For long, you’ve known inbound links as one of the most important factors for ranking a web page at the top of search engines. But has this question ever come to your mind – ‘Can I rank a piece of content on the first page of Google even when it doesn’t have too many links pointing to it?’ Whether you’ve thought about such a scenario or not, Matt Cutts was recently faced with the very question. And he responded to this critical question as well!

Of course, in today’s competitive SEO era, what makes the most difference is the quality of content you produce. High quality inbound links, on the other hand, also play a major role in telling Google whether it should give a specific piece of content or web page competitive ranking.

Content Without Links

When Matt Cutts answered this intriguing question through a Google Webmasters video, most of the webmasters around the world felt a little taken aback. He agreed that there are special cases where a page which features remarkable content but doesn’t have too many inbound links pointing to it. He also reveals that Google does rank many such pages and it uses various other signals to measure the quality of a page or a piece of content that deserves higher rankings. Apart from links, there are other factors like the ‘time spent on a page’, ‘number of pages generated per session’ and ‘the bounce rate’ that Google may consider to evaluate the quality of a page or a website which doesn’t have many inbound links.

If you’ve a brand-new website, for example, you may have lots of high quality content featured on it but not many links pointing to it. Does that mean you don’t deserve high Google rankings? Of course, you do. In response to the question, Google’s Matt Cutts mentions about those days when search engines wouldn’t use links (or backlinks) as a ranking signal. AltaVista is a good example of such a search engine. It didn’t use links when it evaluated the relevancy of a page or a piece of content to rank it in search results. It ranked a page only on the basis of the text that it contained. In terms of Google, the quality of content on a page does play a key role. However, ranking a page without many inbound links at the top of Google isn’t about too many keywords either.

When the relevancy (and ranking) of a page is determined only on the basis of text, following factors play a key role –

  • The first word on the page
  • The second time the word is seen on the page
  • Additional occurrences of the word on the page

Matt Cutt was very clear in his explanation that repeating the same keyword over and over again wouldn’t do the trick either, as it will only lead to ‘keyword stuffing’ which is against Google quality guidelines.

The quality of the content (which lacks inbound links) matters the most in this case. Most importantly, Google will want to rank this content when it centers around a unique or rare phrase, which the users may be looking for. If your content is a unique piece of content and still being searched by users, Google will rank it at its top search results.

Key Takeaway
Getting obsessed about plenty of inbound links may not always be a good idea until you’re creating unique content. Google prefers giving top ranking to a site which has 10 page views/ visitor, 5 minutes average time spent and only one inbound link over a site which has 30 or 40 inbound links with very bad on page/ site metrics.