31 Link Building Tactics Discovered From Competitive Analysis
Posted by Cliquekaila
This post was originally in YouMoz, and was promoted to the main blog because it provides great value and interest to our community. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Moz, Inc.
On the Moz blog there’s always been a large discussion around competitive analysis. From how to conduct competitive analysis using Google docs to in depth articles about competitive link analysis using Excel, or even just the fact that Moz has Open Site Explorer, one of the ultimate analysis tools for competitive backlink analysis. The fact of the matter is competitive analysis can be a very worthwhile exercise to help you determine the best strategy for your online efforts. This is especially true with link building.
Over the years, I’ve seen hundreds of thousands of backlinks while analyzing for opportunities (as well as looking for bad links to disavow or prune). Most recently, my analyses have inspired me to write this post, because common opportunities continue to reveal themselves, and they’re worth sharing. Have you discovered some great link building gems in addition to those listed below? Share them with us in the comments.
It’s no secret that giveaways, contests, and sweepstakes are great ways to attract links. Some of the recent contests I’ve observed driving links for authoritative sites include the “Draw My Favorite Teacher” contest by StorageMart, a competitor of a storage chain client of mine. Natural links from news organizations and authoritative blogs are often a result of a contest that is unique like this.
A hacking contest by Rackspace, a competitor of our global hosting provider client, also drew in quite a few links we observed after they partnered with this NFC Ring kickstarter project. The NFC Ring partner then helped promote the contest too for some added link juice. These are both great examples of contest-driven link earning.
- Running Giveaway Competitions for Links and SEO
- How to Build a Great Contest
- How to Use Contests to Grow Your Brand
EDU link building strategies
Some of the most authoritative links my team and I have ever built are on university and college websites. When conducting competitive analysis be on the lookout for your competitor’s .edu TLD earned links. Expert tip: Do a find & replace for the characters “.edu” in Excel, and format it to fill any cell with a color that has “.edu”. See the screenshot below for more information.
- How to Gain Natural and Valuable Links From Universities
- How to Get Links in Tough Industries
- So Many Ways to Pursue Links and So Little Time
Housing and residence life “helpful links”
Recently I conducted some competitive analysis on three separate industries: storage facilities, national cable providers, and automotive insurance. In all three of these industries, I discovered a plethora of link opportunities on housing and residence life FAQ pages for students. Students who move into campus housing often have to find extra storage, thus the storage links. Additionally students moving to a new state or country for school may need to find cable providers/utilities or new insurance providers, thus the cable TV and auto insurance links. Some example opportunities are provided below. Be on the lookout for these types of link building opportunities.
- School of the Art Institute of Chicago Housing & Residence Life: FAQs
- Yale School of Medicine “Living in Connecticut” helpful links
- South Dakota School of Mines & Technology useful links section
- University of the Incarnate Word helpful links
- University of Florida College of Dentistry helpful links for students
The need to find help to fund education for students is in high demand. A reoccurring link building strategy I’ve seen used includes creating a scholarship for students and having the listing added to scholarship pages on .edu sites. Virginia.edu has an authoritative scholarship page along with KU.Edu and Davenport.edu. These schools don’t just post their own scholarships, they post other institutions’ scholarships as well as brands offering scholarships. Expert tip: Try the search command inurl:scholarship site:edu to find .edu domains with scholarship pages.
Student resources and minority resources
When thinking about ways you can convince a University’s webmaster to place a link to you or your client’s site, specifically search for student resource pages. These pages are often similar to those found in campus life or residential sections of a University site. They are always treasure troves for link opportunities.
What are students looking forand in need of while in school? Awesome student resources exist on .edu sites like UKY.edu, as well as dedicated resources such as UniversityParent.com. See if a list exists that your site should be listed on.
Additionally, minority resources are prevalent, especially for Hispanic students. On MSState.edu this Hispanic business primer was developed and not only acquires a lot of links but also links out to great resources for students. Seek out these resources and ask to be added if you can develop a program, content piece or promotion relating to resources for minorities. Expert tip: Try using advanced search commands like this one to uncover these pages: inurl:helpful-links site:edu.
