If keyword stuffing could grant you top ranking a decade ago, it’s no longer the case nowadays.
Google has become smarter, and now, it pays attention to users’ search intent and behavior instead of keywords.
As a marketer and a website owner, I want my website pages to rank high but often struggle with it for multiple reasons, like competition and a low website domain rank.
Despite challenges, my website reached the top 10 Google search results for two keywords in six months without link building.
In this article, I cover the most burning website owners’ questions, like these:
- Are backlinks still important for SEO?
- Is it possible to do SEO without link building?
- How to rank a website on the first Google search result page without backlinks.
Let’s get straight into business.
Are backlinks important for SEO?
Google uses over 200 algorithms to rank web pages and serve you with the most relevant search results at a particular moment in time.
Various studies confirm that backlinks are among the strongest ranking factors. Therefore, when you ask “how to rank a website without backlinks?” the first piece of advice you get is to build high-quality backlinks.
Ahrefs assessed over a billion web pages in 2020 to discover the correlation between the number of referring domains and search traffic. Their study showed that the more backlinks a website has, the more traffic it might get from Google.
What conclusion can we draw from this study? Every solid website needs backlinks from reputable websites to grow its domain rank and compete for the top-ranking positions on search.
In my case, I noticed significant improvements to my website’s DR (domain rate) after naturally acquiring a few high-quality, do-follow backlinks.
According to Ahrefs, my website’s DR grew from 3.5 to 10 due to the acquisition of backlinks. However, I still do not know which backlinks helped boost my website’s domain rank and how many backlinks are needed to rank high on Google.
Let’s see what the data says about it.
How many backlinks do you need to rank well on Google?
If you want to build a web page and wonder how many backlinks it needs to rank well on Google, Ahrefs can answer your question.
Ahrefs has a free keyword difficulty checker that can show you approximately how many backlinks your web page needs to get to the top 10 Google search results.
Let me show you how it works based on my top-performing web page.
Ahrefs estimated that the making money on Medium web page needs backlinks from roughly 13 different websites to rank in the top 10 for the “make money on Medium” keyword. On the other hand, the keyword difficulty is 12 out of 100. It means this keyword is not competitive because not many websites target it in search.
Now, let’s review the performance metrics.
The web page has only one naturally acquired do-follow backlink as of February 2022, but it already ranks 8th on Google for the “make money on Medium” keyword.
So, Ahrefs says I need roughly 13 backlinks, but my web page is already in the top 10 with one do-follow backlink only. You might think something is wrong here. However, let’s try to make things clear.
Keyword difficulty checker gives a rough estimate on the number of backlinks and competition. The number of backlinks may not be accurate, like in my case.
I mentioned earlier that backlinks are just one out of more than 200 rankings factors. Your website’s domain rate, web page authority, content quality, user behavior metrics, and on-page optimization play a crucial role in rankings. Therefore, your web page might need more or fewer backlinks to rank well on Google.
I recommend using Ahrefs keyword difficulty checker to assess your rankings chances. If keyword difficulty is above 30 but your website’s domain rank is below 10, it might be challenging to achieve top positions for your particular keyword.
It’s worth targeting long-tail keywords with low competition at the start.
I’ve been successfully following this strategy since my website’s launch. Let me show you how you can do SEO without link building.
How to rank without backlinks — case study
If you wonder how well a brand new website with no backlinks might perform on search, here is what Tim Soulo, Ahrefs’ CMO says:
“Roughly 5% from our sample of billion web pages get some organic traffic while having no backlinks. Meaning that only one in every ~20 pages without backlinks has traffic and the majority of these get 300 organic visits or less each month.”
What does this information mean to you?
You won’t be able to achieve epic results on search without a strong backlink profile. However, your website can rank high enough for some keywords to get discovered by users online.
How to increase a page rank without keywords?
If you run a brand new website with a low domain rate, well-optimized content can help you rank high for low competitive keywords with search traffic potential. Following this strategy and using the right content writing tools, two of my website’s pages achieved the first Google search result page in six months.
Nowadays, I focus on growing my website’s impressions by producing optimized content. Most of my blog posts receive thousands of impressions and rank for hundreds of different keywords daily.
If you want to achieve similar results, it’s worth focusing on the right SEO keywords with the following criteria:
- Low competition on search
- High search traffic potential
- Business value
Targeting high competition transactional keywords does not make much sense if your website’s domain rank is low. It won’t work on Google. Likely, old and more reputable websites have already occupied Google’s top positions.
If you wonder who’s on top and what domain authority those websites have, you can use Ahref’s free SERP checker.
Let’s check the SERP for the “make money on Medium” keyword. It has a 150 global volume and 12 keyword difficulty (competition), according to Ahrefs. It’s a keyword with promising monthly volume and pretty low competition. Some top-ranking websites even have a domain rank of zero. Therefore, I assumed a well-optimized blog post might rank high on Google. And I was right!
My website page ranks 8th on Google for the “make money on Medium” keyword.
You don’t necessarily have to build backlinks for SEO to rank high on Google. On-page SEO strategies can help you create searchable content. If you are not sure how to do it yet, the following resources will help you get started:
- How to do SEO for a new website
- How long it takes for Google to index your website and see the first rankings
- SEO writing
- A curated list of content writing tools for SEO
Got questions? Let me know in the comments.
Grab my 50-page guide to learn how I create blog posts that hit Google front page. You can easily replicate my 3-step process even if you are just starting.