What is it that separates your SEO strategy from that of your competitors? For most businesses, their strategy aligns almost completely with that of their competition. The goal seems simple – build highly valuable on-site content in conjunction with backlinks from the largest sites that you can muster within your niche. Sprinkle in some social media and, according to the experts, you have a recipe for success.

Then why is it that so many businesses find themselves unable to achieve success in the SERPS? They’ve put together a well-thought out plan and executed on multiple fronts. They aren’t seeing the success that you would hope for because they’re banging their head against the wall – doing exactly the same thing as your competition. At a certain point, it becomes more about how much you are willing to spend.

The key is separating yourself from the competition by thinking outside the box. Sure, you should look at what they are doing and is working for them and emulate it to the best of your ability, but the true successes will come from thinking outside the box and going the extra mile. Some outside of the box SEO strategies that you can employ today include;

  1. Build Brand Loyalty with Free Offerings

Even small local businesses can find a way to provide cost-free value to their audience. Most brands use their free offering as a way to collect emails – whether it is a list of resources, an eBook, or an industry-related guide or course. The key here is not to just share this free offering on your website – make sure it gets out there. Share it on social media. Share it on industry related forums. Share it anywhere it makes sense based on what the free offering is. Offering something for free or at a greatly discounted rate is great backlink bait and can help you to raise awareness about your business.

  1. Segment Mailing Lists and Cater to Segments

Far too often a business will collect all of their emails in a singular email list on the email marketing platform of their choice. There is so much potential value for both the subscriber and the business in learning more about the subscribers on your list through surveys. Many lists that have been successfully segmented from the start with a short autoresponder survey to learn more about their customers. Understanding who they are and why they subscribed to your list in the first place gives you a better chance ot keeping them around and marketing to them in the future. Being able to custom-craft content for specific segments will improve conversion rates. It also gives you the opportunity to create custom content outiside of your mailing list and on your website for each segment, who can then be encouraged to share that content around the web.

  1. Create Resource Repositories

If you are looking for increases in backlinks and widespread brand recognition, there is no better strategy than targeting other webmasters. They may not be your customers, but they do play a very large role in your SEO success. They are, after all, your target when looking to build brand awareness and increase link exposure online. This will increase your exposure within your niche as a whole and make you more visible to customers in search. Create a resource repository with resources that others in your niche might find useful. Then, email those within your niche telling them you have free resources available, and all that you ask is that you receive a link back to your website in return. A few ways this method can be employed include;

  • Image Repository – Sometimes images that can be used for commercial purposes can be hard to find. Put together a page with a variety of images that those within your niche would love to get their hands on, and watermark the images with your logo. Then, email them and let them know about this repository. Over the next few months you should see a steady increase in traffic as these images are shared around the web.
  • Ebooks and Guides – Although it might seem ideal to keep any eBooks or guides that you create under your own wing – you can also choose to go another route. Create an eBook that is relevant to your industry that includes backlinks throughout the eBook. Pitch it to websites in your industry as a resource that they can offer in exchange for subscriptions to their mailing list, or as a general resource on their website. Google now readily indexes .pdf documents, and any links to your website throughout the eBook will be beneficial.

Think outside the box. The resources that you create for other webmasters in your niche should be niche specific. Think of your experience as a webmaster within that niche and ask yourself what would have helped you.

  1. Reverse Guest Posts

Anyone that has studied SEO for any period of time knows the potential value of guest posts and the traffic increases that they could provide. Few companies employ the “reverse guest post.” Essentially, you create a guest blog posts reviewing a service, product, or website within your industry that you are fond of. You want this to be someone that you are willing to give a rave review. Once posted to your blog, contact the company through email or social media and let them know how impressed you were with them, and shoot them a link to your blog post. This is likely content that they are more than willing to share, increasing your own exposure through social media or their own blog.

  1. Supplement Content with Rich Media

Google values websites that provide additional ways to intake the same content that is available in your blog posts or pages. The next time you write a post – ask yourself if a PDF version of the content, a video, a podcast, or a PowerPoint presentation of that same content would make it more accessible. This adds value to your end users while giving yourself a better chance to rank decently for your chosen keywords.

SEO has become incredibly competitive over the course of the last 5 years, and doesn’t look to become easier at any point in the near future. Those businesses that thrive in the search results will be those that go the extra mile to provide value and grow their presence within their industry as a whole – not just with their customer base.