How to Rank Without Backlinks – 7 Effective Tactics

Written By

Nick Zviadadze

Nick Zviadadze

Founder at MintSEO


Building backlinks can be very tough.

You must send hundreds (or even thousands) of monthly outreach emails.

Not to mention, these emails will have to be very effective or you’re almost guaranteed not to get any responses.

At the same time, you’ll also have to put in some work for each backlink you do end up building. If you’re using guest posting for link-building, for example, you’ll need a completely fresh blog post written for every single backlink you want to build.

At the end of the day, all this work ends up making link-building a costly and time-consuming strategy.

So you might wonder, what can you do to rank without backlinks?

Well, for one, here’s a bit of good news: it IS possible to rank without backlinks. And in this article, we’ll teach you just what you need to do to make that happen!

How to Rank Without Backlinks – 7 Effective SEO Techniques

#1. Prioritize Low-Difficulty Keywords

The best tactic for ranking without backlinks is targeting low-difficulty keywords. The reason that targeting such keywords is so effective is because of two reasons:

  • Low-difficulty keywords have almost zero pages ranking for them so Google is more likely to rank you faster.
  • By ranking for a lot of low-difficulty keywords, your website starts getting more exposure/traffic, which can translate into organic backlinks.

Finding such low-difficulty keywords is actually pretty straightforward. Pick out your seed keywords and run them through Ahrefs keyword explorer:

ahrefs keyword explorer example

You’ll get a very comprehensive list of keywords associated with the keyword you just input.

rank without backlinks by targeting low difficulty keywords

Start going through this list and extract any keyword that has a low difficulty level. Anything below 30-level-difficulty should be good, but the lower it is, the easier it will be to rank for it.

Then, once you start publishing content, prioritize the lower-difficulty keywords over the rest of them, and you’re good to go!

#2. Target Zero Volume Keywords

This one’s a very popular tactic for ranking without backlinks in 2022.

A zero-volume keyword is a keyword that shows no search volume on Google Planner or Ahrefs.

So you might be asking, why would you want to target a keyword that has zero volume?

Well, primarily because:

Sometimes, you’ll find that a keyword has zero search volume on Google, but your website is actually driving hundreds of clicks every month from the very same keyword!

Now, you’re probably wondering how can you tell whether a zero-volume keyword is worth targeting or not.

The best way to go here is to decide whether you’d benefit from ranking from such a keyword in the first place. E.g. is it associated with your business/website topics?

If so, the second step is to think whether this keyword, logically speaking, is something that people might be Googling.

If you answered “yes” to both of these questions, then the keyword is likely worth pursuing.

#3. Optimize Your Content for On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is essential if you want your web pages to rank without backlinks.

Fortunately, the process here is relatively simple. If you’re using WordPress, simply install RankMath or Yoast and follow their optimization checklist for each of your pages.

If you’re not using WordPress, here’s a simple checklist for on-page SEO optimization:

  • Include your target keyword in the page’s meta title.
  • Include your target keyword in the meta description.
  • Make sure your URL slug matches your target keyword. E.g. if you’re targeting the keyword “remote work,” the slug should be /remote-work/.
  • Include your target keyword in the H1 header and H2 header throughout the page. This means, once in the H1 and once in the H2.
  • Mention your target keyword in the introductory paragraph (if the page you’re optimizing is an article).
  • Maintain a keyword density of 0.5% to 2%. Meaning, the keyword you’re targeting should make up 0.5% to 2% of the total word count of the page/article.
  • Make sure all your images have alt text. Include your target keyword where relevant.

#4. Make Sure Your Content Meets Search Intent

This one’s very important – your blog content should match the search intent behind the keyword you’re targeting.

If you’re targeting the keyword “benefits of marketing,” for example, you’re not going to rank with an article on “top tips for effective marketing,” and vice versa.

An effective method for discovering what’s the right angle to focus on for a given keyword is to simply look it up and see what ranks.

Then, go for the same exact angle.

If we Google “marketing tips,” for example, you’ll see that all top-ranking posts are about “X Marketing Tips,” so you should go with this same angle.

google search results for marketing tips

#5. Create Exponentially Better Content (Than Your Competition)

Want to outrank competitors with quality backlinks? You’ll want to beat them with superior blog content.

If your competitors are ranking with “11 marketing tips,” for example, you can include 21+ tips in YOUR post.

Similarly, if all the top-ranking posts are pure text, you can spice things up by including visuals such as illustrations or infographics in your post.

While no two articles are alike, some of the most important characteristics of high-quality articles are:

  • Comprehensiveness. If your competitor’s article is 2,000 words, you can aim for 2,500 to 3,000.
  • Practicality. Include examples, case studies, and statistics in your blog posts. Make it as useful as possible for the reader.
  • Visuals. No one likes reading plain text. Include visuals like infographics or illustrations in your blog posts.
  • Expertise. What can YOU add to the topic you’re writing about? Go beyond what typical content writers talk about by including some personal expertise.
  • Well-researched. The average SEO content writer is going to read the top three ranking articles for their research, and that’ll be about it. Go beyond that – check posts on Reddit and Quora on your topic. See what kind of questions people ask about the topic, and make sure your article answers them.