GOV link building strategies
Just like University domains, government pages are often extremely authoritative and very relevant. Helpful links pages, resource pages and more information is available on .gov TLDs you just have to find them. Common pages include those listed below. This is just scratching the surface of opportunities!
Helpful links for foreign nationals such as general information, banking and credit institutions, local news organizations, programs for foreign nationals and ESL scholarship opportunities. The National Renewal Energy Laboratory’s helpful links for foreign nationals was a site that was discovered during competitive link analysis.
Employment and career opportunities are often shared with visitors of .gov sites. The Iowa Human Rights department provides such resources to its readers on authoritative pages.
Non-profit partnerships also provide for great link building opportunities. This economic development program showed up in a competitive link analysis report listing private sector partners.
- Podcast â€“ Rand Gets Interviewed on Paid Links, EDU & Gov Links, SEO Tactics, Keyword Tools & More
- XSS â€“ How to Get 20 .GOV Links in 20 Minutes
- Brainstorming On .GOV Links
Offering a job
Job boards exist all over the internet. From news publishers to industry association job listing pages, if you’re hiring there are opportunities to get your site listed. Attending a career fair is also a great way to get a link. UIowa.edu has a great career site which was discovered during a competitive backlink analysis for a new school offering engineering programs.
Job boards are also on non-profit sites such as Python.org in your industry. Think about the types of sites that industry professionals frequent; I’m sure you’ll find a job board or career center with links to job listings. Just have to look.
Green eco-friendly causes
Anything eco-friendly, carbon footprint-lowering, green, or renewable presents an opportunity for generating links. Our team developed a resource page for green printing resources for a client InkTechnologies.com after looking through competitor resources and finding Go Green resource pages on an .edu and on non-profit sites. These pages existed and linked to third party sites so we figured we could ask to be listed as well after developing the content. We succeeded and got some great links; you can too!
Education programs that focus on renewable energy can uncover green links. While conducting research for a new engineering program one of our client’s offers we uncovered this Energy.gov link. Engineering related programs often study technology to help reduce our dependence on non-renewable energy sources. Other green educational resources and initiatives exist that might attract links such as: green internships, clean energy jobs, green competitions and related private and non-profit programs.
Pull backlinks to “green” educational programs, conduct advanced searching to uncover these sites and think about the opportunities at your organization or client’s company that have an environmentally friendly angle to acquire links.
- 12 Scalable Link-Building Tactics
- 99 Ways to Build Links By Giving Stuff Away (and Improve Your Brand Too)
- The Complete Guide to Link Building with Local Events
Sponsorship has been a “bad” word in the world of link building. Using a sponsorship to try to increase your rankings with a dofollow link can be against Google’s Terms of Service. However, there are exceptions which make sponsorships not so bad after all. After conducting some competitive analysis, the following six sponsorship opportunities were uncovered. Expert tip: Watch out for sponsorships that put your link sitewide on every page or allow anchor text specific links. These are links that often signal nefarious tactics, and should be avoided at all costs.
- Sponsoring an event often garners publicity and brand visibility. For companies that decided to become an event sponsor of a recent Arts and Crafts Fair in Scottsdale, Arizona, their sponsorship also landed a link with their company’s logo on ScottsdaleAZ.gov.
- Sitewide sponsorships were a popular tactic just a short time ago. Be very selective about these types of opportunities. Did you know StatCounter.com accepts sponsorships? We discovered a competitor of a client uses the site for sponsorship.
- A Podcast exists for just about every topic under the sun. Consider sponsoring a Podcast or a Webinar, as you might just earn a link or two out of it. Take for example this Podcast sponsored by Go Daddy, InlandBank.com and others.
- Conference sponsorships have many benefits including getting you in front of a niche audience. Juicy links are a result as well such as those found on http://mashable.com/connect/ and http://debconf13.debconf.org/ which were uncovered after a recent competitive analysis of Rackspace for a hosting provider client of ours.
- Non-profit sponsorships provide funding for a great cause while also achieving an authoritative link. A few noteworthy companies sponsor food banks such as this one http://www.safoodbank.org/, another opportunity uncovered while scouring competitor Rackspace’s backlinks.
