So, do I mean that sites don't need links? No, but you don't need as many links as what others have been saying. Links matter when you decide to go for keywords that are solely being competed by links. That is your own choice and I would say, your own stupidity if you decided to rank for keywords that are based on link wars.
However, not all keywords compete on links. You need to observe the SERPs and see how the competition is like. For example, there are certain types of keywords (such as news driven keywords) where the freshness of the content is more important than links. In such cases, you need more fresh content and no amount of backlinks can help your site.(Try to experiment with a sports event related niche and you will know what I mean).
In SEO, there are basically 3 areas that we can work with:
How to rank with good keyword researchKeyword research is a diverse area that offers anyone opportunities if you can specialise. Within keyword research, I divided it into the following:
- trend keywords
- keyword divergence
- long tail keywords
How to be good in trend keyword research: You need to be a person who reads widely, especially the technology blogs. Other good resources include blogs that highlights small businesses as well as articles that focus on trends in specific industries. When your radar is up, you will start to see lots of keywords that are literally wide open with little or no competition. To rank, all you need is content.
How to be good in detecting keyword divergence: This kind of research is for people who like to attack popular niches. Understand this: the more popular a keyword is, the more likely that there will be new ways to search for this term. Why? Because people get tired of seeing the same results for the keyword they are searching for so they will try different terms to see different results. The more popular a term is, the more likely this will happen and the more diverse the terms will be. It is your job to learn when such divergence will happen and grab the chance to optimise for these new terms that essentially describle the same niche.
How to be good in longtail keywords: The discussion forums are your goldmine. Spend some time looking through the forums of your niche and you will start to know what are the specific longtails relevant to your niche. Seriously, the kind of questions that people asked in the forums is exactly the kind of long tails keywords that will appear in Google. Even though they might not appear in any Google keyword tool, rest assured that as long as people ask such questions in forums, they will be searched for in Google.
Mastering any one of the above will equip you with enough unoptimised keywords that don't need a single link to get traffic from Google. If your current keyword research is only from Google keyword tool, time to step up your game.
How to create a new query space with great contentBeing able to produce great content is a wonderful skill. There are some folks who are just so good with headlines and content that they draw traffic from diverse sources, not only from the search engines. For SEO purposes, there are certain things that you can do with content which allows you to draw traffic from Google without backlinks.
Create a new query space with your content: What is a new query space? It is about creating interest in a search term that nobody has searched for, thereby generating search volume for this search term. I have seen this occur with my own eyes in the tech industry.
There was a VC blogger known as Andrew Chen who blogged about startups, user acquisition and viral marketing. In one of his essays in 2011, he mentioned a new term called "growth hacker". This refers to a special group of marketers who can achieve rapid growth for a startup by exploiting technical leverages in popular platforms, thereby fuelling its growth using with users of that platform.
Ever since that essay went live, I have seen this term used frequently in many other startup/technology blogs. In fact, I did a check on Google insights and this is what I found:
Guess who is ranking for this term? Andrew Chen of course. He has single-handedly created a new search space using content alone and his blog is now enjoying high rankings for this term without using backlinks.
If you have skills in crafting such content, you don't need backlinks. All you need is to draft a new memo, give it a sexy term such as 'growth hacker' or 'pillar content' or 'write epic shit', posted to a platform (can be yours or others) where there is an audience and watch your search traffic increase. No backlinks needed!
If you can't create such content, at least be able to spot it and exploit it if you can. Such new query space is also part of the trend keywords research that I mentioned above. If you cannot stimulate new query space with your content, at least learn who to follow those who can. When they come up with a new query space, quickly attack it and make it yours.
I hope this article can convey the message that you can get traffic from Google without focusing just on backlinks. Links are important but they willl never be the MOST important.