#6. Interlink Your Blog Posts

Interlinking is a very effective technique for ranking without backlinks.

Interlinking is useful for two main reasons:

  • It helps spread the link juice throughout your website. If one of your blog posts has ten backlinks and this post links to five of your other posts, then part of the backlink juice from these ten links will spread through the five posts you linked to from the post.
  • It improves user engagement metrics. When a user lands on one of your blog posts, they’re also likely to click on any related topics throughout the article and read those too. The longer people stick around your website, the better your rankings site-wide.

So, this begs the question – how can you do internal linking effectively?

Here are our top tips on the topic:

  • Interlink as much as possible. If two of your articles are about similar topics, then they should almost always be linked together. A reasonable number of internal links per blog is can be anything from five to 20+.
  • Use topically related anchor text. E.g. if you’re linking to a post aiming to rank for the keyword “SEO strategies,” the anchor text used to link to that post should be synonyms of the target keyword. 
  • Interlink regularly. Every month, go through your old content and make sure it links to your new content.

#7. Focus on Content Velocity

The more content you publish, the sooner each of your blog posts will rank.

One of the main factors Google considers when evaluating who ranks is topical authority.

If Website A has 200 blog posts about SEO, for example, and Website B only has ten, then site A is a lot more likely to rank.

Google views Website A as an authority on the topic, and as such, is a lot more likely to grant it better rankings than site B.

So, the takeaway here is this: the faster you publish content on your blog, the faster you’ll build up your authority, and the faster/better you’ll rank.

If link-building is not something you can focus on at this stage, then content publishing velocity is the next best thing.

Are Backlinks Still Important for SEO?

Yes, backlinks are still important for SEO.

While it IS possible to rank without backlinks, the quantity and quality of your backlinks can still determine:

  • Whether you can rank in competitive niches. In competitive SEO niches (CBD, Legal, VPN, Insurance, etc.), every website has extremely high-quality content. What differentiates page one rankers from the rest is the number and quality of their backlinks.
  • How long it’s going to take you to rank? Backlinks can significantly boost the time it’ll take you to rank well on Google.

At MintSEO, we do link-building for all of our client websites and we recommend you do the same. 

Ranking without backlinks is possible, but if you DO have the option/budget to build links, then you should definitely go for it. With link-building, you’re going to rank both better and faster.

Can I Rank my Website Without Backlinks in 2022?

Yes, you can rank without backlinks in 2022, all you have to do is follow the tactics we covered in this article. Namely, you should:

  • Prioritize low-difficulty keywords over the rest.
  • Target zero-volume keywords when relevant.
  • Optimize your content based on on-page SEO principles.
  • Make sure your content meets search intent for the keyword it’s targeting.
  • Make sure your content is exponentially better than that of your competition.
  • Interlink your blog posts as much as possible.
  • Publish as many posts as you possibly can. The faster you publish your content, the faster you’ll be able to interlink them, and the faster you’ll rank without backlinks.

How Many Backlinks Do I Need to Rank on Google?

This depends on the keyword you’re targeting. If you’re targeting a low-difficulty keyword with not a lot of results, then you can rank without any backlinks.

If you’re targeting a more competitive keyword, though, then you’ll need anything from two to 100+ backlinks.

A good way to check the number of backlinks you’ll need to rank for a certain keyword is to run it through Ahrefs and see how many backlinks your competitors have.

If, for example, you run “remote work taxes” through Ahrefs, you’ll see this:

competitor backlinks on ahrefs

The top-ranking articles have eight and 36 backlinks respectively. These pages also have extremely high domain ratings – 89 and 74.

So, if your website has around the same domain authority, then you can likely rank with around the same number of backlinks.

If your website is very fresh, though, with a non-existent backlink profile, then you’ll need a LOT more backlinks if you want to rank for this keyword.

Can I Build Backlinks for Free?

Yes, you can build backlinks for free. One effective way to do so is to focus on publishing quality guest posts. Here’s how this works:

If you reach out to the average website with a guest post pitch, they’ll get back to you asking for a sponsorship fee, anything from 100 to 1,000 USD depending on the niche. 

This is usually the case for most niches – website owners realized that their backlinks have power and they’re very unlikely to give you one for free.

If you want to get that guest post published for free, you need to be offering up something unique in exchange – your expertise.

The guest post should be based on a topic that you personally are very familiar with and can write an interesting take on it, instead of a generic “Top 5 Benefits of Something” article.

This way, you’re giving the website owner something that’s more important than money – content that’s going to help them engage their own audience.

How to Rank Without Backlinks Summary

And that’s it! At this point, you should know everything you need to know in order to rank without backlinks.

Before you go, though, here’s a quick summary of the most important things we covered in this article:

  • While it is possible to rank without backlinks, it’s certainly not optimal.
  • Backlinks determine whether you’re going to rank in a competitive niche, as well as how long it’s going to take you to rank.
  • That said, there are tactics that allow you to rank without backlinks, which include targeting low-difficulty keywords, optimizing content for on-page SEO, creating superior content, and so on.
  • It is also possible to build quality backlinks for free if you follow the link-building tactic we mentioned in this article.
Nick Zviadadze

Nick Zviadadze

Founder at MintSEO
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