doing bad. You will then need to identify links between them that you can then place to move the visitor from a popular page to a less popular page. You cannot just place a random internal link on the popular page and expect it to provide value to the other page. There needs to be a reason for the link and that’s why it is better to do this beforehand and identify a way of creating that link.
Trust, Authority, and Relevance
As I have mentioned before, Google has changed its stance on the way they rank websites to now favor those that seek to provide value and trustworthiness. That is why I think it is easier now to rank a site without backlinks than it was before.
The reason for Google doing this is all the black-hat techniques that people employed back then to rank their sites. Placing their links on any page they could find, they were able to rack up the number of backlinks, which in turn, improved their website’s rankings.
To combat this, Google has brought in many changes to the way SEO and website rankings work. That is why more importance should now be placed on the content you create and how you create it. Yes, you need to be creating more content but you need to be smart about it as creating random content just for the sake of it, just won’t cut it.
As is the case with internal linking, there needs to be a way where you can link those pages together. Therefore, the content on your site should coincide with each other and make sense to place a link between them. To do this, you need to be focused on a niche or something that is relevant to your business and then not stray far from that content.
Being overly general with your content and business is not going to make things easier for you. You will not be able to rank without backlinks because you will be competing against websites that have much more resources, more content, and more experience than you. You need to be more specialized and focus on one small niche and stick to that niche in order to start ranking your website. You will be able to focus on more relevant content to write just for that niche as well, which will make running the website much easier for you.
Creating shareable content
In our time on social media, we have come across content where everyone knows about it and is talking about it. This is called “Viral” and this type of content will provide a massive boost to your website and brand name.
What makes it viral is usually to do with relatability, the need to share it with others, and if the content is helpful enough that more people need to see it. Of course, it is not easy writing content with the hopes that it will go viral. These days there is no formula you can follow that can make it so.
However, it wouldn’t hurt to create content with a few guidelines in place to help it along its way. If it ends up being viral, then get ready for a massive boost at that time. Also, one thing to note is that social media traffic is not a direct ranking factor and the shares you get will not count as backlinks by Google anymore.
If you want to look for topics to write about then you can use online tools such as Buzzsumo which has sections for finding posts/topics that are currently going viral or has a lot of social media shares in your niche.
The benefit you will get SEO-wise through viral content is that Google will identify that a lot of people are interested in your content and that you, as a website, are providing value to them (if not, why would so many people come on to your site). This provides you with social ranking signals which will help you to rank higher.
There is also the possibility that other websites will want to use your content to share on their website, earning you a free backlink in the process without trying.
Increasing the Organic Click Through Rate
Click-Through Rate or CTR is the number of clicks that a webpage gets through its listing on the search page of Google organically. This is separate from Google Ads CTR which talks about the clicks on the ads placed on Google.
The CTR is found by dividing the number of clicks by the total number of impressions received for the month and then getting the percentage figure. The good part about improving CTR is that you can do this even if you aren’t ranking on the first page.
Now, this is not an easy method but if done right, you can get a better ranking over time. If you get your CTR up, Google will notice that your percentage rate is higher than your competitors which would mean that your content and website are also good. Therefore, they may decide that since your website is performing, you deserve a better ranking.
To drive CTR up, the best thing you can do is to test your titles and meta descriptions. On a search result page, these are the first things that users will see and it is the first place that websites advertise to the users to click on their site. Therefore, optimizing these to appeal to customers to click on your site will improve your organic CTR percentage.
Be careful with the way you word it though. You should never lie or provide false promises. Always make sure you can offer exactly what you are writing because if not you can cause your bounce rate to rise if people don’t find what they are looking for, which will bring your rankings down.
Optimize your website
Every year Google has over a thousand small and major updates that they release for their algorithm. And the truth is that you also have to be in line with their changes to make sure that your website does not get affected by it.
These days, you need to have an SSL certificate to be verified and also make your website pages load faster (within 3 seconds) else people will just click away. These factors are also checked by Google as they also factor in the user experience.
To do this, it will cost you some money as you need to get a new SSL certificate every year, and to make your website load fast, you need a good server and host. Most hosting services that provide fast servers will be quite costly to get every year.
However, if you were to use my recommendation earlier, Wealthy Affiliate, it comes with a website builder, free SSL certificate, and free fast hosting that they provide themselves. You only need to pay for the premium membership of their site and everything else that they provide comes free with it.
NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number)
NAP or Citations as they are called sometimes, are the mentions of your business’s details that you can find on the internet. This means any place where you can list your business such as yellow pages, directories, and the like.
Google loves consistency and so having a consistent NAP profile everywhere is another important ranking factor. That means that every mention of your site should make sure that it has the exact data as all the others. This is especially important for websites or businesses that operate in a local or specific area.
By doing this you provide more relevance and trustworthiness as there is no indication that the information you have given is wrong or fake. The better your NAP score, the better that Google will provide ranking factors for your site.
Can you actually be successful in ranking websites without backlinks?
In truth, this will depend on you, the work you do and the market you operate in. I cannot give you a surefire method and tell you that this will make sure that your website will start to rank. Based on my experience, I have given you the above methods so you can try them out for yourself and see how it works for you.
One thing is certain though, you need to put in the work both consistently and of a certain quality. It is not possible to do work half-way and expect results to show. Things like blogging will really help to build your website as it is quality content that no one else can take from your website.
The only way to start ranking on Google is to make sure that you follow their standards and do whatever is possible to appear favorable in their eyes. So focus more on the user experience and on helping people rather than only your website. Once you can do that, you will be able to see changes to your rankings.
Of all the methods mentioned above, the best one would definitely be using long-tail keywords to create consistent blogs. This will cover a lot of ground in terms of keywords and maximize your potential of reaching unknown niches that would not have occurred to you. Do your research and put some work into creating these blogs. You can put more effort into the other methods once you have done this and have a process to continue doing this in the future.
What can you do to get started?
I know I spoke a lot about SEO and websites in this article but I have only scratched the surface. There is so much to learn and know about in the SEO world and so many strategies that you can try.
However, to even start that, you need at least a website. Even maintaining a website can be costly though and sometimes you cannot afford to continue paying for it while trying to learn about SEO and what to do with the website.
If you are new to this side of marketing or have been working in it for a while but are still trying to learn more, then I will again recommend the platform Wealthy Affiliate to all of you. This platform has everything that you need to get started including the website. It has very comprehensive training on everything relating to running a website as well as a community of like-minded people who have also been in your position before.
This is the same place that I used myself to learn about everything and I must say that it is one of the best investments I have made in my life. It really helped me to learn everything when I knew nothing. It has a ton of features included in its premium packages such as a keyword research tool, website hosting, website builder, and more.
If you want to try the platform out before you pay for it, they have a free membership package where you even get the first 10 lessons of the training program for free. You don’t even need to enter your credit card details on the site to sign up. If you are serious about ranking your website well, I think it would be worth it to sign up and see what the platform has to offer you. Take it from me, it really helped me to be where I am today.