Well this entire website is just that, an experiment to find out if it is possible to get search engine results without any backlinks. I don’t mean none whatsoever because at some point somebody will link to this website or a page on this website without my knowledge, and if you want to link to it, please don’t let me stop you, it will be very welcome, the point is that I’m just not going out there chasing links. I am experimenting to ask “is it possible to rank for key words and phrases without trying to build backlinks?”
What are backlinks?
Backlinks are links from other websites to your website, they serve three distinct purposes.
One is that they bring visitors to your website who discovered the elsewhere and were interested enough to click on the link and follow it back to your website to read what you have to say.
The second purpose is that they allow search engines to do just the same, to discover pages that they haven’t indexed before. Search engines use automated programs, known as bots to explore the internet, collecting links to pages and then scheduling for indexing if they don’t already have them. These are discovery bots looking for new content. Then there are update bots that index that new content, as well as checking for changes in existing content.
The third purpose again relates to search engines because not only do they use links to discover content, but they also use links to evaluate the importance of a page, so the more links that point to a page, the more importance Google gives it. Theoretically a page with no links pointing to it is more or less ignored. When the search engines have two pages with a similar level of content, they would rank the one with more backlinks higher than the other.
Do Search Engines Really Place This Much Importance on Backlinks over Content?
However is that really how it works. Google aims to deliver the most relevant content that matches the searchers search input. Would Google really ignore the page with the best content that answers the search query the best, just because it doesn’t have many links pointing to it? Maybe it has the best answer, but is a new website so hasn’t had the time to gather any backlinks yet, and how can a page get natural backlinks if Google doesn’t rank it for anything, and therefore nobody knows that it exists?
The thing is, if backlinks are more important than content then Google isn’t really delivering the most relevant content to the searcher. It also makes backlinks a valuable commodity with websites desperate to get as many as possible to move up the rankings. This produces a bit of a conundrum for website owners because google says that you should not pay for links, or join any sort of linking consortium or program, otherwise they will penalise you, but then say if you haven’t got these links then we won’t show your website in our results.
Welcome To My No Backlinks Experiment
As I said at the start I cannot stop links being placed pointing to this website, that is out of my control. But what if I didn’t go out looking for backlinks, what if I was completely passive about backlinks? Would search engines really just ignore my content? Well again as I said before, this entire website is an experiment to find out just what happens.
You see, I am not relying on any income from this website. In fact as it stands it is virtually impossible for me to make any money from it. I have nothing to sell here, there is nothing to buy. I could monetize the site by placing ads and affiliate marketing links, but there is no point in doing that if there are no visitors to see them. At a later date I might do that, but at the time of writing I am not.
So how might I get search engine ranking without backlinks?
If we go back to Google’s remit to deliver the most relevant results that match a searchers query, then it can only be possible through content. A major problem is that SEO, Search Engine Ranking and Affiliate Marketing is probably the most competitive sector of the internet so it will be the toughest sector to make progress in. The phrase ‘Affiliate Marketing’ has 849 million web pages in the results, ‘SEO’ has 620 million pages to compete with and ‘Search Engine Ranking’ has 132 million pages.
The next issue is that Google deliberately holds back results from new websites with no backlinks. There used to be something that people called the ‘Google Sandbox’, supposedly an area where Google holds new websites in the background until they decide that they are worth delivering in the results. Google denies that such a thing exists, but there is no doubt that new websites without backlinks aren’t shown in results, unless they absolutely are forced to.
So Is Google cheating searchers out of the best result for their query?
This can be proven by searching for a phrase that only appears on your webpage and on no other website. Exactly a month ago I created a page with a very specific phrase on it. It was a random phrase that I made up that wasn’t even related to the topic I was writing about. I had checked that it didn’t exist in Google’s index.
