A Little Known Way to Improving Your SEO by Linking to Your Competition

by Derek Halpern · 43 comments

Blending

In the spirit of the SEO for Everybody series at DIYthemes, I invited the highly respected search engine optimization expert Nathaniel Broughton to share one SEO tip that bloggers can use to improve their search rankings.

And let me tell you, he sure did deliver.

Today you’re going to learn all about what he calls “Link Blending.” It’s not obvious advice, but it’s real easy to implement and it’s a GREAT tip.

If you don’t know Nathaniel, here’s a quick rundown:

Nathaniel is a veteran internet marketer who’s helped produce three Inc 500 winning companies. He is the owner of SuretyBonds.com and Growth Partner Capital, a venture fund with services in SEO consulting, online reputation management, and premium link building.

So we’re glad to have him.

Now enter Nathaniel Broughton:

So what is link “blending?”

It’s simply linking to your site and other authoritative sites at the same exact time.

Link Blending in Action

Here’s an example:

Rae Hoffman is a well-regarded affiliate marketer, but doesn’t rank in the top 3 search results (she’s in the top 10).

So, for my link blend, I’ll link both Rae and another blog who ranks top 3, blog.affiliatetip.com.

Now this might sound like gaming the results, but as I said, Rae is a well-regarded affiliate marketer, and giving her the link in this way will help her rank higher (as she should).

Just like this:

“Website owners who monetize via Adsense can generate additional revenue through affiliate marketing programs outlined on industry resources like Affiliate Tip by Shawn Collins.”

Here’s another example of a good link blend:

“I recently talked with the head of SEO at a large SEO company called LSF Interactive to try and learn more about the challenges of enterprise-level SEO we might face at Growth Partner.”

Do you see what I did there?

I linked to both LSF Interactive, a top tier SEO agency, and my company in the same sentence.

Mind you, it made sense for me to link, and so I did. But people today refrain from linking out because they’re worried it will hurt them.

But I’m saying that when it makes sense, you should almost always link to your sources—especially if you truly vouch for them.

The link “blend” can help you rank higher in search engines.

“Cool By Association”

If you abuse this strategy, it can easily be labeled spamming, so don’t do it.

But again, when it makes sense, it makes sense. It’s natural for similar sites to be linked together in unison. It’s also natural to link your sources when it matters.

And that’s the key takeaway.

Don’t be afraid to link to sites that you believe are relevant. It can make you “cool by association.”

Won’t This Help the Competition?

It depends. Usually not, and there are a few reasons why.

First, you can find a non-competing authority to link to if you try. I used to be the CMO of Veterans United. We did VA loans.

So what did we do?

Instead of linking competing companies, we linked the government website on the program. They didn’t actually do the loans, but were an authority because they set the guidelines.

It also made sense to link them, as a VA loan provider.

Another reason why I personally do not see link blending as anti-competitive is this: are you really competing with that top ranking site, or do you just wish you were?

If you’re not ranking for your desired keyword, it’s smart to link the authoritative sites in your market because it creates the signal that you belong in the same conversation.

Enter Derek Halpern:

What a neat tip, right?

We live in a world where people rarely link to other sites. Heck, even some major news sources don’t link sites they quote.

Why?

I’m not so sure… especially after reading this article. Linking out can actually help you, and limiting your links with hopes of gaming the rankings is just silly.

But as Nathaniel said… Don’t abuse this strategy.

What do you think?

About the Author: Derek Halpern ran marketing at DIYthemes, and is the founder of Social Triggers. To get more tips on how to be confident, sign up to his list here.

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{ 43 comments }

Jay Lane

Great post. I believe the reason news sites don’t link to their sources is that they don’t want visitors leaving their sites and not come back. It’s kind of stupid but I guess it makes sense to them.

Himanshu Chanda

I agree with you on this. The problem with news sites is that they dont have a niche. ‘News’ in itself is content which is good for adsense but not for an ebook or info product. They dont have any new medium for sales and in the age of internet definitely not all can go premium…

So they cant afford to be a brand which acts like a friend (meet me when you like). What they want to be is like a girlfriend :) be with me as long as you can.

Bret Phillips

This is great advice. Linking to other sites in your industry, they’ll also occasionally have some of the keywords that you both share in their URL, getting you one more little seo bump at the same time.

Lina

Thank you for this great tip, just this morning I was considering if I should link to someone that is not realy a competitor. Your article has incouraged me to show more support to people strugling in the same niche who are not my direct competitors.

Dave Doolin

According to my stats, people rarely click through anyway, so linking to competition can’t hurt that much. For me, anyway.

Angel Demirev

This really doesn’t make sense to me. Unless you’re receiving a link back, how does linking out help your own site? I mean, have there been experiments with this? I just don’t understand this; it doesn’t make sense to me how linking to another site could bring your own site up.

Annie Sisk

I think the theory has to do with soft off-page SEO theory and on-page SEO best practices. As for the latter: Linking to yourself can absolutely help your SEO — Derek had a great post here a while back on that subject, and I’ve written about it on my own site, for my “SEO Saturday” feature. We also already know that the placement of a link in the body of HTML has an impact — links appearing higher up in the code for some reason have greater impact than those lower down the “page.”

