Can you rank on Google without a backlink? It’s something many people have wondered multiple times across a variety forums – so many times in fact that the question shows up in Google Search results.

Maybe they’re people who don’t buy the idea of pitching for a link or don’t enjoy rejection. Maybe they get frustrated because they do not see any results from their SEO efforts and wonder if there is a quick hack or tactics to rank on Google fast without a backlink.

So in this article, we clear up the confusion and answer your question.

Let’s understand the purpose behind a backlink.

Why Backlinks?

It all started when the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, came up with a brilliant formula called “PageRank” in 1998. This rates a webpage by looking at how many outbound links (referring websites) point to it and how relevant those links are.

In summary:

When a website links to another site as a resource, trust influence is passed to the linked page. So, in other words, backlinks represent a vote of confidence from one website to another.

There are so many myths about SEO on how Google ranks websites.

A misconception in SEO is that the higher domain authority (DA) score you have, the better your rankings, but that is not always true. Google’s ranking algorithms are very mysterious, and no one can tell precisely how pages are being measured.

According to experts, more than 200 SEO factors contribute to a site ranking, and backlinks are among the main factors that impact your site rankings. But the big question remains – can you rank on Google without a backlink?

According to tests and best practices carried out by SEO experts, no, you can’t rank on Google without a backlink for a competitive keyword. But yes, you can rank without a backlink for a low search term.

For years, links have been one of the top SEO factors that helps the search engine evaluate the quality of a website. But due to an increase in link manipulation and unnatural link building, like selling links and many other blackhat SEO tactics, there has been a decrease in backlink influence on ranking.

Rankings Analysis Without Backlinks Tested by Yandex and Google

Yandex, the Russian search engine, said goodbye to backlinks. In early 2014, a test was carried out by different search engines to see whether including backlinks as a ranking factor is worth it.

The idea isn’t all that bad. 

Why? Because backlinks as a ranking factor mean many SEOs choose unnatural link building and other spamming tactics over dedicating more time to user experience and the quality of their content. For this very reason, Yandex chose to overlook backlinks as a ranking factor. However, after a year, i.e. at the end of 2014, the experiment ended and Yandex had to admit that SEO wouldn’t work without backlinks. 

Instead, links can now have a positive but also negative influence on a website.

Matt Cutts, a former member of Google’s web spam team, said in 2014 that the search engine results pages (SERPs) were much worse when backlinks were left out.

The introduction of RankBrain focuses on the user search intent and understanding the reason behind a user’s search. Quality content now plays a more vital role in ranking more than ever, which has led to many questions, including this: Will backlinks remain an essential factor in the coming years?

Cutts explained in a YouTube video that producing high-quality content that adds value to your audience is the backbone of your ranking.

However, Cutts also  mentioned at the end of the video:

“We will continue to use links to access the basic reputation of pages or a site.”

Meaning, quality content is a good ranking factor, but backlinks also play a massive role in your ranking. According to WorldMeters Data, there are more than 6 million blogs out there. And thousands of them are competing for the same topic, which has made the ranking algorithms more selective than ever.

So, it’s difficult to get noticed if no authority sites link to your website and tough for Google to rank your website on the first page of search results, especially for a competitive keyword. But if a page has no backlinks, it can rank for a less competitive keyword or niche. Conversely, if the keyword is competitive and many authoritative sites are producing content for it, you need a backlink to rank. 

Note: “Competitive” keywords refer to when many authority sites have produced content on that topic and are already ranking for the keyword terms you want to rank for on search results.

Example sites include Forbes, Inc., Neil Patel, Search Engine Journal, Moz, etc.

Backlinks Are Important, But They’re Not The Ultimate Ranking Factor

Here is the main reason why Google doesn’t count backlinks as the ultimate factor to rank a website: link manipulation.

Back in the years when people knew backlinks were the most crucial factor influencing a site’s ranking, it became a business – many people are making money just from selling links.

