Months ago I wrote about why understanding your niche was so crucial for quality link building. Most of this piece dealt with issues such as target demographic, key terms to use, and content. However, the last two points that I covered have recently come up again and I decided to flesh them out a bit more, hopefully with more in-depth explanation of why they matter.
In summary, the points I am referring to deal with what tactics to avoid and what competitors are doing. In a way, this is all about risk. While I definitely can’t say that I’m well-versed in the risk of every niche out there, I’m sure it’s no surprise to learn that there are some niches where you can afford to go out a bit further on your limb.
Here are the three main questions that we use to get a basic idea of what approach we will take.
- How competitive is your industry? Does it typically take 1000 backlinks to rank a long-tailed keyword or does it take 1? Are there 50 major players or just 3? Are you a newbie competing with dozens of big brands who have been around for ages?
- How vindictive is your industry? How likely are your competitors to snoop around and turn you in for link buying at the slightest hint of it, whether or not you’re actually paying? I’ve worked with a few clients who have been threatened by competitors. For clients in niches where it’s known that everyone is doing something a bit off-white, this has never come up.
- How does your industry typically build links? Are you in a field where all the big players buy links and everyone knows it? Do your competitors mostly receive natural links to their home pages, but never any subpages? Are most of the links to your website and others in the industry coming from social media sites?
After we’ve answered those questions we move on to two (perhaps even more critical) other ones:
1. How comfortable are you with risk?
Google says don’t buy links. There are sites that blatantly buy links and do loads of other spammy things but never seem to lose their rankings. Plenty of people buy links all day long and have done for years, with zero problems. Like it or not, these are facts. If you aren’t comfortable with the risk, don’t do anything risky, period. You may not move up in the rankings if you’re up against an army of competitors all using risky tactics, but there you go. Such is life.
While I usually abide by the client’s wishes, there are of course times when we’ve said no to risky tactics after doing an analysis of the site and its niche. A small online business that came about when Mom and Dad cashed in their retirement savings and decided to sell organic widgets is truly not something that I want to risk, regardless of whether or not they want to risk it. In cases like this, our tolerance for risk also comes into play, and it’s based on both experience and on that gut feeling that makes you imagine your mother shaking her finger at you for being bad. While I’m not going to name niches here, I will say that there are many sites where a penalty would upset me…and there are a few where I’d not care nearly as much.
2. How much money do you have?
You may scoff…but honestly, a great deal of link building success is simply down to how much money you have to spend on building links. For clients in ultra-competitive industries, typically speaking one who gives me $10k a month will perform better than one who gives me $1k a month. That’s a massive generalization of course, as it doesn’t take any critical on-page factors into account.
Obviously there’s a LOT more to risk calculation than all of this, but hey, it’s a start! Do yourself a favor though and make sure that you understand the risks involved in any marketing tactics that have the potential to go poorly. That can be anything from paid links to wasted capital. I’d also advise that even if you decide that you’re 100% open to risky tactics, you still investigate your vendors to make sure that they, in turn, have a solid grasp on how best to minimize your risk.