The idea of using your competition to build links, trust and reputation and benefit from the knock on effect of better search engine rankings as a result may seem alien to many. Savvy web marketers have been doing this for years, however. Bloggers often do it without even realizing it due to the inherent social functionality of the medium.
Today, I’m going to show you three simple ways to become the center of focus within your niche, gain highly targeted link traffic and boost your search engine rankings.
1. Aggregating Your Competition
Presuming that blogs exist within your niche, be they competitor blogs, customer blogs or enthusiast sites, bringing the best of that scattered, authoritative information and reprinting it at one central location adds huge value for customers. In fact, the synergy created by such focused aggregation can create make your site an entire authority itself.
Bloggers may argue that aggregation can be achieved with feed readers, that anyone can simply subscribe to all the best content and aggregate it themselves. Although some will do this, the majority of the online population is still in the dark over RSS and feeds. In addition, while anyone can collect all this information, they might not be able to distinguish good information from bad.
That’s where you come in.
As the editor of such a publication, you add value for readers by choosing the very best information to reprint and editing where necessary to make it even better for your customers. It’s your knowledge of your subject that will make the project a success. You separate out the signal from the noise.
A few points worth noting before we move on:
- Get permission. Email, or better still, call and make that connection with the people you would like to publish. It could also well be a violation of copyright if you don’t.
- Edit. Really, don’t completely automate the process. Selectively pick content from your publishers that matches your customers needs near perfectly, not every post they publish. Remember, the value here is in your skill and authority on the topic at hand and your ability to distinguish between great information and dross.
- Edit. Yes, edit again. Rather than print the entire post, why not introduce it, post a few paragraphs and encourage your customers to check out the entire article at its source? How about a full author bio as a tail to the syndicated post? Providing value back to your publishers is extremely important if you want to keep them.
2. Summarize Your Competition
You can also become a summary site in addition to or instead of reprinting material. This again relies again on your expert knowledge of the subject and your ability to pick out the most amazing content within that niche. Most important, you need to tell your customers why the content you highlight is amazing. There are many ways of doing this, such as:
- One post per topic. If you think your customers can keep up, and there are enough great posts out there to keep you busy, post a link and commentary on each piece you find daily in a single post.
- Daily, weekly and monthly summaries. Though this still requires daily effort, it’s less intensive as typically you add less commentary to each individual item. Danny does it here at Search Engine Land with his Daily SearchCap newsletter. Really, as far as search goes, that’s all you need to know, daily.
- Themed summaries. If a topic has recently been getting a lot of attention and discussion between influential bloggers and sites in your sector, then add value by providing a complete summary of the debate with links to each participant and opinion of your own. Here’s an example of Danny doing this recently for the “Is SEO Rocket Science” debate that’s been going on. Warning: these topical summaries seem easy, but personally I find them quite exhausting to do as you absolute must cover the subject in its entirety.
An important note about summarizing. I often see webmasters blindly aggregating content, and equally as often, blindly linking without adding anything of value to the discussion. This is stupid. If you’re not adding value, why would I want to link to you? Why would I take notice of you?
The value in this kind of aggregation and summarization of themed discussion is in your expert knowledge of the field and your editing skills as you pick and commentate on what you believe worthy. Without that, you’re just scraping the bottom of the barrel and your results will reflect your effort.
3. Lead Your Competition
By now, you’re hopefully beginning to think more in terms of community than competition. Go ahead, mentally change all the subheads to use community over competition. Doesn’t that fit better?
This last concept is about tying together the ideas outlined in the points above and furthering your role as the focal point within your category. By taking the lead on important issues in your industry, organizing cooperation amongst players and recognizing innovation and progress by your competitors, you can take the concept of the community hub to the max. You won’t regret it n terms of links, traffic and the knock on effect those have for search.
Here are a few things to consider, though they can vary widely from topic to topic and industry to industry:
- Organize community events. Why not podcast discussions on industry issues conducted through Skype for example? Or arrange physical discussions. Have World cafe-style meetings on important topics podcasted or transcribed for all make compelling, linkable, and useful content.
- Answer the difficult questions, facing your industry and lead the way for others to join the debate.
- Institute an annual awards for your niche, spread the love around and then pass the baton next year.
That list could go on forever. The point is just to break out of the single-site mindset and start thinking in terms of the community surrounding your topic and how you can best place yourself at the center of it.
With every niche there are different challenges and specifics, but also there are opportunities. This kind of community play does not work well if somebody else is already doing a good job of it in your niche. Equally it does not work well unless heart and soul, sweat and tears are put into it.
Nonetheless, it’s a powerful way of gaining highly targeted traffic and creating a natural reason for people to link to you often and freely.
Done well, it will lead to press coverage and natural PR opportunities, blog links, Wikipedia citations and over time will put your site firmly in the center of the entire sector. It’s about letting go of your fears of the competition and embracing the opportunities that a less paranoid approach to linking and marketing in general presents.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.