Competition Defines Your SEO Strategy

How many links do you need to your site? How much content should you create? These are questions that publishers grapple with all the time.

As with much of SEO, the answer is “it depends.” More precisely, it depends on the level of competitiveness in your market space, and the scope of what you’re trying to accomplish. Today, we’ll examine a couple of scenarios and discuss how this might impact your SEO campaigns.


Travel is a hellishly competitive market spaces. For example, if you do a Google search for “travel,” you can then look at the top 10 results and pull some basic metrics:

Domain Backlinks
Indexed Pages
1 12.1 million 407,000
2 638,000 121,000
3 375,000 321,000
4 8.24 million 6.79 million
5 1 million 411,000
6 8.38 million 21,700
7 596,000 259,000
8 942,000 136,000
9 123 166
10 820,000 121 million

The great majority of the results have massive numbers of backlinks, as well as indexed pages. The sole exception in the above table is Austin Travel. This is most likely an example of Query Deserves Diversity (QDD). QDD is the notion that all of the results on the page shouldn’t basically be the same.

In this result set, the first eight results are all large-scale Web sites with boatloads of links. Austin Travel has most likely snuck into the ninth slot because it’s a small agency that provides personalized service. Because this makes it different than the top eight, Google has selected to insert this result just to offer the searcher variety in the results, even though the link metrics don’t suggest that Austin Travel should be anywhere near the top 10 for this search term.

More importantly, you can’t depend on QDD for your business strategy. Google could have selected any of thousands of personal service travel agencies for that slot. Getting in there with QDD is like winning the lottery.

If you want to compete on a search phrase like “travel,” or in a major way in the online travel industry, you need to plan your campaign on a massive scale. This means large-scale content development, link building campaigns targeted at large numbers of links, a volume of high quality links, and more. You will probably need to target major media, other major travel portals, as well as major government and education sites.

Basically, this is big business. Don’t chase it unless you’re extremely well-funded.

Travel Strategy for the Small Business

Nonetheless, many small businesses do quite well in the travel space. How do they do it? By becoming more vertical.

Narrowing our search to “Orlando travel agents” gives us these top 10 results:

Page Backlinks
3 645,000
4 18
7 104
travel agencies-Orlando-florida-s56.html
9 61
10 150

Note that I changed the backlink totals to show links to the page because this is a more vertical search term.

Again, we have one QDD outlier, but this time in the opposite direction. Travelocity sneaks in there with its home page (a page without the word Orlando on it). Google probably picked this up because some of the people who enter search query may actually be looking for a general travel portal.

Other than Travelocity, though, notice how few links are needed to rank well for this type of term. Getting 18 links to a page is far easier than getting 600,000 links to a general travel portal.

Here, an Orlando travel agent’s link building strategy and content development strategy would be different than that for the mega portals. They would implement a deeper level of local content than the mega portals, but nowhere near their breadth.

Also, small businesses would pick far more approachable link targets, such as the local chamber of commerce, local media, and other area businesses, to get them to link to some great local content. In addition, the local travel agent should make sure that they show up in Google Local, Superpages, and Yahoo Local.


These two examples may be relatively obvious, but this kind of thinking is applicable in much more subtle scenarios.

As an example, the results for “Orlando travel” and “Orlando travel agent” are also quite different. An analysis of the backlinks for the Web sites in those two scenarios would likely reveal a different set of targets (with some overlap) for pursuing that broader term. In addition, the content on the sites that come up for “Orlando travel” is also quite different than the content on the sites that come up for “Orlando travel agent.”

Deciding on an SEO strategy starts with understanding the business you’re in, and what it will take to succeed in that business space from an SEO perspective. Careful upfront analysis of the competition should be done before deciding on any SEO related strategy, because what you will find will define that strategy.

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