SEO without link building. Is it really possible?
Most experts would say no.
After all, links have been an integral part of search engine optimization for years.
However, your content may still rank. Even without backlinks.
In fact, there are different strategies that can be used.
Do you want to know how?
Are Backlinks Important for SEO?
Links have always been an important ranking factor for Google.
But in the past, links were one of the few ways that Google could use to determine the quality of a website.
A website with lots of links was seen as being more popular and, therefore, more trustworthy.
Today, things have changed.
Let me explain how.
In 2020, Google’s John Mueller tweeted that links are
definitely not the most important ranking factor:
Links are definitely not the most important SEO factor.
— John Mueller (official) · #MaybeABot (@JohnMu) July 31, 2020
Right after Barry Schwartz asked him if links are an important SEO factor, but not the “most important” one.
John Mueller later added:
We use lots of factors when it comes to Search crawling, indexing, and ranking.
Also, divisors, exponents, and other functions.
— John Mueller (official) · #MaybeABot (@JohnMu) July 31, 2020
So, are links important or not?
According to a study by Moz, links are one of the most crucial ranking factors.
But, although links are still necessary for a good ranking, the data shows that Google is now focusing on the quality of those links rather than just the quantity.
Now, you may be wondering:
What a good link looks like?
According to Google’s John Mueller:
“A good link… so I mean the traditional good link is someone who comes across your website and thinks it’s a fantastic website and recommends it to other people with a link.”
Let’s dig a little deeper.
John Mueller’s answer, while not comprehensive, does confirm the importance of promoting your website without resorting to spammy tactics.
Here is a further statement:
“Links are really important for us to find content initially.
So it’s like if nobody links to your website ever then we’re going to have a hard time recognizing that it even exists.”
As a final thought, Mueller stated that if the content is high-quality, once it’s been discovered, links aren’t as essential.
Basically, links are invites for Google to check your content.
But wait — there’s more.
Let’s see it from another point of view.
In a tweet from 2017, John Mueller of Google stated that the main important factor for ranking a website in top search results is “awesomeness.”
But, with 2 billion websites today, how can you create that awesomeness?
The answer is always the same:
If you want to rank on Google, you need to create quality content that is relevant and useful for your audience.
But is it really that “easy”?
Not at all.
In fact, today, Google has become much more sophisticated.
It can now use different elements to determine the quality of a website.
These include things like user experience signals (such as dwell time, organic CTR, bounce rate, and core web vitals), technical SEO elements (like website architecture or page speed), and content quality.
That’s not to say that links are no longer important. They still are.
However, they’re not as important as they used to be.
It’s because links are not the be-all and end-all of search engine optimization anymore.
Is SEO Without Link Building Possible?
The short answer is yes.
SEO without link building is definitely possible.
In fact, it’s become more and more common in recent years (and, in specific niches).
In an interview in November 2022, Google’s John Mueller said that he can see a future where links are not as important to the Google Search ranking algorithm as they are today.
He also suggested that links might not be as heavily counted as they have been in the past.
To make a point:
as Google has become better at understanding the quality of a website, it’s no longer as reliant on links.
This means that you can still rank highly in search engines without having to build lots of links.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should completely forget about link building.
Backlinks are still a valuable ranking factor.
But, if you want to rank your website without them, there are other things that you can do, like the strategies listed in the next section.
To sum it up, stop worrying so much about links, and instead focus on your content.
Nowadays, it’s all about having better quality content. And generally speaking, if your content is great, people will link to it without you even having to ask or do any extra work.
How to Rank on Google Without Backlinks
In this section, let’s take a look at some of the best SEO techniques that don’t involve link building.
Parasite SEO is a technique that uses other people’s websites to rank your own.
It’s also sometimes known as Satellite Sites or Barnacle SEO.
The idea is simple.
You find a relevant website with a good domain reputation and a big audience.
Then, you create content on their website (usually in the form of a blog post or article), to take advantage of their existing traffic and authority.
Of course, you don’t want to just create any cheap content.
It needs to be high-quality and relevant to its readers. Otherwise, you’ll just be wasting your time.
The great thing about Parasite SEO is that it’s a win-win situation. The host website gets free, high-quality content.
And, if done correctly, this technique can be very effective. It’s because you’re piggybacking off the authority of an already popular website.
Of course, it’s not easy to get your content published in someone else’s place.
But, if you can, it can be a great way to drive traffic and improve your SEO.
