It’s getting down to the nitty-gritty where we start looking at the competition and their web offerings. In this we will be making direct comparison with the client site to the better performing sites. At times these comparisons are not for the easily offended. But you have to understand that by beginning this SEO process you’ve identified that you need to improve your own site.
The very first item on the agenda is to identify the competition. This can be through the initial analysis in part one combined with looking at the search engine rank report. We want to see which sites are ahead and, most importantly, make a judgement call as to why they are ranking ahead.
Not only will we focus on the sites that rank ahead of you in the ‘organic’ listings, but we would also look at any of the relevant sites that are using PPC (Pay per Click) advertising on the search results. These sites may be ranking below your site, but the mere fact that they are engaging in PPC does show some intent.
In assessing the competition we would take into consideration what Keywords they are targeting in page titles, on page, in the description etc. This part in itself can reveal your competitions hand very quickly (and yours as well it should be remembered). Are they targeting specific industry standard keywords or is a site aiming for a particular niche? You soon get a good picture of what phrases your competitors treat as a priority. We’d look at the Search Volumes for those keywords to see if there is a market there. Search volumes are no indicator of profitability.
Sometimes it’s futile to go after one or two ‘trophy keywords’ where it would be easier and sometimes more profitable to optimise for “long tail” expressions. If they are aiming for keywords that you are not, there’s obviously a question to be answered. Are the keywords profitable and how well are the other sites ranking for these words?
How many pages has each site indexed in the search engines? If we find that the competition has substantially more pages it would beg the question as to why that is the case. We’d have to look and see where your site is falling down in that respect. It’s not a case of ‘who has more pages’ – but you’d have to be curious if the volumes were substantially different. (We will discuss volume vs quality content at a later point).
On Page Strategy
Their on-page “calls to actions” how visually effective are they. The site navigation: is it complex/easy/apparent?
We look at their back links from a variety of angles. The total number of links, the rank of the pages linking to their sites, the anchor text, the overall quality of the sites linking to their sites. Are they getting into “link farms” or reciprocal links. Can your site utilise the websites they are using so we halve the share of voice on those pages?
It’s here as well we can see the competitions use of social media. Do they tweet? Facebook, Bloggs, forums, involvement trade associations, conferences either attending or speaking. What about press releases and coverage in the media. All these will fall into the social media strategy. We’ll get back to social media in another section.
This should not be a one off process. This should be conducted roughly every quarter so you can chart not only your own progress, but also the strategy of your competition.