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What to do When Link Building is not enough to Outrank Competitors

Winning the SERPs is getting tougher these days, as search engines are getting more intelligent along its continuous evolution, plus the fact that bigger sites/brands in most industries are investing more and trying to monopolize this area to intensify their marketing efforts and capacity to generate leads to their businesses.

Today’s version of Search Engine Optimization involves a lot of processes and factors, unlike before that it’s mostly focused on how the site is optimized to easily be understood by search engines, and on how search engines can assess the site’s popularity/authority based on the site’s link graph – a process which what most of us call “Link Building”.

Link building has been a very vital practice to both search marketers to achieve better search rankings for their sites and search engines in determining the value and relevance of websites, but link building as a marketing practice has grown to be more competitive over the years, leaving smaller players/brands/link builders in situations such as:

  • Exhausting almost every link building method available out there just to acquire more links than their competitors have, which results to grey/black hat dependency in many occasions.
  • Continuously built quality links to a website for almost a year, but hasn’t seen any major movements/improvements in terms of keyword rankings.
  • Competing with sites/pages that have 200+ links from .edu and .gov sites.

Competitive intelligence, it is something we SEOs use not just to determine the sites linking to our competitors (amount, value and impact of these links to their rankings), but also to know how we can outsmart them by knowing where their strong and weak points are.

Smart SEOs analyze their competitors’ weaknesses and strikes where it will hurt the most. We all know that links are important in this business, but if you can’t beat their links, beat their content.

Become more relevant

Relevance of the content is one of the biggest ranking factors in SEO, knowing that the best way search engines can serve their users right is by returning highly relevant pages for their users’ search queries.

After seeing how your competitors’ are doing with their linking activities, it’s best to evaluate their content and take note of the things you feel are lacking from those pages, especially when it comes to information and presentation.

Outpacing your competitors and proving that you are an authority in your industry will require you to be more than a Wikipedia page. Few ideas that you can start with when optimizing your content for better search rankings could be:

  • Making the content of the page you’re trying to optimize more comprehensive, where you can choose to include more text details about the subject (information that isn’t available on your competitors’ pages), including videos and/or rich images that pertains or compliments the page’s target keyword.
  • Let the content host relevant links within it – to both external and internal sources/pages – using thematically related anchor texts (for instance, linking to a “dog training lessons page” from a “dog food” page).

Drive interactions

User generated discussions/interactions is a great signal to search engines, wherein the more interactions are occurring to a certain content, the more search engines will see the authenticity of that page.

There are several forms of interactions that you can try to build to your content (or to the page you want to achieve higher rankings on search results) such as:

  • Blog/user comments
  • User reviews
  • Social shares and votes (Google +1s, Facebook Likes, Stumbleupon views, etc…)
  • Embedded testimonials (you can check out my blog’s about page for samples).

Social signals has played a big role lately in helping search engines determine popular as well as authoritative pages on the web, and implementing a good social media promotion strategy to your landing pages can certainly help in improving its search rankings.

Generate more activity

Think conversions. Search engines, particularly Google, apply usage-data (such as bounce rates, time on site, pageviews and return visits) as ranking factors to determine pages that are not just popular, but also proven to be useful to its users as well.

Test and analyze your pages if they are really converting your visitors (especially traffic from search engines) to do more or stay longer within the site. Some of the elements that you can test and implement to improve user-activity to your target landing page(s) could be:

  • Including internal links that direct to other high-value pages of your website to entice new traffic to view more pages from your site.
  • Adding social buttons (Facebook like/share, Tweet, Google+, etc…) and making them very visible.
  • Improve middle of the funnel offerings, such as inviting your visitors to sign up to your newsletter, giving away free ebooks, putting out more expert content and/or attracting them to subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed.
  • Test and strengthen calls to action, but should not be interruptive to the users’ experience.

