Once upon a time webmasters were working together, sharing their tricks to “beating” Google. The times have changed, and webmasters are working “with” Google now, following their guidelines and turning more and more to what are called „white hat SEO tactics“ – but competing against each other, much like in offline business. Today we know (or we think we know) what Google wants – but so does our competition. So we don’t need to out-compete Google anymore: we need to out-compete the fastest and strongest runners in our field.
Why is this important?
Especially when you’re launching a new website that enters a competitive market, it’s critical to know who your true competitors are, and which tactics they’ve used to get where they are. You shouldn’t follow and copy everything they did (that way you’ll always be one step behind them), but you can learn a lot about their strategy and decide on your own with more data to go with. By performing in-depth research of your competitors, not only can you see which SEO and social media strategies they have covered and how, but you can also spot their weaknesses, things they have missed, and use this knowledge to beat them.
How to identify who your competitors are
The most obvious place to start is the first page of search results for your main keyword. Unfortunately, that’s the only place most people look. There are other keywords you’re competing for, right? They bring in less traffic, but are a lot easier to rank for, and combined, they can get you more visits (and more sales) then the main keyword. So don’t give up on the entire project if your main keyword is too tough to compete for, detours are ok too.
Another common mistake is to analyze just the top results. Doing this will not reveal the bigger picture; it will leave you with too much data and too little context. Broaden your search to the second and third page: this will tell you who are the rising stars on your market, something that is often neglected, and it shouldn’t be.
What to look for
On-page factors. Things like meta title, URL structure, navigational system, broken links, image description can seem like too much if you’re not html savvy, but they play a huge role in rankings, both for you and your competitor. A broken piece of code or missing keywords in title tag are sometimes able to ruin all link building efforts. It’s therefore wise to include your own website in the report when you’re performing any kind of analysis.
Off-page factors. How strong is their backlink profile, where did they get their links from, how did they get them? This is probably the most important part of competitive intelligence, although the other factors are very important as well. If most of their backlinks are coming from low quality sources (blog comments, link directories etc) you can easily beat them with a lower number of links obtained through guest posts. Look at the anchor text of their backlinks to figure out what percentage of exact match they are targeting, and whether they’re going after building a brand or just their presence on top of the search results for a commercial keyword. If they are engaged in viral marketing, dig into their campaigns to discover what works and what doesn’t in your niche, and where you should promote your viral content.
Social media presence is also one of critical off-page factors. Your competitor may not be doing the best SEO, but maybe they have a strong social media plan which you can monitor to discover what you can use in your advantage.
It’s good to remember that you’re most often competing against the pages which rank above you, not against the websites. Once you have all the data, analyze them carefully, and repeat the process quarterly. Even if it seems like lots of work, after a while you will be able not only to outrank your competitors, but to stay ahead of all potential new threats, keeping your business safe on the top.
As a SEO expert, Jeff knows how a competitive SEO analysis is important for every online business. Curently, he is also associated with http://www.serijskiubojica.hr as their consultant for search engine optimization and social media marketing.