rank without links

I’m surprised to see that there are still “SEO professionals” teaching others the publish and pray method – growing a blog by doing nothing but publishing content and ignoring link building altogether. They couldn’t be more incorrect.

Let’s take a look at some of the data behind whether it’s actually possible to rank without links or not.

Is is possible to succeed in SEO without link building?

First of all, if you’re not link building, are you even really an SEO? There are over 200 ranking factors and link building is still the #1 determining factor. If you do nothing else and ONLY focus on links, you have a better chance at building a high-traffic blog than if you were to do everything BUT link building.

Links move rankings, not just for an individual page but for all pages across your domain. You end up ranking for more long-tail keywords as a result of your domain authority increasing.

That means all content you create in the past, present, and future will have more legs. One of the biggest advantages of building up a strong link profile is the power and speed in which you rank new articles. Authority blogs with lots of strong backlinks can create new content and get indexed straight to the first page. It’s what makes blogging with SEO so profitable.

Not only that, but as your authority increases, you can start competing for more competitive keywords more easily. This allows you to target bigger keywords with higher search volumes and really start growing your monthly traffic.

Without links, you don’t get any of that. You’re stuck having to create massive amounts of content, and just hoping that Google ranks you for uncompetitive long-tail keywords.

You can still rank for very uncompetitive keywords

For keywords that have zero competition, it’s possible to rank on the first page of Google without any link building.

Here’s a real-life example. Many years ago when I was a freelance SEO consultant, I got scammed by a client.

I was just starting out in the freelance world and had very little experience. Naturally, I took any client that I could find.

Unfortunately, one of those clients happened to be a scammer. I still don’t fully understand the situation and what his intentions were. Even after it happened to me, it just seemed too stupid to be real.

He was a young guy looking to build a tour bus business in my city. He wanted a website and monthly SEO work done, but wanted to work with me on the website first. So we agreed on a price, something like $600 if I can remember, and this was to be paid after completion before we start any SEO work.

After everything was done, he paid me with a fake business cheque. When I went to the bank to cash it in, they said the business doesn’t exist. When I gave them his phone number, he picked up and said they had the wrong number.

After that, he dodged any communication from me and disappeared.

Long story short, I quickly took down his site. I later learned that his name wasn’t even what he told me it was. I honestly don’t understand what he was trying to do there.

But shortly thereafter I put up a Blogspot blog, titled it as “XX scam” and wrote down in full detail what he did to me. Immediately it indexed in the top 3 of Google for his business name.

That was able to rank without any links because his company name was unique and had zero competition.

This was a long story just to prove a point, but yes it’s possible to rank for keywords with zero links if it has zero competition. Just don’t expect any actual traffic from it.

But a lot of people build successful, high-traffic blogs without link building…

Yes, there are some blogs out there that have become successful without link building.

But let’s define link building: As an SEO, I’m actively out there building links to my blogs.

Some people just produce great content and overtime, attract links naturally. What I, and other SEO’s do, is speed up the building of our link profile rather than just hoping that one day, a webmaster stumbles upon our article and links to it.

Yes, it can work, but it’s not something you have control over. You’re leaving it up to chance.

It’s kind of link opening a dental clinic on the 39th floor of a commercial complex, not telling anyone about it, and hoping that customers magically stumble upon it and walk in.

Sure, over a few years some people might find out about it. They might even tell their friends about it, and maybe it can grow into a successful business. But the process is 1000x slower than if you were to go out and actively promote it yourself.

Even a single link can make a difference

Link building is not just about ranking a single keyword. Like I mentioned earlier, getting new strong links pointed at your site can increase the total number of keywords each article ranks for (ie. long-tail keywords).

One of the blogs I recently sold had very little link building done to it. It was in a very uncompetitive space.

It was a blog I built up, then didn’t touch for a few years. When I went back and built just 2 links to it, search traffic immediately increased by 46%.

DejanSEO recently had a similar finding. They ran an SEO experiment to test whether quality content alone can be enough to rank for low competition keywords.

They published 30 pieces of high quality content targeting uncompetitive keywords, and left it alone to see how it does.