To help you get started, here are the best parasite SEO sites you can use:
It’s a technique that involves creating a website that covers a specific topic in-depth.
The idea is to become the “go-to” resource for that topic.
To do this, you need to create a lot of high-quality content that covers the topic from all angles.
This might include blog posts, articles, infographics, ebooks, and more. Or, a list of free SEO resources, as I’ve done here:
The key is to make sure that your website is the most comprehensive resource on that subject.
This way, when people search for information related to it, your website is more likely to come up.
And, over time, you can build up a strong reputation as an authority on that subject.
But wait, there’s more.
If your website contains content that is topical and relevant for longer periods of time than your competitor’s websites, you will have a significant advantage.
For example, let’s say you write an article about SEO trends for 2019.
That article will be relevant and useful for a few months. But, eventually, it will become outdated.
On the other hand, if you write an article about SEO fundamentals, it (mostly) never goes out of style.
That article will be just as relevant a year from now as it is today.
This is why it’s so important to create evergreen content that will be relevant for a long time to come.
To find sub-topics around the main subject, you can use Google’s “related searches” feature.
Just type in the main keyword, for example, “SEO tips”.
And scroll to the bottom of the search results page.
There, you’ll see a list of related searches. These can give you ideas for sub-topics to write about.
Pretty simple, isn’t it?
Or, you can use AnswerThePublic.com.
Just type in a keyword, and it will show you a list of questions people are asking about that subject.
This can be a great way to come up with ideas for content that you know people are already searching for.
On top of that, you may want to take advantage of semantic SEO. It’s the practice of optimizing your content to target not only the main keyword but also all the related terms.
And by targeting a broader range of keywords, you can improve your chances of ranking for long-tails, including LSI terms.
Another way to do SEO without link building is through keyword research.
This involves finding the right terms to target with your content.
If you choose the correct ones, you may have better chances to rank high in the search results without having many (or any) backlinks.
To do keyword research, you can use a tool like Google Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest.
Both of these tools are free to use.
With Google Keyword Planner, you simply need to enter a term, and it will show you the average monthly searches, as well as related terms.
For example, I did a quick search by typing “voice search“:
As you can see, there are keyword suggestions, as well as the average monthly searches and level of competition.
Sweet, isn’t it?
This can help you come up with ideas for content that people are already looking for.
Another great way to do keyword research is through Google Search Console. This free tool gives insights into how your website is performing in the search results.
In particular, you can use it to find out which terms your website is already ranking for.
To do this, just log into Google Search Console, and then click on “Search Results.”
Next, check the “Queries” tab. Here you can select up to 500 rows per page.
In this tab, you’ll be able to see a list of the terms your website is already ranking for. You can use this information to come up with ideas for new content.
And, if you see that your website is already ranking for a particular keyword, you can try to optimize your website further.
For example, you could improve the title tag, meta description, and on-page content to better target that term.
Another clever strategy is using Ahrefs’ Site Explorer tool to find your ranking keywords.
You just need to sign in to your account or proceed to a new registration.
Then, you can submit your website for free and verify it to get a “Project” in your dashboard.
Here, you can access many insights such as backlinks, organic traffic, and organic keywords.
If you click on the “organic keywords” section, you can get a list of the terms your website is already ranking for.
You can use this information to discover new topics to write about.
For example, if you list your keyword per difficulty, you can get ideas with easy terms to rank for!
Like this “SEO without link building” guide:
In fact, the free keyword difficulty checker gives a score of just “8”:
This gives an estimation of how hard it is to rank in the top 10 organic search results for a keyword on a 100-point scale.
Another zero link-building strategy is to focus on on-page SEO.
It’s the process of optimizing your website’s pages to rank better in the search results.
Do you want to learn how to?
There are a number of different things you can do.
For example, you can improve your title tags:
But there are many other things you can take care of.
Refer to this checklist to make sure you’re doing everything you can to optimize your pages for SEO:
- Include Your Keyword in the Title
- Include Your Keyword in the URL
- Optimize Your Title Tag
- Use Your Keyword In The First 100 Words
- Write an Optimized Meta Description
- Use Your Keyword in Sub-Headings
- Optimize Your Images
This is an underestimated way to do SEO without link building.
Here’s how it works.
You create a press release about your product or service.
Then, you submit it to a news website or press release directory.
And if your press release is newsworthy, it will be picked up by other websites and news outlets.
This can result in a ton of exposure for your website. And it could help you get more traffic.
