|Competitor backlink research should be mainstream SEO not obscure|
list of link building ideas
Some SEOís have been doing competitor backlink research for a long time some people are just now discovering it and most have never heard of it. I spoke about it in Vegas at Pubcon and I will speak about it again in Dallas.
Competitor link research is when you study your competitorís backlinks as part of your link building efforts. There are quite a few different ways to acquire links using this practice. The possibilities are endless. The best place to find links are places that are already linking.
While you are doing all this research you might find types of sites that link to your subject area you did not know about. Any time youíre surfing the web you should be looking for new ideas to attract links.
- When you find pages that link to several of your competitors there is a good chance they will link to you too.
- Get a list of blogs and forums that link to your competitors that don't have nofollow. Make sure to leave good comments and post good threads. Don't just say "great site" and spam links with anchor text. It is best to do comments or posts that don't have links at first. Contribute to the site so they don't mind your links later. Read the forum rules to find out if you have to make a certain number of posts before you can use links. Some forums moderate the first 4 or so posts you make.
- Study the types of content websites link to and create that type of content. You can get them to link to your site as well or you can convince them that your content is better than the one they are linking to and they might replace your competitors link with yours.
- When looking through your competitors links you might find that sites link to pages that no longer exist. You can create a page that reflects what was linked to and then inform the site owner of the broken link and let them know they can link to your page instead.
- Get a list of sites that used to link to you or your competitor and try to get a link on those sites. If they used to link they might link again. Find out what the site used to link to and improve the content then show the owner why they should link to it again.
- Find directories that link to your competitors to get your site in.
- Study your own backlinks to find sites that link to you with URL's or junk anchor text like "click here" or "articles". Contact them to try to get that changed to a keyword.
- Find wikiís that link to your competitors and donít use nofollow . Try to get added to that page or create your own page on that wiki with a link to your site.
- Find run of sites links to your competitors. This might be blogrolls or sometimes paid links. Try to get the link for free. This is not about the right and wrong of buying links just ideas if you want to use them.
I'm not a fan of obtaining links similar to competitors because that puts my site in a lesser position. I have beat larger competitors who have been around longer and have more links by acquiring links from outside of their link graph. From that experience, my take away is that poaching from someone else's link network (or link clique) only makes you part of someone else's link graph. You are part of the neighborhood, someone else's neighborhood, but not a leader. Building your own creates a new body of relevancy that can challenge the established sites.
Not everything I said was about getting the same links. I also talked about getting ideas. Not everybody has years of experience and the creativeness to come up with innovative links ideas. Many people here at WebmasterWorld are new and this is a good way to learn about link building.
I understand your point but ignoring an entire area of links puts you at a disadvantage. What if some of the links they have are good? Youíre building a link profile of links from lots of different places. I agree it would be bad to have the exact same links as somebody else. If you will notice I said ďcompetitorsĒ which means youíre studying many different backlink profiles.
By no means did I mean to imply this is the only way to build links. This is just one way of many.
I always check the backlinks of competitors to get ideas and to cherry pick the best links.
This is just one method of getting links - but I feel it can work if used wisely :)
Checking backlinks of competitors and comparing then with your own site can give you an idea of where do you stand in comparision and how much more needs to be done.
As I mentioned previously, competitor backlinks are part of the link graph profile of your competitor. Acquiring them, in my opinion, only makes your site a subset of your competitors link graph which establishes your competitor's relevance. In my opinion, this is a poor strategy, particularly when your competitor is established.
I have found from experience, in order to jump to the #1 ranking and topple a giant multimillion dollar website, that acquiring my own set of inbound links that are relevant (my own link clique) works best for beating the larger more established website.
Another shortcoming of this strategy is that in many competitive niches most of the top ten are using similar link building techniques, meaning they are using each other as the template and succeeding by being more extreme. I have jumped to the top position by inventing my own strategy, one none of them had thought of, and not only ranking for intended long tail phrases but also captured the shorter tail phrases as well.
