Why You Should Link to Your Competitors - A Lesson from Yahoo

by Ellie Mirman

Date

November 8, 2010 at 3:00 PM

Sportsmanship In business school, you're not taught to link to your competitors (or so I'm told). Why would you? After all, you want your website visitors to stay on your website, not go right into the hands of your competitors. And yet, that's exactly what Yahoo did at its start.

Yahoo, at its core, was a great directory of reputable links. When it came to users searching for information, though, Yahoo's results weren't complete. You couldn't find the "needle in the haystack," as Yahoo early employee Tim Brady describes in Founders at Work . Did Yahoo just leave it at that? No. At the end of a search results page, they included links to Internet company (and competitor) Excite - more specifically, a pre-queried page on Excite so that the user had just one click to view more results in case the original Yahoo search did not have the result they were looking for.

It's a pretty remarkable thing to do. Why did they do it? For the user. It not only signaled to the user that they were the focus, what mattered, but also taught the user that Yahoo was THE site to go for a complete set of results - first the results from Yahoo's reputable directory, and then all the rest from links to (yes, Yahoo's competitor's) additional results.

What can marketers learn from this? Become THE go-to resource in your industry by linking to others' resources, including, yes, your competitors'. This could be in the form of:

  • Sharing interesting blog articles written by your competitors
  • Writing responses to a competitor's blog article (and not simply arguing with their point of view)
  • Allowing your competitors to write guest posts for your blog
  • Summarize the most important news and best articles in your industry, including those written by your competitors

The benefits?

  • You will get known as the one best expert and thought leader in your industry. With your comprehensive resources, people will start coming to you as the one-stop resource for anything to do with your industry.
  • You build a brand around helping solve your users' problems. You prove yourself to be unbiased - after all, you're linking to your competitors when you think it's in the best interest of your users. Your users will trust you and appreciate you for it.
  • You give your competitors a reason to promote you - by linking to them or publishing a guest blog post by them.
  • You give your users a reason to promote you. If you focus on delivering the best resources, best content, and being more balanced in your content, you give your users a reason to recommend you and become a team of the best marketers for your company.

Now go out and start connecting with and sharing the best industry content with your network!

Have you had success with this approach? Please share your experiences in the comments!

Flickr photo by versageek

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