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Research your Competition

Fodder for developing a link campaign

4:30 am on Aug 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Through my experiences with linking I found that turning what was once a chore into an opportunity helped me to open my vision. My goal is to build the presence on the net, for that particular niche and to make it happen I believe means stepping out of the box.

I researched this topic and found others who encourage and offer research services and that was very exciting to see. It reinforced my experience and that’s validating. I noticed some of the sites I dropped in on as those of posters here at Webmaster World. There’s good stuff out there for the picking folks.

When I think about the competition I need to know just who that is. Beyond finding them through a specific keyword/phrase you can run a search at Hoovers and other such databases for a list of businesses within your industry. During the industry research [webmasterworld.com] phase you’ll see names popping up. Keep an ongoing list and take notes on what appears to be important to you on first glance so you can come back later for further information.

From there you can then go through your keyword list and see how your competition is doing for specific keyword/phrases. Check out their backward links and actually go to the site that links to them and see what form that link takes. Every industry is a bit different from the other and you’ll find the more competitive industries having much higher linking standards. You’ll soon see standards of linking that may work well for a small craft hobby site not showing up at all for a site offering financial advice.

<side note>Strive for high standards in linking out and linking in, even if you see an acknowledged link for your competitor that appears to be working for them now, if it is tricky now I would consider it risky. <simple cautionary note>I make no claims but I do point out when it's good to be reminded to think before you link.

With linking as my focus I look to where my competitors can be found in the news. Can you find news releases and if so where are the showing up? Check out trade journals, trade newsletters, trade magazines and then see if you can find news on them through non-industry more generic and mainstream media. You want to ask yourself who is writing about them and what are they writing about? This includes the key people in the organization. We can find out a lot when researching the news for ‘Google’ now try looking for news on ‘Larry Page’. You’re bound to find references to Google and links in those news items.

During your research of your competition and your industry for that matter, you will most likely find companies that actually compliment you so keep an ongoing list handy. These complimentary sites can be turned into link partners at the very least and if you think in terms of Linking Outside the Box [webmasterworld.com], much more than that. This is where the ideas can flow.

Remember to look at the competitions internal linking structure. Gems, often I find gems.

Another tip and something you might miss in your research is discovering what the public feels about your competitors. Unfortunately for some, links to their site may be found surrounded by negative commentary. This won’t necessarily affect the link, unless they use negative text in the link but it can affect the company. Often you can find commentary on competitors through newsgroups, on message boards, or in chats.

If they have it, check out their career page or job listings section. There’s a whole industry of linking possibilities from this alone. Years ago I started getting extra listings in directories by filling out the career and employment/jobs section of the corporate site and submitting them separately. Good for the client and good for the directories. We didn’t even know then how important those directory links were to become. Now I can see especially how those early efforts have paid off.

So many of us look at our competitors that do well for the tricks they play and believe me, I am fond of a trick or two myself. I assure you that for over three years I did this. For these past 2 ½ years though, I’ve been focused on linking and themes and how these can work together to build a presence. Research is a key aspect I found all too often over looked.


4:44 am on Aug 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

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That's very good advice on building a link campaign, I'm surprised with all the link-mania going on that this isn't a more prominent discussion. I suppose in a buy vs. cultivate links world, this approach certaintly can create a hub, whereas buying never will, but one sure is easier than the other....
5:09 am on Aug 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member fathom is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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Hype gets all the glory yet produces limited results.

Procedural requires alot of thought, planning, sweat, and more sweat. In itself, it's not very attractive, and even though it produces substantial returns... most are more willing to take as many shortcuts just so they can hype about it.

Another excellent post paynt! :)

2:46 pm on Aug 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Something else, on a similar plane to what you have mentioned, is to take advantage of PR opportunities and Press Releases.

If your business actually has interesting enough news, there's no reason that you could not get your Press Releases published on Yahoo, CNN and some other major sites. Not only does this create positive press for your company, but you can gain the PageRank benefits of a free incoming link from some pretty highly ranked sites.

I think what it boils down to is exactly what paynt wrote...it's about more than simply building links from other sites. It's about creative ways to research incoming links that not only drive traffic, but drive positive traffic from valuable sources. It's hard work...but it can be pretty exciting and incredibly rewarding.

1:41 am on Aug 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Quality research of your selected keywords is the key to success in any field. My first question is usually, where is the pr coming from. In most cases, I expect to see the regular directory listings but, pay very close attention to the sites that are doing well without the major directory listings.
Locating the deep linking sources is where I spend alot of time. Many times you will find this is not a reciprocal link. These non reciprocal deep links are a hidden gold mine. I am finding it is usually a "content" link. Make note of the content, you want on similar link for your site.
The major players will give you a link if you do your research. Let's use this search term "X box". You can get a link from MS's corporate site if you do your research. This is where the PR actually comes from.
2:51 am on Aug 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Locating the deep linking sources is where I spend alot of time..... Make note of the content ....

Beautiful point startup, thanks.

Thejenn – ‘Press Releases’, exactly right and thank you for sharing.

There’s another good reason to have a great copywriter on hand. When folks are thinking about high link popularity from top PageRank sites then thinking about Press Releases is a great idea. Copy that sells will get a good link from just about anyone. A key to understand is the importance of great copy that sells. Add optimization to the Press Releases and bingo. The best sites archive them so nicely on site and Google doesn’t seem to be bothered at all by the duplicate content. I think there’s a hint in there.

most are more willing to take as many shortcuts just so they can hype about it.... fathom

Interesting point. Yes, who brags about hours spent in research, following trails of information, compiling data. Maybe that’s why my kids have taken to calling me - be.dork.a ma.ma.

You know Air, you’re probably right and I suppose that’s ok because there are a bunch of skills and trades I hire to be taken care of that I wouldn’t think of doing myself so if folks want to hire out their research and planning than who am I to disagree ;)

Thanks for your posts. I’m glad to see folks thinking about this. I was a landscape designer and contractor for several years and worked from a whole earth perspective. It cost more up front but a lot less in the long run to maintain and what kept it strong and healthy was a steady diet of organic material worked into and covering it. I’ve applied that theory to internet positioning. Figure it all out right up front and have a great plan, then feed it regularly with well processed material.