Can You Do SEO Without Backlinks?

Right, let’s go a bit technical in today’s post and see if you can actually do SEO without backlinks.

The short answer to that is yes; you can do SEO without any help from backlinks, and yes; you can get results as well.

Backlinks are just one of the 200+ metrics that determine your rank in the search engines, but a lot of people see that as the one all – be all method to getting good SEO rankings.

While they do help, they are not a MUST, especially if you are trying to rank for not-so-competitive keywords – which is what you should be doing anyway.

In this post, I will show you how you can start doing SEO without backlinks, why you need and when (and my reasons to why not) and also; how to get started getting backlinks if you see that you really do need backlinks to rank the website/project you are working on.

Can You Do SEO Without Backlinks

Let’s first start with the basics;

What Are Backlinks?

Backlinks are links found on other websites outside of your own that link to your website or to your post from their own content.

For example, this is a backlink to another website that talks about how to do SEO without backlinks.

To them, they just received a new “backlink.”

These links are given out (at least how I do it) when I want to illustrate further a point that requires a full post to explain, and I just can’t fit it into my content.

Another example would be telling you how to get backlinks from Wikipedia, so I link to another article which saves me from writing another in-depth guide about that specific topic.

With that said, they are also seen as a “vote of confidence” for websites out there, and that is what makes them important for SEOs out there.

Are Backlinks Important For SEO?

Yes, they are, but not to the same extent as most think they do.

If I have a guide that is showing you how to create backlinks, and 1000 people (websites) link to that article, it shows Google that my guide on the topic is:

  • Liked by other authoritative sites
  • Enjoyed by most readers and (most often than not)
  • Must be doing the job at explaining the topic at hand.

Now, this does not mean that because I have 100 backlinks, and you have 83 that I am going to rank higher than you.

That is not how it works, but that is the general consensus amongst the beginner SEOs who claim that backlinks are the most significant and most important metric there is.

They are not.

Hence why I do believe it’s more than possible to get good SEO rankings without having a single backlink pointing to your site.

There are over 200 metrics at play here, and more that we do not know about since Google has never fully official released — or confirmed — the hidden metrics.

Now, when I say “backlinks are not important,” I do not mean that they are useless, quite the contrary; they are extremely useful when you want to rank for a highly competitive keyword phrase.

Let’s look at the keyword “affiliate marketing” for example.

You already know that this keyword has an insane amount of competition and going through all the top 10 results we can all agree that all ten results make a damn excellent job at explaining what affiliate marketing is and all you need to know about it.

However, if you look at the top 3 results, you will see that they vary a lot with how many backlinks they have:

As you can see, if backlinks were really the tell all be all, then this would not have happened.

Now yes, if I wanted to have a fighting chance at ranking for the keyword “affiliate marketing,” I would need to make a solid effort and get some backlinks from high-quality places that will help me (not guarantee) that I get a foot in the door of the first page.

Again, I refer you to the list of 200+ metrics above that would have an impact on my attempt at ranking for the keyword.

Good luck at trying to figure out which one is the most important.

Right below I will tell you what you need to be doing to be able to rank well instead of just focusing on keywords, but for now; let’s end this right here and continue on with this guide.

Hopefully, you now have a new outlook on the whole “backlinks are a MUST” idea.

How Many Backlinks Do You Need?

This is another question many have tried answering, and although Ahrefs does a pretty damn good job at answering it, it’s not easy to say.

Yes, with SEO with there really aren’t many questions you can get a concrete (confirmed) answer to.

ahrefs affiliate marketing backlink count

If you would like to know how many backlinks you need to rank for something, then go onto Ahrefs (which is a paid SEO tool but you can get a free 7-day trial), and you will get an estimation.

Now what that doesn’t take into factor is the quality of your backlinks.

Yes, there are good and bad backlinks, and they do have a HUGE impact on your site (good or bad).

Good vs. Bad Backlinks (Spot The Difference)

Not all backlinks are created equally.

You have the good ones and the bad ones.

