Knowing Your Competition

Open Site ExplorerI enjoyed watching the Summer Olympics this year. It was inspiring to me to hear the human interest stories of the athletics, their determination to be better than their opponents and the hard work they put in to get there. Can you imagine what the Olympics would be like if there was no competition? Competition is what motivates us to do better.

I’ve been in many business meetings where we frequently discuss our competition, what they are doing, right or wrong, and determine what we can do to be better. We do the same in the SEO world. For a given keyword, if you have competitors ranking above you, it is an important process to do a competitive analysis on those competitors, trying to determine why they are outranking you.

Case in point. For years a client had a competitor that  out-ranked them on several main keyword terms. After doing an analysis of their website,  and making some changes based on that analysis, to some website pages, the competitor was knock off of first position and my client took their place.

So what are some of the attributes you should look for when analyzing your competition’s SEO practices, and what type of tools should you use? What’s nice about the Internet is that you can see everything relating to your competition’s code, as well as their internal and exterior linking strategies. You can use several tools, such as Open Site Explorer, On-Page Analysis (SEOMoz) and Raven,  to crawl their site and link structure. The following are some of the attributes you should analyze with these tools:

  • Keywords – What type of keywords they use in their titles, content and images, looking at the density of those keywords.
  • Site Structure – Their use of mega tags, internal linking structure and links per page.
  • Outside Links – Their backlinks, the page authority of those sites, and the anchor text that is use. Since Google is focusing more on backlinks that come from industry related sites, it is important  to identify those sites and try to get links from the sites that are industry related.
  • Social Networks – Google recognizes that the Internet has become more social, so they use certain social signals in their algorithm for ranking value. So you should analyze the social connections that your competitors are using.
  • Blogs – If they have a blog, look at how is it set up. Look to see if their blog is part of their website or if it is set up from an outside site. Google is looking for freshness of content, and blogs are a good way of delivering that.
  • Indexing – Determine how many site pages they have indexed, as well as check the indexing of their images and videos.

All of this is done to find those valued SEO strategies that are working well, and replicate them on your own website. Over time this will help you to outrank your competition.

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