Links are an important component of an SEO campaign. Inbound links are what convey trust to the search engines which is why it’s important to work at building inbound links on a regular basis. Prior to launching a link building campaign it’s recommended to conduct a link audit to see where your site stands. There are many tools (free and paid) that can provide you with link data. If you find that you have lots of links from one source, but are lacking in other areas, those areas should be the focus of the link building campaign. In addition to taking a look at your inbound link portfolio, it’s also important to take a look at the inbound link portfolio of your competitors. Competitor link data can be used to improve your own link building efforts, as long as you are careful with the information.
One mistake that website owners sometimes make once they get access to competitor link information is to become frantic and think that they need to “catch up” immediately. If you’re just getting started with an SEO campaign and have never conducted any link building activities in the past it only makes sense that competitors may have more inbound links than you do. You aren’t going to catch up to them overnight and it shouldn’t even be attempted. Building hundreds or thousands of links in a short period of time isn’t going to put you ahead. In fact, it can result in a penalty. The search engines like to see a link portfolio grow over time, naturally. Attempting to grow a large number of links in a short period of time is only possible by using black hat link building tactics like buying links. This approach will backfire.
Looking at competitor links can be overwhelming if there are a lot of them. What’s important to keep in mind is that even if a competitor has a lot of links, they might not all be good. All links aren’t created equal. When using competitor link information it’s necessary to manually go through and check to see which links are good and which links aren’t. Even if a competitor has lots of directory listings, it doesn’t mean that you need to spend time or money getting listed there too. General directories are becoming less relevant in the link building world. Instead, focus your efforts on building links from sites that will actually provide some sort of value. The best sites are the ones that target audience members actually visit and that can help generate traffic to your site.
There’s no way to know what your competitor’s link building approach has been. Maybe they’ve been using black hat/spammy tactics to build links. If that’s the case, you definitely don’t want to copy them. Competitor link data can only be used to your advantage if it’s used the right way. Just because a competitor has a link, doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you. Look beyond the competitor link list to find additional opportunities that they aren’t yet taking advantage of.
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Image: Competitor Linking by Shutterstock