For SEO in a competitive space, you will need a plan to build authority. Google’s algorithm still relies heavily on backlinks to determine your site’s authority and rankings. There is no one link building strategy that works for all sites. Crafting a successful, scalable link building strategy requires creativity and hustle.
We usually start our link building campaigns by reviewing competitors’ backlinks. Using SEO tools, we review the backlink profiles of sites with similar products that rank well for competitive keywords. This allows us to borrow successful link building tactics and develop insights into why competitors are ranking for important keywords.
Recently, our backlink research has uncovered more and more competitors with backlinks that cannot be duplicated in today’s environment. These are usually established competitors who obtained their backlinks a decade ago. Back then, email outreach for backlinks was more effective. You could mass email bloggers, college administrators or even government agencies to obtain links. Those days are long gone.
To generate backlinks today, your email outreach must be targeted or connected to an overarching marketing campaign that generates links as a by-product — examples include product review campaigns, charitable partnerships and advocacy within your industry.
This means that it’s crucial that you select the right competitors to research up front. Find competitors that accelerated their authority growth in the last couple years. You’ll learn a lot from them.
Here is an example of a startup site that earned the majority of it’s links in the last year. The chart below was pulled from ahrefs.com. All of these links are worth looking at if you sell similar products because they were generated by strategies that work today.
We use Ahrefs and SEMrush to review competitors’ backlink profiles. But, there are other tools that would work.
For a recent project, this approach has uncovered a number of link building opportunities (it’s great to see that there are still many link building tactics that work).
A few linking opportunities discovered with careful competitor selection:
- Sites linkings to immigration stories
- Rising interest among bloggers for made-in-the-USA products
- An ecosystem that supports veteran owned products
- Low-cost podcast sponsorships for backlinks
Start your link building efforts by choosing the right strategy up front. Your site’s search engine authority is still a huge ranking factor. Backlink research is the right starting point for link building campaigns. But, you must be careful which competitors you choose to review. Competitors with SEO success and backlinks that were obtained recently will yield the most useful insights.