Improve your SERP listing’s click-through rate

The more people are clicking for your page from the search results, is the better chances of improving its rankings, considering that Google uses their own SERP click-through data to measure high-converting pages from their results – seeing as pages that get more clicks, no matter what their ranking positions are, signify relevance to the inputted search query.

Below are several ways to optimize your page’s snippet on Google’s search results to effectively entice searchers into clicking your page from the results.

Title page and meta description

Optimize your titles and meta descriptions for “brand marketing”. Don’t just use and stuff these areas with your target keywords. Make it more interesting to searchers for them to click on your page, while using its target keywords to describe what’s within the content.

Implement authorship markups

Apply authorship (rel=”author”) or publisher (rel=”publisher”) markup to your site. This can massively improve your page’s SERP click-through rate, as your page will show up prominently on search results and could possibly get and attract more clicks whatever its ranking position is.

You can check out this guide on how to implement Authorship markup to a site/blog.

Use schemas for rich snippets

As I’ve mentioned above, the more your listings display outstandingly on the search results, the more it can attract people to clicking it. There are many types of microdata tags that you can use to different types of pages (like for events, products, people, movies, videos, reviews, recipes, applications, places, and a lot more) and you can also use Google’s rich snippet testing tool to check if you have installed these markups correctly to your pages.

Improve site/page design for site preview

Having a visually appealing webpage design/layout can also help in attracting searchers to clicking through your page (especially to those who might accidentally hover on the results’ site preview button, it might get them more interested with what you have to offer).

Be on Google+

Searchers that are logged-in to their Google accounts can also see pages that have been recommended by people who’re in their circles, which can also manipulate their decisions into clicking your page’s listing.

You can also check my post on how to build authority on Google+ to make the most out of this strategy.

Build Strong Internal Links through Support Pages

Create strong and highly linkable pages that can naturally generate incoming links and social signals, and make these pages internally link to and support the page you are optimizing to rank higher on search results.

You can use keyword-rich anchor texts when internally linking to your main landing page, as these votes from your internal support pages (that are receiving quality links and social mentions) will continuously grow the link value it passes through to your target landing page, and will help improve its search rankings.

Zappos is using the same strategy to make their categories rank for hardcore keywords, and Eric Siu, from Evergreen Search, wrote a great piece about the strategy.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is the Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive - a digital marketing agency based in the Philippines. He's also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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74 replies
  1. Andy
    Andy says:

    Thanks Jason. Some really great advice in here. Just saved it to Evernote for further studies… 😉
    I think one thing I’m really lacking on my sites is a good internal link structure. Do you do that manually or do you use a plugin that automatically replaces set keywords with links?

    • Kaiserthesage
      Kaiserthesage says:

      Hey Andy,

      Thanks for the comment. I do internal linking manually, since I also have to vary the anchor texts of the links, especially for in-content internal links.

  2. Ferdous
    Ferdous says:

    I have achieved massive click through boost by implementing rich snippet on my wifes recipe site. For some keyword CTR gone from 4% to around 12% without any ranking improvement.

  3. Gio@Overnight Prints
    Gio@Overnight Prints says:

    Content is King! I knew it was you and I am very impressed with all you achieved because of your broad knowledge about SEO.
    I don’t need to ask some strategies from you on FB but instead I just need to read your posts here in your blog and I believe that I can find the right answers.

  4. Gaurav Manandhar
    Gaurav Manandhar says:

    Internal Linking plays a vital role too. That is where I make mistakes. I never give any emphasis to internal linking. Now, as I read your this post, I can say I should definitely cut out my mistake and establish a great internal linking strategy to beat the competitors.

    Your post was really worth reading. I owe you a Thanks. 🙂

  5. philadelphia seo
    philadelphia seo says:

    Did you ever try internal linking to your categories or tags pages in a WordPress site. I always wondered about this because as you create new posts these pages are constantly updated. I would only use one or the other . Categories or tags. I guess the question really is can these pages rank well in the search engines for random keyowords bringing in extra traffic with little effort by using simple seo techniques?

