What Your Competitors Can Teach You About SEO


What Your Competitors Can Teach You About SEO - Eric Sachs SEO

The competition isn’t all bad. Of course you want to do better than they are doing, but the competition is a wealth of valuable information. When you know what to do with it, you can get your business started off on the right foot. And even if you’ve been in business for a long time, keeping an eye on what the competition is doing is necessary to ensure you don’t lose your edge. New businesses pop up all the time, and any of of them could be either a direct or indirect competitor for you.

Finding Your Real Competition

Your competition includes any website or organization that you’re competing with for traffic and visibility. It doesn’t necessarily mean your products and services are exactly the same, or even similar.

I know you’ve got at least one competitor you can name right now off the top of your head, but ideally your list should contain five to 10. They should be in your industry and serve the same geographical rea.

A great place to start is Google itself. Search using the keywords you’re hoping to rank for, and see which results come up on the first page. Then, do it again in other major search engines like Yahoo and Bing. Compare the results.

Setup Google Alerts to get updates on any competing products and services, and get notifications when people are mentioning your business online. They can also help you keep up with industry news.

Turn to industry association directories to find other businesses in your niche.

Once you have your list of competitors, it’s time to dig in. If you really want to go into detail, you could perform an in-depth competitive analysis.

Which Websites to Target for Backlinks

Search engines pay attention to which sites are linking to yours – and the more high quality relevant sites you have linking to yours, the better your rank tends to be. When you’re just starting out, it can be hard to know where to go for the right links to really boost your ranking, right? Wrong. With a backlink analysis, you can find out exactly which sites are linking to your competition. If you can get links from those sites, too, you’ll stand a better chance competing against them. Though having links from the same sites as your competitor is a good place to start, it won’t always be enough to outrank them, since several other factors are part of where a site ranks in Google. That means you’ll have to develop a plan to get more backlinks than the competition.

Start by running a report on each of the competitors you want to learn from. Ahrefs is a good backlink checker, but it’s not the only one out there. Other options include: SEMRush, Majestic, and Open Site Explorer.

When you run your competitor’s domain through any of these tools, you’ll get a list of the domains that are linking to them. Save the list, so you can approach each website with a request for a backlink. A word of caution, however. If you want them to link to you – you need to be sure you have quality content for them to link to.

The Kind of Content That’s Resonating with Your Audience

This of course only works if you’re targeting the same audience, but chances are you will be. Reading your competition’s website and blog can be a wonderful way to see what the audience is responding to.

What topics are they writing about that are getting them engagement? Look at the number of likes and comments – because people are taking the time to say or do something in response to the content.

Though it is never a guarantee that taking what you learn from your competition will be effective with your approach, it is better than starting from nowhere. Learning from their mistakes can help make your website more successful from the start.

You can also use a tool like BuzzSumo to see the most popular content on any domain – or in any niche. Search the competition, one URL at a time, to see what is doing well with their readership. You can also search the niche to get some new topic ideas to cover on your own blog.

Which Keywords are Working

Once you’ve determined the keywords that are most relevant to your business, you can start looking at who else is ranking for those terms. Use SEMRush to see which keywords your competition’s website is ranking for organically.

Compare this to your list of keywords you want to try to target, because you may find other opportunities you weren’t aware of before. Knowing which keywords are bringing in the traffic help you know which ones you need to go after first. Sometimes, you’ll find the competition is so stiff on a phrase that you need to shift your efforts

How Large Your Website Needs to Be

The size of your website matters. The more pages you have with useful content, the more there is to earn links to, and the more chances you have to end up in the search results. Typically, the larger a website is, the better, but of course this only holds true if your pages are providing some kind of value to the audience. If you don’t really need the pages, don’t add them simply for the sake of inflating the size of your website.

But, think about the size of your website relative to the size of your competition. If your site is much smaller than your competitors, you will have trouble ranking as well as they do. So, take time to look at their sitemaps and learn about the total number of pages they have, so you can get an idea of how large your site needs to be.

Keep in mind, if they’ve been up and running longer and posting on their blog regularly, they’ll naturally have a larger site because each post is its own page. This means you’ll need to come up with a plan to do the same.

What Your Blog Strategy Should Be

Does the competition have a blog? How often are they posting? How long has it been since they published the last time? You’ll want to craft a strategy that gives your audience a steady flow of useful content, but that your business can sustain.

How to Compete Against Their Social Strategy

It’s tough work to create an effective social media strategy, especially if you’re brand new and the competition’s been busy at work for a while. That’s exactly why you have to stalk them to see what they’ve been doing, and learn what works for them. They at least share one common goal with you – driving traffic from their social activity to their website.

Pay attention to what they are doing and learn from their mistakes as you build your strategy. As long as you’re not copying their strategy and content, you can mimic their behaviors to improve your own social signals, and by extension, your SEO efforts.

How Much Attention to Pay to Your Website

Okay so, maybe they can’t teach you exactly how often you should be checking on your website, but they can at least give you an idea of how long its been since they’ve done something to theirs. Google is in the business of pleasing their users (searchers) so they’re always looking for the freshest (newest) and most relevant content for any phrase. If your competition hasn’t posted to their blog in six months, or has a slew of broken links, then they’re obviously not paying as much attention to their website as they need to be.

But if you notice your competition doesn’t have a single broken link, and has routinely posted on their blog at least once a week for the last year, you know you’ll need to do a bit more to stay on top of your website. You’ll need to factor regularly posting on your blog (which you should be doing anyway!) into your strategy, because if your competition is blogging all the time and you’re not – they’re ahead of you in the game.

This doesn’t mean if they’re posting three times a week you have to post five, necessarily. You can, of course, if you want, but if you’re posting stuff that your audience won’t find valuable, or just churning out content for the sake of content, that’s not going to get the job done. You must make your content better than what the competition has to offer in some shape or form, if you truly want to compete.

Take a subject and go into more detail. Add more visuals. Offer the information in multiple formats. Take one of those in-depth blog posts and convert into an eBook with even more detail. If you’re not sure about how to do this – I’ve written about how you can repurpose content so you’re not working yourself to death all the time.

Research and Learn – Don’t Be Afraid

Yes, you’re working against the competition, hoping to entice their customers over to you. Yes, there’s a chance they will out do you. But, that’s no reason to be afraid of your competition. They are a wealth of information about what to do and what not to do, and you should use it to your advantage.

As long as you’re making an effort to keep things different somehow – as in not stealing their assets to run the same campaigns – you’ll be okay, and with time, be able to put yourself in a truly competitive position.

What has your competition taught you about your current SEO strategy? Tell me in the comments!

SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

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