And as for the former — well, who wouldn’t want to reciprocate to someone who gives good linkage generously?

Again – my theories only. I’m no SEO guru, for sure. Whatever I know, I culled from trial and (lots of) error, and from reading sites like this one. ;)

Brankica

I am with Angel on this one. Hardly anyone reciprocates and the funny thing is that only “blogging blogs” push this theory to link out to get the rankings.

I actually ran a test on a niche site. It had 6 pages, no links out, maybe about 15-20 links from comments only and it was ranking for 5 of the 6 pages on the first 3 pages of Google (2 of those on the first page). It was perfectly SEOed on-page.

I personally don’t trust this because it doesn’t make any sense to what I have experienced in the previous several years online.

This only explains how to do it, it does not say what results did it bring, did any of those sites link back (I would think not).

Dave Morgan

For the life of me, I just don’t get why sooo many sites refuse to link to others, and this includes the most authoritative sites on the net, such as top newspapers, most colleges, etc. We’re already seeing nofollow being phased out, hopefully these black holes will be phased out too – better yet, penalized by the SEs.

Mr. Digital Coaching

Very nice inside on SEO guy’s!!
I will implement the strategy in my future blog articles and see how it works out.
Thanks, and keep up the good work ;)

steve heideman

What a great tip Derek thanks for sharing the interview :-)

Miguel

Thanks, very useful information!

Chris

I totally agree with you that SEO’s shouldn’t be afraid to link out to their relative competition on the internet and I wish more of them understood this.

The internet is a pretty big place and IMHO, there are enough customers for everyone to get fed. =]

Kishore Mylavarapu

Now a days these link building concepts won’t work with Google Panda update i think.Google started considering user reviews, speed, good design as the top factors and link building and page rank etc to the next factors.

DiTesco

Interesting, although could generate a lot of debate. I do see the “sense” in doing this as it keeps some sort of flow to sources that are talking the same thing and more specifically if they have good authority. Who knows, within the process, they might have their trackback turned on and you can even see a benefit in it. My question, although this may sound quite stupid, should the links be “dofollow”? Or does it not make a difference?

Bruce E. Simmons (BruSimm)

I think some hesitation on linking out, for instance, in pointing out sources, is that the competition who trolls your sites just head on over to the source info and then they pretend they found the info and skips the “via” credit link. It burdens me to show links because I have a few trolls like this, but my practice is to link out to sources… it’s the right thing to do and in the long run, pays off. Pretty interesting tip indeed. Thanks for the bit Derek. -Bruce

rachel

As usual, a nice little bite of handy info. Never even heard of link blending, but it makes sense. After all, if you want to play like the big guys, it makes sense to spend some time hanging around first…

Lance Nelson

great tip, as this is something I had been wondering about. Makes sense. Thank you, Lance

Steve Crenshaw

I learned this a few months ago and have used it sparingly. I have seen my stats on those posts increase by a third but it took several months to see any improvement.

Jim Hunter

I must be too stupid to see this. In the example he gives. someone is linking OUT to both Rae Hoffman and Affiliate Tips. Here is his example
“Website owners who monetize via Adsense can generate additional revenue through affiliate marketing programs outlined on industry resources like Affiliate Tip by Shawn Collins.” In his example, affiiliate marketing is a link to Rae and Affiiliate Tip is a link to the top 3 site. Both are linking out, one link is for Rae (ranked top 10) and the other link is to Affiliate Tip (ranked 3). Whoever posts this link is giving up link juice to a top 3 and a top 10. I get that this is link-blending a 3 and a 10, but WHAT DOES THE PERSON POSTING THIS GET OTHER THAN TWO LINKS OUT? What is in it for them? Why would a person do this for someone else without there being a benefit for themselves?

Catherine

Jim, if you don’t want to link to your competitors but do want to link to your friends, then no problem.

As for linking out at all – think of the robots who crawl, search and index our sites. They like links and don’t like dead ends. This is one way to keep the robot moving and instead of a dead end which leaks you rank, the robot goes to another site which is relevant to yours, which helps your rank.

Working in threes is common in nature, the triangle is the first solid shape. When you link to two other sites like this, you’ve created a triangle and a way for the robot to come back to you via the triangular link you created. It’s a win-win for everyone, particularly for you because the robot now loves you and thinks you’re very important.

Brandon Wilcox

Jim, if you read the article more carefully you’ll see that Rae Hoffman is the one he is trying to help rank better, not his own site. That’s why he’s giving a link to her.

But the cool thing about this technique is that he’s not just linking to Rae’s site – in the same sentence he’s also linking to a second authority site. Rae therefore gets the benefit of association with the authority site. Or as Nathaniel said, ‘It can make you “cool by association.”’

He also makes it clear you can do this yourself by linking to an authority site and your own site in the same sentence, thereby making YOU cool by association. I guess it helps Google figure out that the two sites linked to are similar, and the lower ranked site is being compared or listed together with the authority site, so it gives a little bump to the lower ranked site.