These days, I never use backlink analysis to create a strategy. Once you copy, you are in the box, not outside of it. I mainly use backlink analysis to judge whether the link I want to acquire is worthy of pursuing or not.
Here is something I wrote in an interview on SearchEngineLand [searchengineland.com] that is relevant to this discussion about backlink analysis:
|The search engines are analyzing link graphs to determine the relevance of a site to a particular query, and part of that analysis is to throw out sets of sites that raise certain flags. This process is generally referred to as earning trust, but Iíve been coming around to seeing it more as part of the process of identifying what niche bucket a site belongs in, with the spam bucket being one of several. Imagine these buckets as clouds of sites that are relevant for particular topics. Now here is the question that webmasters arenít considering. Is it possible to rank a site according to the relevancy cloud that a site belongs in? If itís possible to extract meaning from the clouds of ďmeaningĒ a site belongs to, then itís possible that a relevant site with low to zero PR regains importance as part of a link building project. This is something I refer to as determining the link clique. |
Aaron Wall offers a thought provoking response in that article where he focuses on backlink analysis of competitors as a way to analyze the competitor's strategy for weaknesses and discern if there is an entry point, that is, a marketing weakness that can be bested with a different strategy.
|Mostly I do it at the beginning of entering new marketsÖand mainly when trying to decide an entry point to the market. If you try to compete head on with limited resources that makes winning harder, but if you find an area where the competition is weak or you have a strong competitive advantage you give yourself a much better chance to succeed. Most of the backlink analysis I do is just an overview look at the market using SEO for Firefox. |
DIY is far better than looking like your competition. Do the research, of course, but find your own, BETTER links and court those. Otherwise you're in the same swimming pool as your competitors and guess what... they all pee in the pool, too.
Tangor: There is one other difference between your site and theirs. Theirs are already ranking top [x].
Nobody here has said ONLY go after the links they have. What Mr. Ogletree has stated, quite correctly, is that by researching their links you can cherry pick from them. Add those cherries to your own DIY link building processes, and you have just beaten then in the SERPS.
Another added benefit from solid research is simply to see what pitfalls they have gotten into, thus avoiding said pitfalls yourself.
This is not a difficult topic to understand folks...
WilliamC... I think I said that, perhaps a bit more colorfully, but even that cherry picking puts you back in the same swimming pool (called a niche, fragment, segment, same biz... ah, you get it).
There is no rocket science in this. Never has been, but there is an extraordinary amount of angst and hubris involved because it all seems so personal.
|backlink analysis of competitors as a way to analyze the competitor's strategy for weaknesses and discern if there is an entry point |
|Another added benefit from solid research is simply to see what pitfalls they have gotten into, thus avoiding said pitfalls yourself. |
you say "po-tay-toe", i say "po-tah-toe"...
|you say "po-tay-toe", i say "po-tah-toe"... |
Touche, missed that one.
When it comes to #3,#4 ("that sort of thing";-)) I had relatively mild success with it in the past. Then again I probably havent tried it enough, yet.
I think martinibuster(/you) mentioned something like that on here before - that finding the flaws of your competitors in the top10, and being better at those things (and not being worse at anything else) could help you get/steal(?) links from the competition.
This made me think of a basic marketing principle:
If you have a competitive advantage it only matters if people actually care about that competitive advantage.
So...is that one key to make this technique work? Being better at something than your competitors' sites and actually finding a group of linkers who 'care' about your site being better at that?
For example, no website in your niche in the top10 might be coded in an accessible way. Now if you get your accessibility right (which you should anyway of course) then maybe university-websites (or other types of webmasters who truly care about your site being better at this), might be inclined to replace their link to a competitor's site with your link.
Not sure if this is a good example, but Ive been thinking that targeting the right people who actually 'care' about your website being better at xyz ... or who care about their websites (edit it frequently,etc.) ... might be extremely important with this technique or else you might have an extremely low success rate?
|I think martinibuster(/you) mentioned something like that on here before - that finding the flaws of your competitors in the top10, and being better at those things (and not being worse at anything else) could help you get/steal(?) links from the competition. |
Actually, that relates to what I was referring to in the Out of the box/In the box comment. A person may look at the top ten and assume that because everyone in the top ten is doing a certain technique, that this means they too need to compete using the same technique. Not an unreasonable assumption. However, one can look at the top ten and see an opportunity for trying a different strategy.