Allow me to explain:

What’s a Good Backlink?

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A good backlink is a contextual backlink from a blog or a website that is related to your topic (or have an unquestioned authority).

For example, if I have a site about dog collars, and I am trying to rank for the keyword “dog collars,” one of the best backlinks I would get is from a website that talks about pets with the contextual text somewhere along the lines of:

Buy dog collars here” or better yet simply “dog collars.”

This means that another “authority” site that talks about pets has given me their vote of confidence showing that I am a good source to link to with regards to the topic “dog collars.”

Now, if I got that same link from a website that talks about “fish aquariums,” it would still be valuable but, not as much as the previous example.

Likewise, if I get that link from a site that talks about “how to lose weight” (completely unrelated), it’s damn near next to useless (although some would still argue it holds value, not so sure about that).

I also mentioned the “unquestionable” authority sites, and these are sites such as newspaper website, universities, or government websites (colossal authority in Google).

Any” link domain that’s .gov or .edu hold significant power in the eyes of Google as they are seen as a trusted source of information. Likewise, a backlink from Wikipedia would also be extremely valuable – if they were “a do-follow:.

Do-follow vs. no-follow links.

This is a bit technical, but if you are looking at learning more about backlinks, then you need to know this as you will come across these terms for sure.

A “no-follow” link means that the webmaster who created the link has asked Google NOT to flow domain authority to the linked website.

Likewise, a “do-follow” link, which is what all backlinks are by default encourage search engines to pass on authority to the linked domains.

You can see how to create a no-follow link here, but one thing I should add is that collectively, even no-follow links carry some SEO power.

Example; having 100 no-follows links will collectively help you more than having 0 do-follow links.

What’s A Bad Backlink?

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A bad backlink is just spammy backlinks that are artificially created to trick Google into thinking your site is popular.

A quick browse on Fiverr would turn up many freelancers offering to give you backlinks — some even going up to 10,000 backlinks for just a few $$:

is buying backlinks from fiverr a good idea

These backlinks never work, and once you are caught using such services, it won’t be long until Google deciphers the internal links you created and takes swift action on your ass.

The estimated time it takes Google to find out about bad backlinks and black-hat techniques is about two weeks.

This is also another reason why Google devalued the backlink metric as a ranking signal because too many people were tricky the system by beefing up their backlinks artificially.

Now there was a major upset in the SEO world a few years ago when the idea was that backlinks no longer work at all.

Matt Cutts backlinks

This is false, they do work yes, but Google is now smart enough to understand what good links and bad links look like.

If you ask anyone that has ever done any SEO link building in the past, you’d soon now that getting “good links” is not easy at all.

Unless you have some elaborate, high-tech (and safe) system of producing these links, you can only get around ~10 new good backlinks a month.

Now when a black-hat SEO tries do buy backlinks (say from Fiverr), Google will soon realize that you went from 0 backlinks to 10,000 in a span of a few days (even hours sometimes).

This is immediately flagged, and yes, your site now has to suffer the consequences of a ban.

You can get out of a Google penalty, but it’s a long, tedious process that takes months and would likely cause you a lot of lost business.

Do not try this at home.

Can Backlinks Hurt Your Website?

Yes, they can.

As much as they can help your website, they can also destroy it even, yes; that bad.

If done wrong, there are severe consequences that could literally wipe away all the efforts and give your domain an massive disadvantage of ever ranking.

If you’re looking to hire an SEO agency for your website or business, always ask about backlinks and what do they do to get it.

I have seen way too many SEO agencies promising results quickly and that is always a huge red flag for me.

Hopefully, this guide will save some of you the heavy, expensive burden of having to “clean up a domain” because some wannabe SEO experts ruined your chances.

How To Build Backlinks?

Ok, I will not go into too much depth about how to build backlinks because I do not focus on building backlinks for my website and there are other people who do – with excellent results – that you can learn from.

One notable mention is the blog, one of my favourite SEO websites out there and also a huge authority in the way I like to do SEO.

