Recently, John Mueller was asked in Twitter if backlinks were mandatory for keyword rankings and his answer to it was a simple –
It seems like according to Mueller, links to your site is not a requirement in order to get your page ranked in Google search for your target keywords. In 2015, he was also asked why a site without any links at all, is ranking and his answer was that links are "obviously" a part of Google’s ranking factors, but it isn’t something Google only relies on. They rely on tons of other factors outside of links.
Based on observations, a page without links can rank in search however, more often than not, these are pages that are ranking for very low competition terms. This is a perfect example of how a page can rank without the need for backlinks.
However, for more competitive markets and keywords, aside from getting your on page factors and content on point and satisfying the intent of your searchers, backlinks are also a crucial factor that could propel you up in rank. Besides, backlinks is a trust factor that the search algorithm relies on. And if you are in a competitive market with competitive terms, aside from your onpage factors, technical factors, then backlinks is something that you should definitely have, either gained organically or through backlink building.
Need to know more about how you could get your site ranked in search though onpage and offpage SEO? Need more information on what type of backlinks works? Check out our articles and tests in the SIA.