Here are some popular news websites and directories where you can submit your press release:
- PR Newswire
- Business Wire
And here is how to write a press release [with a free press release template and examples].
Many people are not aware of the power of internal linking.
It’s the practice to link to other pages on your website from within your own content.
It is a great way to help search engines crawl and index your site, and to improve the user experience (by giving your visitors more content to consume, based on the topic they are already reading).
To do this, just add links to other pages on your website from within your blog posts and articles.
For example, if you’re writing an article about orphan pages, you could link to other SEO-related content on your website.
This would help search engines understand what your website is about, and it would also help visitors find related posts.
Plus, it will pass page link authority from one page to a new one, which is always beneficial for SEO.
And remember, there’s no internal linking over-optimization penalty.
This means you can abuse keyword-rich anchor texts as much as you want!
Organic CTR (click-through rate) is the percentage of people who click on your listing in the search results.
And a higher organic CTR means more visitors to your website.
So, if you want more traffic from search engines, here are some easy-to-follow things you can do to increase your SERPs’ click-through rate.
Try to implement these strategies:
- Focus on Improving Title Tags
- Optimize Your Content for Featured Snippets
- Use Short and Attractive URLs
- Experiment Using Brackets In The Title
- Try Using Numbers In Your Title
- Optimize Your Meta Description
- Add the Year To Your Title
- Do Not Use Clickbait
- Sparkle Emotion
- Use a Table of Contents
User experience (UX) signals are a relatively new ranking factor.
They refer to how users interact with your website once they land on it.
For example, if someone clicks on your listing in the search results and then immediately goes back to the SERP and clicks on another option, that’s a sign that your website’s UX is poor.
On the other hand, if someone clicks on your listing and then spends a long time on your pages, that’s a good sign.
Search engines like Google track UX signals to try and understand which websites provide a good experience for users, and which ones don’t.
And it’s thought that they use this information to help rank websites in the search results.
There are many different UX signals that search engines look at, but some of the most important ones are:
- Time on Site
- Bounce Rate
- Pages per Session
Time on Site
Did you know that websites that have a longer “time on site” generally rank higher on Google?
On the other hand, if someone clicks through to your website from the search results and then immediately goes back to the SERPs and clicks on another listing, that’s a sign that your website’s UX is below their expectations.
It’s the percentage of people who click through to your website from the search results and then immediately leave (i.e., they “bounce” back to the SERPs).
A high bounce rate could be a bad sign.
Pages per Session
This is the average number of pages that a user views during a single session on your website. A high page-per-session count is usually a good sign.
To improve your website’s UX, there are many things you can do, such as:
- Making sure your website loads quickly
- Ensuring your pages are mobile-friendly
- Making sure your site is easy to navigate
- Creating well-written and informative content
- Making sure you have a good design
Schema markup is code that you can add to your website to help search engines understand your content.
For example, if you have a page that talks about a recipe and you use schema markup, Google may display it as a rich result in the SERPs.
Like this one:
As you may imagine, it can be a great way to increase your organic click-through rate.
These are the so-called rich snippets.
They are special search results that include additional information about your websites, such as reviews, prices, and images.
What does this mean for you?
It can be a great way to increase your organic click-through rate and get more traffic from search engines.
Follow these three easy steps to get your rich snippets:
Core Web Vitals
Core web vitals are a set of metrics that measure the performance and usability of your website.
They include things like page load time, interactivity, and the stability of your content as it loads.
Google has confirmed that these metrics are a ranking factor.
So if you want to rank better in the search results, you need to make sure your website has good core web vitals.
There are three main metrics that Google is focusing on:
- Largest contentful paint (LCP). This measures how long it takes for the largest element on your page to load.
- First input delay (FID). This is how long it takes for your page to become interactive.
- Cumulative layout shift (CLS). And this one is how much your content shifts as it loads.
To improve your website’s core web vitals, there are a few things you can do:
- Optimize your images
- Use a content delivery network (CDN)
- Improve your server response time
Before You Go
Is SEO without link building possible? Yes, it is.
In fact, there are many different SEO techniques that you can use to improve your website’s ranking in the search results, and many of them don’t involve creating links.
So if you’re not interested in link building or if you’re simply looking for ways to rank higher in the search results without getting more backlinks, there are plenty of options available.
You may want to dig deeper by going through these guides:
Now, it’s over to you.
Do you have any questions?
Let me know in the comments below!