Synopsis — Ranking higher than your chief competitors on Google (and other search engines) has always been one of the primary goals of search engine optimization. With the advent of local search and real-time search results, the construct of the all-important first page of search engine results has changed, with a variety of different types of results, including current news items, recent Twitter results, and local maps. Website listings may fall well below the fold, even if they are quite relevant to the search query.
How to achieve that higher ranking is a question with multiple answers, but the number and quality of the links pointing to your site is a big part of the answer. Content strategization is involved, no matter the subject of your site or the product/service offered.
In “Five Content Strategies The Competition May Be Ignoring,” Jeff Quipp identifies ways in which you may be able to outsmart your competitors in this all-important arena by employing content strategies that add value. The five suggestions are particularly well suited to attracting links to your site to augment relevancy and increase the effect of unique content.
The five content strategies covered are:
2. Unique research
3. Doing something remarkable
4. Awards with badges
Jeff provides details of each of the five strategies, with examples of successful implementation of each to get your creative juices flowing. He also throws in some tips for making the most of each strategy. With some application of thought and planning, you will be able to attract links from appropriate sources in a content-relevant fashion.
The complete article follows …
Five Content Strategies The Competition May Be Ignoring
“Why are our competitors ranking higher than us? We’re the better company!” This is the refrain I inevitably hear when I talk to a new client. More often than not, the answer lies in the number and quality of links pointing to the site. In fact, linking factors are thought to account for more than half of the weighting of the algorithms of major search engines. So, the question then becomes, “How can I get more links — and more relevant links — to my website than my competitors have?
Why Content Matters
While a large number of techniques exist to get links, the most-favored strategy is pursuing links formed because others find your content so unique and useful that they link to it without solicitation. This means that the number and quality of links to a site can be directly correlated to the amount and quality of content on that site.
Think about the websites of your competitors. Is there anything about their content that is particularly appealing or unique? My guess is that 99.9% of you will not come up with anything. They talk about their products and some go into detail about delivery costs, color options, and so forth, but their content is really no different than the 30 million or so other sites discussing that product. Sites may look different, and some are more appealing than others, but all the content is remarkably the same, with the words rearranged and punctuation in slightly different positions. In essence, they’ve put lipstick on a pig.
Content Strategies To Add Value
Since the key to attracting links naturally is to create unique and useful content, you need to add value beyond what others are doing. Blogs are perfect for this, since the information contained within is usually not ground breaking, but rather is an interpretation of what someone else said. Adding images or video not found anywhere else to give a different or better perspective can be valuable, especially if you also add functionality to make the research and purchase process easier.
This approach of adding value requires deep analysis of the content on you and your competitors’ sites, making a concerted effort to go beyond re-skinning the same old content. The Amazon website is a great example of this strategy in action. Amazon has found many ways to add value, such as providing “Today’s Best Sellers” in the category you’re searching or offering a “Gift and Wish List.” These tools help validate your choices, or at least point you in the right direction, dramatically improving the likelihood you will be satisfied with your purchase.
Unique Content Strategies
Beyond adding value, several other content strategies are particularly suited to attracting links naturally. While there are many possibilities, the following five are good ones to begin with.
The real trick with contests as content is to find ways to get the contestants themselves to promote the contest online, resulting in a combination of links and awareness. Combine this with user-generated content (UGC), where people are encouraged to promote their own contest submissions on a site, and it’s a magic formula. Examples of such contests include A1’s “Sing for Your Beef” contest (www.youtube.com/a1) and Johnsonville’s “Create Your Own ____VILLE” contest (www.createyourownville.com). You don’t have to be a large brand to see success with such a contest, and prizes do not have to be large. Many contests offer little more than $100 in prize value, yet generate tremendous volumes of links and traffic.
2. Unique Research
Finding and publishing unique research can be one of the most rewarding content techniques, even though it is perhaps the most difficult to master. It requires thinking about all the industry information at your disposal and determining what insights you or others may be able to glean from it. You may need to engage a market research firm to help you gather the necessary information. Two good examples of this strategy in action are Enquiro and their Golden Triangle study (at least 9,600 mentions online, and likely just as many links) and JupiterResearch/iProspect’s “Offline Channel Influence on Online Search Behavior” study. This type of research not only generates large numbers of high-quality links, but also positions the publishing companies as authorities in their respective spaces. It’s a winning strategy on many levels.
3. Do Something Remarkable
People and companies that do something remarkable are often associated with that something for years to come, becoming well known for it, as it is discussed (and linked to) continually online. Examples include the Exxon Valdez oil spill, with 700,000 mentions online; Michael Phelps and his gold medals at the Olympics, with 9 million mentions online; Michael Jackson with 117 million mentions online (just his baby-dangling episode alone has 71 million mentions). The remarkable feat may be positive or negative, so the key is of course to ensure that it is indeed something you wish to be known for and associated with, and that it is big enough that people take notice and feel it’s worth sharing with others.
Now, apply this logic to your company. If you run a Chinese food restaurant, and you wish to be known for your egg rolls, then make the biggest egg roll on the planet. If you’re a plumber, make the largest pipe wrench in existence, and prominently display it outside your offices. Write a piece for your website announcing the feat, and start promoting it. Begin by issuing a press release, then contact your local media and tell them. If it is promoted properly, it will lead to a large number of links and notoriety.
4. Awards With Badges
Posting awards and accolades a site receives is one of the best ways for a business to establish itself as credible online. Of course, awards represented by a badge on the recipient’s site can benefit the awarding company too, since the badges link back to the site offering the award. It’s a win-win situation. Examples of this strategy in action include the SEOmoz Web 2.0 Awards, the AdAge Power 150, and the SEMMYS. The badges associated with these awards generate thousands of quality, relevant links, which of course can help tremendously with a site’s overall ranking efforts.
Widgets are another tremendous opportunity. Widgets are interactive applications that reside on a website and entertain or help users get answers. They provide quick answers to calculation-heavy problems that would otherwise take significantly longer to solve, such as mortgage calculators, blood alcohol calculators, body mass index calculators, translation widgets, exchange rate calculators, etc. Widgets may reside on the creator’s site only or the code made easily available so that others can easily put them on their sites (usually with links back to the creator’s site). There are literally millions of website owners needing website content, and widgets offer an opportunity to quickly and easily load new content. When created and promoted properly, widgets can generate millions of page views monthly, hundreds or thousands of links monthly, and even hundreds or thousands of clients monthly. Done correctly, widgets can even help sites rank for exceptionally competitive terms.
The above five strategies alone are not a guarantee that you will outrank and outperform all of your online competitors, but when done properly, content can accomplish a lot for a site. Of course, these strategies require a good deal of thought and effort. But if you’re really committed to displacing competitors from their long-held positions above you in the search results, consider implementing one or two as a good start to your plan.