Two years later, there had some interesting results.

When they didn’t build any links, they had no measurable search traffic.

Then they pointed a single PBN link to it. Search engine traffic increased slightly.

Then they received a natural link from a fairly weak website, and this single link was enough to make their search traffic not only spike, but continue to grow afterwards.

If this isn’t evidence enough that links are essential to your rankings and search traffic, then I don’t know what is.

Frustrated with low traffic and rankings?

I get a ton of emails from people who are frustrated with low traffic. They’re producing great content and their on-page SEO is perfect, but they’re not seeing any traffic increases.

I always tell them the same thing: Build links.

Put a pause on content production and start focusing on building links. And if you’re not having much success with link building, proactively produce content that’s linkable.

If you can do that, your existing content AND the content you publish in the future will return much better results for you.

Conclusion

Is it possible to rank in Google without backlinks?

Yes, but only for very uncompetitive keywords. To have a chance at ranking for anything with meaningful search volume, you need to build links.

Some people can ignore link building completely and, over time, naturally build up a strong link profile. But that’s not a replicable strategy; it’s a game of chance.

To be in full control of your traffic growth, you need to be actively building links.

62 Comments

  • Reply
    Velin N.
    April 24, 2018 at 3:47 am

    Hey Chris,

    I totally agree with you, building relevant links to our websites is the way to go if we want to see some positive results in future.

    I haven’t tested ranking a post with no backlinks, however, I believe it would be possible only with little to no competition and with really great content.

    By the way, your blog is getting a lot better with the little improvements that you’ve made on the design, congrats!

    Best,
    Velin N.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 24, 2018 at 11:37 am

      Thanks Velin πŸ™‚ BloggingCrew’s looking good as well!

  • Reply
    Jeff Schuman
    April 24, 2018 at 9:20 am

    Great article Chris. Links move rankings sums it all up. Well put.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 24, 2018 at 11:37 am

      Thank you Jeff! Great to hear from you.

  • Reply
    Javi
    April 24, 2018 at 9:42 am

    Nice post Chris.

    One question. What kind of links you are talking about? Are free links like forums, profiles, bio… nice links or they doesnΒ΄t work?

    Regars,

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 24, 2018 at 11:38 am

      Those kinds of links don’t really do much for rankings. I’m mainly going after editorial links within content.

      • Reply
        Javi
        April 24, 2018 at 12:16 pm

        Ok, so, you have to pay for those links… Is no so easy building so much links…

        Thank you!

  • Reply
    Joe
    April 24, 2018 at 9:45 am

    Hey Chris,

    Good blog post. I’m kind of starting to think that links are losing their value (although they’re still extremely important).

    I believe that I’ve seen some sites get a ranking boost simply by having consistent traffic going to them…

    For example – I keep seeing this pinterest ad: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/AYf34CCqpd7CdWwRE6rwCTSEdu9K2f3R0-Plbejl8hWEqPVbT0j6iu4W8FEfIKUkU4KROPWb-lmsSpA9PYHpsiA/

    And the site seems to rank for some pretty competitive stuff with a weak link profile.

    Seen this with other sites that have strong Pinterest traffic or a YT channel.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on this, Chris!

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 24, 2018 at 11:43 am

      Thanks Joe! It really depends on the keyword and level of competition.

      But there is something about what you mentioned, which could be an interesting topic for another post. When articles get boosted by social media, they get a lot of social and user signals, which could help.

      Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Meet joshi
    April 24, 2018 at 9:53 am

    Hey Chris, is it possible to rank for competitive keywords with backlinks from websites with low domain authority?

    Long story short- is it possible to rank with weak backlinks?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 24, 2018 at 11:44 am

      Depends on the keywords and how your competitors stack up.

  • Reply
    Jatin Chhabra
    April 24, 2018 at 9:58 am

    Informative post Chriss, and I can relate to this. Link building is important, and not all good content gets ranks on the 1st page of Google, and I can tell that with experience.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 24, 2018 at 11:45 am

      Nice, thanks for sharing Jatin πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Max
    April 24, 2018 at 10:05 am

    Hey, Chris. Thank you for another greate peace of content.