    • Kaiserthesage
      Kaiserthesage says:

      Yeah, I have custom categories here, on this blog, and that’s where I internally/contextually link to, to improve their search rankings (so far so good).

    • Kaiserthesage
      Kaiserthesage says:

      Hey Sebastian,

      Great question. Not really afraid of that new penalty that Google is bringing in, since trying to optimize your page/site for users (for them to easily use, navigate and do things within your site) is something that Google can’t really flag as over-optimization (just my opinion).

      What’s important is to try to contain the visitors that you’re getting from search engines, because the more they are staying/returning to your site/page, the more search engines will see how useful the page/site is.

  6. Joseph Mills
    Joseph Mills says:

    Wow!!! Its full on!!! I think you already give away all your secrets in business. Super juicy dude!!! Now I realized where Im lacking. Thank you thank you!!!
    All the best,

  7. Gary Andrew Lacanilao@SEO Reseller
    Gary Andrew Lacanilao@SEO Reseller says:

    Jason was absolutely right. Most of the people forgot what is inside their own site. The most important thing in campaign/SEO revision is to look back on the site itself, check the road map, analyze the link-building structure, provide calendar activity, check for algorithm update, furnish the strategy, and execute the SEO effort. Anyway, in addition to Jason’s tips please see below:

    -Answering questions..
    If you got ranking problems, you still might want to consider branding and traffic concerns while working on your new SEO efforts. If you don’t have good rankings, it doesn’t mean you won’t have a good traffic, correct? 🙂

    Try to join discussions and provide answers, even more suggestions and recommendations. If people think that you are right, people will start to respect you as well as your brand. Then, they would probably check more about you and recommend you.

    -Research/Newsletter Type: Provide a research type content like what this blog. Make sure that is fresh, detailed, and provides factual information.

    -List.. example: top10 .. Admit it, people always look for the best or top list.

    -Blog: You probably want to start a blog (Ouch) and maybe start sharing tutorials, how to use, solution based content, and latest updates on your niche. Reason: you need more valuable contents that will benefit your site.

    -site architecture: Provide a user friendly navigation and again pay attention to your deep links.

    -Finally, videos!!: If you guys can still remember the prediction last 2008, that video will boom in 2010 and so on.. See this link http://www.arteworks.biz/2008/01/video-seo-101.html Well, that is actually happening right now. People are more active in web social, they prefer watching a video rather than reading number of pages, they profit from it (Fiverr), reduces bounce rate, etc.

    Note: Search engines when faced directly with a video draw a blank as to what it’s about. So, you still have to apply best SEO practices like providing a relevant filename, captions, video sitemaps, etc..

  8. Ravi
    Ravi says:

    How to outrank strong competitors? I think this issue is very critical for many SEO’s including me, but you’ve mentioned some nice tips to do it. I think the best way is to use relevant and quality content for your targeted page that’s what Google like and which certainly helps a lot rank your page higher on SERP.

  9. Roberta
    Roberta says:

    I agree with Gary. You should concentration more about On Page optimization rather than Off Page or anything else. Always maintain the quality of backlinks you are making for your site and also take care about the credibility of your site. Thanks for sharing this informative post.

  10. Jeff @ Xstudios Web Design
    Jeff @ Xstudios Web Design says:

    And the issue is, by the time some companies implement these tactics to keep up, the Big G will change up their algorithm yet again 🙂 It’s a never ending battle to stay on top of this for sure.

    I think this will become an increasingly large issue for those SEO firms that juggle a huge amount of low level accounts for clients who base success on ranking reports. Granted this is not a good model for the customer, only the firm to make money.

    However for the higher end firms, whose SEO packages start in the thousands per month, there will be a lot more resources available to do things the right way incorporating great content with social media, CRO, etc.

  11. Braden Conn
    Braden Conn says:

    Really enjoyed your thoughts on this. I liked what you said here “Making the content of the page you’re trying to optimize more comprehensive, where you can choose to include more text details about the subject”. I would definitely agree with you on this. It’s a chore but a chore that is worth it to make your SEO activity look as natural as possible to Google.

