Learn SEO From Your Competitors

SEO can be a confusing and time-intense process, and many of our clients ask over and over where they should focus next. While it would be great if we could implement dozens of SEO tasks, the truth is, it’s much easier to focus on one or two directions at a time. Your search engine competitors can be a wealth of information for honing your SEO strategy.

Find your search engine competitors

Search engine competitors are different than industry competitors. Search engine competitors are the URLs that come up when you search using the keywords you are optimizing for. They may or may not be in your same industry, they are simply the sites that come up based on the search terms entered.

For example, let’s say you provide water damage restoration services. You might search under “water restoration” and see who comes up at the top of Google. The sites who come up on top are your search engine competitors. When I type in this term, I get companies that provide these services, but also an insurance company ranked at #3. So they are your search engine competitor, even though their company does not provide the same services.

If you want to hone in a more localized search, you might put in “water damage Los Angeles” and see who your search engine competitors are for a localized search. It is easier to rank for a localized search, so if you are not well indexed, I would start by analyzing local search engine competitors.

What do I do when I find my competitors?

Choose 2-3 competitors whose sites have good SEO ranking. Once you have made your choice, use the following criteria to analyze the SEO optimization of their website:

1) Content: Where are they using keywords in their content. Use these free keyword density tools to analyze the content and see what the percentage of occurrence is for important keywords. Have they done anything clever with their content in order to weave in keywords. For example, perhaps they show a map with links to city names in order to help get optimized for specific locals.

2) Meta Tags: Right click on the web page and select “view source” in order to see the HTML code for the page. At the very top of the page you will see meta tag information for that specific page. Here you can see if they have input keyword and description meta information to let the search engines know more about the page. SEO rumor has it that this information is no longer important for search engine ranking, but analyze your competitor’s sites to be sure. If they aren’t using it, and they are ranking high, chances are you can skip it too.

3) Title: The title of the page is considered the most important SEO element above all else on the page. The title is at the very top of the browser window, not necessarily the headline shown within the body content of the page. It is important to include keywords in your title. How well have they integrated the keywords into the page title?

4) Heading Tags: Otherwise known as H1, H2 and H3 tags, heading tags on a page are considered more important content than the regular body text. Does your competitor use these heading tags in order to highlight content? If so, have the woven in their keywords? What keywords have they used?

5) Inline links: Inline links refer to links within body text. Joomla web design is an inline link to the Landau Digital website using the words “Joomla web design”. Search engines consider inline links to be much more important than non-linked text. Inline links from body content are the most valuable types of in-bound links for your site (if they come from a page that is of relevant content). Does your competitor use inline links to interlink content on their site which would emphasize specific keywords to help with indexing?

6) Content for SEO: Do they have information on their site that boosts their keyword optimization? For example, if they  provide business coaching for entrepreneurs, do they have articles on their site that talk about business growth strategies?  Do they have a blog that is always adding additional content, which would further index them under optimum keywords?

7) Research their in-bound links: We’ve never found a tool that is 100% reliable for this, but it’s worth it to use some of the tools out there to discover your competitor’s in-bound links. Researching inbound links gives you an idea of how many links they have coming into their website. Read Building on Your Competitor’s Links to learn how to find and utilize this information.

Conclusion

Your competitors can teach you a lot about SEO, and give you a clear direction for where to focus your SEO efforts. We would suggest choosing one competitor each week whose site you analyze in order to glean new ideas for your own SEO strategy.

3 Responses to “Learn SEO From Your Competitors”

  1. Suhasini says:

    Very rightly explained by you, I do the same when it comes to learning SEO. , tweeted it too.

  2. Tim Zager says:

    Hey Bonnie, Really good info here. I used to fear my competition, thinking there is no way I could fit in or establish my own voice. Your info here is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t. 🙂

    This is my first visit to your blog. I’m finding a lot of useful info! (I found you through the BPP.)

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