There is a common misconception that to rank highly you have to appear to be as authoritative as possible and that part of improving your reputation and authority on the web is using lots of backlinks.
The truth is, there’s no instruction manual on how exactly to outrank your competition that has more content, more brand recognition, more backlinks, and more experience on the web.
There are metrics that you can learn about through Google though, that will let you outrank your competition, even if they have a much more dominant presence on the web.
We’ll break these metrics down so that you better understand them and so that even without backlinks, you can rank highly.
Everyone pretty much knows by now that Google controls the search engine market and that user experience is one of the main ways they judge the value and ranking of your site.
Many sites use a lot of backlinks to prove their authority on a subject and generate traffic from external sources, but that doesn’t mean they provide the best user experience or even that they fully understand their audience.
Google Analytics provides all the data you need about user experience to optimize your site so that users click on links to your site, stay on the site longer and click to other pages on your site to acquire more information. This is known as user satisfaction and is much more valuable in terms of measuring site ranking than a ton of backlinks.
To beat your competition without backlinks, the key is to provide valuable and relevant information to your users. Their satisfaction and ability to find your content useful will have more value than backlinks.
To think of it practically, think of a doctor with a wall full of medical degrees, but with a terrible bedside manner, versus a doctor who doesn’t display all his certificates but has a great rapport with his patients. That patient experience matters a lot more than all the paper hung on the wall.
Another way that Google determines how high your page should rank is based on how much traffic visits your site from outside sources. This means how many people come to your site from other sites that link to yours. These can be affiliate links from sales, social media accounts, other webpages you own that link to yours, and other sources.
The reason for this is because Google indexes millions of sites and a day and values them based on traffic from all sources. If your site is constantly being visited through other sites, then obviously it has a higher value than other sites that are indexed.
You can think of it as something akin to word of mouth in advertising, people visit your site because someone else told them to. This improves your relevance without you having to prove your worth through other means like backlinks.
Whenever your site gains traffic from outside sources, it will trend higher in the rankings as a result because Google sees it as a more valuable site. This ties together with the user experience by telling Google that your site is more valuable to users because more users visit it from elsewhere and when they find valuable information that is relevant to their search queries.
That’s a mouthful of words to say that people like your site, so they tell other people about it, those people like it too, so Google says “hey we think people like this page, let’s rank it higher so more people see it.”
These statistics will more often than not beat out sites with a larger web presence, more content, and more backlinks because their user experience and referral traffic are lower despite their size.
What we mean by this is using internal links to point people towards the most important pages on your site. Google sees large numbers of internal links pointing to a particular page as that page being more relevant and thus Google tries to rank it higher.
Using lots of internal links to your content shows its importance to you and helps to drive traffic, Google sees this as a positive sign of content relevance. It’s basically about using what you already have available to make yourself rank higher.
Internal linking is free while the right inbound links can be extremely expensive and time-consuming.
Our last point has to do with how well you communicate your message and what that message is. This means higher click-through rates, more talk about your brand on social media, more relevant testimonials from clients, basically anything that says, “even though we’re smaller, we provide better service to users.”
This has a lot to do with understanding your audience better than your competition. Who uses your site, what do they do when they are on your site, and what else can you do to make their experience better?
Messaging is part of this, particularly your meta description, how can you tell users in just a few characters that you have more value than the larger, older, and more well-financed competition?
This also means you don’t have to go with what every other search result says on a topic. For instance, if someone Googles a topic and most of the answers are yes, then you can explain why the answer might be no.
Choosing the different option often makes you more relevant to users as they like to seek the outlier or understand both sides of an argument. You don’t have to be like everyone else to succeed.
Backlinks aren’t the only way to make your site respectable, trustworthy, and high ranking. Frankly, there are ways you can fail in link building. A lot of the way you make your site high ranking is by being useful, readable, and relevant, even if you don’t have the biggest brand name out there or a humongous budget.
As we talked about, a site with information that people find useful will spread around by internet word of mouth. You can outrank your competition by being good at what you do. Having a strong social presence and knowing your audience can do more for your site ranking than dozens of backlinks.
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