Competitor analysis won’t do you any good if all you want to is to copy, instead of drawing inspiration from, your competitor’s profile. It can be useful, as an SEO expert new to a field, to see linking opportunities used by other people within the field. Sometimes, however, you can run the best analysis and still come up with nothing.
Is it possible to rank without great links?
In very few small niches, it is still possible for sites to get good rankings without carrying out any SEO or link-building. Of course it’s great fun if you’re an SEO that loves a challenge, but it also means trying to move forward and chart a path without a blueprint to help. It’s definitely much easier if you’ve been building links for a number of years, but you may be limited by a small budget so that pursuing some of your go-to options becomes difficult.
If a business owner is lucky enough to be in a field where there’s little competition for his target keywords, it may be an uphill task to convince him/her why they should even make the effort. It’s foolhardy to think that you’ll always stay at the top, because more businesses are being opened with each passing year, and eventually, someone will come along that offers better value than you. That’s why everybody needs links.
So, how do you walk down a path without a map?
- Study the site
Obvious, yes? Not the way you’d think. Too many link builders go about their work without ever carrying out a proper study of the site they’re building for. The client will have something on the site that tells you more about them: the About Us, blog, FAQ. Read as much as you can about the site. Most often, they won’t already have too many pages for you to skim through.
- Study competitors’ sites
Sometimes, your client may have such few pages that you find little value on the site. However, you can find competitors’ sites that have more information, which can help you understand the products they offer, industries they serve and other details you won’t find on your client’s site.
- Carry out question searching
You can actually just ask Google what you need to know: Which industries use abc products/services? Or what can be substituted for abc product/service? Sometimes you can generate good ideas in this manner. Sometimes, you may find that the only linking opportunities you have in such niches will come from businesses that use the products/services they sell. You can open an avenue to follow in this way.
- Create content for your questions
Turn the information you glean from question-searching into content of some sort: could be a post or posts for a blog or even just enough to fill up an FAQ page. In doing this, you’re opening up opportunities to draw links. Also, when reaching out for link opportunities, you have a little more to offer than a products or home page.
Getting your client to invest in a content strategy can be a great precursor to link-building, especially if you’re working with a new site that only has the core pages. When searching for links, the first thing you must do is to ensure that you have something valuable to offer the person from whom you want a link. Most often, the core pages won’t satisfy that need.
In addition, content creation and link-building go hand in hand. In broken link building for instance, the SEO expert will identify linking opportunities in form of broken links. If they don’t already have content suitable to replace the site, they will have to create this content before approaching the webmaster with an alternative link destination. Therefore, you must be ready to create content with your linking.
With link-building, all you need is to develop a line of thought, and you can get ahead from there. For most people, this line usually comes from competitors’ keyword research, but if this isn’t an option, you have to get absolutely creative.
The most important thing is to just keep digging until you find something you can use. Ask any questions you need to ask from you client – chances are they’ll be your best resource on matters related to their market, products, services, and potential clients. You might then be able to glean opportunities to pursue.