One of the biggest keys to success in the world of SEO is differentiation. The reason for this is two-fold:
- Potential linkers are much more likely to give you a link.
- It will make a stronger impression on people who visit your site, and is therefore more likely to result in a conversion (i.e., they buy something, fill out a lead form, ask you to contact them, etc.).
The reason these things are true has to do with the intense competitiveness of the environment on the Internet today. Those who understand the basics of how search works are making a lot of money, and more people are investing serious dollars in their Web site marketing strategies. The result: Web sites are getting plentiful in virtually every category and subcategory you can imagine.
A Link Building Example
Imagine that you own a Web site in a market space selling golf clubs. The Web site has all the major brands of clubs, but so do 500 other sites. All 500 of those sites are, more or less, doing the exact same thing. There's no practical difference between them.
Now imagine a popular blog about golfing that writes golfing tips, and often talks about golf equipment in their posts. They aren't going to link to 500 sites selling clubs in their posts. They may pick one or two sites that they like and link to those.
In your link building efforts, you contact the golfing blog to tell them about your great golf club store, and that you have all kinds of clubs on your site. Their eyes will glaze over and they will delete your e-mail even as they label you as a dirty rotten spammer.
Instead, try three other ideas:
- You implement a neat new widget to help people select the golf club that is right for them. You offer the golf blog the opportunity to put that widget directly on their site.
- You notice in one of the blogger's posts that they're looking for detailed information on a particular golf club manufacturer. You happen to have it, or you go proactively dig up that information for them, and then you send them the answer to their question.
- You put together a contest in which a person can win a set of golf clubs. You let the blogger know about it, and ask them if they would be willing to get involved in promoting it. Perhaps you offer them a scoop on announcing the contest.
In all of these scenarios, you've differentiated yourself from the pack. They still may be uninterested in what you're offering, but your chances of getting their attention have gone up significantly.
A Broader Strategic View
While tactical link building success should be a sufficient reason to look for ways to differentiate your Web site, there are broader strategic reasons to do so as well. If you plan on being in your business for the long term, you need to plan on being a leader in your space.
To continue our example, 500 golf club sites can't all survive, and there will be a shakeout where only a few players survive. Here are just some of the things you can expect to happen:
- Consumers will become more Web savvy and more demanding of the Web sites they choose to frequent.
- Social media sites will play a bigger role in helping consumers identify quality businesses (and Web sites).
- Search engine algorithms will evolve. Links will continue to play a big role in search ranking, but social media signals will become more important as their penetration of society increases.
- Web sites owners will also become more demanding in choosing which Web sites to give links.
All these shifting factors lead to an environment where differentiation is essential for survival, so don't limit your vision. Come up with a plan to make your Web site the best Web site in your market area. If you can't lead the space in its entirety, figure out how to lead a subsector of the space. Chances are that the success of your Web strategy depends on it.
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