If there’s one link development tactic that has been used to death, it has to be “see who’s linking to your competition and get them to link to you”. There are tools galore to help you do this, software you buy and install on your desktop, or web based apps. It’s a fairly simple technique and it has merit, but I hardly ever hear anyone talking about the dangers of relying on this tactic, and the fundamental weakness in the link profile you end up creating when you follow this approach.
Me too or me three?
One of the dangers of the competitor backlink approach is that if your target sites are already linking to a competitor, then even if you succeed in obtaining a link from those same targets, you are always playing catch-up. Yes, it’s nice to discover a really juicy target you didn’t know existed until you found it by looking at competitor X’s backlinks. And it’s is a good feeling when you successfully lobby for and obtain a link from those same venues. Do that all day every day and if your content is worthy, you will certainly create a nice set of inbound links.
When I was a tyke, my Mom used the term “Keeping up with the Joneses“, which Wikipedia describes as “…referring to the comparison to one’s neighbor as a benchmark for social caste or the accumulation of material goods”.
Now apply this term to the process of link building and it perfectly describes competitor backlink analysis. And no matter how good you are at it, this technique can only take you so far. In the long run, your content has to show the ability to attract links of merit, equal to but also in addition to those your competitors already have. The reasons why should be obvious. The engines need those “signals of difference” to order the search result. If every site has the exact same set of inbound links, how the heck do you rank them?
And how do you find those venues/targets that will provide your site with those signals of difference? Well hey, us content publicists/link developers normally get paid for that kind of information (hint). And I’m the first to say the targets that will produce “signals of difference” for site A will be different than for site B, and even though I can identify them, that info is totally useless unless or until your content can earn those links in the first place.
The most impactful links are always the toughest gets.
One tactic I can share is the negative advanced search operator tactic. If you want to seek out target sites that aren’t already linking to a competitor, just tell Google to ignore those that already are. This can be done a number of ways, the simplest of which is by using the “-” sign in your query. For example, while my site at ericward.com has thousands of links, when I do the searches link building -ericward.com and link building -site:ericward.com, I find 120 million pages that do not mention or link to me.
I’d better get busy.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.