One of Matt Cutts’ summer webmaster videos involved answering the following question:
“How does Google determine quality content if there aren’t a lot of links to a post?”
As you may well know, quality content is essential for any webpage to flourish. However, there are a number of different aspects related to content that affect the overall ranking potential of a page. Cutts explains that, in order to fully understand how quality content is recognised without links, you need to take a look at how search engines operated before links were used as a ranking signal.
In the above video, Cutts gives us a brief overview of how content would be analysed through solely the text on the page. When a word first appears on a page, it is counted more in comparison to other words that appear. As it continues to appear, the word is counted less but as long as additional appearances of the word occur, Google will come to the conclusion that this particular page is in reference to the topic being searched.
However, Cutts also said that repeating the same keyword multiple times to try and emphasise your affiliation with a certain topic could be regarded as keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing actually has the opposite effect and you could be penalised heavily for it.
Another way in which Google determines the quality of a page is through its domain. If the page covers a reasonably obscure search query, the chances are it won’t need any links to still be returned in search results. Remember that Google look to target the relevance of a page, so you don’t really need links if your content covers a rare search phrase.