    I have a 8 month old niche site that getting literally no traffic (0-5 visitors daily) because i haven’t done any linkbuilding.

    My niche is very small, let say its astrology sub-niche (just example) and i have only about 50 competitors websites and 95% of them don’t even have a contact page and i couldn’t contact with them to use any linkbuilding strategy. So this is why i can’t building links. I have some links from my social media profiles, youtube channel but they all no follow.

    What advice can you give for niches wher i can’t find any bloggers, public personas or sites who welcome to collaborate? How to build relevant links in this kind of situation!

    Most of websites in my niche have nothing but content and Google adsense monetization.. That’s it. No email, no contact form no way to contact websites owners..

    Thanks in advance for any help!

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 24, 2018 at 11:48 am

      Hey Max, you can try using a tool like https://hunter.io to help with finding emails.

      Other than that, a large part of link building is about finding angles. If your specific niche is not great for link building, think of other ways you can present your content to sites outside but related to your niche.

    • Reply
      Aniekan
      May 18, 2018 at 10:08 am

      1. I think social bookmarking can also be helpful in this case! There are some social bookmarking sites that give quality do-follow backlinks. ttlink (DA 78) and imfaceplate (DA 70) are do-follow sites. imfaceplate is a social network marketing site.

      2. Also, news websites and marketing forums can also help drive traffic and build quality backlinks. These are good sources of backlinks because they are not niche-restricted. I have a free quality backlink (DA 75) from a news forum, let me know if you need it!

      3. Create a link outreach campaign with schools dedicated to science especially space science. The (.Edu) backlink may come in handy

      4. Guest post on general niche websites (multi-purpose) and get a link back to your site.

      Thanks.

  • Reply
    Neyo
    April 24, 2018 at 10:10 am

    Wow… Your blog post resonates well with me. Link building is quite important to rank a website.

    However, I have a question. What do you have to say about buying links on fiverr?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 24, 2018 at 11:49 am

      Thanks Neyo! Don’t use Fiverr for link building.

  • Reply
    Misha R
    April 24, 2018 at 10:19 am

    Wow, Chris – I’m so glad you wrote about this after I asked you about this topic. You have given me renewed confidence to keep going on the path I was on – publish great content AND build natural (non spammy) links. Thank you!

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 24, 2018 at 11:50 am

      πŸ˜€

      Thank you for the suggestion, Misha! I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it.

  • Reply
    Efrain
    April 24, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Very detailed blog post. The thing is that at times its hard to find the right link to point back t a website and this alone discourages many people from doing it – I’m talking about local businesses and nor so much niched related websites.

    Great article. Keep up the great work Chris

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 24, 2018 at 11:50 am

      Thanks Efrain!

  • Reply
    Jacob
    April 24, 2018 at 10:27 am

    I like this article, you have right, the major factor for ranking and getting traffic is link building, but don’t forget about social proof aka. promoting content via social media.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 24, 2018 at 11:52 am

      Thanks Jacob πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    DJ Rony
    April 24, 2018 at 10:30 am

    Completely agree with this. Either the links are created naturally or someone doing them with hard work, links are always necessary to tell Google what the page value is.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 24, 2018 at 11:53 am

      👍

  • Reply
    Anthony C
    April 24, 2018 at 10:41 am

    I totally agree. Many SEO experts declared you don’t need links, in fact, they just want to build views for their youtube video or article because any worthy SEO professional will tell you links are the backbone of Google search engines. In fact, Google started its entire empire based on relevant links

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 24, 2018 at 11:55 am

      Exactly! Thanks for sharing your thoughts Anthony.

  • Reply
    Don
    April 24, 2018 at 10:44 am

    Thanks Chris. It was good to see a new post from you in my inbox. The timing was perfect. I’ve been putting link building on the backburner for the sake of content creation, and not sure why. Every time I do a link building campaign, it works when I follow what you’ve taught in your course. This post was a good reminder to get back in the link building game. Cheers.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 24, 2018 at 11:55 am

      Great to hear that, Don. Thanks for checking it out.

