I’ve been doing SEO in some capacity for almost a decade. I started writing “SEO-friendly” blog posts for an online automotive publication. Then I started blogging and doing on-page SEO for a tech company. But then I found out about this other part of SEO: link building.
The concept of link building is pretty simple, you get other websites to place links back to your site on their pages. However, actually acquiring those backlinks can be a tricky process.
So let’s say you want to skip the link building process and just focus on optimizing your website and publishing as much content as possible. Can it be done? Absolutely, there are plenty of very successful websites or businesses that spend almost no time on building links.
Why Do You Need Backlinks?
To determine if skipping link building is a good idea, let’s take a look at why backlinks are important and why you probably need them (or at least a few).
What Do Backlinks Do?
Backlinks can accomplish a couple of things: they can drive traffic to your site and they can help indicate that your site is an authority.
Let’s say you get a backlink from a page that receives 1 million+ page views per month, regardless of the clickthrough rate of that link, some of the people are going to click on the link to your site. This could drive a good chunk of traffic to your site as long as people keep visiting the first page.
Let’s say that the backlink is on a site like The Wall Street Journal or Harvard.edu. These are very well known websites that publish high quality content that a lot of people look at. So if they link to your site, that indicates to Google (and people) that you are a respected expert in your given field.
If Google’s algorithm is trying to determine whether to rank your article or a similar article in the number one spot in the search results, if your page has a backlink from one of these sites and the other does not…your page has a better chance of ranking well.
Do You Need Backlinks to Rank?
No. You can rank content with no backlinks at all. It may make things more difficult or take longer to rank, but you can do it.
Here’s a look at the SERP (search engine results page) for the keyword ‘backlink audit’. You’ll notice that all of the results on the first page have at least seven backlinks, except for one. The article ranking #10 from Simplified Impact has zero backlinks and zero referring domains.
Backlinks aren’t necessary to rank, but they give your content a better chance of ranking. To get your content to rank without backlinks, you’ll need to go above and beyond when it comes to content quality and user-experience.
Websites that have a large network of social media followers, email subscribers, and site visitors, may be better equipped to get rankings without backlinks. If they can distribute the content and get a steady stream of visitors from their followers, they may be able to bypass the link building process completely.
Why You Don’t Need to Do Link Building – Natural Backlinks
Backlinks play a big role in giving your content the best chance to rank, but you actually don’t need to actively build links to gain high-quality backlinks. There are pages with thousands of backlinks that have done no link building at all.
Convince&Convert’s Secrets to Building Natural Backlinks
Convince&Convert shares these twelve secrets to building natural backlinks without doing time-consuming outreach.
- Offer value instead of asking for links. Asking for links is exhausting. Creating personalized outreach messages takes time and has a relatively low chance of actually leading to backlinks. If you focus on creating the most valuable content for users’ searches, you’ll acquire links naturally as websites use your content as a resource.
- Make your content targeted and purposeful. Producing content specifically for your target audience not only increases the value of your content, but also increases the likelihood that visitors will share the content. You should focus on speaking directly to your target audience, rather than speaking to a general audience.
- Build something better. If you’re creating content for a specific keyword or query, take a look at what existing content is ranking well. If you can improve upon that content by making it more useful and valuable, you can naturally get people to link to your content.
- Collaborate with influencers. Collaborating with influencers helps you expand your reach from your existing network to the network of the influencers you work with. When you reach a new audience, you are getting your content in front of people who may want to share it on their website.
- Entice influencers with ego bait. “Ego bait” is basically just content that is praising a certain aspect of an influencer you’d like a link from. You can share case studies or examples of the influencer’s work as a way to stroke the influencer’s ego to encourage them to link to your site.
- Search Q&A websites for potential topics. According to VentureBeat, 15 percent of Google searches are unique and haven’t been searched before. So one way to get backlinks is to be the first website to actually target these new searches. Q&A websites like Quora or Reddit can be goldmines for identifying these questions before other websites have created content targeting those searches.
- Diversify your content types. You can make your content stand out by using multiple types of content. For example, if your blog post includes a video that explains the topic, an infographic to explain information, and photos that document one part of your post, you will be more likely to acquire links as people share your content.
- Invest in visual content. Not only is visual content better for user-experiences, but it also can get more shares than blog posts with no visual aspects. Visual content typically takes just a little bit longer to create than purely written content, so it can set your content apart enough to help it rank higher and acquire more links.
- Identify your audience’s favorite channels. To improve your chances of acquiring links, you should focus on distributing your content to the specific channels that your audience uses most. If you’re targeting people in a business context, share your content to LinkedIn. If you’re looking to capture 25 year olds interested in fitness, Instagram or TikTok may be a better way to share your content.
- Optimize content across multiple channels. If you want to get more links to your site, you should focus on making your content as easy to share as possible and making your content as native to each platform as possible. You’ll want users reading on your blog to be able to easily navigate your site regardless of their device (smartphone, tablet, or computer). If you’re sharing content on Instagram or TikTok, you need to make vertical video content to perform well and capture the most attention.
- Ask others to share. It’s crazy how simply asking people to do things can improve your outcomes. Adding CTAs within your content asking people to share or link to your page can increase the number of links your page acquires naturally.
- Focus on long-term benefits. Evergreen content will naturally acquire more backlinks than content that will be outdated in a shorter amount of time. If you keep your posts updated based on the latest information and you write for the long term, your post can keep acquiring new links over time for months and years.
How Can You Rank with No Backlinks?
So you’ve decided that you want to focus on all the other aspects of SEO besides backlinks? There are a couple things you’ll need to absolutely nail to give yourself the best chance of ranking: on-page SEO and technical SEO.
On-Page SEO is an aspect of SEO that focuses on improving your website to make it more user-friendly, and easier for search engines to crawl and understand.
Aspects of On-Page SEO
- Content Quality: The most important aspect of on-page SEO is the quality of your content. If your content is the most valuable and easy to read for a given topic, you’ll have the best chance of ranking well for your target keyword.
- Content Structure: In addition to having high-quality, well-written content, your content should be split up into intuitive sections so it’s easy to understand and navigate. If people want to scroll through a post and find a specific answer to their questions, optimizing your structure makes it easier.
- Internal Linking: Internal links are a valuable way to indicate to Google which pages on your site are the most important. The more internal links a page has, the higher priority Google views the page – and the more likely the page will be to rank.
- User-Experience: Google takes user-experiences into consideration when deciding which pages are the most important to rank.
- Page Speed: Google prioritizes fast loading pages, and may penalize your site if your pages take too long to load. Compressing your images, enabling caching, and eliminating slow-loading resources can all help to speed up your website and improve your rankings.
- Structured Data: Schema.org is a project that sets specific data standards for how to format information about the content on your site. For example, if you include a recipe on a food blog, there is specific structure that makes it easier for search engines to understand the ingredients and steps necessary to make the recipe.
- Sitemap: Part of getting Google to crawl and index your site is submitting a sitemap via Google Search Console. Making sure that all of the relevant pages on your site are included properly in your sitemap can help Google understand the structure of your site more easily.