It's important to conduct a competitive analysis when getting started with any kind of marketing campaign, including SEO. It's necessary to have an understanding of what the competition is doing in order to determine how you can stand out and what your point of difference will be. You will be able to gauge what is working for the competition and what isn't and can use that information to your advantage.
For SEO purposes, it's important to consider the following in regards to online competitors.
- The age of their site/domain
The search engines want to rank sites that are trusted and one of the variables that they look at to determine trust is the age of the site, or how long it has been active online. A site that has aged over time is more likely to have a robust inbound link portfolio. If it's been properly optimized, that's even better. If you find that this is the case with the majority of your online competitors, it's going to be a long and challenging road to get to their level in the search engines if your site is brand new. If your domain is a few years old but you just haven't been doing SEO, that can work in your favor as a site that has aged will show SEO improvements more quickly than a site that has just been launched.
- The keywords they are targeting
Even with just a small amount of SEO knowledge it's fairly simple to figure out what keywords the competition is targeting. As long as their site has been optimized you can look at the title tag, description, headings, and then browse through the rest of the content to spot the keywords. You can also check the code of the page to see if they are utilizing the keyword tag. If you're having a hard time figuring out the keyword that is being targeted, that's a good sign for you because it means that the site probably isn't properly optimized. Once you figure out what keywords the competition is going after you can analyze your own list of keywords and look for variations that the competition currently isn't targeting. If the competition is focusing on broad keywords, target some long tail keywords that have search volume.
- Their inbound links
Along with domain age, the quality of a backlink portfolio also helps to convey trust to the search engines. If high quality sites are linking to a website, it is viewed as a high quality site by association. Using a tool like SEO Moz you are able to generate a list of the inbound links of a competitor's website. You can then browse through the links to see if there are any worth pursuing. Remember, just because a competitor has a link it does not mean that it is a good link. It's important to consider whether the link source is relevant to your business and generates traffic from target audience members.
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