Why Backlinks Minus User Intent Equals Failure (A Review of 1,000+ Pages)


Why Backlinks Minus User Intent Equals Failure


You already know that backlinks are extremely valuable.

In fact, getting any visibility on Google’s top 10 SERP (search engine result page) is nearly impossible without Backlinks. Fortunately, since the online space has about 1.6 billion websites right now, you have numerous opportunities to get backlinks.

However, thousands of powerful backlinks can never replace content that serves user intent.

It’s the reason why Google’s SERP for the keyword “best personal loans” looks like this (data retrieved on Sunday, March 17th, 2019, USA Google SERP):


user intent 1


As you can see, majority of the pages with hundreds and thousands of Backlinks sit far down the SERP ranking, evidently because they don’t have a key term (2019) that best serves user intent.

So, you’re probably wondering, “How do I figure out the user intent?”

In fact, how do you figure out the key terms that best serve user intent? Key terms you must include in your blog post, SEO title, and metadescription, for high ranking.

That’s all possible using a little ‘magic’ box located in the bottom right corner of Google Trends.


How to Get User Intent from Google Trends

Google Trends has a small box placed at the bottom right corner, almost like an afterthought.

However, it’s far more valuable than you might assume.


user intent 2


If you know how to use it properly, the related queries in that box will help you determine user intent for your target keyword.


Well, the box shows keywords which people most often search for while also searching for your target keyword. From the screenshot, you can see that someone searching for “Google Trends” will most likely also search for “Google Trends 2019.”

To understand this, just think of your own search behavior.

When you search for the term “Google Trends,” but don’t find the results you wanted, what do you do? You add an extra word, like “2019,” to get better results in line with what you intend to find.

Google sees that.

And, if there’s a significant number of people who do what you’re doing, Google features pages that have the related query in the search results of your target keyword.

Basically, the high-volume related queries give you better insights into why people are searching for the target keyword.

Here, the term “2019” shows that they are looking for the most up-to-date information.

To show how powerful this insight is, here is a review of 1,000+ pages on Google’s SERP comparing the user intent and backlinks (based on the review by MoneyLend that focused only on the user intent).


Why Backlinks Minus User Intent Equals Failure

Would getting thousands of Backlinks make up for mismatched user intent?

Not according to these Google search results.

For the target keyword, “how to make money fast,” the term “online” features within the most-searched related queries (in Google Trends). No wonder the term also features prominently in the search results:


user intent 3


Apparently, the thousands of backlinks on several pages at the bottom of the SERP didn’t result in high ranking, since the content didn’t match user intent.


Important note:

In such instances where pages have large quantities of backlinks, the issue of lower ranking may also be related to unnatural link building tactics, not solely due to a mismatch in user intent. Such unnatural tactics may include link exchanges, blog networks, widget backlinks, paid links passing page rank, article directory links, among others.

However, in these instances, the lower-ranked pages with massive backlinks have a mismatch with user intent.


The same case seems to apply for the target keyword “how to save money.”


user intent 4


Pages featuring the most popular related query, “2019” are mostly concentrated at the top. At the bottom, even having thousands of Backlinks doesn’t seem to help the pages with mismatched user intent.

If your page ended up at the bottom like that, you would certainly feel disappointed after getting all those backlinks.

What about the target keyword, “how to make money online?”

A key term in the most-searched related queries (in Google Trends) for that target keyword is “fast”/ “quick.” And this is what the SERP looks like:


user intent 5


Here too, pages having thousands of backlinks don’t fare well with mismatched user intent.

There seems to be a pattern of pages that don’t match user intent ranking lower even with far higher backlinks. It’s no surprise, considering Google’s algorithm update aimed at quality and user intent.

So, what would happen if you match the user intent and have backlinks…


With the Right User Intent, You Don’t Need Too Many Backlinks

Matching user intent can reduce the need for getting tons of backlinks.

Here’s how.

Take a look at the top pages ranking for the keyword, “best personal loans.”


user intent 6


As you can see, the page by Credit Karma has far more Backlinks than the first 3 pages. But users are clearly looking for informational posts, as indicated by the key term (2019) in the most-searched related queries in Google Trends.

Credit Karma’s page looks less like an informational post and more like a sales page:


user intent 7


All the other top pages are informational posts, which match user intent.

Probably, the Credit Karma post maintains a high position due to the site’s high domain authority and extensive backlinks. However, the page’s long-term ranking might be negatively affected if it gets a low dwell time, when visitors click away as soon as they see that the page doesn’t match their search intent.

This seems to also apply with the keyword, “how to make money online.”


user intent 8


The first three pages feature the key term (“fast”/ “quick”) found in the most-searched related queries in Google Trends. That key term is a valuable indicator of user intent.

What’s more interesting is those three top pages have fewer backlinks than the fourth page, which doesn’t exactly match the user intent.

The quality of Backlinks may play a role; however, there seems to be a pattern of pages that match user intent ranking high even with fewer backlinks.


How to Use this Information

Understandably, you can’t make overarching conclusions based on this limited study.

However, it gives some valuable insights on complementing user intent with your backlink strategy. It means first ensuring your content matches user intent, so your backlinks don’t go to waste. Perhaps you already have the right amount and quality of backlinks, but your only problem is matching user intent.

You can apply these insights in effectively optimizing your content for a specific keyword.

Even so, user intent and backlinks can only do so much, especially if other websites are also optimizing for user intent and getting backlinks.

That’s evident from the Google search results for the keyword, “best savings account.”


user intent 9


With the majority of the pages matching user intent (62%), you would certainly need more than just powerful or massive quantities of Backlinks to stand out.

Thankfully, there’s no shortage of tactics to get your site ranking high, including:

  • aligning your SEO strategy to your marketing strategy
  • analyzing your competitors for ideas to outrank them
  • focusing on the customers – not Google
  • leveraging on the power of longtail keywords
  • taking advantage of social media exposure
  • optimizing for other search engines beyond Google
  • building your brand
  • continually experimenting and testing for higher performance



If you’re targeting the keywords analyzed in this study, you now have the perfect starting point to get your content on track. It’s certainly better to create the best possible content from the start, than trying to optimize it after it gets indexed by Google.

Most of all, you shouldn’t get the mistaken assumption that backlinks are unnecessary when your content matches user intent. Hardly any of the pages reviewed had zero backlinks. So, getting quality backlinks is still part and parcel of your SEO toolkit, besides matching user intent.


  1. Reply

    This is a Really amazing article. It is very helpful for the SEO Process. Don’t stop your blog content sharing. Carry on

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