In this article, you’ll learn how to rank without backlinks.
As you’ll discover below, there are several search engine optimization (SEO) techniques you can use to improve your keyword rankings and visibility on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
These 10 tips for how to rank a website without backlinks will give your content the best chance possible to reach the top positions in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
And once you achieve those key positions, you can then focus on link building only if you need it.
Not all search queries will require backlinks for your website to reach positions the top-ranking positions. So this guide will help you keep your link building to a minimum while developing your digital marketing strategy for SEO.
How to Rank Without Backlinks
1. Focus On Low Competition Keywords
The first step for how to rank without backlinks is to focus on keywords with the lowest competition. This allows you to get some quick wins in the SERPs without needing very many, if any all, backlinks.
There’s a complete guide you can read for how to find low competition keywords here, but below are the highlights to get started:
- Use a keyword research tool like Keyword Chef or KWFinder to uncover terms that have a low keyword difficulty score. This means lower domain authority websites are ranking at the top of the SERPs.
- Sort the keyword list by search volume so you can find the keywords with the most monthly searches.
- Pick the keywords that have low difficulty scores and high search volumes for easier wins.
2. Rank Without Backlinks Using On-Page SEO
Another important step for how to rank a website without backlinks is to do better on-page SEO than your competitors.
It’s often that you find websites in the top 10 SERP positions having poor on-page SEO. And the only reason they’re ranking that high is that their PageRank is being inflated by a high number of backlinks or other off-page optimization techniques.
However, don’t let that scare you.
Good on-page SEO can be the differentiator that helps rank your website above the competition without needing backlinks. This is especially true if you follow the previous tip about targeting low competition keywords.
Check out this complete guide on how to put keywords in an article for SEO for the full details on this strategy. The highlights of where your main keyword phrase goes is below:
- Meta page title
- Meta description
- Article URL
- Introduction paragraph
- Several times within the article
- Summary paragraph
- Image ALT text
3. Meet User Search Intent
In my post on how to write content that ranks on Google, I talk about the importance of user search intent.
As stated, “In 2013, the Google Hummingbird Update was released that helped the search engine understand the true intent behind users’ searches, called semantic search. Semantic search was a major breakthrough because it attempts to match appropriate web pages in Google’s index to the language of a user’s query beyond just individual keywords. This new semantic search algorithm takes the broader context into account to pair up SERP results that truly match the needs of the user (whether implicit or explicit).”
What this means for ranking without backlinks is that you need to analyze the top-ranking pages in Google for your target keyword to find out what type of content is being delivered for that search query.
You’ll then find common patterns in the SERPs such as:
- Informational pages (e.g., how-tos, lists, and guides)
- Transactional pages (e.g., ecommerce product listings, registration forms, and payment gateways)
- Navigational pages (e.g., company homepages, contact pages, and open office hours)
After you pick up on the pattern that Google is rewarding with page one rankings, you then need to create a similar type of content. Otherwise, you won’t be meeting the user search intent and will not rank as high in the search engine.
4. Create Better Content Than the Competition
Meeting user search intent is just one part of the puzzle to rank without backlinks. The other part is creating better content than the competition.
If your articles are not providing any additional value above and beyond what the current ranking pages include, then Google’s algorithm has no reason to place you in the top results.
The fact is that good on-page SEO and meeting search intent will only get you so far in the rankings. In order to rank a website without links (or very few), you need to create more in-depth and comprehensive content than your competitors.
This is an easy way to win high-ranking positions that last for a long time. So put a good amount of effort into your article to satisfy the searcher’s query better than every other website.
5. Rank With Topic Clusters
A topic cluster content strategy for SEO is another way to increase your rankings without needing so many backlinks.
Topic clusters are like content silos on steroids. A topic cluster is a group of highly-related topic posts under a master pillar page. Each topic post usually links back to a parent pillar page and the pillar page will often link to the essential topic posts, but not necessarily every post.
The purpose here is to establish topical authority on a key subject area. And the more content you can create that’s based on this topic, the more you’re proving to the ranking algorithms that your website is an authority in this area, and should be ranked higher for related search queries.
6. Improve Your Internal Links
Internal links are a great way to boost the SEO for a target page. Every time you link internally to another page on your site, you’re casting a vote for that content.
This SEO strategy is similar to acquiring external backlinks (more votes means it’s more worthy to users) but the links are happening on your site. With internal links, you’re signaling to Google’s algorithm that the target page is important to your visitors and should be seen by more people.
Several SEO case studies have been performed to test the ranking power of internal links and the results are clear: well-optimized anchor text for internal links can help a page rank higher in the SERPs for its target keywords.
7. Use Schema Markup to Rank In Google
Schema Markup, also known as Structured data, is another easy way to rank in Google without backlinks.
Schema is a special code that you can add to your web pages to describe individual elements of your content to search engines so they can better understand the content on your pages.
Search engines like Google can then use this information to display your content in more useful ways in the search results that don’t always require links for them to appear.
These coveted positions are referred to as “Rich Snippets” or “Rich Results”.
Examples of Structured Data in action include:
- Review rating stars
- Recipe information
- Event dates and locations
- Hours and phone numbers
- Organization details
- Top news stories
- Video information
8. Improve Your Website’s CTR
There are plenty of other SEO case studies that show how click-through rates (CTR) in the SERPs can significantly impact rankings. Even though this article by Search Engine Journal says it is not a ranking factor.
But if you look at this tweet by Danny Sullivan, it says “Google confirms watching clicks to evaluate results quality.” But it won’t definitely state publicly if it’s a ranking signal or not.
Regardless of who you believe, the best approach for SEO is to get more people to click on your website listing in Google.
The trick here is to continually optimize your meta page titles to increase the number of clicks. You can use emotion in your titles, add numbers, create curiosity, etc, to entice people to click on your listing.
9. Lower Your Bounce Rate
There’s an SEO term called pogo-sticking, and it’s bad for your website rankings.
Pogo-sticking is when the searcher clicks on a link in the SERP, sees that it’s not what they were looking for (or doesn’t enjoy the user experience), and immediately bounces off the page by hitting the back button.
If your web pages are suffering from pogo-sticking it can lower your rankings.
So you want to work to lower your bounce rate as much as possible by satisfying the search intent, reducing any unnecessary distractions, having fast page-loading speeds, and offering the visitor other content to consume through good internal links.
10. Publish More Content
A final way for ranking without backlinks is to publish more content.
Instead of focusing so heavily on trying to get a single page to rank for a specific keyword, it can be a better use of your time to just publish more pages. The more content you produce, the more chances you have to rank high in the SERPs without being dependent on only a few web pages for success.
And if you follow the SEO tips outlined above, you’ll increase the possibilities of your articles hitting the top of the SERPs without needing to do as much link building.
Rank Without Backlinks Summary
I hope you enjoyed this guide on how to rank without backlinks.
As you discovered, the real secret for how to rank a website without backlinks is to focus on key SEO techniques that improve the quality of your content so it doesn’t need as many off-page optimization signals to confirm to Google, Yahoo, and Bing that your content is worth a top-ranking position.