I created the page but if I search for the phrase my page isn’t shown in the results, even though the pages that are shown do not contain the phrase. In fact the page that is in first position for that phrase doesn’t contain the phrase, was written more than 10 years ago and has major user unfriendliness issues. The page in second position, again does not include the target phrase and is 15 years old. My page that includes the exact phrase does not appear in any of the results. So how can that be delivering the most relevant results that match the search query? Google would rather deliver 15 year old content than the latest freshest content which I suppose leads to the question of whether Google is the best search engine for modern search purposes.
You might say that maybe google hasn’t indexed that particular page yet. However if you force Google to only show pages containing the exact phrase by putting it inside “quotation marks” then my page is the only page in the results, but who searches using Quotation marks? Only a small number of searchers I would suggest. So this sandbox does seem to exist, certainly in the first month or so, but let’s see how that plays out. If at some point the page is shown in the results without having to use quotation marks, I will update this page accordingly.
So is it possible to rank for key words and phrases without trying to build backlinks?
Only time can answer this question. In the meantime I am going to continue to build unique relevant content and to see where this journey takes me. I will not be asking for any backlinks, or adding the website to any directories or carrying out any social media promotions. My only input into ranking will be in providing content.
Below I will build out a time line of events to see how the experiment progresses so please come back every week to see how the experiment is progressing.
29TH JANUARY 2021 DOMAIN NAME AND HOSTING PURCHASED
It is a cold dark day in January when I decide to go ahead with the experiment to see if it is possible to get search engine results without any sort of backlinking campaign. I buy the domain name and the web hosting and set up the website. I write a lengthy about me page and the first two posts. I then set up a Google Search Console account and submit my website to Google.
5TH FEBRUARY 2021 KEEP WRITING UNIQUE CONTENT
Its a week later and I have created more posts on the topics covered by this website. At this point I am not doing a great deal in the way of keyword research, I am just picking a topic and writing about it, trying to write at least 1500 words to each post. I write straight from my head, no research, just write what I know. That way it is less likely to duplicate anything else out there, and by keeping the posts long it gives more chance of getting results from longer and varied keyphrases.
12TH FEBRUARY 2021 ADDING MORE CONTENT
Two weeks in to the experiment and all I can do is to add more content and keep requesting that Google indexes it
19TH FEBRUARY 2021 SITEMAPS
Other work commitments stopped any new content but I did put together a sitemap and submit it to Google
26th February 2021 Almost One Month In
Another lengthy article written. My posts are now getting indexed by Google but are not getting any clicks because although they are indexed they aren’t being displayed in the search results, so we aren’t getting any Google love at the moment, but we aren’t even a month in yet. According to Search Console we are starting to get some impressions for very lengthy quite obscure phrases but as I say, no clicks.
5th March 2021 – 5 weeks in to the experiment
5 Weeks is just a blink of the eye in the life of a new website, particularly in an extremely competitive niche like this, and with no link building will it remain unseen. It’s a bit like writing a journal on a desert island that isn’t on any maps and wondering if anyone will ever visit. The website currently has 18 posts plus 12 other pages. They are all included in Google’s index, so 30 pages currently indexed, but none are being delivered in results pages, and to be honest they might never, because there are so many established competing pages i this niche.
It’s a good job this is just an experiment and not how I make a living! An interesting point is that if I search for one of my post titles in quotation marks” it delivers just one of my pages in the results, but not that exact page. It delivers a page that has a link to that page on it. So what does that mean?
I know Google has all of the pages indexed, yet when forced to deliver a page, it delivers the wrong one. If you think about it Google delivers it’s content from servers all over the world. Only Google knows how many they have, but it is estimated that there are several million of them. How long would it take for all servers to have all of my pages? Google has them all, but perhaps, not all of them, on all of their servers. The one I connected to when I did my forced search maybe only had a page with a link to that page. Maybe this is what the Google sandbox is, it’s just the time it takes for all of it’s servers to get updated with all of a new websites content?
I will keep adding content and pages over the coming weeks just to see what happens…..if anything