Editor's Note: This is the first installment of "The Missing Link," a new Search Engine Watch exclusive reader-driven Q&A column with veteran "content publicist" Eric Ward. You can ask questions about linking and link building and Eric will provide his expert answers. Submit your questions here, or via SEW's Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ (use the hashtag #missinglink) accounts, and you may be featured in a future installment!
We are facing a really odd issue and I hope you could give me some advice. We're in the health care marketing industry and one of our competitors outranks us every time in every location (sometimes big time).
Looking at the competitive domain analysis between us and the competitor we are the same or better in every measurement. They almost have 0 anchor texts for the keyword they rank #1 for and the website is entirely based on parallax scrolling.
As far as I know they don't have authority backlinks and the website is missing basic things like description tag. What's your opinion?
– Desperately Seeking A Diagnosis
What tool did you use to do your competitive domain analysis? I ask because I was able to identify several links to your competitor from sites that I see as being quite credible.
One example is http://www.thepmd.com/. Your competitor has a link but your site does not. This is just one example.
They are also more active in social media, with a strong presence on pinterest, slideshare, vimeo, among others. While we could argue that these are all technically "self links" or glorified "linkwheels", the interaction they are getting appears to be legitimate. While I do not think social media alone can propel you to a page one ranking, I do believe it serves as a strong secondary signal when Google has evidence you have been able to attract other links of merit.
As for the anchor text profiles, my personal opinion is anchor text is not what is separating your site with this competitor. I think their ranking is based on signals that will likely not last.
But there is a bigger issue facing both of these sites. Neither site has a particularly strong link profile.
You have a nice link from the BBB, and I like the link from www.thedenveregotist.com however, if I were your DOL (Director of Link Building), I would be beefing up your local link profile in ways that show you are active in the community. Even though you may be seeking clients well outside your local community, as Google gets better at filtering the junk from your profile, what will be left? A couple local links are not enough.
Your competitor appears to be relying on tactics that will falter over time, and has a minimal presence in their local link landscape. I'd identify 20 or 30 organizations, foundations, charities, causes, events and engage with them in ways that will lead to links. This is not always easy, but you need to think less like a link builder and more like a publicist or public relations practitioner. Even this should not be the entirety of your linking strategy, though.
Within your industry, I would like to see more evidence that your company is engaging with sites like http://www.modernhealthcare.com/ and others like it.
Stop trying to appeal just to an algorithm none of us can truly know, and instead pursue marketing and public relations efforts that help reinforce your stature in your field locally and nationally.