Ever taken a shortcut somewhere before?
I remember taking shortcuts that turned out to be long cuts, costing me far more in time than I would have had to spend on the straight path.
I know you may have had similar experiences yourself, but despite all what we know about taking shortcuts, and the risks associated with it, the human tendency to seek unfair advantages will get us into that lonely bush path one more time, hoping for some different outcome.
When it comes to link building, we make the same mistakes. We take shortcuts and end up spending more time fixing up the damage than heading where we were supposed to in the first place.
This post highlights one link building shortcuts that can lead to much agony down the road. It is no other then the sleazy bad boy of link building – competitor analysis.
Why Copying Your Competitor’s Backlinks May not Replicate Their Results
I have copied my competitors’ backlinks in the past and in all honesty I will still do so in the future, but I do so taking into consideration a lot of other metrics, on site and off site.
Now I have that off my chest, time for some home truths: I want to observe that I have found the emphasis given to competitor analysis in the SEO space to be very lopsided.
In my experience, the backlinks profile of your competitor is a piece of the jigsaw that explains their website’s success or failure and not the complete picture.
In most cases, it may even be a small piece of the jigsaw.
Spying on and replicating the backlinks of your competitor offers no guarantee that you will be able to match their ranking in the search engines if you are not able to mirror other aspects of their unique web presence.
Have you given attention to the content cache they have? If your competitor has over 5000 well written and backlinked articles, chances are you will have a hard job trying to dislodge them with your blog of 100 posts.
Have you considered their social media strategy? How many persons are tweeting and sharing their posts online?
What is their repeat visitor percentage? If it is quite high, have you considered what they are doing so right to make their site sticky?
Are they offering a freebie to get emails for their newsletter? Can you match the quality of the freebie they have of offer to get you as much optins as they are getting? Even if you get the emails, you have to consider the newsletter content.
Can you sustain a newsletter with high quality content for a long stretch of time to keep your audience not only opening but clicking on your links?
If you just look at just backlinks, you may be blind to this big picture which influences how Google and other search engines treat those backlinks your competitors have.
Now, do not get me wrong, as I said before, competitor analysis is a strategy I use and will continue to use – just don’t get lost in following someone else’s shadow.
What happens when your competitor changes strategy? What do you do? Do you panic and change too or do you just stick to what was working for them?
That reminds me of an experience I had in Kindergarten, which brings me to the question:
Are You Copying Backlinks blindly?
In a letter writing task, a girl who shared my desk copied from me word for word. Where I made mistakes and had to cross them off, she would cross off the exact portions of her own letter!
She even signed my name at the end of her letter. It was that bad.
Now this may sound ridiculous but I hope it demonstrates what happens when you copy backlinks blindly.
Just because a site links to your competitor and your competitor’s ranking is better than yours does not make the site a good backlink source.
When you copy from your competitor, you copy everything including their mistakes – backlinks they got in bad neighborhoods.
Most persons who do competitor analysis do not step back to analyze the quality of the individual link sources. Some of the links may be bad, and in copying blindly, you may just be creating more work for yourself down the road.
Just in case you are not aware of this, Google has warned repeatedly that bad links can hurt our rankings. In the past, Google just ignored bad links, but their algorithm update has changed that.
Bing has a feature where a web master can disavow a link, but not so with Google. Now their logic clearly states: ‘If bad guys love you enough to link to you, then you must have something in common’. Childish thinking, I know, but who am I to argue with Google?
Before you copy your competitor’s backlink, do an appraisal of the linking site and answer the question: ‘Is this site a useful resource?’
If it is, then by all means go ahead and get your link. But if the site is full of rehashed trash or spunned articles, you may not want Google to associate you with them.
To Cut the Long Story Short (Pun Intended)
If flying blindly by night has worked for you when it comes to link building, then do not let this post bother you.
However, if your efforts are seeing little or no results are you sure you should not spend more time onsite making a useful site than chasing after backlinks?
When you have a site that can compete in quality with your competitor’s website, both you and Google will know and each incoming link will apply its full weight on your ranking.
Have you taken dangerous backlinking shortcuts? Which of your fingers got burnt?
Let’s hear it in the comments.