I’ve been asked this question many times, way before the year even started. So I just thought of writing about it, and perhaps to also serve as sort of a module for our staff here at Xight Interactive.
The methods that I’m going to share on this post are the things that I’m implementing for the other sites I’m currently handling (that are aside from the clients we’re working on with our company) for over the next few months.
Scalable Reverse Engineering
Reverse engineering competitors’ link data has been a standard process in SEO over the years.
But as search marketing continuously evolve – which makes the practice more complex and competitive on many verticals – spying on competitors’ link marketing activities and outdoing them will certainly need more attention.
Knowing where your competitors are getting links and brand mentions is easier to track these days, as there are many available tools specifically made for this particular task that can provide extensive and up-to-date data, such as Fresh Web Explorer and Mention.net.
You can spend an hour a day listing and sorting the mentions and links that your competitors get on a daily basis. It’s also important to understand why and how they are able to acquire these brand mentions.
Because it’ll be easier to come up with ways on how to get link placements from the sites where your competitors are getting more visibility, when you know where, why and how they’re getting it.
Terms that you should be tracking:
- Competitor’s brand name – to see publications writing about them.
- Competitor’s branded products – to find people or blogs sharing and reviewing their products
- Authors/bloggers writing under your competitors’ brands – to see where they are getting published.
- Don’t forget to monitor your own brand mentions – as this can also help you build long-term relationships with linkers/publishers, as well as in reclaiming unlinked brand mentions.
In sorting your list of link prospects (domains linking to your competitors), it’s also crucial to evaluate if the link opportunity is really worth pursuing – ask yourself if do they have enough authority to pass and impact how people see your brand, or do they have substantial traffic to refer back to your website?
Don’t just follow your competitors’ footprints.
Take a step ahead and grow your own list of link opportunities by finding websites that are similar to the ones linking to your competitors. Get visible on those websites too!
Lately, I’ve been spending 30 minutes a day trying to answer queries from publishers and journalists (who are looking for sources for the story they’re working on) that are coming through HARO’s daily emails.
But of course, I only pick the queries/topics that I know I’m really knowledgeable about, and you should too. And as for the industries that you’re not really an expert at, forwarding the queries to your clients (who know the topic better) is the best way to go.
For a more detailed guide on how to user HARO to get high-quality brand mentions to your site, you can check out this post by Mathew Barby (as he has included this tactic on his list) or on this forum thread where Nishank shared how he personally does it – including the email template he uses.
This tactic works best when your client already has existing linkable content assets on their website (or is very active in content development).
How it works:
- Find your competitors’ contents that are similar to the assets that your client already has (or planning to have).
- Make a list of the people and sites/blogs who have linked to their content or shared via social media (list them down on a spreadsheet, including each prospect’s contact details). You can extract these data using tools like Topsy and/or Open Site Explorer (you can also do a manual Google search, using advanced search operators to find social shares from Facebook, Linkedin and Google+).
- Start reaching out to them. You’ll have better chances of getting them share or link to your content, especially when your content is better than what your competitors have – knowing that they’re genuinely interested about the subject of your content (since they’ve linked/shared your competitors content in the past).
- Pro tip: don’t ask them to link or share your content, since they are linkers, and they’ll certainly know what to do next.
I did a case study of this method 2 years ago. You can check that post out for a more comprehensive step-by-step guide, with the sample email template I used.
Content Strategy for Links
I was able to meet and catch up with Zeph Snapp (CEO of Altura Interactive) a week ago. He shared a case study on how pushing out more content on a regular basis (like publishing content 5x a week) can steadily grow the traffic of a website from that meeting.
And that approach can definitely strengthen a link campaign, given that the more eyeballs you can get to your site’s content, the higher the likelihood of getting more links to them.
Nurturing your target audience through continual content publishing also puts your brand on top of their minds, making your brand more linkable (a link magnet).
But of course, content alone wouldn’t the trick, that’s why building a strong readership is very vital to semi-automate content promotion (through social sharing and natural linking). And to truly get loyal readers, you’ll really need to invest on creating engaging, actionable and useful content.
Types of content that can help attract more visitors and links to a site:
- Evergreen content focused on answering most frequently searched queries by your target audience/customers.
- Content that aims to build relationships (ex: lists, roundup posts, ego bait, interviews, or just plainly citing industry influencers on your own content).
John-Henry Scherck did an awesome presentation recently for SearchFest that also further explains this strategy:
Build Traffic Generators
I’ve always believed that the most valuable links on the web are those that are able to pass traffic back to your site, constantly. They are the ones that will most likely impact your search rankings as well.
Here are several ways to build constant traffic generators to a website:
Distributing content on content-sharing sites that have high search share
Pages from user-generated content sites like Youtube, Slideshare, Pinterest and many others, can easily rank for long-tail search terms – making them a really good traffic generator.
Regular content contribution/columns on authority industry sites
This method is my personal favorite, and has been an integral part of most of the campaigns I’ve handled for the past couple of years – and will definitely still use it this year.
Instead of reaching out to hundreds of blogs for guest blogging opportunities, I just chose to focus on a few ones that can really drive results (traffic, brand impressions and conversions).
What makes this approach more valuable is that these domains normally have high DA, high traffic (and most of them are also your target customers), and the content you’re contributing to them have higher chances of ranking very well on search results – which often leads to continuous traffic generation.
Improving existing traffic generators
Identify the domains linking to your site that have been continuously driving traffic and conversions (Assisted Conversions on GA).
Then further improve your brand’s visibility on these sites:
- Build 2nd-tier links to specific linking pages that are driving highly targeted traffic and are able to generate conversions. This will help improve these linking pages’ search visibility.
- Get more links from these domains, to continuously absorb more potential customers from them.
For more tips, you can check out my old post about conversion-oriented link building.
Investing on microsites that will be able to capture smaller segments of your target market is also a good option to make, especially if your business is in for the long-haul.
Niche or geo-targeted blogs are, more often than not, easier to build a community around in, since it specializes on a specific area of an industry. This method can allow your brand to get more quality leads and build links that’ll certainly be hard for your competitors to replicate.