Hello again. In previous posts, I’ve discussed that there are four areas in which to focus to create a link building infrastructure in order to increase web visibility (regardless of search engines) and higher search engine rankings on competitive keywords:
- Easily gained links regardless of target market
- Higher-value links in your target market – These take research, nurturing of relationships and compelling new content.
- Creative link building campaigns using any number of methods that can attract links automatically (link bait).
- Link opportunities that are gleaned from an SEO competitor analysis
Today, I’ll complete the series (certainly not the discussion) with a post on the fourth area: Link opportunities gleaned from the competition.
First off, what defines your competition from an SEO perspective?
- Any site/page that ranks higher than you do on your optimal keywords?
- Any page that ranks higher, even on your wisely chosen lower-competitive keywords?
- Any domain ranking higher than you do on any keyword theme found in your content?
- Any page that “wins the click” (due to their compelling snippet) on the same search engine results page (SERPs) even though they may be behind you?
I’d have to say all of the above.
Since SERPs are created anew each time a search term is entered and mainly identify “pages,” not “domains,” it may take some time to identify the top domains that are taking traffic away for your online business. Okay, let’s assume that you have identified say 50 competitors that are consistently ahead of you in the rankings, especially on the highly competitive keywords you’d rather be using. You have to ask: what are they doing right? After all, your content is superb, your site design is perfect, your customer experience is excellent, your on-page optimization is correct and in place and your site metrics are respectable.
Against established brands, they themselves savvy in search engine optimization, high quantities of high-quality links remain the number one way to overtake their rankings on competitive keywords.
So, you may ask, how are they creating all of those external links – those votes of confidence, those shares, likes and +1s that contain their link and those, potentially, thousands of positive citations across the web from high value, industry-related authorities?
Your marketing team needs to know what the competition is always up to. You can learn much by going past a simple list of links to gather link data such as anchor text and link authorities. Tools like Moz’s Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO, Blekko (currently in beta) and Ahrefs can help create a competitor analysis by reverse engineering the tactics that produced valuable links for your competitors and provide much information such as:
- What pages on their site are attracting the most links?
- What link partnerships do they have with media, bloggers, authority sites, etc?
- Who they are getting their links from?
- Are they buying links or all white hat? (Buying links will hurt, not help.)
- What content is on their site?
- What types of content do they use? Video, articles, blogs, Images, news, etc.
- How do they use their content to attract links?
- Are they collecting and displaying user-generated content? How?
- Are their links the result of PR campaigns or are they aggressively reaching out to potential linkers by contacting them directly?
- Are they using incentive based links such as an awards program?
- Are they SEO savvy? Signs they may not be: “Read more” or “Click here” anchor text or content buried many levels deep – poor breadcrumbing. Regardless, less savvy competitors may be a threat if they have a strong brand.
The goal is to identify all of your competitors in each product or service area and begin to do a better job than they do building (earning) quality links. If you execute correctly, you will begin to improve your rankings because the search engines will see more traffic, see improved metrics having to do with page rank, trust, and authority. Remember that once this train starts rolling, you will also become more likely to improve your rankings on those highly competitive keywords that currently you may not have a chance to rank for.
Using a tool like SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer allows you to plug-in your competitors and export their external links to a spreadsheet to get their links in one place. Then you can sort them by various link metrics to find the best link-building opportunities to pursue.
- Remember that links are not usually permanent. Competitors can, and will, catch up and sometimes overtake. Link building is a non-stop fight to get to and stay on top.
- You can discover the most powerful sites that link to your competitors as measured by PageRank or MozRank, but remember that you must beat the competitor’s site, not just have 10% of their links. Extracting data from your competitor’s backlinks can help you decide on the best link building strategies and create content based on what has worked for your competitors.
- SEO Competitor Analysis Tools – there are expensive link analysis tools on the market for enterprise size companies like Covario, BrightEdge and Conductor in the $10,000 per month range. But for smaller companies, most people take advantage of the free and low-cost tools like Moz, Google Analytics and Google/Bing Webmaster Tools.