Let me make this specific and explicit. I am not commenting on the OP or the topic. I am commenting on niches where everyone appears to be following the same strategy. For instance, ever see some niches where everyone is using multiple domains targeting specific keyword phrases? One can copy that and in my opinion be in the box with everyone else that is in that top ten. OR you can be outside of that box and create one site that covers all those same longtail topics, build links to the different longtail sections, and end up ranking for the two word phrase on the home page.
|Being better at something than your competitors' sites and actually finding a group of linkers who 'care' about your site being better at that? |
Yes, I think that's a valid strategy. Imo, it's so important that it should be done before you write a single line of code. Evaluating a competitor, including their backlinks is part of what Aaron referred to as finding an entry point. One of the next steps can be taking their shortcomings and making those your selling points, a reasonable way to differentiate your site and appeal to those who may agree that the shortcomings are distasteful. Using that as your reason for someone to link to you is a decent strategy.
Our site does not feature pop ups. Our site does not require registration. Our site contributes a percentage of profits to support XYZ. Our site is accesssible. Our site, etc. Those are all good ways to acquire a one way link from a website that cares about certain issues and is a resource for your niche.
Interesting, your last two paragraphs sound like you agree that it's not only about finding a way to be better at something than other people (like the top 10 ranking websites)...but that being better at X only matters if you can find people who care enough about X to feel motivated to link to it.
Did I get this right?
(or maybe you dont think its as crucial as I try to make it :-), because you normally dont have any issues finding someone who 'cares' about it?)
When I first heard (or well read) that bit of advice by you on here, I was sort of thinking 'Sounds nice in theory, but most people Ive told about broken(!) links in the past didnt even remove them. Would they really remove a link to a competitor and give that link to me if my site is better?...if they dont even care enough to replace a broken link?!'
But then (quite a bit later admittedly!) I realized that
your success rate with it might be relatively high if you can be better at something that somebody truly cares about (having the only truly accessible site + targeting websites whose visitors pretty much need them (marketing to a need is never a bad idea, I guess))
What I meant to say is that the strategy of being better than your competitors at something is *only* a good link building strategy, if you can identify a group of potential linkers who will truly care about it (but then it might be very effective).
Then again, maybe you dont even have to overly focus on finding a group of potential linkers who 'care' about your competitive advantage a ton......but it might be enough to simply target webmasters who care about their own website's quality a lot: E.g. you could do a backlink check to a competitor, and out of the 10,000 sites that link to them, you could try to further drill down and only target those webmasters who edit their sites daily.
That way you shouldnt have the problem of wasting your time with webmasters who dont even replace a broken link.
|'Sounds nice in theory, but most people Ive told about broken(!) links in the past didnt even remove them. |
I customarily state when something is an opinion and when something is experienced. I think it's important, for the sake of clarity about the kind of information being discussed, to make that distinction. Stating, "I think this works" isn't proof or evidence that something works. It's an opinion, like a theory. Saying, "In my experience this has worked for me..." means that something has actually worked for the person making that statement. A statement by a member that something has worked for them is important, in my opinion, because even if it hasn't worked for me, if it worked for someone else, then that may be evidence that something is at play there. This is why I state, "In my experience" or I state, "In my opinion" so as to avoid confusion and help others differentiate between what is nice in theory and what is nice in experience. ;)
|your success rate with it might be relatively high if you can be better at something that somebody truly cares about... |
You may be onto something there. I hadn't thought about it in terms as explicitly as you have stated them. Amateurs or people who love something enough to create a site just for the love of it, whether it's skydiving, their community, their religion, whatever it is, those are fairly passionate people who care, in my experience.
|E.g. you could do a backlink check to a competitor, and out of the 10,000 sites that link to them, you could try to further drill down and only target those webmasters who edit their sites daily. |
The topic of this discussion is competitor backlinks and that is what I have been restricting my responses to, as it's not only customary to do so, it's recommended by this forum in order to avoid hijacking the topic. However, backlink analysis has a broader scope and maybe it's time to broaden this discussion a bit.