Here’s Brian Dean, founder, and owner of showing you how to build backlinks for your website.

Another great resource to learn SEO from and also teach you about backlinks is Neil Patel.

He’sundoubtedlyy one of the most proficient and influential SEO and digital marketing titans in the entire industry:

What To Focus On (Instead of Backlinks)

So I just told you that I do not focus on building backlinks for my website.

That’s a bit of a lie as I did build a few (5) for my drop shipping store (You can see how to do SEO for e-commerce here).

I will tell you though what I do to make sure I have SEO growth month-on-month even without doing and link building.

I write informative, unique and original content.

While I can not confirm any of the other 200 metrics of SEO and how they work, I can tell you that content is where it all begins and what matters the most.

You can have a 100 high-quality backlinks, but if you have no content, you are not going to rank for anything (obviously).

Learn how to create content that search engines WANT to rank.

If you learn how to do that, believe me when I say that you do not need to ever worry about any backlinks, spam link, no/do follow and all this other crap we just talked about.

This video does a better job at explaining my reasoning behind this.

Learn More About The Best SEO Strategies

I am currently working on a course that will show you all you need to know about SEO and how to do it successfully.

I am tired of seeing all these experts over-complicating the whole process simply to over-charge you for what – in most cases – is an outdated (or overrated) approach to doing SEO.

The bad news is that it’s not finished yet, but I would invite you to join me on my newsletter as to be alerted when it finally goes live.

However, I do have a free training course that you can take right now, and that is Wealthy Affiliate’s 10-day getting-started video course.

In there you will learn more about site building, affiliate marketing and how to use SEO to drive traffic to your offers to be able to make money with your website.

This training guide goes for $357 per year, but you can get started with it for free.

affiliate guide

In Closing

Thank you very much for reading this post, and I hope this has been insightful about the whole idea of doing SEO without backlinks.

There’s not a single right way to do SEO.

There are plenty of bad ways, but there are also multiple ways to do it right.

Some focus on creating great content, others focus on building high-quality links, some choose to do them both, and some choose to do neither.

It’s all a matter of what you are trying to achieve.

See you on the inside.

Christian Lee.

19 thoughts on “Can You Do SEO Without Backlinks?”

  1. Building backlinks and “begging” people to include your infographic in their blog, post or page is something I would never do. I rather prefer writing something in a niche I am knowledgeable about and offer my helpful information to my audience. Why should someone post my infographic on their site while I do not have content to begin with? I thought those two go hand in hand. It is crazy how many people ignore the most obvious thing when writing content and putting it online. Providing value up front with no expectations of conversions. Seriously, if I see a content website just selling me stuff through affiliate marketing for example and do not offer me how-to guides without any conversion intent, I cannot be convinced that this person(s) is an authority because they do not provide any value.

  2. I was always confused about the whole backlink thing, thanks for writing it in a simpler framework, do you have any recomendation for gaining backlinks or is it just creating more quality content and gaining them naturally is better? I thought thise Fiverr gigs for instant taffic were a scam, well worth steering clear of those.

    • Yes avoid stuff like that on Fiverr.

      Not only will it not help your results, but it may even hurt them.

      As for getting backlinks; if you’re in a competitive space I’d suggest you try and get some through guest blogging or something of the sort but I wouldn’t worry too much about it long term.

      Best strategy I have found is to simply publish your best work and collect backlinks naturally.

  3. There’s a lot of useful information here which I found helpful. I’ve never given much thought to backlinks, because whenever that word comes up, all I can picture are those spammers telling me I can make $1000/day online – in the comment section of nature documentary that has absolutely nothing to do with online marketing. But you pointed out some legitimate backlinks that make sense because they not only point people to what you’re selling, but also contribute to the larger conversation in general.

    • That’s very true Shannah; backlinks do have a bit of a reputation and rightly so.

      Many SEOs have manipulated and made a mockery of search engines by the use of spam backlinks and it’s also why I think they won’t be around for long. 