  12. Shelli
    Shelli says:

    Hi Jason
    Great article. I don’t often come across articles that have something of value to say.

    Personally I think schema is going to have a massive impact on link building and SEO over the next 12 months. The potential applications for it are very exciting and is an area that everyone should be looking at now.

    Just to let you know I included the article in my link building monthly newsletter.


  13. saha@technfuture
    saha@technfuture says:

    Glad to read this informative post. 🙂
    Most of the people forgot about the inbound links and not concentrate on the link building techniques. I think relevance is major problem in some cases. Best way is to use quality ans optimized content. And make your site’s design attractive for visitors. Give them a reason to come back to your site.

  14. Steve Papas
    Steve Papas says:

    Great article! So many article talk of how you need to build links to get traffic. Well now I have but what is past that how can I further myself up the chain of competitions basically. The optimization of links is also very important.

  15. Shahid
    Shahid says:

    “if you can’t beat their links, beat their content”, Such an impressive line and inspires me a lot. Thanks for this man and you really wrote such a great post. Good luck.

  16. Ella Turgeon
    Ella Turgeon says:

    This article has so much great information! I’m going to print a copy of it and keep it by my desk for reference. This is something that so many social media marketers are having an issue with and these are GREAT tips. Thanks so much!

  17. Dave
    Dave says:

    Hi Kaiserthesage,
    Some interesting information and responses. Before I do anything with content, I fully research the competition. As you may well know, getting high serp results is a case of who is offering the most value to the end user. Google has so many choices and checking out the competition first and asking yourself, “what could I offer that is more value than this website?” gives you a much better idea on where you are going. People are too intent on doing what ever it takes to get on the first page of Google without really figuring out really needs to be done to actually achieve it and then wonder why they dont really get satisfactory results.

    As you rightly say, its getting much harder these days to get good rankings as Google and others are taking serious action to clean up the internet of all the poor quality content. I have to laugh when people read about techniques and methods regarding seo and they call them basic. The fact is, seo is basic, keywords, backlinking, quality content are all basic factors but what many fail to realise is that they are ALL important factors that can be very powerful if done in the right way.

    Sorry for the long rant Kaiserthesage. Thanks for the useful post and all the follow ups from your vistors which many will find helpful towards their cause.


  18. Kyle@SMSF
    Kyle@SMSF says:

    Thank you Jason for the link regarding how to do rich snippets.
    We are currently ranking in the 8th spot for a popular keyword here in Australia,
    however we do need more people to click-through onto our website.
    Hopefully by having rich snippets listed onto the search result, there will be a higher chance
    of gaining visitors. Cool tips!

  19. Nick@Outdoor Gear Reviews
    Nick@Outdoor Gear Reviews says:

    Very informative and useful post Jason! I totally agree with you on the part of “relevance” of the content. Authority is important for many reasons; expand your personality, deepen your expertise to improve your writing – and consequently your blog. Thanks Jason! You gave us some great thoughts to reflect on.

  20. Ana @ Free SEO Report
    Ana @ Free SEO Report says:

    Theoretically, I can’t help but agree, Jason – this is how all link building should be done.

    However, even with all my site authority, I still haven’t been able to conquer Google rankings on natural link building alone.

  21. Robert
    Robert says:

    I agree, it is getting more and more difficult to get high rankings and to keep them. I realized on many of my own sites that quantity of links is not so important. What is much more important is the quality of your backlinks. Some of the best links are editorial links from quality websites in your niche. A few of those links are worth more than thousands of “cheap” links from article directories, forum profiles, social bookmarks…

  22. John
    John says:

    I loved the statement you made here, if you can’t beat their links beat their content. Driving interactions is huge these days when it comes to search engine marketing because Google wants to see that people are really interested in your blog’s content. And having people share your content is a good social signal that will make Google know that your site is popular. Great advice Jason.

