Semalt: Is It Possible To Promote A Website Without External Links?

Looking ahead, we can answer almost in two words: yes and no. It all depends on the specific project and a number of factors. Here's what we can say for sure that the person who is going to give you a 100% answer to this question most likely cannot be trusted. Even if it's a Google employee.

First, the reference budget of some projects is still several times higher than that of internal work. As a result, it is difficult to develop and improve the site, and spending less on links is simply dangerous.

Secondly, search engines regularly impose sanctions for link abuse, and since no one knows the "boundaries" reliably, you can easily get on the list of losers.

In general, some questions are worth pondering. Now let's try to give answers to them.

SEO Evolution: 6 Important Factors Beyond Linking

A competent approach and understanding of the key principles of effective promotion can save both time and money. In addition to backlinks, several other important factors also affect the state of the site, a list of which we will present later in the article.                                                                        

A careful approach to semantics

Trying to promote in the same ways as everyone else in the niche usually leads to a budget race that leaves little to no chance for newbies and small businesses. To get ahead of the competition without investing in large budgets, you need to act smarter.

For example, pay more attention to collecting and clustering the semantic core, looking for queries with the least competition. It can be:
  • trending keys, that is, topics that are just starting to gain popularity;
  • low frequency queries that competitors do not pay enough attention to;
  • related search phrases that are in the area of interest of your potential audience;
  • synonyms and other similar keywords by which people search for all the same goods and services that you offer, simply by different names.
First example. A company that is engaged in the construction of turnkey houses can create expert content on topics such as land selection, features of different construction technologies, the choice between a one- and two-story house or a house with an attic, etc.

In all these cases, people who are going to build their own house in the future, or at least are considering such an opportunity, will most likely be looking for such materials.

Example two. For seniors' phones, big button phones and grandmother's phones, people are actually looking for the same devices. At the same time, the results for them have a different level of competition, and with the help of competent clustering of the site, nothing prevents you from covering all three requests, by simply creating different landing pages for them (category, filter, tag).

Behavioural factors

These are various metrics related to users behaviour and interaction with a particular site. They are tracked by search engines and signal to them whether users are satisfied with the site, whether they received the information they were looking for when they went to the page.

The list of major behavioural factors includes:
  • bounce rate;
  • time spent on the site;
  • number of page views;
  • share of direct transitions;
  • engagement (interaction with the site);
  • the percentage of returns to search results;
  • Behavioural metrics in Google Analytics.
You do not need to be an expert to understand that the listed points are directly related to the usability of the site, the completeness and quality of the information that is presented on it. This allows you to form a list of methods of influencing behavioural factors aimed at improving them:
  • simplify navigation;
  • structure the content on the page;
  • make Title / Description more informative;
  • optimize the site for mobile (responsive design);
  • optimize page loading speed.
The topic is quite extensive. In any case, the site will not be complete without reworking. But the potential payoff is worth the effort.

Commercial factors

Speaking about working with commercial factors, most often they mean website optimization for promotion under Yandex or Bing. But Google also takes them into account, simply does not single them out into a separate group. 

There is no exact list of elements that belong to the list of commercial factors in the public domain, but based on information from various Yandex reports, we can say that this includes:
  • detailed contact information;
  • several communication channels: e-mail, phone, form;
  • the presence of company pages in social networks;
  • no intrusive ads (pop-ups, banners);
  • width of the product range;
  • detailed description in the product cards;
  • shipping and payment information;
  • discounts, promotions and other activities;
  • presence in the directory and maps.
The whole point of working out commercial factors comes down to simply making the site as informative as possible for the user, simplifying the process of buying or contacting a company for him / her.

Content quality

In recent years, text factors have influenced the ranking of sites very strongly. There are quite a few examples of sites that get massive amounts of traffic just through a smart content strategy.

In most cases, a page with high-quality content, based on well-chosen semantics, can already receive good positions and transitions from search in the absence of external links.

Quality content can be called such content that meets the following criteria:
  • fully reveals the topic;
  • well structured and decorated;
  • optimized for a specific group of keywords;
  • includes elements of added value: statistics, illustrations, tables, etc.
The criterion should be just quality, not quantity. There are more than enough examples when one good article can bring more traffic than a dozen mediocre materials.

Site structure

The importance of site structure for SEO is often misunderstood by many site owners. Even SEOs do not always pay due attention to this issue. But in vain, because the competent distribution of requests from the semantic core to the main, categories and internal pages greatly simplifies further promotion. Robots quickly rate them positively in terms of relevance.

Whatever page the user is on at this moment, a good site structure should give him answers to three main questions:
  1. Where am I now?
  2. Where can I go next?
  3. What is the logical connection between this page and the rest?
Here are some basic tips to help you design a good website structure:
  • the same page or section should be available only at one address;
  • do not create categories until you have at least enough pages for them;
  • use different types of pages to achieve variety without complication (for example, filter pages in a catalogue);
  • study top sites not only in your own, but also in related niches;
  • focus not only on search demand, but also on the needs of users for certain information.

Mobile-friendly and download speed

On most sites, the share of mobile traffic is about 20-30% of the total, and in some niches, it has already exceeded half and continues to grow. High-quality website optimization for mobile is necessary for three main reasons:
  1. Google has already stated that the quality of mobile optimization is taken into account in the ranking and affects the position.
  2. Since the site is inconvenient to use on smartphones, then the conversion will be low, which is critically important for commercial projects.
  3. And of course, behavioural factors: most people, when switching from a smartphone to a site without a responsive design, will simply close the tab.
A website adapted for viewing on mobile allows you to avoid all these problems, and at the same time provides an improvement in all indicators: compliance with algorithms, no problems with conversion, and good behaviour.

Loading speed is also taken into account when ranking, both directly and due to the influence of this indicator on behavioural factors. If pages are loading slowly, then the bounce rate, the time visitors spend on the site and many other metrics will noticeably deteriorate. It is recommended that this figure does not exceed 3-4 seconds.

You can check the performance of your site using the Dedicated SEO Dashboard. And the list of work that needs to be done to improve this indicator depends more on the specific site. But there are also some universal recommendations:
  • make sure the site is running on fast hosting with an SSD drive, sufficient processor and RAM resources;
  • reduce the volume of images when loading, you can easily compress the image by 30-40% without any visible loss of quality;
  • use caching, both on the server side and through special plugins/modules for the CMS;
  • do not use additional plugins unnecessarily, as any additional script creates a load on the server.
The best option is to order optimization of the speed of work from third-party specialists, as it may require the technical part to be improved, to fix errors in scripts, etc.

It is possible to promote without links, but not always necessary

As you can see, several factors can have enough influence on the visibility and position of a site in the SERP so that you can get good results without backlinks.

But budget savings due to this direction will not always be justified. Work on the link can be practically a necessity when it comes to promotion in commercial topics. Especially if traffic from Google is important, for which backlinks continue to be one of the most important ranking factors.

At a minimum, pumping a site with high-quality links can significantly speed up the process of obtaining results. And in business, time savings often fully justify the budgets spent.

What do you think about this? Share your opinion in the comments!

If you need to learn more about the subject of SEO and website promotion, we invite you to visit our Semalt blog.