As a professional SEO, you're more aware than most about the downsides of the industry. The biggest complaint from SEOs and clients alike is the lack of measurable results. While it is a common complaint, it's not a valid one if you are a competent SEO. There are plenty of techniques you can use to make sure that you are setting the right goals and reaching them every single month.
Since you are by nature competing to get to the top of the SERPs, you're going to need to intimately understand who is already ranking for the keywords you're targeting. Deep competitive analysis is the best way to understand exactly what steps you will need to take in order to outrank the competition.
A fantastic tool for this is serpIQ. They've taken the hours-long research period that is typical for just a SINGLE keyword and reduced it to about 15 seconds. They collect the onpage SEO, offpage SEO (including links, social, and all other important metrics) of every site in the top 10. In addition, they aggregate all of that data into a single Competition Index that gives you a quick snapshot on the keyword you're targeting.
Using this kind of deep competitive analysis allows you to break down exactly what you need to do to reach the top slot in Google. Break down the amount of backlinks each competitor has, along with their types. Look at their onpage SEO and their social metrics. Get granular on the data!
If you do not wish to use SerpIQ, there are many other tools you can use. The key metrics to look at are:
- Total inbound links to the domain from unique C classes
- Total inbound links to the page from unique C classes
- Link velocity trends
- Links from .edu and .gov sites
- Deep links ratio
- Sitewide links ratio
- Site types of inbound links (blogs, news sites, corporate sites, etc)
- Placement of links (header, footer, sidebar, body of the page)
- Social Shares (Retweets, +1's, FB likes, followers, Stumbles, and more)
- Content growth ratio (how many articles have they published in the last 30 days?)
Look at these totals and add them to a spreadsheet. Then, calculate the average and the median. This will give you your minimum entry point. For example, if the median number of inbound links is 180 for your primary keyword, and the min is 90, you'll know that you'll have to build at least 90 unique links to start seeing rankins to your site.
Next, formulate a plan to outpace the #1 position. Depending on their backlink profile and other metrics, this could take as short as a single month or as long as 1-1.5 years. It's extremely keyword and competition dependent, so you should not feel discouraged if you find that your SEO campaign is going to take longer than you expected. Outranking deeply-entrenched competitors is a long process that involves much more than SEO - branding, market share, social presence, and of course...a quality product or service.
It's important to identify high quality long tail keyword terms that don't have a high ranking threshold. This way you'll be able to focus on starting the traffic flow early by ranking for these long tail keywords, thus cutting down the time before a website sees traffic.
Many SEOs make the mistake of promising results in three months or less to prospective cilents. While this might scoop more leads into their sales funnel, it doesn't do much for the SEO industry when they inevitably fail to deliver on their promise for one or more clients. SEO is simply too dynamic an industry and skillset to be able to make blanket statements about campaign timeframes.
If you base all of your estimates and projects from a solid foundation in competitive analysis, you're going to be FAR ahead of the competition when it comes to accurately predicting and measuring your results. Stick to this methodology instead of making empty promises in the hopes of closing more business and your SEO services will still be in hot demand years after most SEOs have faded away.
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