Analyzing Indirect Competitors Can Help Your Link Building Efforts

The better you understand your audience, the better you can engage them with your promotional efforts. While solid competitor analyses can be extremely helpful to SEO planning, and can help you understand what’s working and what your audience is responding to, you can make the case to extend this research to cover indirect competitors, as well.

Indirect competitors are essentially businesses that sell to your audience, but sell a different product or service. A good example would be if you sell pet food and another business sell pet insurance. You have the same audience – pet owners – but different product lines.

Why Look at Indirect Competitors?

Find Untapped Opportunities

Looking only at direct competitors means you could be inadvertently limiting yourself. Chances are, your competitors are doing similar things so the opportunities for new ideas are finite. Studying indirect competitors allows you to significantly broaden your ideas and inspiration base.

Since they’re appealing to the same audience, but in a slightly different space, the chances are much higher of finding successful ideas or link opportunities that your direct competitors haven’t tackled yet. This allows you to find relevant link and outreach opportunities that can set you apart from the competition, while still appealing to your target audience.

Additionally, this tactic can help you grow your influencer list. Studying which people have been sharing and engaging with these companies can help you identify new potential influencers to build relationships with.

Understand Your Audience Better

How are indirect competitors speaking to your audience? What’s their most linked-to content? By studying their content and promotional efforts – via their sales pages, social media and content marketing campaigns – you should be able to identify elements that are resonating well with the demographics you want to reach. You can take inspiration from events, trends or concepts that are engaging your audience, and tie that back to what you’re selling.

Additionally, you can identify purchase triggers and sales hooks that you can use in your content. Indirect competitors provide a larger test bed to see what has and hasn’t worked. Looking at their social media pages, shares and most linked-to content allows you to quickly identify what types of outreach efforts have a high chance of succeeding. After all, looking at something that has worked before and then creating your own fresh, unique version that adds even more value will up your probability of earning authoritative links.

Identifying Indirect Competitors

How do you find these indirect competitors? Explore these angles:

  • Similar Solutions: These companies solve a similar problem for your audience, like the above example of pet food and pet insurance companies. They’re both trying to help people keep their pets healthy.
  • Alternate Solutions: These companies provide a service or product that is an alternative for your offering. For example, your home renovation company could face competition from stores such as Lowe’s that offer contractors for similar jobs.
  • Similar Industries: This one is more obvious. If you sell car insurance, you could look at home insurance companies as indirect competition.
  • Similar Business Models: This one is broader, but still very helpful to investigate. A travel aggregate site such as Kayak is similar to an insurance aggregate site. Both help people get quotes from multiple vendors at one time. It’s best to use these for content and purchase trigger ideas, as opposed to link opportunities.
  • Similar Keywords: Run searches for some of your most competitive broad terms – the ones that could apply to several different industries – and identify the ones that rank well.

Once you have your list together, rank them in order of authority and SEO presence; tools such as Moz’s Open Site Explorer or SEMRush can help. Then, take your top three indirect competitors to start and follow the same steps as you would for a traditional competitive analysis.

You’ll still want to review their backlink profile, their content, their social media efforts, and how they engage with your audience. Be sure to also set up Google alerts for them so you can see what new endeavors they’re launching and monitor them.

Indirect competitors are a fantastic source of inspiration. Add them to your competitive analyses and you’ll spot some exciting new opportunities for diversifying your own link-building efforts.

Have you tried this tactic? Do share some of your success stories in the comments below.

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