You can fight them, or you can join them. The Net is a perfect place for "You scratch my back, I scratch yours," so make friends with links that compete with yours. That way, everybody wins.
In your mind, you have a collection of terms and phrases that you feel are the most important for your site. In a perfect world, any time someone searches for those terms or phrases, your site's links would appear first in all search engine results.
Chances are your world isn't perfect, though. The search-result links you would see are composed of other sites, not yours. Maybe you have a link or two here and there, but nothing like what you secretly really want -- complete ownership of all search results.
You might want to consider a technique that could get you closer to the result you want. Instead of treating those competing results as the enemy, consider cozying up to them. Here's what I mean.
It is almost a certainty that not every site linked in those search results is a true competitor of your business. Your business and the search results are two completely different things.
For example, if a site sells fitness equipment and you are a personal trainer who markets training services, you and that site are not competitors at all. But you are competitors on the search engines for certain phrases like "weight loss" or "improve fitness" or "lower body fat." So, rather than fight these other sites with higher link rankings for terms you want, take a closer look at those links above you, and see which of them are not competitors for your products. The results for the above terms, for example, feature sites with vastly different content, products, and services. Most aren't competitors at all from a product sense. They are competing with each other only for the search terms.
Now, visit the sites with a link in the search results above yours that are not competitors for your products. Examine those sites for ways you can get a link on them. That's really all there is to it.
In other words, piggyback on the high rankings of other sites. They have what you want -- a highly placed link for a specific search phrase. So rather than try to unseat their ranking, which could take you months and never happen anyway, do the next best thing: Pursue a link on the sites with the best rankings that don't compete with you.
Why do this? Imagine if you had links on every site that had a top 10 search result for phrases that you care about. You are building a network of links on high-profile sites that get tons of search engine traffic as a result of their high placement. The harder part will be figuring out why these sites should give you a link in the first place. If you sell products, you might ask if they want to be an affiliate.
Or, if you have some high-ranking pages, you could simply swap banner links: a you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours scenario. Or you might simply use this technique as another method for identifying good targets you can advertise on. In other words, the sites that have high rankings for terms that are important to you are natural places for you to buy banner or button or even text links on. You might even get lucky and find they have a reciprocal links page. Your only cost would be a link back to them on your site.
Remember the key point of this approach: Identify sites that do not sell what you sell but that do have a high ranking for phrases that are important to you. Seek out win-win partnerships with these sites. They've done the hard work of securing highly ranked links. Reward them for it, and you reward yourself in the process.
Until next time, I remain,
Eric Ward, the Link Mensch
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Eric Ward founded the Web's first link building and content publicity service, called NetPOST. Today, Eric provides strategic linking consulting, link building services, training, and consulting via EricWard.com. The publisher of the strategic linking advice newsletter LinkMoses Private, Eric is a co-developer of AdGooroo's Link Insight.
Eric uses his experience and unique understanding of web's vast linking patterns to teach companies his link building techniques. He has developed content linking strategies for PBS.org, WarnerBros, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic, About.com, TVGuide.com, and Weather.com. Eric won the 1995 Tenagra Award for Internet Marketing Excellence, and in 2007 was profiled in the book Online Marketing Heroes.
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