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The competition out there is fierce–especially against high domain authority sites.

Fear not! In this episode of Content & Links, Director of Content Marketing Emily Campbell breaks down strategic ways you can compete through the perfect combination of design, link building, and SEO.

Video Transcription

Today I’ll be talking about what to do when you’re up against high authority in your vertical. This is something that we encounter often when clients come to work with us, where maybe they’re a smaller player within their industry, and they feel like the competition is really fierce in their vertical.

There are a few things that we typically recommend to set them up for success so that they can see long-term rankings and link-building results.

Improve Your Overall Site Experience

The first thing that we typically recommend is thinking about ways to improve the overall site experience for the user. And this is really important for guidelines to make sure that your site looks authoritative, not only to Google, but also to readers and users encountering your content.

This is usually where we recommend that people start before getting in the nitty-gritty of link building strategy or keyword research, with the thinking that if you have a site that just isn’t engaging, it doesn’t look nice, is not well designed, this is going to negatively impact the chances of success with the rest of your SEO efforts. So, we really recommend making some quick tweaks to elevate the look and feel of your site overall.

One example that I think does a really great job of this, and as a result stands out in their vertical, is MakeSpace, which is a moving and storage company. They do a great job of elevating their site design, especially in a space where most of their competitors don’t have a very well-established aesthetic. Consumers are much more likely to view them as an authoritative, trustworthy player in the space.

Get Smart About Your Link Building Strategy

Once you’re feeling good about the look and feel of your site overall, and you think that there’s a solid user experience and great foundation created, we recommend you getting smart about your link building strategy.

We really recommend taking a two-pronged approach to link-building. One is creating a manual link-building strategy, and the second is thinking about opportunities for passive link building as well.

A manual link-building strategy will be your typical creation of a promotable asset like an infographic. Whereas the passive link-building strategy will be creating content that we feel confident can drive links organically over time, without that manual outreach that’s needed for something like infographic promotion.

For the manual link-building example, one example that sticks out is the brand Self Lender. We created an infographic that talks about how to ask for a raise at work. And this was an example of a promotable piece that mapped to a receptive outreach market, business and careers, while still being a clear brand tie with that financial element of asking for what you’re worth at work.

The reason that we started with this top-funnel topic was because the brand was not very authoritative in the financial space. And so there was less opportunity for them to rank for some of those really competitive financial topics.

By prioritizing link-building first, you’re able to increase your brand’s overall authority, which will make it easier for you to then rank for more bottom-funnel transactional keywords that will help make a big impact on your business overall.

If you’re looking for passive-link acquisition examples, we recommend looking at your specific niche or industry for queries related to statistics posts, how-to posts, anything where the intent to link is high.

And don’t think that search volume is–or a high search volume is key here. Often we’ll see that pieces that have really low search volume for their main keyword that they’re targeting, actually can drive a high amount of links over time.

My favorite example is from Lexington Law, and they created a piece on millennial spending habits. The original keyword had a search volume of 20, but it was still able to drive 333 LRDs to date, mostly all of which was acquired organically over time.

Identify Quick Win Keywords

Once you’re feeling good about your link building strategy, we recommend looking for some quick win keywords to target. You can use a KOB analysis to identify what terms will be a little bit more low-hanging fruit for your brand so that you have a better chance to rank quickly, especially given how competitive different verticals might be.

We also like to use Ahrefs’ top pages, and this is a great tool to use, especially when coupled with different filtering. You can look for informational keywords by filtering with words like “how to,” or “ideas,” or “what is,” that are related to your overarching head term that you’re looking to target.

So you might be wondering, why do these things first?

The reason that we recommend this three-pronged strategy when you’re up against high authority is because you’re able to create a site that is authoritative and trustworthy, that sets you up for long-term success, so that prospects are more likely to share your content.

When you’re building links, you’re more likely to rank for queries. And once your site’s a little bit more authoritative from link building efforts, you’re also going to be more likely to rank for those key terms and transactional keywords that you really want to make an impact with.

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