Are Backlinks A Requirement For SEO?

Someone on X asked about this a while back and promised to respond through a blog post. The first one on this funky domain btw. (Yayy)

And here is my response:

There’s one thing most people never seem to understand:

Search engines don’t rank websites. They rank pages.

But before I dive deeper into this, I want to respond to the original question.

Backlinks are important and are required at some point, but it should be in someone’s sight for the first 12-24 months.
Thus, it’s not a requirement for me or for SEO.

Because SEO involves a lot more than backlinks. Lots of people have this idea that backlinks will solve all their traffic problems. But that’s plain wrong.

New bloggers or solo entrepreneurs should not consider backlinks as part of their early strategy.

Imagine this:

You start a blog or website and one of your disciplines is to churn out quality content for your existing or new audience.

With great pains, I see them publishing the quality content, but not the care they deserve. And by care, I mean the following:


  • Content is flat with no proper headers
  • Content has no incoming links or outgoing links
  • Content is misaligned with the overall theme of the website or blog
  • Content is not enticing enough for other bloggers or sources to quote or organically link back

But, before we go into that I want to point out a few things:

Crawl

Every time I whip up a new blog or website, I am always taking my time on the structure. Fancy does not cut it, because I want search engines to crawl the website from the homepage.

In fact, if your website has content hidden more than 3 layers away, the chances are that search engines will never even discover or crawl and index your pages or posts.

I’ve seen websites that exist for years and pages have remain uncrawled because… the structure and accessibility is not optimal.

See it like this:

Imagine you walk into a building with no directions or clear signs, you will be confused to even find the nearest bathroom which leads to ignoring what’s right there.

The same goes for a website, website need to have a max 1-2-3 layer structure with CLEAR and CLEAN navigation from the homepage.

One of the best examples here is security.org.


Crawlers and bots from search engines need directions. You basically need to tell them where the content is and ensure that your main navigation is the center of it all.


Which leads to part number two:


Link Equity


Every website needs to count their equity. For example, if you have different blog posts or pages, you need to connect the dots. Connect relevant keywords to other internal pages to ensure better a better user experience and search discovery.

It serves for a few purposes:

  • Improve the crawlability for bots and search engines
  • Helps search engines discover faster your other pages
  • Helps visitors to discover new content
  • Sends a signal how much weight those blog posts or pages have (important!)


If all links lead to your home page or contact form, that would be just bad. You need to consider that an optimal link equity across all content helps putting weight into backlinks that can be acquired (organically).


After all, imagine someone links a blog posts and you acquired that backlink. The link leads to your page or post but there’s no clear path to other internal links or navigation, your backlink is worth a lot less.


You want to keep the traffic on your website or blog as long as possible. Not losing it.


Orphan Pages


Undervalued but critical for SEO. Orphan pages are pages or posts that receive zero links.

Once in a while I use Ahrefs to crawl my blogs and there’s always a few that I completely ignored.

A real example is my main website OOSHQ. Recently been making lots of changes and added a newsletter page to it.

Completely ignored it for days until I saw Ahrefs telling me to fix the problem. And so I did.


Truth is that SEO requires constant monitoring, especially in early stage and I am no exception. I have been making so many changes on OOSHQ that I am tip-toeing in improving the SEO structure as much as possible.

If your backlink leads to an orphan page, it’s not going to have enough impact on your overall SEO profile. (at least that’s my observation)


Fix The Bad Stuff


In short, bad coded templates, demo pages, broken links, bad SEO titles, slow website…. the list goes on.


I urge people to first audit their website over and over again, until they start thinking about backlinks. Because what’s the point in putting effort in getting those links when the loading time is enormous or visitors stumble upon links that aren’t working?


You are self-inflicting losses and you only have to blame yourself.


Don’t Force It


Let’s assume you took care of all that, then I still see NO reason at all yet to hunt for backlinks. Backlink profiles should be built up naturally AND REQUIRE TIME.

Organically and well placed with a mix of do-follows and no-follows.


You always need to build any blog or website for a user or reader. When readers or other bloggers find your content useful, you would be surprised that lots of them will start to pick up on that and refer to one of your pages or blog posts.


This is why so many bloggers have long-form posts with infographics attached to it. So others can refer to that.


See it as: Writing quality content that informs users without baiting them but yet enough bait for others to link to your original post.


Zero Links Work

I have seen great websites or blogs with zero or minimal backlinks shooting through the roof. Just because they are so on point with the technical SEO part, on-page SEO or use methods like Keyword Golden Ratio to find MOAT and traffic for their content without a single backlink.

It’s not because one has tons of links that it’s a benchmark for success or traffic. Sure, it helps a lot at some point, but it’s NOT your concern when you just started out. (6-24 months).


Ignore the buzz, and focus first on creating a beautiful, well structured and thought out website/blog.

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