What’s in it for Nathaniel? He’s an SEO expert. Rae has an SEO problem. Work it out.

Martin

Luckily, I’ve been doing this a lot lately.

For me, I think it’s really about authority. I’m writing about depression, but I’m not a doctor. I need to show that I’ve done my research properly and that there is substance to what I’m saying.

So linking to .edu sources, scientific journals, respected health sites etc is the natural thing to do. If you read my pages then I think they would look spammy if I wasn’t doing this.

Doug Francis

I guess that I have always been willing to link to sites when it made sense, but I have also been using the Zemanta plugin which suggests links by analyzing your content as you write.

Glad to read that there may have been a hidden benefit!

Alef Bet Jewelry

I really don’t understand the no-follow. I believe I clicked nofollow on my backoffice for thesis blog, but I just followed directions. What does that actual do for me?

Rob @ Atlanta Real Estate

He talked about what it is and how to do it but it’s sure hard to quantify the alleged results/benefits.

I would say if a “link blend” makes contextual sense to do, then do it.

Kathy

Derek I just wanted to let you know that I am really enjoying the tips you are sharing in the blog……

The Big K

I too believe that Link Building techniques don’t matter anymore. Google knows people buy links on the sites and it’s difficult to really rank the sites based on who’s linking to them. Over the time Google’s Algorithms have evolved and now they determine the value of any page depending on the content.

So – content is the king, I guess.

saturday kitchen cook

I’m not sure I fully understand how this works but I’ll give it a try. Are there any solid results from trials on this? From what I have read so far the emphasis appears to be on “who links to me” because that makes me the “authority site” … maybe that is only part of the story? Interesting food for thought – thanks.

Magnolia

I’ve been doing this for years. I didn’t realize it was cutting edge or not a common practice. I write health & wellness articles for several sites around the web (Yahoo! among them). They require linking to your sources. On my personal blog, I do the same. My logic has always been that my readers want to know where I retrieved certain information. So, I let them know. My ranking with Google has improved considerably lately. Perhaps that is why.

Chase

Linking out helps you out. That’s going to be a key phrase to remember. Thanks for this write up! (I just hope I don’t come across people misunderstanding/abusing this method as you warned.)

Joi

Great tip. I’ve never hesitated to link out on any of my blogs or websites. Even before I knew what seo was (oh those blissfully ignorant days), I did it simply because I wanted to build relationships.

When someone links to me, I take it means a great deal. So much so that I link back to them – usually quite often. Building relationships is as important as anything and, as far as I’m concerned, the more the better.

Great article. Great advice.

Vijay Sharma

Very Nice tip Derek, I never thought about this and was always skeptical about linking to the competition sites. I think I will have to redo my strategy .
Thanks Again…

Rogelio

I got this tip some time ago and tried it. After linking to relevant sites, my rankings started to show some improvement that I didn’t had. It helped SEO? Maybe, but it also made me some friends and got some links back.

A lot of people do not link to other sites because they think they can dilute their page rank too much, but my rankings didn’t drop; they improved. Maybe some misunderstanding there…

Good post

Ana | Traffic Generation

Love the tip, Derek.

If I may also add, an interesting correlation noticed by Rand Fishkin in his presentation on Ranking Factors Data 2011 at SMX Elite Sydney: there’s a long-lived rumor that linking out to Google.com or Microsoft Bing can help your rankings. According to his report, correlation-wise linking out to MS is better. http://www.seomoz.org/blog/new-edition-ranking-factors-for-2011-live

Ana

Yurosie

Thanks for your tutorial… Nice post

Eric Goldman

Thanks for that interview and advice. I’m absorbing anything I can on this stuff, and I think this will be very helpful. I was always concerned to do outside links, however now I’ll make it a habit of relevance.
Thanks

verf

nice blog about seo……………thanks

good business for everybody

gr
marcel

Fred Siegel

I do this as well but I have several other websites and blogs, I link to them so it helps me altogether. I have a junk removal website that ranks higher than 1-800 Got Junk in San Diego (I’m #1)

I link to it from a new (81 days old) website. Already my new website is on the first page of Google, Yahoo and Bing and just got page rank 3 from Google…In 81 days. I believe that using thesis 1.8 is a major part of this success because of the great built in seo but the “popularity linking” helps.

Vince

Hi Derek and Nathaniel,

I like the idea of “cool by association”. I also think when it makes sense then it makes sense to link to authority sources. I believe that will help build your own authority in the eye of your readers. After reading this article I plan on doing more of blend linking (without abusing).

One way to keep visitor on your site is to open the link in a new window.

Thanks for sharing,

Mark | Creative Team Events

This is the very first time I’ve heard of this principle, and I will give it a go. I think many people will be nervous about giving benefit to competitors, but it makes a lot of sense being associated with a market leader.

Jonathon

Excellent advice here. Much appreciated. In the health niche I often link to high PR authoritative sites in my posts so now I will find ways to add my own site links in the same sentence.

Jenni

I’ve used this tip a long time ago and get a lot of success, just because other website will linkback to my site as I’ve mentioned them.

Thank you again for your tip.