      Backlinks still work today if done right and they are helpful too (especially for competitive keywords) but for the long game; I would focus on other things that help rankings, such as; producing the best quality content you can.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Talk soon.

  4. WOW Christian,

    This is an amazing article.

    Very well written with loads of supporting documentation and links.

    I really have a better grasp on what backlinks are and how to effectively use them.

    I really like that you have other experts sharing their opinion on your site.

    It shows that you believe in your information enough to share the space with them.

    The last video is very good and has some golden nuggets in it!

    Keep it up!

    Tim Bennett

  5. Hi thanks for the article. I always get a bit confused as to the relative importance or not of back links in terms of website ranking. It’s pretty reassuring that it is possible rank okay without having lots of back links. Do you think that back links are more important for some types of website than others?

    • Yes 100%.

      While I do believe backlinks are not the be-all, they definitely help give you an edge for competitive keywords so they are not to be disregarded completely just yet. 

      Hope all is well on your end Russell. 

  6. Hi, 

    Really interesting post and handy as backlinks are something I’ve been looking in to. The reason why is I have a site that explores how to increase testosterone production & the benefits of doing so. Now this touches a number of different areas such as increasing muscle mass, fat loss, reduced stress and even things like organic food.

    Do you think there would be benefit in me looking for other sites specialising in those areas to see if there is scope for us to do back links to each other?

    • While I do think you can do SEO without backlinks, they do help you – especially if you are getting started.

      If you are planning to do link-exchanges, don’t do it!

      As I see it, if two sites are exchanging links, they are cancelling each other out.

      If you’re going to do it, do a 3-way structure where three sites link to the other – however; it’s best to just do some guest blogging here and there when you have time for it – doing 2-3 guest posts a month should give you a solid structure and the authority to get the traffic you want. 

  7. I like how there are any different ways to make a website successful. that there is no one correct way to find your own success. However, I am really glad I came across this article. It was very helpful and informative. Definitely going to bookmark. 

    I need to start using backlinks but it is a bit difficult for me to start doing so.

  8. This was another informative article  which was great to read . Me being new to the affiliate marketing industry never have  thought about getting into backlinks. After reading your article makes me wonder if I should have tried it or if it’s something I may want to Tinker with later on down the line.

    This was a great article and it was informative most of all it’s giving me other ideas and ways in which I could increase traffic to my website.

    Thank you again for this great article

    • You are very welcome Quinn.

      I am glad you have found this post useful and informative.

      I wish you all the best with your new endeavors. 

  9. Hey there,

    I have heard about backlinks but never quite decided to take opportunity and learn more about them and discover the meaning behind backlink, how it operates and functions and how it can be used for better SEO rankings. Thank You for such informative and detailed article in which You analyzed each most important and signifcant aspect of Backlinks with great clarity.

     I truly understand now how backlinks can be very useful when tragetting a very competetive keyowoard for content which would make it much harder for the post to get quick and high google rankings on its own. The more people see Your content (or in this case a backlink for the content), the more visitors it will atract, therefore it will result in better overall rankings, is that correct? However, it’s very important to not go crazy with backlinks and don’t use them too much, and it’s also important to know where to post those backlings for the most effective results. 

    I am definitely curious to check out Your article where You explain how to use SEO without backlinking effectively. But I think I already might know the situations where backlinking isn’t useful at all, and that would be probably when the keywoard phrase is a ”low hanging fruit” and simply doesn’t require any of the backlinks to get great rankings, so I will check that out.

    Keep up the good work

  10. Hi there,

    Great article on backlinks! I really enjoyed the reading! You have provided all the information I needed to and I thank you for it. I do have a question though. If my website has bad backlinks, is there a way to get rid of them? As you said, bad backlinks can hurt the ranking in Google. So I am a bit worry now:)

    Thank you for this excellent post! 

    • Hi there Daniella.

      Yes if you happen to sport a few backlinks that you are not happy with – you can do a “disavow” which basically means you telling Google that this is not something you want pointing to your site.

      You can do this via Google Webmaster Tools (Search Console). 


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