  • Reply
    Jim Hofman
    April 24, 2018 at 10:49 am

    Excellent reminder on the importance of building links. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in producing great content we don’t carve out time to do link building (I’m guilty of that).

    What’s beginning to work for me is segmenting the time I have per day to work on my sites. Sometimes it’s only two hours, in which case one hour is devoted to content and one to link building. I actually have a small alarm clock which reminds me when it’s time to shift gears.

    Thanks for this post … very helpful!

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 24, 2018 at 11:57 am

      A lot of people are guilty of that! πŸ™‚

      Segmenting time sounds like a nice idea. Not just for organizing your tasks, but for making yourself focus as well. Thanks for sharing Jim!

  • Reply
    Tom
    April 24, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    Chris,

    Great stuff like usual.

    I think, today, people are oversimplifying the SEO industry.

    What I’m finding is a few things that have created much success for me as of late:

    1. Use AHREFS. Do not be afraid of the $99+ a month fee — it’s worth and consider it a business expense. Think about it. Where else can you run a business for server costs + a measly $99/mo fee, right?

    2. Create your niche website and focus on KD keywords much less than a 10, has more than 350+ searches and has less than 250K results on Google.

    For example, right at this moment, I’m using AHREFS and here’s one I found…

    “opticontacts review”

    1,700 volume, 0 KD and 5,170 results on Google.

    3. Create something of value. This is some important. You want people to stay on your page, share it, etc. If it takes you 2 days to create it, then do so.

    PEOPLE, this works with very little backlinks. Of course, if you want to do so, there’s no shame as long as these links are relevant and good. Don’t just chase the link!

    Hard work pays off, I promise. Research, write and you’re easily on your way to six figures a year, if not seven.

    I’ve been doing this for years (since 2006), made a NICE living and continue to do so. It isn’t rocket science and am happy to share my thoughts with a great writer like Chris.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 25, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      That’s awesome stuff, Tom! Thanks a ton for sharing that with us.

  • Reply
    Aniekan
    April 24, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Thank you for this insightful article. The link building strategy is amazing.

  • Reply
    Aniekan
    April 24, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    I can attest to this. I own a blog which was bringing in little traffic for my keywords, as soon as I got just one quality backlink (DA 78) plus social bookmarking, I started ranking 1st page for my keywords and also other competitive keywords in my niche. Chris, Do you know any website to get free quality links from?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 25, 2018 at 3:17 pm

      Nice! White hat SEO is pretty much free quality links πŸ˜‰

      • Reply
        Aniekan
        May 18, 2018 at 9:37 am

        You are right! Pls kindly return my emails. I just took your 10-day SEO course and I have some questions.

  • Reply
    Sylvia Wu
    April 24, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    Hi Chris,

    I appreciate 1) that you wrote an article on the exact thing I asked in my email and 2) your thorough response. I have a lifestyle blog that has some backlinks from Pinterest, which I think is what is helping it to rank all right for some keywords.

    I really ought to put more effort in getting backlinks from other sources too though. Now I’m wondering if it’s better to get backlinks from a high profile website (eg. Huffington Post) or a niche specific site with a lower domain authority?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 25, 2018 at 3:19 pm

      No problem Sylvia!

      I would way prefer huge profile sites to link to me, but it has to be close to the root domain. A lot of sites like that have pages buried very deep and far from the root domain, which wouldn’t really help at all.

      Doesn’t mean that you have to choose one over the other. I think niche specific sites linking to you are powerful on their own. A mixture of both would be best.

  • Reply
    Akash
    April 24, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    Thanks For this awesome guide bro clear many concept.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 25, 2018 at 3:19 pm

      Glad to hear that πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Myfinancekits
    April 26, 2018 at 10:43 am

    Most people will definitely agree with you. But the challenge is how to go about it. When you comment on some of the authority websites out there, it may never come up. It is not everybody that is generous as you are in helping others establish their feet in the blogging world. Thank you for the tip.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 26, 2018 at 2:16 pm

      Thanks a lot for the kind words!

