Need Links? Make Up For Your Competitors’ Shortcomings

Now that I have my first blog post under my belt, I am starting to feel a little more confident. So much so, I decided to take my small amount of industry knowledge and start up my own coconut water company. Okay, I’m only joking, but let’s just say I wasn’t. Let’s say I was so into coconut water that I wanted to start up my own company and I wanted to gain exposure. My site has already been created and my products are all ready to be shipped. There’s only one problem – nobody (and by nobody, I mean the search engines) knows that I exist. Without saying one word to anybody about my business, how do I get people to come to my site and buy my coconut water? The answer is linkbuilding.

Here is a (simplified) overview of how linkbuilding works

  • I have a site
  • I promote it
  • People see it as a valuable resource and then link to it
  • The more quality links I get, the more the search engines like my site
  • The more the engines like my site, the higher I should rank
  • The higher my site ranks, the more traffic/conversions I should get

Okay, so now I have my site, my tasty products and the above information that the SEO fairy whispered in my ear. Now, all I have to do is get some quality links, but where do I start? I don’t know any bloggers that I can reach out to. I don’t know any directories where I can submit my site. All I know is that I want to compete in the coconut water industry and that I have access to some cool SEOmoz tools.

The first thing that I do is type in “coconut water” in Google to get a list of competitors. I’m pretty familiar with the industry so I know that Zico, VitaCoco and O.N.E are the big boys/girls in the space. So, let’s see what they are (or are not) doing that I may be able to learn from. Running each of these competitors through the top pages tool, I can see that I caught each of these competitors sleeping a little bit.

VitaCoCo 404 Pages
VitaCoCo 404 Pages
Zico 404 Pages
Zico 404 Pages
O.N.E 404 Pages
O.N.E 404 Pages
  • VitaCoCo is not getting credit for (at least) 3 links since the linked to pages return 404 status code
  • Zico isn’t receiving credit for (at least) 5 links
  • O.N.E isn’t receiving credit for (at least) 16 links
  • I use “at least” here because there were more examples of these types of pages for each one, but I couldn’t screenshot multiple pages

So, the easy part is done. I know that my competitors have links pointing to pages that don’t exist, but how do I take advantage of that? I know if I had a website and I was linking to a page that didn’t exist, my readers would be upset with me and may not read anything else on my site. So, are you thinking what I’m thinking? What if I contacted the sites that are linking to these pages as a “courtesy” and said something like, “Hey blogger, I noticed that you were linking to a page about coconut water that doesn’t exist. Since you will already be editing that post anyway, I wanted to let you know that I also have a company that sells coconut water and the product is delicious and nutritious. Would you mind linking to my site instead?” Now this won’t work all the time, but it sure beats the heck out of “hey blogger, can you link to me, I’m neat-o?”

So, you are probably saying to yourself, “that’s a cool idea, but how do I know which pages are linking to these 404’ed ones.” For that, I will be using OpenSiteExplorer (OSE). Let’s take the O.N.E example since the most links are pointing to that one:

  • I copy the link location of the 404’ed page that has received 8 external links
  • I drop that into OSE to find out which sites are linking to it
  • I filter the results to only include the followed external links pointing to this page only
  • I take the top result and I end up on this page
Coconut Porridge Recipe
Coconut Porridge Recipe

It looks like this blogger has included a link to O.N.E’s coconut water site as part of a recipe. Think about how upset I would be as a reader if I was making a Coconut Date Porridge for my in-laws and I couldn’t access the page to see which coconut water I should buy. I would be devastated. So, I would shoot an email to this blogger and say “hey, you’re readers can’t view that page because it no longer exists. You should update it and, oh, by the way, I sell coconut water and it’s freakin’ sweet. Would you mind linking to mine instead?” I would recommend going down the top pages list and compiling a spreadsheet of all of the 404 pages for each competitor. Once you have that, you can start digging. Even if you don’t get all of them, you will still get a few and you will at least make the web a better place.

Now, this strategy won’t work every time, of course, but when thinking about where to start your linkbuilding, it’s always a good idea to take a look at what the competition is or isn’t doing. You just may learn something. Do you have any other ways that you use competitors for linkbuilding? Feel free to tell us about it in the comments section!

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