How to Rank #1 without Building Links

SEO Optimized Pages + Links = Rankings, right?

Sure, but what if I told you there was a cheaper, faster, better way to get your rankings?

Take for example the keyword “Top SEO agency”. You may notice Linkio’s top seo agencies page has the top spot.

Even though the page has no real links (besides a handful of nofollow spam links). Also note, results 2 and 3 have 323 and 375 direct links respectively.

The idea of this guide is to show you how I did it and to give you some actionable tips to rank your resource high on Google without building links.

Sounds great?

Hope so because it probably seems strange that I, as the founder of a link building service, am showing you ways to rank without links.

The truth is too many SEOs are overly obsessed with link building.

Most think that a web page needs tons of backlinks from high authority domains for excellent rankings.

Links are just one piece of a greater puzzle.

I mean, Linkio wasn’t even thematically relevant for SEO agency terms and it still managed to rank even though it was newer and had less authority than most everyone else on page 1.

So, let’s get into how I did it but just one more note.

This is not some short-term hack that’s going to go away soon.

It grounds on the philosophy that if you do something today it needs to pay dividends several years onward.

This is really tough with SEO because things are constantly changing so all of my strategies are about quality, whether it’s quality links or quality content.

In this case, two factors contributed to ranking without links:

Building a really long listicle
Creating strong user engagement

Oh and both content and the user engagement were 100% automated with a plugin we developed!

Let’s start with the Listicle.

Listicle: Really Long Lists

A listicle is just like any other blog content on your site. Therefore, it requires all the typical things that come with a standard onsite SEO.

Most people publish an article and go to earn links because this is the most straightforward way to boost up the authority. But let’s take a step back and define what quality content is through Google’s eyes.
What is Quality Content for the Google Bot

Google’s bot looks at the standard SEO optimization stuff this like:

  • Content relevance
  • Keyword density
  • Focus keyword availability in H1 and H2
  • Quality of content.

This is the initial optimization. Any good SEO professionals probably does this and then skips ahead to link building. However, there are other factors Google looks at too these days:

  • User engagement
  • Traffic sources
  • Bounce rate
  • Dwell time
  • Social shares.

The above metrics depend on other people, so the SEOs tend to avoid it. Optimizing content and growing domain authority is much more manageable.

However, I’m going to talk specifically about how you (yes, you beautiful) can influence user engagement easily because adding this strategy to your tools will lead you to the top of Google search much faster and easier alongside link building.

Top SEO Agencies Article – a Little Bit of History

Let’s take a step back and talk about the Top SEO Agencies page and reasons for its creation. I published it on Linkio, which as you remember is an SEO tool.

One of my marketing strategies was to create an awards program for agencies to give them a reason to engage with me. It works like this: if I recognize those agencies as excellent service providers, they are likely to visit my site, check out my brand and my tool.


In late 2017, I created a barebones list of 500 SEO agencies, sorted them by domain authority, and published it. Over the course of a year and a half this page basically just lived on page four of Google.

I didn’t do much with it.

But in Late 2019, I decided to revisit this Link 500 page because I’d created a listicle plugin in the meantime and it was the perfect fit helping me launch a new lead gen strategy.

  1. First, I collected a list of agencies. I scraped the web and caught all necessary email addresses with the help of a VA.
  2. Then I emailed all agencies using an outreach template saying: “We’re updating our top agency list for 2020. If you want to be considered simply fill out this form and we’ll add you to the list. In a few months, we’ll update our Link 500 and you may be a part of it.”
  3. When the user clicked the URL in the outreach email, it took them to the Top SEO Agencies page. There was an extension in the URL which activated a pop-up form for the user. They could add their name, email, website name, logo, and description of the company. When they hit “Save”, the info has been sent for review. After the review, I clicked “Publish” and they got added to the list. Very simple.
    Once I approved their listing, they saw a vote button next to their listing, and oftentimes would share the page with their social media, which brought in a ton of social traffic.
  4. Within a couple of months, the traffic on site started to gradually pick up. Google noticed the buzz on the page and began to give us some organic rankings as well.

Seriously, that was it.

The Engagement

The vote button created natural engagement since the number of votes determines the order of the list.

The list was basically user-generated content but it became gamified because people wanted to be higher on the consideration list. So they shared it.

We ended up getting a lot of direct traffic from outreach campaign, some organic traffic, and some social traffic. In a word, we started to get diversified traffic from multiple sources.

People were voting, the list was updating, Google was recrawling it again and again.

After a while, the list has turned into a massive article without any link building.

It got lots of traffic and social shares. It moved from page four to position number one on Google for the keyword “top SEO agency” and ranks well for several others in a matter of a couple months.

To Summarize

Was this a fluke?

I’ve been able to recreate page 1 rankings success with listicles on several other occasions as well such as this backlink checkers page and this link building services page.

Think back to how many times you’ve created amazing engaging content and then published it just to get disappointed that nothing outstanding happens.

Your article doesn’t rank because there are so many other perfectly qualified posts from domains that maybe have a higher domain authority or more topical relevance.

You’ve just read a good example demonstrating that if you create engagement, Google will rank your content no matter of the domain authority and resource age.

If you look at the SERP, you see that the vast majority of results are list based.
Type in any keyword to see what I mean.

So you are ready to try out listicles for yourself? Feel free to leave any comments and questions in the comments section below. If you want to learn more about the WordPress Listicle Plugin, go to RoundupWiz.com.

However, the problem with listicles is that they’re hard to create.

If you want to make a really big list and do it yourself or hire somebody to do it, it’s several thousand words and it just takes a long time to do.

If you end up doing it you may do a poor job or it may cost a lot of money and then you will still have to build links.

Great news is that you can automate some tedious work and create beautiful listicles in a breeze with a RoundupWiz plugin developed to enable everybody to compile the lists just like the one I talked about.

This WordPress plugin lets you deploy different list templates to your blog and allows users to add and vote on items in the list. That means beautiful user-generated lists that create shares and engagement automatically.

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