One of the challenges link builders face is pursuing links that will differentiate one site from competing sites in a way that still produces a natural ILP (inbound link profile). Backlink forensics is a method I use to see who already links to who, and part of that process, perhaps the most important part, is determining why.
Why does site A link to sites B,C,D,E, and F, but not to site G? Why do sites C, D, and G only link to sites A and B? You can do this type of analysis until the cows come home, but no matter how much you do it, you still have to go about seeking links that will in some way help you stand out, or else all sites are doomed to end up with a nearly identical ILP. Not to go all Zen, but if all sites in any niche employ the exact same tactics using the exact same tools, won’t all those sites ultimately end up at the exact same place? The answer is yes, they will. Whether it happens in a month or a year or twenty years, if you use identical tactics for similar sites, your site’s linking destiny is set, you just don’t realize it.
For some sites, there are ways to break free from this manifest linking destiny. Sometimes these opportunities are missed because we think of links in terms of content only. The term “content is king” sometimes blinds you to the obvious.
Moving from the abstract to the less abstract, let’s imagine there are two e-commerce sites, both of which have a nearly identical product line. Not only do the two sites sell nearly identical products, they both use a very similar database driven site architecture, and have very similar domains. Most buyers of these products would be hard pressed to tell anything different at all about the two sites, and don’t care. They just want their order to arrive.
On the surface, these sites have an identical manifest linking destiny. There is nothing about the content of one site that is in any appreciable way different from the other site. Before you say “tell one site to ‘create unique and useful content’ so as to stand out,” let’s say for the sake of argument that’s not an option.
It would appear that link building for these sites is an exercise in futility that will end up over in PPC land, sooner or later. If you base your link building strategy only on the content of the sites, then yes, I’d agree that sooner or later both are going to hit the link building wall.
But here’s where you can earn your keep as a link building strategist and link builder. Look past the content for a second. What if I told you that one of the sites was created, owned, and operated by a single mother who is an African American with locations in six cities across three southern states?
None of these facts change the content of the sites. They remain nearly identical.
But these facts can alter the manifest linking destiny of one of the sites dramatically, in a way that can impact everything from search rank to direct click traffic, for link builders who recognize why.
Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game since 1994, providing services ranking from linking strategy and private customized link building training. The Link Week column appears on Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.