  23. Zoe
    Zoe says:

    Hi Jason, I’m relatively new to all of this and I’m learning fast! I didn’t understand the piece where you referred to rel = “author”? Is that a tag to go on my on-site photo? I need to do more to drive traffic to my new maternity site and reduce bounce rate. I have some ideas for new content on my blogs but don’t have any real experience on html code. Can you recommend a good book? Any help would be really appreciated! Thank you!

  24. Katja
    Katja says:

    I definitely agree – sometimes link building just isn’t enough. Also, sometimes too much ‘unnatural’ link building can be detrimental rather than beneficial (e.g. the new Google Panda update which focuses on unnaturally built links). It’s good to have some other strategies as well.

  25. Jack
    Jack says:

    Link building is nothing if you have poor content. Most people out there think that link building is everything and man… they are so wrong. If you start your marketing project with that kind of attitude, you will lose the search results war.

    Glad to see that more and more bloggers explain these marketing strategies to the masses.

  26. Sam @ Mannequins
    Sam @ Mannequins says:

    This was very relevant and helpful info. I’ve actually just read your previous post on link building and thought “I do what I can for link building but its only taking so far. What can more can I do?” This post answered that question. Thanks. Love the blog.

  27. Becca
    Becca says:

    Internal Link building plays a vital role too. That is where I make mistakes. I never give any emphasis to internal linking. Now, as I read your this post, I can say I should definitely cut out my mistake and establish a great internal linking building strategy.

  28. seolinkbuilding
    seolinkbuilding says:

    Your information is 100% accurate, this time Jason you have did an amazing job of giving the right answer of ranking. but it’s very important to take all this information as one package, and not only focusing on one like content reliance

  29. Marie
    Marie says:

    Having good backlinks but a terrible site is a horrible combination. There’s no point in backlinks if they’re just going to click and leave. Good content is crucial!

    • Jack
      Jack says:

      It’s not about people visiting then leaving immediately because the content is bad. It’s about poor content or copied content not ranking regardless of the effort put in link building.

  30. Paul
    Paul says:

    I have to say that bringing Web2.0 strategies into the mainstream is still effective. Simply Put, zappos still insulates their money page by linking from other mediums, maintains internal link structure to flatten architecture, and constantly creates new content. If we can’t learn from that, we’re not good SEO’s 😀

    Thanks for the Article!

  31. Pavel
    Pavel says:

    Getting .edu and .gov links is not easy and having to outlink your competitors doesn’t always work for me. I try to engage visitors through social media by having “Share” links on my pages. This works pretty well if the content (which is key) is good. I like your advice about having scheme for rich snippets. Thats something I haven’t been using so I’ll give it a try and see how much it helps.

  32. Alisa Conley
    Alisa Conley says:

    “but if you can’t beat their links, beat their content.” Love this tip. I’ll remember this always.

  33. Lorenzo
    Lorenzo says:

    These are great recommendations. Another tip is to regularly fix any broken links that may appear on your website. If your visitors are seeing 404 errors — then they are likely abandoning your site and going to a different site.

    Broken Link Checker or Redirection are two options (free plugins) that are available for free from the WordPress plugins directory.

  34. Delinda @ SEO Team
    Delinda @ SEO Team says:

    Social signals are really playing a major role now to get higher search engine ranking. They increases the trust level of a website. For analyzing the backlink profile of a website, which software do your recommend?

  35. Nick Ortiz
    Nick Ortiz says:

    I have been researching SEO techniques and really like the one about keeping in mind design as it will show on the preview page. That is why we are trying to do some more infographics, which have really surged in popularity lately. Now I’m thinking about using bigger graphic art in the infographics (on a few of them), such that they may be seen in the preview. Thanks for the tip!

  36. HTET
    HTET says:

    Such a world-class guide, Jason.

    Link building is such an awesome tool to get desired results and grow our blog/website at much faster rate. You have presented the data and explained the things in very very smart and easy to understand manner.

    Can I share this link on my Facebook page wall?

