Can You Rank Without Links?

Everyone in the SEO world has heard the adage that "Content is King" when it comes to ranking. Although this may seem to be the case for some sites, it is certainly not a universal truth. Having hundreds of pages of unique and resourceful content is great, but it might not get you any search engine rankings or traffic if you have zero external inbound links. The unfortunate reality is that you will not be able to rank well for any competitive (or even semi-competitive) keyword without external SEO factors coming into play.

When should you begin focusing on links?

Even though obtaining links is always a good idea for search engine optimization, you should try to create a certain amount of internal keyword relevance before focusing completely on links. We recommend comparing yourself to the top performing sites for your keyword with the following advanced search commands:

site:competitordomain.com
site:competitordomain.com intext:"keyword phrase"
site:competitordomain.com intitle:"keyword phrase"

If you have significantly fewer pages then your competitors, then you might want to consider increase the size of your site. The more pages you have the more internal PR that you can direct to your landing pages. Having hundreds or even thousands fewer pages could put you at a significant disadvantage SEO wise compared to your competition.

Even though having fewer pages in general could hurt your chance of ranking, you should focus more on the second and third commands we recommended. The second command will show you how many pages your competitor has that use the targeted keyword in their body content. The third command will show you many pages on your competitor's site utilize the keyword in their page Title.

Ideally, you should try to have at least as many pages as your competition when it comes to the # of pages that utilize your keyword in body content and Title tags. However, there are scenarios where that is completely unrealistic, and potentially unnecessary. For example, your competitor may have included the keyword in every single Title tag on their site and in a global link's anchor text. In that scenario, hundreds of pages from your competitor's site would be returned with the above commands.

You may be able to create the same amount of relevancy on your site with just a fraction of the total number of pages that your competitor has. In general, you should try to write/optimize at least 15 pages for any particular keyword (assuming you don't get the results you want before that number). If you hit that amount and are still not ranking well, then you should strongly consider moving on to the external link buildling phase of the search engine optimization process.

There is another test you can do to determine if you should focus on link building. Here are two queries that will help you make this determination:

allintitle:keyword phrase
allinanchor:keyword phrase

If your site is ranking significantly better for the allintitle: command than it is for the allinanchor: command, then you can be fairly certain that links are your deficiency.

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