A WebmasterWorld thread discusses a very interesting SEO issue: is it possible to rank high for a competitor’s brand name without mentioning it on the site itself (by mere external anchor text)? The question can be generally paraphrased as follows: can off-site SEO (backlinks) be stronger than off-site SEO plus on-site SEO combined?
The answer is no in most cases. Google does value backlinks more than anything else but not as an isolation factor. That’s why ‘miserable failure’ affect cannot be achieved in Google.
The only factors that can get you closer to the top rankings are:
- the competitor has very poor both on- and off-site SEO;
- the niche is very small.
Even assuming the rival has zero SEO skills, and no off-page SEO, you’d still have to ask "can my off-page seo beat his content". And I reckon, in most cases, that’s still going to be a fairly firm ‘no’. And if he has any SEO idea, the answer has to be ‘not a hope!’
Quick note: So how to get ranked high for the competitor’s brand name then? You can’t optimize your pages for someone other’s name as this can get you into trouble. What you can do, is to optimize a page on another person’s domain for that: create a page on a social media site, make it all about your rival, promote it and link to your site.
The page does not technically belongs to you and besides those profile pages usually rank very well for brand names (that’s what reputation management is all about). The tactic is neither new nor totally white but it still works (not as effective as it used to be but can still be a success).