  37. Neelkantan
    Neelkantan says:

    Well said bro..
    this is what exactly i was looking of.
    all of my competitors are strong in link-building but they have poor quality content.
    would try all your tips to implement on the research to get high CTR in SERP.
    Thanks btw.

  38. Daniel Bryant
    Daniel Bryant says:

    SEO Is becoming more like quantum physics by the day. I seems to be a full time job theses days. You have given some great tips here. Many thanks for sharing it with us. I am going to take a look at my site and make a few changes.

  39. Deljo Joseph
    Deljo Joseph says:

    I have seen many sites went down from SERP’s even having lot of backlinks than that of their competitors. Just like signified in the article, now Google is smarter enough to choose those sites which offer things that actually solve people’s problems and SEO is almost dead. Great article.

  40. John
    John says:

    You did a great job Jason bro. That’s damn true that today once can’t rank on the basis of Links only. All we need is following post penguin strategy, Getting as much as possible social shares, lengthy content etc. SEO is totally changed now.

  41. Parveen Suri
    Parveen Suri says:

    Yes thanks, I have achieved massive click through boost by implementing rich snippet on my wifes recipe site. For some keyword CTR gone from 4% to around 12% without any ranking improvement.

  42. Sean Matyja
    Sean Matyja says:

    Jason, I like how you mention to try to beat our competitors with content, if it is too difficult to beat them with links. We have been working heavily on our site to create more, useful and fun content. Our site is a real estate website for a ski resort vacation town, so we have taken the idea of posting a lot of fun events and things to do in the area. Many of our website guests, and clients are from out of state. With this sort of fun info, we then send that out in the social media world pointing back to our pages on our website, usually on our blog. It does seem to get us more traffic, and I think we are generating a following because we are actually providing good information on living the Park City dream, rather than just posting about homes for sale. So far, I like the results, and its actually been fun to do!

  43. Jon Harthun
    Jon Harthun says:

    I don’t think only link building can help you outrank your competitors.. as you said.. but the most important thing is to write good content which gets shared and indirectly would increase social signal..:D

    Btw Awesome article..:)

  44. Sucha
    Sucha says:


    Your details is 100% precise, this time Jason you have did a fantastic job of providing the proper solution of position. but it’s incredibly vital to take all this info as just one bundle, and never only focusing on just one like articles reliance.

    thank you

  45. Mamta Chopra
    Mamta Chopra says:

    I’ve been researching SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING techniques and love the one particular about remembering design as it will show about the preview site. That is why we are trying to do even more infographics, which have really surged within popularity lately. Now I’m thinking of using even bigger graphic art inside the infographics (on a few of them), such that they are often seen inside the preview. Thanks for your tip!

  46. Shawn
    Shawn says:

    User generated discussions/interactions is a great signal to search engines, wherein the more interactions are occurring to a certain content, the more search engines will see the authenticity of that page.

  47. Jesse
    Jesse says:

    Smart SEOs analyze their competitors’ weaknesses and strikes where it will hurt the most. We all know that links are important in this business, but if you can’t beat their links, beat their content.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] What to do When Link Building is not Enough to Outrank Competitors by Jason Acidre The second article from Jason which just made it into the March edition. Some excellent tips on how to up your game by improving on-page factors. Jason talks about using schema mark-up which IMO is going to have big impact over the next 12 months and is something you should be looking at now. […]

  2. […] Acidre z Kaiser The Sage opět ukázal, že umí psát obsáhlé a inspirativní příspěvky. Co dělat, když ani linkbuildingem nemůžete v SERP překonat konkurenty, je výživné čtení na delší […]

  3. […] What to do When Link Building is not enough to Outrank Competitors – Winning the SERPs is getting tougher these days, as search engines are getting more intelligent […]

  4. […] Especially now, in this day and age. The biggest irony to this article is that most …What to do When Link Building is not enough to … kaiserthesage.com3/28/12Winning the SERPs is getting tougher these days, as search engines are […]

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