Should You Link To Your Competitors?
Posted on 06 August 2017
We recently covered a topic talking about Backlinks and how they help to position you at the top of SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).
We’re always running tests on our website to see what helps us to attract more visitors, engage more visitors and ultimately make more sales and I discovered a little trick that helped Search Engines to understand what our website is about and they started to rank us for more broader search terms.
I just started giving backlinks to my “competitors”.
You’re probably thinking “why on earth would I put a backlink on my website to a competitors and send my hard earned traffic to someone I am in competition with?”
Stay with me for a second, this will make sense.
A few years ago, the way Google understood what your website was about was by the number of keywords you had on your website.
For example; You will probably have the word “Jewellery” or “Watch” hundreds of times appearing on every single page of your website because it’s in the footer and header of your site.
But so is “About Us” or Contact Us” - So it doesn’t quite become accurate.
Google’s priority is to place the best and most relevant content in front of a searcher first but Google isn’t a human, it can’t read your content and say “Ahhh this is great, I love it”.
So it uses certain signals.
Backlinks being one of them. Bounce Rate being another.
What is Bounce Rate?
Bounce Rate simply put is the percentage of users who come on to your website and leave quickly.
If this happens a lot, it’s telling Google that this page isn’t interesting and in turn, it will push you further down the ranks for that search term.
When users come on to your site and spend a lot of time browsing, completing forms etc, Google decides that this page is clearly interesting and will rank it higher.
You can check your bounce rate by using Google Analytics:
Select Audience then Overview
A high percentage is bad and a low percentage is good.
How do you stop people from bouncing from your website?
Simple, make sure that page is relevant to the search term and it actually add’s value.
Value could be that the page has super cool pictures that keep people looking or value could be discussing a topic and backing up your claims by linking directly to a source.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the customer.
For example, the people reading this article will be our designers, you will probably want to know who our competitors are and ill happily say Etsy.
If you didn’t or don’t know who Etsy are you would likely click that link so you could see for yourself and then this article would make more sense to you.
At the same time, when you clicked that link, Etsy’s page will open in a “new window” which means your still on this blog page whilst you spend time on someone else’s website making my bounce rate decrease.
But, let’s show you the real cool trick as to why we link to our competitors.
Taking it back a bit to when we said “How does Google know what your website is about”.
Links from your page to others pages within your niche is how.
It’s probably unlikely that you would have links on your website to a car mechanics right? So it’s safe to say you’re not in the mechanics industry.
But you probably have links to Stockist’s websites and a Press Page linking to Fashion Magazines that previously wrote about you?
Now those links are saying to Google “Ok, So you mention Handbags a lot on your website and you’re also linking out to other pages on the internet about handbags, your website must be about…” you guessed it, Handbags.
The more links to relevant websites you have, the more Google understands what your website is about and then it’s starts to get cool by ranking you for similar words as your competitors and here’s a test we done last month and the results.
The “Linking To Your Competitor” Test
Last month we wrote a blog post “5 Independent Watch Brands That You Should Know” - The Keyword being Independent Watch Brands.
You need backlinks to a page so that the page ranks higher so we thought “lets exchange links with our designers”
Technically our designers are competitors to us and we’re a competitor to you (I like to think we’re in this together but understand how some might think).
So we reached out to the 5 designers in the article and agreed to exchange links.
We linked to them on that page, they linked back to that page and a week or so later we’re now 4th on Google in the UK.
This page has attracted 115 visitors this week from people interested in Independent Watch Brands - Which we sell.
The best part, the bounce rate is 0%, users are spending 4:35 minutes on the website and clicking through to 6.39 pages on average.
You will also notice that over 50% of the visitors this week have come back from previous weeks to read that article again - So I know it’s really adding value and hence why Google is ranking us in the top 4.
The designers we exchanged links with would also get some traffic from these visitors (how much, I wouldn’t know without asking them) but ultimately they have benefited from gaining an additional backlink from us which would help to grow their Domain Authority and rank higher on SERP’s.
Because we started linking out to you “competitors”, not just our designers but actual competitors that are in the marketplace space like us, our pages started to rank for other search terms that where relevant.
For the same Watch Article we know rank for: Independent Watch Companies, British Watch Brands, Best Independent Watch Brands and more.
Before we linked to other websites in our niche, we would only rank specifically for the search term we optimised the page for but now Search Engines seem to fully understand what our pages are about and have given us multiple possibilities to attract new customers.
The hardest part in the online world is getting backlinks.
If you meet a website owner and their in your space, become friends with them and work together by exchanging links as and when necessary.
Your competitors may spend lots of money on SEO, link to them when it is right for your readers and it will benefit you and help Search Engines to understand what your website is about.
If you don’t have a stockist page, make one and list all your stockists and link back to them.
If you don’t have a press page, make one of these too and link back to all the features you’ve had online. This will also ad value to your visitors as it will show them people are talking about you, the same with other PR’s.
If you don’t blog much, you should! It’s the most lucrative way to build an online business but it’s also the best way to gain backlinks from other websites without spending a ton of money on PR.
In my opinion, Social Media is going to become a money game. Organic Reach might become a thing of the past and you will have to pay to reach your followers regardless of how many you have.
We’ve already seen a drop in reach on Facebook and Instagram and other marketers I speak to say they same.
Search Engines will always be free. Invest your time in it and attract new customers who are specifically looking for your products.
You may spend a lot of money on online ad’s like I do but remember, when you hit a hard time and your money is low (it happens to the best of us at times) you’re content will still work hard for you.You can read our other marketing tips on our marketing blog.