Why The First Page Is Won On The Third

by on November 14, 2010 | posted in Miscellaneous Strategies

Hollywood – the boulevard of broken dreams.

Might we say the same for the third page of the search results? It may have some similarities – like a mass of websites, like it’s citizens, that have tangible value, but have been given up on for a plethora of reasons.

Perhaps, conversion wasn’t as spectacular as they’d originally hoped. Or perhaps, money dried up, or an antsy webmaster got enraged by the lack of spectacular movement once displayed in earlier ranking increments by their SEO team – and the department was shut down. In Hollywood, a lot of talent goes to disappear, and not necessarily because they weren’t deserving – rather, one or two variables just didn’t add up, and them, just like your favorite third-page website, ended up working as a bartender for the rest of their life.

The third, fourth and fifth pages of competitive SERPs are interesting creatures – because they offer up opportunities – and evidence of past disappointments – that can come when performance isn’t spectacular, expectations aren’t aligned, and product offerings aren’t worthwhile.

In competitive SERPs, the path to the top isn’t any more difficult based on how layered the next 200 results are. As I cited in my last post, [cheap flights], the keyword, is competitive as heck. You can find well-optimized pages 120 results deep. But for all intensive “cheap flights”, direct keyword volume purposes – all that matters is the top 20 or so results, where the real traffic lies. For those other results, they might as well be this post – because it’s of no value, at least at it concerns “cheap flights” keyword volume. These many, layered, solid websites also compete for a plethora of assorted longtail keywords.

As noted, most of that top 100 is wreckage. Pure, unadulterated amalgamations of sites that tried hard for a long time, but gave up. Others, although they don’t know it yet, will almost certainly do the same.

It takes a special kind of CEO – a special kind of product offering – and a special kind of money investment to crack the first page on that keyword, or others much like it. Yet, as shown by the results, hundreds still attempt it.

How SEOs Benefit – And Don’t – From Campaigns That Fall Short

This the eternal plight – and benefit – of the SEO community. Many SEO campaigns stop just short of ever producing money – because one thing changes, a person moves, or the money dries up. For those employed in house or on the beneficial end of a rev-share deal, this is critically impairing. On the other end, many SEOs will gladly accept cash from these websites that, undoubtedly, will eventually fail – in order to pad their pocketbook with a few extra bucks. Others will do so because they are much like the webmasters or investors – unaware of just how difficult it is to rank for a keyword like “cheap flights”.

Each has its failures and ethical conundrums – and no blog post by me will solve them. However, what I aim to do, here, is offer up a few ways this wreckage – and other third page plus results – can actually be to the benefit of those who still aim to succeed.

Competitor Segmentation

In these super-competitive verticals, we often waste time scanning many of the backlinks from the top of the top websites.  The problem, here, is that many of these obtain links in ways those “building” can’t possibly do – like through “rich get richer” methodology – such as simple discovery from high profile websites who want to write for travel, for example – or by the nature of their product offerings – as almost all of them will be more robust than yours, at least in the short term. The most competitive verticals, surely, require the same kind of content development from their websites as they do link development – so it is naïve to think that someone who is willing to link to Kayak’s Explore map, would, say, link to you as well.

So, then, the opportunity exists in the wreckage. Do special segmentation of those smaller, non-branded sites from the 2nd page to the end of the “well-optimized” results. Almost all of these will have similar content offerings – and potential to obtain links  – as you do – so time spent rigorously acquiring their massive set of backlinks will very clearly do you better than, say, attempting to derive links from ABCNews or The Examiner as did Cheapoair. It can be enticing to go after those backlinks – and you should, eventually, look at them – but it might be worth doing so later on down the timeline, when you have a similar offering to wave as bait. These top ten or fiften sites, after all, have a massive list of links that got them there in the first place, and it’s hard to determine what part of the lifecycle – or acquisition technique – got them that hypertext. For those in the 30-100 range, it’s pretty certain those acquisition techniques will be identical to whatever yours are.

Backlink relevancy does not mean automatic high acquisition ROI. Competitor backlinks does not mean acquirable backlinks. Be very aware of these characteristics – or risk finding yourself burning time going after links you have no hope of acquiring.

The Third Page of Resource SERPs

Beyond the hyper-competitive SERPs, there are special opportunities on the third and fourth page of resource SERPs, such as “KEYWORD links”, “KEYWORD resources”, or others like it. Why?

My favorite attribute in a person – SEO incompetence.

The third and fourth page of many resource SERPs are better than the first two because the ROI is astronomical – since the webmasters are oblivious to the value of their websites. These are the sites with “Welcome” or similar in the title tag, but good content on-page. The high value sites with webmasters who don’t know SEO from OREO – these are the most potent. For any vertical of value, almost every first and second page resource has been poached by your competitors, and is either A) exhausted or B) providing thin value based on what it takes to acquire a link.

In the third and fourth pages, all it sometimes takes is a specially tailored e-mail, a smile and a fake female name – and you’ve got yourself a nice, crusty, PR6 link. It seems counterintuitive that those ranking worst would be worth most, but it’s really rather simple – SEOs thrive off webmaster incompetence – those who haven’t woken up to a link being the most tangible currency of the web. It is from these people who we can obtain links worth thousands in lifetime value for the time it takes to type up an e-mail.

There are creative ways to find these people – the “incomperati”. Try using special title tag searches that include only non-monetizable or rarely searched phrases. These can give you plenty of “one-offs” that are quite worthy of intense attention. Here are some other places and examples of how you can locate the least educated webmasters on the web:

  • Dmoz,  Yahoo! or Vertical Specific Directories – many of these websites won’t show up in the SERPs due to terrible optimization, but have high value due to age and inclusion in directories such as these. Also, if you handpick from the highest rated in each vertical (see: those not concerned with SEO, but instead, quality) – there’s a good chance you’ll find plenty of strong sites that have no clue what they’re doing from a site value standpoint.
  • Use an Ontology tool to find related keywords – Most keyword research tools will only pump out those keywords that are super monetizable or high volume – you, instead, want to think outside the box and use those that people rarely search for, but might be linked to.
  • Search for the same relevant keywords queries but with old, year-specific inclusions, such as “2001” – I find these older sites tend to list the age they were founded more often than newer ones.
  • Actually exclude buzzwords like “Contact” using the “-“ operator – Many old resource sites will exclude this due to terrible navigation, but if you search hard enough, you can find one somewhere on the domain.
  • Once you’ve found an incompetent webmaster, mine their backlinks to find more of their friends.

So, next time you’re scanning resource links and you notice that some page that doesn’t even have resources in the title tag is ranking third or fourth page for it, perk up those ears. That’s a webmaster you want to seduce – because that’s a webmaster who hasn’t seen a mirror.

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