For example, on Fiverr and other freelancing websites, you can find countless backlink sellers advertising easy backlinks and quick rankings at a low price. But the links from these sellers often have no value – after all, why would Google reward you for earning links from a random site? The problem is that most of these sites exist to sell links, and when a page points links to so many random websites, it loses trust.

If you collect links in a sneaky and underhanded way, these links will often have no ranking influence on your site, despite their DA. Most often, those sites will also have no traffic. It’s only a matter of time before these pages will be exposed and penalized.

20 Tips To Help You Rank on Google Without Backlinks

1. Find low competition keywords using keyword research tools.

Keyword research is a great essential skill to master if you’re looking to rank faster on Google without building backlinks. Before you think about going after any keyword, it is recommended to always scope out the competition on Google before writing anything. Learn more about how Google Trends can help you with keyword research.

2. Start producing content that answers the user’s question.

Your first 15-20 articles should focus on topics or subjects that no one is talking about. Go for direct questions users are likely to ask on Google. Use questions starting with: 

Of course, you should do keyword research before writing on these topics to make sure they haven’t been too extensively covered. You will notice that even though they won’t bring in a lot of traffic to your site, producing content that nobody has written is essential to get your initial traffic and makes it easy to hit the top spot on Google faster.

3. If you are writing on question topics, try to answer the question at the beginning of your article.

This will allow you to rank for featured snippets on the search results. It’s all about answering what users are searching for at the initial stage and nailing it down to instantly show them that it meets their search intent. Users are going to find your content helpful and will likely continue reading till the end. And Google may reward you for this by showing your site on the featured snippets.

4. Make your title stand out.

The title is an essential factor contributing to your site ranking. Apply the best practices, using what people are searching for in your title.

5. Use internal links to help other pages quickly be found by Google.

Internal links are vital assets you have in your possession to help other pages on your site rank for other keyword terms. A good internal link structure can potentially boost your rankings.

6. Add your keywords to the first 100 words of your content, but do so naturally. 

If you can’t find a way to add it, leave it out and avoid stuffing keywords in your content.

7. Use the alt text tag to describe what your image is. Search engines can’t see images visually, so describing your photo using the alt text tag helps Google understand your content more.

8. Fix technical errors on your site with Google’s Lighthouse Chrome Extension.

This extension shows you all the critical errors and faults that might prevent you from ranking at the top of search results.

9. Make your site mobile-friendly to match all device screens.

If your site is not mobile-friendly, use Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

10. Add an XML Sitemap to your website.

If you use WordPress, there are tons of plugins out there to help you with that.

11. Delete dead pages, i.e. demo templates, on your website or add a noindex tag.

12. Optimize your website for Core Web Vitals.

With Google’s latest algorithm update, this is vital.

13. Reduce server response time.

For WordPress users, any of these plugins will help:

  • WP Rocket
  • Swift Performance
  • WPMU Dev Hummingbird

14. Install the Instant.Page WordPress plugin.

This will improve your milliseconds of latency and link preloading on your website.

15. Add structured data (schema markup) to your website. 

There are hundreds of schemas, and tons of plugins out there to help you accomplish this task. Add the most relevant schemas that fit your content.

16. Add a social share button below or to the side of your article.

17. Promote your site on social media.

18. Add videos to your content, infographics, stats and charts.

This will engage users and reduce the bounce rate on your site.

19. List your business on the most important directories to create trust on Google.

If you’re a local business, list it on Google My Business.

20. And finally, write quality content that makes your users leave your page with a sense of satisfaction.

Remember, ranking on the first page of Google without backlinks is possible, but only when the competition is weak. It shouldn’t be your only strategy, but it can certainly be done! We hope you feel like you’ve learned something from this article. If so, please share with your circle.

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By Margaret Blank

At the moment I am an expert-analyst in the field of search engine optimization, leading several projects and consulting on website optimization and promotion, I am actively involved in various thematic seminars and conferences.

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