March 23, 2015 - 10 comments

The Actionable Guide to SEO Without Backlinks

Ah building backlinks... Clients run away and employers fire you if you ever mention building links while doing SEO. If you're like me and are looking to do SEO without backlinks(the white hat way), then these steps will increase your chance of ranking websites without link building.

#1: Your Toolkit

Disregard all the company sponsored tools, here are the free tools I use and recommend. Anything extra I see as a luxury, not a necessity:

  • Google Webmaster Tools, Analytics, Keyword Planner and Trends
  • Moz Toolbar
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast (given that you're using WordPress)

#2: Keyword Research

Go ahead and open up the keyword planner and check your focus keywords. Your eyes should light up every time you see low/medium competition with over 500 monthly searches. As an example I will use the App Store Optimization post.

Take a look at the monthly searches and note the suggested bid:



Now you're thinking, wow, seven dollars to rank for this keyword? Don't pull the trigger just yet, head over to Trends. You want a keyword that is on the rise:



Okay, everything is looking great, you have one more step to go before choosing your keyword. You'll want to install the Moz bar and check out your competition:



You see this and you think, holy crap, up against Forbes?! But seeing a low-authority site (Apptamin) above them, you know you have a chance. Usually if you're starting off you want to aim to go against people with Page and Domain Authority under 50.

Please note that this process should take a long ass time. I can't stress enough the importance of keyword research. 

#3: Crafting The Perfect Title

By this step you have already aced the keyword, but you'll have to head back to Google search once again.

Remember, with your title wants to promote white hat backlinks, therefore it cannot be too click baity. Pay attention to the titles. You want a avoid similar title structures than those that are already highly ranked. You want to craft something that will draw attention and clicks.

As an example, take this very page you're reading. My chosen keyword is 'seo without backlinks' and here are the titles used:

  • SEO Without Backlinks (Mastering Over This Art From Basic)
  • How to be on first page of Google without backlinks...
  • Can SEO Without Backlinks Work? | @northcuttHQ

How can you stand out? Well, take note from Buzzfeed, the king of click-baiting, just don't overdo it. Instead of going with '10 SEO Tips without Backlinks, You Won't Believe #4!', I opted with my current one. Choosing a good title is somewhat subjective, but do some testing to see what works well for your niche.

#4: High Quality Content

Think Wikipedia-level content, think highest quality content on the internet. If you can't do it, hire someone to do it for you.

I'll try to keep this brief, there are tons of articles out there on content crafting. It's no lie that high-quality content ranks better and will get you into Google's good books. The average length of Google's first page of search results is over 2000 words. That said, one must understand that Google doesn't prefer longer articles or posts, it's just that such sites tend to get more backlinks. Your blog should have information that readers will refer back to, or even go as far as linking from their own sites.

You can find some things to note while writing SEO articles.

Once you're writing thorough and unique articles, look to increase the frequency of your posts. Remember, creating original and engaging content is possible, regardless of how niche or vague your field of focus may be.

#5: Tags and Categories

In WordPress, tags and categories have their own pages. I personally de-index them, but by default they are indexed. Go and write some content for the aforementioned pages. Readers will probably never click here, but it's just an extra page for Google to index.

#6: Onsite SEO

Ensuring that the site's technical SEO is on point is the foundation of building any strong blog. Note the following:

  • Your focus keyword should be included in the: post title, URL, first paragraph, first subheading, meta description, and image alt tags.
  • The body of the text should exceed 300 words; most successful B2B blog posts should be around the 1000-5000 word mark, and the keyword density should be anywhere from 0.5-2%.
  • The length of the post title should be in the 40-70 character range.
  • Site structure and navigability: GoogleBot should be able to crawl your site with ease.
  • The site should be mobile-friendly. It will rank better.
  • Don't forget to think about your site's speed. Use Google's PageSpeed Insights.
  • 100% unique content; if you are quoting a section, make use of the rel=canonical tag.

#7: Internal and Outbound Linking

Outbound links are important as it shows Google you have done your research. For this, just make sure it is relevant and the content is of the highest quality.

As for internal linking, it is often overlooked, but I cannot overemphasize its importance. Why? Not only does it keep your readers on your website but it also 'weaves' authority. I like to think 'authority' as water, you want it to flow through all your pages. With that said you would want one page (usually the sales page) to have more links than the others. You can call it the 'king page'.

