Outrank Your Competitor For Their Brand Name

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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).

Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty

Brand amd Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing,... Read Full Bio
Ann Smarty
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  • Yes the technique works (even though its slightly shady). Social sites like Bebo, Digg, Squidoo are often used for these things.

    But personally i feel that If I really need to outrank my competitor for his brand name, I might run a quick PPC campaign — the bid price will be very low since no one else will be bidding on their brand name (assuming that its a small brand).

    I can run a side by side comparison of the competitor’s product with mine — Clearly showing the customer why ‘my product/service’ is better. And I may be able to get them to buy my product … I might even give them a ‘special discount’ or trial etc….

    But the campaign needs to be monitored 24/7.. b’cuz if my competitor finds out, he will do a hell lot of clicking …..

  • yeah i would focus attention on just trying to rank for targeted keywords rather than getting something else to rank for your competition. What goes around comes around.

  • People have been doing this for years. Linking is the least efficient means of optimizing for search but because all the SEO blogs and forums obsess over linking a lot of people invest the majority of their time and resources into linking.

    Hence, it’s happened more than once through the years. In fact, some business discussion groups have been flooded with complaints by merchants who are upset by the fact that their affiliates outrank them for their own names.

    People who develop huge linking assets can do all sorts of smarmy things. There’s no way around that.

  • Another reason that everyone should own their brand on social sites. Even if they don’t actively use it they should go through the process of locking up important brand names. IMO.

  • Well written and interesting article. People bid on our brand name on popular ppc programs on a regular basis. We too compare our products or have an analysis of our competitiors price along side our price.

  • Personally, I think copyright theft and trademark infringement are bad. The search engines should not be allowed to sell paid links on copyrighted terms and/or legal trademarks.

  • A good article as always from Ann…

    Without the competitors brand on the site, why would you want to IMHO, you are manipulating the Search Engines in a way that they probably won’t like and confusing the site visitor when they find that the brand that they were after isn’t present.

    Better to spend time on more productive activity IMHO.