  • Reply
    David Utke
    April 26, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    Correct, you summed it up perfectly. But just one thing, people who don’t build links or talk about link building are not against general website promotion via other means (at least I hope not!).

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 27, 2018 at 11:35 pm

      I hope not, too!

  • Reply
    Nihar Ranjan
    April 27, 2018 at 11:52 am

    Vary helpful article, It clears all of my wrong concept.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      April 27, 2018 at 11:35 pm

      Glad I could help!

  • Reply
    Bhuboy
    May 8, 2018 at 6:20 am

    I really admire how you explain complex things in simple words, thanks for another great article

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      May 12, 2018 at 3:39 pm

      Thanks Bhuboy πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Mohit Gangrade
    May 25, 2018 at 12:25 am

    Hi Chris,

    I totally agree that ranking without backlinks isn’t possible anymore.

    With more and more businesses pumping out high-quality articles and spending thousands of dollars on outreach link building, it’s impossible to rank for any profitable keyword in any industry, unless (and in some cases even if) you have very high domain authority.

    I have seen a lot of blogs that have very little backlinks (less than 100) but still get 10-15k visitors a month. They target keywords with less than 50 searches a month and pump out medium-quality articles like crazy.

    Do you think these blogs will survive in the near future?

    By the way, I love the new design, especially the homepage. Keep up the good work! πŸ™‚

    Thanks,
    Mohit Gangrade

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      June 19, 2018 at 9:06 am

      Thanks Mohit!

      Yeah, at first glance, it may seem impossible to enter any niche today. But the internet is huge. It’s still very possible to build a giant publication starting as a new blog.

  • Reply
    Shafi Khan
    June 13, 2018 at 6:28 am

    Hi Chris,

    Sorry to hear that you got scammed. I’ve faced the same situation when a client didn’t pay me after a month of work. I couldn’t just believe that I was scammed.

    However, I managed to get him reported and banned from the forum (where I found him)

    Regarding the article, it’s as amazing as other posts here. If the competition is very low, you won’t need many backlinks to rank.

    A high-quality article, social media shares, and few related backlinks should do the job.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      June 19, 2018 at 8:58 am

      Ah, yeah that sucks!

      Definitely. Thanks for reading Shafi πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Alok Rana
    July 5, 2018 at 3:10 am

    Hey Chris,

    Just visited your blog after so long. And I just couldn’t avoid clicking this article up. Good to see you covering this kind of articles, I love to read controversial articles with some great solutions.

    And I agree with you that only relevant links matter for your website growth. One should not go for any kind of links he will only get penalized someday by some new Google update.

    I also like to go through this article because I covered a kind of same article topic a few months back including the tips one should follow if he doesn’t want to involve in the race of building backlinks.

    Not sure if you allow putting an article here in the comment section but do have a look “https://www.loudtechie.com/rank-on-google-without-backlinks/“.

    I never created a single backlink for my blog. And so did I mentioned all my steps in followed in my blogging journey. Hope you like it.

    Regards
    Alok Rana

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      September 15, 2018 at 12:29 am

      That’s awesome Alok! Great guide!

  • Reply
    Danny
    September 10, 2018 at 1:20 am

    This article has confirmed my thoughts on Link Building. I build lots of links to my homepage with the hope that the authority will bleed to my blog posts.
    Building links to homepage vs to blog post which one has more impact on the overall authority of the domain?

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      December 14, 2018 at 2:24 pm

      Building links directly to the page you’re trying to rank is going to push your rankings most.

  • Reply
    Subham Khan
    September 23, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Vary Practical Article. It’s right, A website can rank if it contains backliks.

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      September 24, 2018 at 4:39 pm

      Thanks Subham.

  • Reply
    Shubham Bhardwaj
    November 28, 2018 at 3:27 am

    Hello,
    I have seen many websites that ranks without backlinks but there are also websites that ranks only after building lots of backlinks.
    I think we all have to focus on quality of links not quantity of links. I personally create quality backlinks for my websites.
    Regards, Shubham Bhardwaj

    • Reply
      Chris Lee
      December 2, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      True!

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