Strong linking structure essentially helps the GoogleBot crawl and index your pages efficiently, but I just like using my analogy.

#8: Bit More on Keyword Density

Keywords aren't like before, we can no longer just stuff them and rank. A good rule of thumb is, if it seems like the keyword is too repetitive, it probably is.

I usually just write normally and keep the keyword in mind, I end up with around 0.5-3% keyword density.

This section is actually really important in doing SEO without backlinks. Disregard my cheeky attempt at keyword frequency.

#9: Going Back and Re-Optimizing

seo backlink

Random Stock Photo to Keep You Engaged

A lot of people see and treat SEO like a one time effort, optimize once and just leave it as is. With SEO there are various reasons why you would go back and re-optimize. Here are some of the cases where I went back and re-optimized for a different keyword:

  • Bad keyword was chosen, was not ranked well/no quality traffic.
  • Competitors with stronger domains decided to target the same keyword.
  • Searches are declining on Google Trends.

You can just optimize for a similar keyword and check back on rankings in a couple weeks. In the case where your keyword is not ranking bad, you can also go back and do some AB tests. Change a couple things, wait and see how the rankings differ.

#10: Keyword Cloaking

Keyword cloaking should be done as a safety measure to prevent competitors from targeting your keyword. This is often done with topics in highly competitive niches.

So how do you cloak your keyword? It is actually quite simple, just use another keyword with a similar keyword density as your focus keyword. That way if competitors use keyword analyzing tools, they will not find out your actual density.

This is just a small tip for people, but if they are referred to your site through search engines, there is not much you can do.

Conclusion - SEO without Backlinks

This guide outlines exactly what I did on my old blog - ranking pages on several low competition keywords until you build up overall domain authority. SEO without backlinks isn't hard. At that point I was able to rank for keywords with medium competition. The great thing with the fore-mentioned steps is that it is completely white hat, so you do not have to worry about doing the 'Google dance'.

You earn backlinks rather than build, and with that you will achieve high ranks for a longer time, especially if you keep going back to re-optimize.

Published by: Jacky Chou in Blog


March 23, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Hmm, interesting. Your post doesn’t even look too long. Nice to read. Would be also nice to know how long does it take to rank and have more visitiors on your blog.
Regards, Matija

March 23, 2015 at 3:39 pm

That you are really a superb website owner. The website reloading velocity is actually remarkable. That kind of senses that you are carrying out any kind of exclusive technique. Moreover, The actual subject matter usually are masterwork. you’ve got executed a great action within this subject matter!

March 24, 2015 at 2:19 pm

You post was worth reading. From keyword cloaking did you mean using the synonyms or something else?

    Jacky Chou
    March 24, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Thanks Mike!
    It can be synonym yes, I use completely different words to cloak my articles.
    For example, the keyword is ‘seo without backlinks’, but I also have ‘content crafting’ repeated the same amount of times.
    This is just to make it so ‘bots’ don’t crawl your site successfully when they try to get keyword ideas.

May 17, 2015 at 9:20 pm

You leave us at such a dilemma here 🙂

If we comment here and do the backlink thing, have we failed this white-hat SEO test 😛

June 27, 2015 at 11:45 am

Nice Post Jacky … But I could not able to Understand the Keyword cloaking …Explain about detail with more simple examples …..

Robert Nissenbaum
July 21, 2015 at 4:23 pm

I also do our on search as if I’m were looking for something addressed in my article BEFORE we write it and AFTER.

Google provides auto complete for searches so it’s easy to see what keywords, long tail keywords and questions people are actually using to search. That gives you a very simple ‘tool’ to determine what keyword to focus on.

Olia Frisk
February 2, 2016 at 5:56 am

Hi Jacky, White hat techniques works but it will take some days. Many don’t understand that and they use blackhat and ruin their site/blog. i am confusing many big seo companies are still using black hat software and techniques, is it safe for those clients who wants quick results?

Ravinder Godara
March 2, 2016 at 7:01 am

Thanks Jacky Chou for this post, very interesting. I have been listening for months that the linkbuilding will stop being taken into account by Google, and I think a good idea. I’ve focused on creating quality content on my site.

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