Distribute Your Link Sources

Imagine you want to establish yourself as a true leader in your market space. However, the market space has been around for a few years, and there are other sites that have already established themselves as leaders. A natural thing to do is to backlink those leaders (i.e. use a tool such as LinkScape to get a map of who links to your competitor).
The next thing that people often do is to start contacting people at the best sites (with the most link juice) that link to the competitor. No question that this is a good idea, but the analysis should not stop there. Here are the two major reasons why:

  1. The first problem is that even if you proceed to contact everyone that links to your competitor you are likely to only get about 10% of those people to link to you (10% is actually a very good result). However, we have already stipulated that you want to be a leader, not 10% of a leader. So while this is a good strategy, it should not be the only strategy. You need a strategy that will help you catch up with (and pass) the competitor.
  2. Most people recognize that contacting every single site that links to a competitor will get a little bit tedious. So they target the obvious high-end links. This is OK, but there is a real danger that your links will become one dimensional. What I am getting at here is that your competitor defines your challenge by more than just their top links. The scope and breadth of those links is equally important to understand.

Expanding upon the 2nd point above, the search engines already know how to assess the relevance of a link. They also recognize sub-sectors within each market space, such as news sites, blog sites, sites selling related commercial products, academic sites, industry organizations, not to mention the scores of categories of sites that are tangentially related to the space, and therefore refer to link to sites in it from time to time.
A true leader in a market space will most likely have links from all of these sectors. A single focused link building campaign will not give you this type of breadth. To think about it in non-SEO terms (or in a non-search engine world), a single successful marketing campaign does not make you a broadly accepted leader in a space.
You need breadth too. You need to implement campaigns that will touch all of the various segments of the market. Note that you don’t have to do these all at the same time, but over time you want to touch as many different relevant segments as possible.
One great way to do this is with PR related strategies (there are other ways to achieve breadth in links other than via PR, we are just using it for an example here). Create some truly unique content or tool, and then work hard to let the world know about it using PR. Fuel the fire by implementing more great content and tools. This may seem like a hard road, but you can’t get to a leadership position in a market space without doing these types of things.
But, the focus of this post is not to tell you to build great content and promote it well (although you should do that). The focus is on putting together a map of what defines breadth for your market space and implementing a link building and promotional strategy to achieve breadth in your link building. To help do this, there are two questions you should ask:

  1. What does a well-distributed link graph in your market space look like?
  2. How did your market leading competitors achieve their breadth, i.e., what were there promotional strategies?

To answer these questions you will need to do more than look at the best links your competitor has received. You will need to map out a broader picture of different market sectors that have linked to them along the way. I don’t have a simple formula for doing this, other than getting detailed backlink reports on your leading competitors and analyzing hundreds of the links they have and classifying them. What categories to use will vary for each market, but you can certainly start with the list of categories I mentioned above.
The next step will be to figure out what types of content, tools, and marketing you will need to build a similarly broad profile. With this plan in hand, you will be well on your way to being able to design a market leadership strategy for your business.

About the Author

Eric Enge leads the Digital Marketing practice for Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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