I replied to another post about having problems after some recent backlinking with a new site - I had a couple of very puzzled replies along the lines of "backlinks are the only way to do it" and "How else do you suggest to get page one ranking??"
So I wanted to explain my opinons on this in more detail.
What I'm saying, is that if you have a brand new website - personally, in my opinion (other opinions exist, and I'm not saying I'm right & they're wrong) it is better to not focus on backlinking initially, and instead focus on keyword research, and increasing the value of your website with content & features - and good on page SEO. [EDIT. what I meant to say here was with MOST new websites, not all. It does depend on the Niche. There are competitive area's where there is just no low hanging fruit left to pick.]
First of all - backlinks are NOT required in order to gain page one ranking. It just depends on the competitiveness of the search terms. This isn't opinion, it's fact, you can get sites onto page one (and I don't just mean for a couple of weeks) with no backlinks. I do it all the time. It's just a case of selecting the right search terms.
If you have a new site & you're a home based business, a one person web marketer with little or no marketing budget, then - in my opinion - you should be starting off going for less competitive search terms, rather than starting off going after terms you need to gain backlinks for.
So if you're starting a brand new website, and you're going for fairly competitive search terms - yes, you will need backlinks. BUT, as your site age is zero, it's going to take you quite some time to gain page one ranking for competitive terms anyway - you may get the initial new site boost which can happen with new sites for a few weeks, but then you'll usually find the site drops way down within a couple of weeks - and it's very difficult to gain page one ranking then because of competition.
Do an exact match search in Google (in quote marks) and see how many competitiors there are for the term, then use the SEO quake firefox plugin or the SEO for Firefox plugin, and look at what the PR and backlink numbers are for those on page one - this gives you an idea of what the competition is. If you have a brand new site, and you're competing against 10,000, and the average PR on page one is 4, and the average backlinks number is 3,000 - 5,000 - and the average site age is 4 years, then obviously you're going to have a job & a half getting that site onto page one for that term.
So - I'm NOT saying that you should never do any backlinking - but what I'm suggesting is that when you have a new site - your focus initially should be on increasing the value of the site with content & features, and you focus very hard on keyword research, to find terms which you CAN rank on page one for, with little or no backlinking.
The trick is to start off spending time doing keyword research, to find the gems in your niche, those terms which have some traffic but very little competion. So rather than focusing on 3-5 competitive search terms, for example, start off focusing on 30 - 50 more long-tail lesser competitive terms, that you stand a chance of getting onto page one for with content & onpage SEO alone.
Having a keyword rich domain is a real plus for this, it's always easier to get on page one for terms which are contained in the domain. Then, by focusing on increasing the value of your content & features, you're creating linkbait, which means that people will naturally link to you - and when they do this, it tends to be very well matched topically, these kinds of backlinks look more natural to Google & are worth far more than manually gathered backlinks.
If you do it the way I've described here, and then start to look at some offpage - then first of all you'll be getting some decent traffic straight away, and you'll be creating a website which looks good to Google. You really can do more harm than good going all guns blazing backlinking with a brand new website.
Then when you do start doing some backlinking - I would still be careful on what you spend your time on. If you're learning about SEO from eBooks & so on - just keep in mind that this info is usually a couple of years out of date, things change FAST in SEO.
The problem is that people think it's all about backlinks, so they start off going after search terms which are way out of their league with a new site, and they end up not getting any real traffic for quite a long time. Whereas if they'd have focussed on researching the right keywords to focus on initially, they would have started getting some return straight away, and in time they could have then started to turn their attention to more competitive terms.