Competitor research will always have a place in link building and content creation – but it isn’t always the answer to securing links. There are many cases where original thinking will serve you better. Here, I explain why unique ideas and creative thinking have proven to be the most effective link acquisition method for me.
Someone else doesn’t always have a better idea than you.
Never has this been more relevant than in the world of SEO, where marketing professionals across the world are constantly in competition to produce the best content and secure the best links.
When devising new ideas, almost every person working in the field would probably admit that they turn to links competitors have achieved to spark new ideas – and I’m not here to knock that approach at all.
You can see real success through strategies such as bettering a competitor’s content or replicating similar links they’ve achieved. It can clearly be a very effective link building strategy and it’s worked for me on multiple occasions in the past. That being said, you undeniably need more strings to your bow to truly stand out.
This is why you should dedicate a chunk of time to what your competitors aren’t doing too. Why? Well, because unique ideas and creative thinking can help you satisfy goals such as:
- Securing awesome links from relevant and/or high authority domains
- Driving untapped organic traffic potential
Rather than just offering the logic behind this, I want to give you some examples to prove the point too.
Example 1: Building a Profile & Offering Your Insight
I’ve dedicated a reasonable amount of time in 2019 to building Evoluted’s profile around digital marketing and securing features with valuable industry publications. Whilst this isn’t exactly original strategy, I’ve been successful because I’ve offered ideas where a content gap has been left to fill.
The exposure secured to date has largely been possible thanks to spending time implementing the following approach:
- Creating completely original content for the Evoluted website, such as this post I put together following the development of a relationship with a BBC journalist
- Thinking about how this content can be taken further or in different directions
- Identifying a suitable website to provide coverage of the idea
- Ensuring that the idea hasn’t been covered before/similar content hasn’t recently been produced
- Contacting the website and referencing cool examples of work they might like (this is key, since you need to show them why you’re an expert)
With content like the BBC post, I didn’t look to see if someone else had done it, or design the post with the goal of securing traffic for a specific keyword. I produced it because it was a good idea; that would build my/Evoluted’s profile and add to my content portfolio when pitching to new sites – and it’s already paid off.
Example links secured:
Example 2: Creating a Unique Resource
Think about your own company or one of your clients. What have they achieved? What do they have to offer that could make a genuine difference to the customers they want? What about their company would be of interest to other audiences? What expertise could they offer that doesn’t require the end reader to buy from them?
Once you start asking yourself questions like this, you can quickly start to build a vast range of content ideas that you can use to develop unique content and resources. With this, you can then build relationships with relevant websites/journalists and encourage them to use your resource for their own audience. Just ask to be credited for the trouble of putting it together.
An example of this in practise was a video we produced to provide insight to those interested in starting a career in digital marketing. I was able to get coverage and backlinks from a mix of local and national careers-focused websites with the video.
I was keen to produce the video to help satisfy goals including:
- Educating those keen to start a career in digital marketing
- Signalling our expertise in the field to Google
- Creating a shareable and engaging resource that would be easy for educational/recruitment organisations to share and credit with a backlink
I wanted to create a video specifically for several reasons, but particularly because I felt it would be more engaging and informative for the websites I was looking to target than lots of copy.
I spent considerable time formulating the positioning for the video and worked with our experienced videographer to produce it. As a result, we had a high-quality resource for the organisations we wanted to work with.
I had reached out to carefully-selected contacts at these websites prior to creating the video. It required a reasonable investment for us, so I wanted to be sure it would bring results. I kept the contacts I made in the loop throughout production, making sure to hold their interest.
Upon completion of the video, I was subsequently able to secure valuable backlinks from local and/or relevant websites and a recruitment website. I am also on the verge of securing a link from one of the local universities too.
I was delighted with the results secured and felt it provided a great example of why it’s important to develop relevant contacts and nurture those relationships. There are now opportunities available to work with several of them again in the future.
Just a note: It is of course worth seeing if your idea has been done before, but if you do this after the initial creative process, rather than before, you’ll have the advantage of potentially coming up with something entirely unique.
Example links secured:
Example 3: Researching Publications & Journalists
You can spend hours crawling the websites of your competitors and using tools such as ahrefs to identify links they’ve achieved that you could replicate. Or, you could run through this process:
- Identify valuable and relevant websites related to your company or client and the industry you/they operate within
- Think how you could position your company or your clients’ services or expertise to appeal to those websites’ audiences
- Contact the publications and pitch what you have to offer (use the #journorequest hashtag on Twitter to identify similar opportunities too)
- Build the relationship with the websites and journalists that respond and try to get your piece published or client quoted
To help explain this, I’ll take one of my clients, who provide business intelligence and machine learning tools and consultancy. This is an area that can be incredibly complex, so you have to be creative to get links.
An example of a process I regularly use starts with taking one of their core services, such as machine learning software. In practice, I have taken this area and considered which publications and journalists might be interested in covering a story related to it.
Each time I do this, there are so many different options available to consider. Questions I tend to ask myself include:
- Could my client’s machine learning knowledge relate to a specific industry, such as retail?
- Would the identified publication be interested in hearing more and securing an interview or contribution for their own audience?
In addition, I also continually identify journalists who have written around machine learning. I then either contact them directly or wait for an opportunity to arise via a #journorequest they make on Twitter; ensuring I’m the first to respond.
The examples below show how both of these avenues have been successful for me. The Computer Weekly coverage came via a rapid #journorequest response and the Insider Trends coverage came via me identifying a contact there and pitching an idea.
Both required a lot of time and a lot of effort, but they were absolutely worth it. Great links don’t generally come easily!
Example links secured:
Some Starting Points for Creativity
These are just a few examples of how creative thinking and a deliberate move to either not focus on your competitors – or to identify what they aren’t doing – can really improve your chances of delivering content that secures relevant, quality backlinks.
So what’s the key to creativity? In my eyes, it’s not really something you can document or add as a process. It’s about challenging yourself mentally through whatever thought processes stoke the best content ideas in your mind. Here are some things you can use to get the synapses firing:
- What have you done that could benefit someone else?
- What have you read that you could reasonably disagree with and offer a counterpoint to?
- What topical stories could you offer a new angle on?
- Who could benefit from your expertise on external industry websites?
- What studies could you commission to offer new insight on a subject?
- How could you better communicate what your company or your clients’ companies do and secure more business?
- How can you position your idea to evoke an emotional response?
Some Takeaways to Consider
- Document your ideas constantly, preferably in one, cross-device app. Walking around town on your lunch and found a great idea has come to mind? Add a task to your reminder list. Taking a moment out in the middle of an unrelated task at your desk? Add a task to your reminder list. You get the point.
- Organise by client; organise by category – do whatever it takes to record your ideas in a way that makes them easy to revisit and progress when you’re next working on your client or company content.
- Definitely don’t stop doing competitor research. Just consider widening your options.
Remember this: Keyword volumes and existing links are not the defining answer to securing your own great links. Just because someone else hasn’t already created content around your idea, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be pursued. Instead, it could very well mean that you’ve got a free run at securing some of the best links around.