We are not limited to analyzing competitors when researching links to obtain. We can broaden the scope. This is what I have been getting at. Here is an example. If you are a Maryland dentist, is it possible that a popular Maryland plumbing company has local backlinks that are useful to the Maryland dentist?
This issue came up yesterday at SMX West during a link building Q & A. Rand Fishkin stated that poaching competitor links may at best help you reach a state of parity. But what about obtaining links from the backlink analysis of non-competitors? In my experience (meaning that this is more than my opinion, that I have done this and experienced success with it and I am sharing my experience with everyone so everyone can benefit from it), in my experience this avoids the parity issue, allowing one to jump ahead of competitors.
Hey martinibuster - sorry if that c ame off wrong. Actually, when you said that on here I didnt think of it as "he's probably lying or speculating about it" lol - not at all, I was actually thinking that you must have a point or otherwise you wouldnt say it. It was simply that in my own head it didnt make a whole lot of sense b/c I immediately had to think of the people who didnt even bother remove their broken links, so b/c that thought popped into my mind immediately..it simply didnt make sense to me and the idea of using that link building technique must have been moved to the back of my mind - until a few weeks later when it magically moved to the front of my mind, again as I realized that it was a bit short-sighted of myself to forget about the whole principle of targeting the right people (the people who 'care' in this case).
Just to clarify - I didnt really think that you were just spilling untested theories - it's just that it didnt make sense in my own mind when I read it. And of course I appreciate when you share ideas like that on here :-).
I definitely agree with what you've been saying in this thread (and in your latest post in it) about d uplicating c ompetitors' backlinks. If you do nothing but duplicate competitors' backlinks, I think you might not even reach a state of parity, if there's any truth to the "the older a link the more it counts in the SE algos theory" (personally I dont know for sure if this is true).
Then again (I just noticed this) in an uncompetitive niche where your competitors aren't spying on each other's backlink profiles (b/c they have no idea of SEO/link building), duplicating the backlinks of enough competitors might actually be all it takes to overcome that state of parity (if they havent all duplicated each other's links; thats why Im saying in an uncompetitive niche).
But of course, I do see your point about trying to get links from neighborhoods your competitors haven't even considered, yet (if I understood it correctly :-)). Thanks for sharing, again.
to mr martinibuster
I have found this all very revealing. As a new adventurer into the world of link building and backlinking I have heard frequently the importance of using competitors links. It is refreshing to hear your theory on finding your own 'link clique'. This sounds great. I am unsure as to if I shall be able to find my own links but I imagine looking independently one may well come across the same links as ones competition.
Thanks for the insights.
martini, I know you have addressed the idea of creation of your own link clique, or hub previously and I find this topic fascinating to be quite honest, and find your approach both refreshing and commonsense.
One facet of this that some people also tend to overlook is utilizing second generation links (links to the website or page that links to a competitor)
This type of approach moves you out of the link profile used by competitors.
Most often SEOs do not move that extra step in, when in fact, those are authority, aged and very scrutinizing websites in which you can create a relationship and opportunity for a link.
With the right type of safe links using nofollow from a variety of favored websites in Yahoo, one can effectively hide those authority secondaries, and the new link clique you have discussed, from prying eyes...
|But what about obtaining links from the backlink analysis of non-competitors? |
Link building is not about a one size fit's all strategy ( although we wish it was), and it's definately worthwile being inovative and coming up with new link building strategies that are unique.. This should be part of the total recipe for each client.
This cannot represent 100% of the strategy, the post discusses some "quick wins" which are worthwile, but "quick wins" will not win the battle.
I'm not a fan of trying to capture someone elses link clique simply because many of those links will occur naturally over time as long as my site is worthy. Landing editorial type links that can't easily be duplicated, and won't be duplicated from that page, are the most attractive.