Can you beat your competitor without backlinks?

By Altay Gursel | August 8, 2020

Is There A Way To Compete Without Building Links?

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ranking without links

If your site is not ranking well on Google in most cases it is due to links. Because not having links interpreted as not having authority by the search engines.

Obviously, on-page factors do matter. The quality of your content, your site structure, social signals, engagement metrics all are important for your rankings. However, it is usually not the thing holding most sites back.

Let me ask you one simple question.

Do you think the internet needs more content to be published?

There are billions of pages on the web. The number of published content is only becoming more and more every day. In most niches, the new content is another replica of an earlier published copy.

What that means most content on the web doesn’t provide much value to the user.

Now, put yourself in Google’s place for a second.

It wants to serve the best piece of content to a certain search query. Obviously, it is not an easy task to do.

Google can algorithmically tell if a certain piece of content is relevant and high quality. However, its judgment is still not perfectly efficient.

Not Having Backlinks Is A Problem

You should already know links do matter. It is the voting power of one site on another site. More votes your site has better it ranks. Better the quality of those votes, higher search engine rankings your site can achieve.

But why is Google so dependent on the link information?

Because there is still no better way to determine if site A is better than site B. Believe it or not, search engines tried to exclude links being a ranking factor from their algorithms. In fact, they are constantly playing with the effect of links determining SERP results.

However, in most cases when the backlinks are ignored, the quality of SERP listing deteriorates.

How can this information help you?

Knowing links do matter while your site doesn’t have links can be emotionally hard to accept.

But is there a way to outrank your competition without building links?

I would answer this question, with depends.

It depends on which keywords you want to target. If your site is young or doesn’t have much authority yet, your chances to rank for high competition keywords are very slim.

Know Who Your Competitors Are

If you are a local business owner you can pinpoint who your competitors are easy.

Having a roof repair services company you know other companies offer roof repair services are your competitors.

In reality, most people don’t have a clear definition of who their competitors are. They think the big influencers or certain bloggers are their competitors, and they try to outrank them.

I have this blog that I write primarily about SEO and affiliate marketing.

Then who are my competitors?

There is no competitor for any website until that website publishes a piece of content targeting a certain keyword.

Before building any SEO campaign, clearly define which pieces of content on the web you want to outrank. This will help you in making better keyword research and set up more realistic expectations.

Know The Authority Of Your Website

After defining who your competitors are, you will need to analyze if you can outrank them targeting the same keywords.

For instance, if you have a website with DA 20, and all SERP results for your targeted keyword are in between DA 15-30, you can create a better piece of content and hopefully outrank your competition.

Keep in mind these metrics like DA(domain authority), and DR(domain rating) are only estimations made by third-party tools. However, they usually provide accurate information about competing websites.

You need to analyze SERP carefully to find out what Google rewards for a certain keyword.

If SERP listing shows that all websites ranking for your target keywords are only high authority sites, you should not be targeting that keyword.

If Google is rewarding informational websites like Wikipedia or National Geographic, you don’t stand much chance to rank for that keyword.

Heck, that keyword is very likely will not be your money keyword anyways. But once you are clear to pursue a certain keyword, analyze SERP carefully.

If your competitors created image-heavy content you need to do the same. Create more visuals that are better than what they have created.

If the average piece of content on the first page is 2000 words, consider writing longer than what is already ranking. You may organize your page structure to serve better user experience.

All the small things you do will accumulate to give you a compounded result of better search engine ranking.

Target Long-Tail Keywords

long tail

If you want to outrank your competitor without directly competing with them you need to find backdoors. This is in fact the best SEO advice I would give anyone wants to rank his website.

Let’s say you want to rank for “dog shoes” because you have an affiliate website promoting dog shoes.

The bad news you will never likely rank for this keyword since it is extremely competitive.

Unless you have a very high authority website, you will not rank for these types of short-tail keywords.

You will need to target long-tail keywords without much competition. You can target keywords like “dog shoes for golden retrievers” or “comfortable dog shoes for Kangal puppies” etc.

Targeting long-tail keywords is your best bet to compete with high authority sites and steal from their traffic. Although these keywords generally have a low search volume, it is still the best way to attract organic visitors to your website.

Improve Site Engagement Metrics

Improve user engagement on your website. Most websites get low search traffic because they waste the impressions Google rewarded them. Verify if this is not the problem for your website.

Write titles that can achieve a high CTR from the SERP without being clickbaity. If your website earning more clicks than your competitor for the number of impressions it received, you will eventually outrank that competitor.

Make sure people read your content. Time spent on a website is a very powerful ranking signal you want to maximize.

Reduce your bounce rates by encouraging people to visit different pages on your website.

If a user lands on your site and turns back to the search results without clicking anything else, it is a bounced user. (No matter how long the user stayed on the page, one-page sessions are counted as zero-second sessions)

No one has the patience to wait for long time web pages to upload. Have a fast website, to achieve that:

Improve Your Social Presence

If no one talks about your content, it may not be something valuable. This is how modern search engines approach to social presence.

You need to have a certain amount of presence on social media. Make sure you have set up your accounts on all major social media platforms that are relevant to your business.

Every time you publish a piece of content, share it on all social platforms you have. Ideally, have a system in place that can do it for you.

I recommend using Revive Social since it allows to share your content on multiple social networks, on your scheduled time.

Build Links No Matter What

Let’s face it. Link building is a time-intensive task.

I am sure you wouldn’t like to stay as a low authority website forever. You have to have a plan to earn authority over time. To do that you need to acquire those high-quality links. The times of using PBNs to fool Google passed a long time ago.

However, the way you build links does really matter.

You can buy links, ask other blogs to link to your website, or provide so much value people link to your site by themselves.

I wouldn’t recommend anyone buying links for two reasons.

  • It has a high risk (Your site may get penalized any time)
  • It is not sustainable (You can’t buy links all the time since good links are expensive)

If you want to follow white hat link building practices, you need to outreach and build a relationship with other site owners. Even they allow you to contribute their blog, you will need to create high-quality content for them to give you a link from their website.

Knowing this fact you have two options to build links.

  • Do white hat outreach
  • Create link-worthy content

I would choose the last option. Creating link-worthy content to build links is the most sustainable and long-term plan in SEO.

How could you create link-worthy content?

Write great pieces of content that people talk about, share on social media, and they link to. If you are focused on creating this type of content you will acquire links with no effort.