Search Engine Optimization has become the most popular phrase on the internet. This is mainly because this simple but demanding process can help web pages rank better and become more ‘visible’ to their target audience. As Internet competition increases and competing web pages try to get more views, the concept of ‘competitor analysis’ has become critical. By now the competition in the market for most products is very high. For example a simple web search for ‘coffee’ will give you millions of results. If you sell a private label coffee product getting ranked for this keyword is everything.
Let’s face it search engines set-up a competitive environment when answering questions for their customers. Focusing simply on your own company’s SEO will likely not give you as good a result as a competitor analysis will provide. Identifying your competition and keeping track of their performance and search engine results has become really important for any business to win the SEO game. No business survives in isolation. Its niche and industry keeps on progressing with time and currently, the most progressive SEO technique that you can employ is competitor analysis. In simple terms, you find the best competitor in the market and study their SEO. Then you analyze what has been working and what has not. As a competitor also working in the same niche, their practices can affect you to a great extent. Using similar practices can bring business to you as well. On the other hand, avoiding the mistakes that they have made will also help you in getting better results. Considering all these factors, you should study your competition as deeply as your own business.
Before we move on to understand what can be done in order to find, analyze and learn from your competition, we shall discuss what SEO is really about and what changes you need to make in your own business model to get the best results.
How to work on your own business model
Understand what search engines are looking for. This process must be done before and after every competitive analysis is done in order to get the best results and keep improving your website daily. The search engines have four basic requirements of your website:
- User Experience
They do not want to see:
- Stuffed keywords
- Poor user experience
- Paid links
You need to focus on your business model and build content around how your business matters, and how it is different from your customer’s point of view. If you do not perform this step properly, you will likely end up with a messy website that will never convert any leads for you. Too many businesses skip over this step and make a bad website that drives users away, instead of attracting them.
- What do your customers consider to be your value adds?
- What made your existing customers buy from you?
- What are you goals?
- What exactly are you selling? Is it products or impressions?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses, assets and liabilities?
Here are a few other pointers that you should be keeping in mind while making your own website:
- Opt for multiple channels to attract prospects and make sure that social media plays a part. Use email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, pay-per-click ads, TV ads, radio ads and even niche based magazine advertisements if possible.
- Use consistent domain names. Get serious about your online identity.
- Optimize for tablets and mobile users too. Let users experience the same great website on a small screen.
The Basics of knowing your competition
After addressing the basics of optimizing and building your own great website it is time to start looking at your competition. Remember, it is not just about studying who you are competing with. It is also about developing competitive intelligence for your own business. While analyzing your competition can seem to be a one-time activity, developing competitive intelligence is more about building an ongoing awareness of your industry, and your niche and anticipating the perceived value from your customer’s viewpoint.
There are some basic steps that you need to follow in order to get the best results:
- Finding/Identifying your competition
The first step is discovering your competition. If you really wish to outperform your competition, you can’t work on a vague idea of competition. For example, suppose you are a coffee shop located on ABC Street in XYZ neighborhood. Who is your competition? Do you compete with every coffee shop in the world or do you compete more locally or regionally? Do you offer regular coffee and buns or do you offer something special? Is there someone else who does the same? Is there a coffee shop that earns as much as you do, gets as much customer attention and spends as many bucks as you do? This is how you select a competitor in general.
On the other hand, when you identity competition, you need to work on your keywords. What is your major keyword? Which websites play on the same keywords and which of them are able to score? Do this for almost every keyword that you use in your own operations. Your first step should be discovering the top competition for your keywords (for each keyword). For example, you can look at the top 3-5 ranks of search engines. To gain a deeper local understanding of keywords look for geo-targeted keyword competition. Don’t just look for ‘coffee houses’ or ‘coffee houses in City D’. You should also look for ‘coffee houses in XYZ neighborhood’. This creates a keyword hierarchy for you to follow.
- Analyzing the competition
The next step is to analyze your competition. While you analyze, you need to find out the real performance landscape of your competition. Look at the volume as well as the value of the keywords that you wish to be ranked for. This will help you in prescribing a monetary footnote on your competitive analysis which will bring more quantifiable results for you. You must ask yourself – who is leading the market? Which keywords serve them the strongest? Do they have a weak spot?
- Track the SEO performance of competitors
The next step is to track your competition’s SEO performance. Short tail tracking is easy but focusing on the long tail can be quite complex. Do not feel intimidated by these terms and simply continue with your search. Group together the keywords that make sense for your business. Make sure that you are tracking their theme, brand, projects and even their individual projects. Grouping data in this way will make sure that you understand your competition better. Next, you must work on their blended rank. This kind of a rank will be taking all kind of text, image, local, social and video ranks into account to find the real ranking of a business. As these steps get completed, you will be able to:
- Find the groups of keywords or specific keywords which can really bring in some SEO advantage to your business. These are the keywords that are already working well for you and further optimization may not be necessary.
- Next, pay attention to the keywords which have not been working well for you. You likely face a lot of competition for these keywords and cannot find appropriate measures to rank high. Think about these keywords, optimize and modify them further, build more content around them. Are their social media channels that can boost their performance?
- Build an insight
By performing all the steps listed above, you will be able to understand what your competition is all about. More than the competition, it will give you an insight about your business. Make sure that you include the following in your research
- Social media
- Meta tags
This will help you get an even better insight on your competition. It is not just a way to outrank each other but also a great way to help your industry or niche grow. Make sure that competitor analysis is a regular and important part of your business, because competitive analysis is crucial for the search engines to achieve their goals. And when your goals align with the search engines everyone wins.