- Exhibitors or vendors at a Tradeshow or an Expo often receive listings and information on exhibitor pages. The Green Building Expo held in Scottsdale has a nice PR 3 page listing for exhibitors such as Wells Fargo, a competitor of a bank client for which we were researching strategies.
- 5 Link Building Tactics to Improve Your Local Rankings
- Questionable Links
- 8 Ways to Buy Links Without Buying Links
Content earns links
Developing content can help you earn links? No way, what an unheard-of concept! We’ve all heard about content marketing being used to attract links, but what kind of content should you develop? Here are a few ideas discovered after competitive link analysis with clients in the web hosting, banking, education and engineering industries applicable across different industries.
- Tutorials like those that Hostgator provides
- Comparison pricing information on picking the right web hosting provider, notice they used specific prices
- Small Business Center like the one GoDaddy.com developed
- Knowledge Center like Rackspace
- MIT’s “Ask an Engineer” content marketing strategy
- Free resources offered to library visitors, students and others online
- Resources for classrooms to get listed on sites like this Massachusetts Technology Education/Engineering Collaborative
- Find authoritative pages and develop the content to obtain the links your competitor’s content earns such as this small business resource center on SBA.gov.
- SEO’s Dilemma â€“ Link Building vs. Content Marketing Whiteboard Friday
- Catalysts for Earning Natural Links & Link Conversion Rates
- What Kind of Content Gets Links in 2012
Old tactics done right
The majority of manually built links you likely uncover during a backlink analysis often utilize tactics from yester-year. Things like forum link building, comment spam, directories, and spun articles are evident. After reviewing a few recently, however, I discovered that even the bad tactics can be done right, and here are a few examples:
- Forum links: When placed on authoritative relevant sites they can be valuable. Check out this Adobe Forum that packs a bit of punch from an authoritative standpoint for a competitor of a tech client we were reviewing.
- Directories: When placed on relevant sites that don’t accept any site under the sun, have strict submission guidelines and are authoritative sites directories can still provide valuable. Sites such as BestoftheWeb.com and DMOZ.org are very authoritative, but niche directories exist catering to a specific topic.
- Foreign link building: Although caution is required, there are still opportunities on foreign language sites that can represent link building opportunities. They must be relevant and authoritative, such as this one on Chinaz.com about web hosting providers.
- Customer case studies: Although used in the past to be biased reports about your company, many customer case studies have provided worthwhile for competitors we’ve reviewed. Check out this case study we saw drew in a lot of links for Hostgator.
- Guest blogging: Sure it’s overused today but if you have an opportunity to guest blog on a partner’s site or even a competitor do it! This guest post on Rackspace is a good example for a competitor we uncovered.
- Links pages: Discovering links pages with a lot of on page authority and getting added is one link building tactic still valuable today. Consider this SAE.org links list with huge on page authority, a great opportunity discovered when looking through engineering school competitor’s backlinks. Just because there are a bunch of outbound links doesn’t automatically disqualify these link types as authoritative.
- Local associations: Some brands went crazy with building a ton of links on local sites. One tactic that still works today is finding local associations to join. This NFPA.com link was discovered after reviewing competitors of a University client of ours for a juicy link.
- Bookmarking: Wanted to receive hundreds of links for low cost in 2008? Bookmark links were a big hit, however today aren’t the best when done unnaturally. But did you know some sites exist today that allow individuals to create their own bookmarking pages? When you discover bookmarking pages on .gov or .edu sites they can be opportunities. Take for example this bookmarks page on the lbl.gov site we discovered during competitive analysis. This page is a bit irrelevant for the client we were looking for, but is a good example of bookmarking pages that exist today with some on page authority.
- Are Forums Dead?
- Five Steps to Finding (the Right) Guest-Blogging Opportunities
- Top 20 Local Search Ranking Factors: An Illustrated Guide
- Directories and Bookmarking
These are a few of the great opportunities we’ve discovered through competitive link analysis. Hopefully you’ve found the opportunities worthwhile for your industry. Tell readers your own observations from competitive analysis in the comments below.
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