Up next was a speaker previously unknown to me, Jane Copland. Jane worked for SEOmoz for a few years, and is now back in the UK working for Ayima. Her talk was entitled “Getting actions from competitor research”. She talked About some new ways of doing competitor research, and then how to build a linkbuilding strategy off this reseRch.
Jane started by saying that you should NEVER try to replicate your competitor’s link profile, simply because you do not know why they are ranking for that term, and by copying them you could be putting yourself in.
1) Market overview. You should look at the number of words you are ranking for, wherer you are ranking, and then who your competitors are, their number of ranking words, and where they are ranked (My note: SEMrush is a good place to start for this).
2. The numbers. Look at the sheer volume of links and pay special attention to spikes and drops in the number of words. Investigate these further to get insight into their efforts, or lack thereof.
3. Know their newspaper links. Simply, figure out where they have gotten authoritative links and how.
4. Look for relationship links. Use your relationships for building new links to your site (ideally these will come naturally if you really do have a relationship with them). Jane recommended maybe not using these links as anchor text link opportunities, but rather for branding purposes.
5. Even if you spot paid links, “stop complaining about them. Just stop. You don’t have the invoices. Just stop.”
She then went on to give some time to talking about directories and prerss releases. She recommends getting listed in relevant directories, even paid ones. She explained paying for directories as being different from buying links, because you are paying for a human to review the submission.
*Good tip* Jane said that OpenSiteExplorer, which is great for many many things, may not find press releases. She suggests using a “site:(brand) releases” query in Google for this information.
Jane’s next point was about link networks. They exist, so she said a) don’t waste your time approaching them for links, and b) learn how to identify them so you don’t make mistake A. She suggested looking fof commonalities in the way they link (widgets, footers). Often, affiliate links will give them away (though you need to dig into the code to find this).
As far as tools to use to identify link networks, so that you know the scope and what you are up against, she recommends the following:
1) OpenSiteExplorer for the full list of linking sites;
2) Majestic SEO to find the cClass (aka if they are all hosted on the same host);
3) Bing to find IP breakdowns (another sign of similar hosting).
Jane’s final thoughts (wow, she packed a lot in her talk, huh?):
1) Don’t ignore PageRank, linking Root Domains, and Domain Authority (the Moz toolbar gives you the last 2);
2) Xon’t be afraid to compete with big brands. It IS possible to rank against them!
3) keep note of the absolute volume of links and where they are pointing;
4) Pay attention to the location of linking sites (aka their neighborhood)
5) The number of sites hosted on one server.
*Another good tip* if a page/site is penalized, you can 301 redirect to a new site (clean up your profile too) and the new site will rank. 301s pass link power!
A question of note came from Rand Fishkin, who asked about capitalization in links. Jane said that if you see a lot of sitewide capitalized links, as opposed to varied, they were possibly/probably automated. Therefore, vary your capitalizing and placement of links to avoid looking/being spammy.