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Archive for March, 2014

SEO Competitor Analysis – common sense that’s not so common

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

What does SEO competitor analysis look like? Here is a run-down, along with screenshots – literally what it looks like.

When people who know a little about SEO mention competitor analysis, they usually want to take a peak at the source code of competing websites and copy their keyword meta tags.

When people who know nothing about SEO mention competitor analysis, they usually refer to companies that compete for customers in the real world, even if they have no search presence.

One’s head could get quite sore from banging it against the wall.  Not because I know all that much about competitor analysis, but I do know:

1. Copying someone else’s keyword meta tag is just duplicating somebody else’s mistakes.

2. If a website is not ranked highly for coveted search terms, it is not a competitor for SEO.

Copying someone else’s keyword meta tag is just duplicating somebody else’s mistakes.

But competitor analysis can still be very valuable, and I know that I have rarely done enough (OK, probably never).  An SEO colleague has recently decided to zero in on this specific function, which is not a bad idea – it does tend to be overlooked.  Arvid Linde, is a UK-based SEO consultant, originally from a journalistic background, and this is a link to his competitive analysis service that he just launchedPlease see full disclosure and my special offer at the end of this post.

Arvid tells a story that I think illustrates pretty well the folly of not doing a competitive analysis:

I recently had a website owner boasting to me how his site’s got PageRank 5 and Alexa 100K-something and how he’s attracting more traffic than his competitors put together. However, when we looked at his conversions, it was clear that he’s been targeting the browsing traffic, while his competitors were picking the buying traffic. No wonder he was barely breaking even. It is going to take time to restructure his website, but it’s great to see him moving into the right direction.

Having oodles of traffic and having customers who are ready to spend money is not the same thing.  Watching what competitors are doing is a great way to discover what you might be missing.

The package he put together is interesting, and I’ll show some screenshots to give you an idea of what is possible, whether you choose to take this on yourself – there are some DIY competitive research tools available – or whether you hire someone like Arvid.  First, here is what his package contains:

  • Part1 – SEO Competitor Report
  • Part2 – Content and Social Media Strategy
  • Prospective Twitter followers
  • Extra support

The SEO Competitor Report is what so much of the work goes into.  The first job is to identify the most relevant competitors – those that are ranking the best in the same space as your website.  The next step is to gather some basic metrics of those competitors.  Here is a clip from one of Arvid’s reports.

SEO Competitor Report

Then you gather some basic metrics about competitor backlinks.

SEO Competitor ReportWhile no single metric or any combination of metrics will guarantee a specific position in the search results at Google and Bing for any specific search phrase, these give you a pretty good sense of what you need to strive for.

Next, do a complete overview of your website.  This is definitely NOT something you should do yourself.  You really want an objective review (by someone who is qualified, of course).

SEO Competitor ReportAnd then do the same thing for the competition.

SEO Competitor Report

It helps to look at a couple other important areas.  Just how important social media and page load times are, is hard to tell.  But Google has said that page load times can be a ranking signal, and we all know that social media is the most important way to spread the word about your website, garnering trust, authority and totally organic links.

SEO Competitor ReportHere comes an interesting part.  Competitor analysis can reveal some very interesting link opportunities.  Inbound links to a site can come for a number of reasons.  Competitors get links from sites with related ownership.  Or because they are clients, sup[piers or partners.  They might get links from companies involved in a community project together or who are geographically related.  Links might come in from organizations they are memberships or, magazines they advertise in or trade shows where they buy a booth.

All of these are links that cannot be duplicated for you.  But there are some links that can be duplicated.  If three out of ten of your top competitors all have links from the same domain, there’s a good chance that it not because of related ownership or geographic proximity.  These are the common links worth pursuing…

SEO Competitor ReportThe same principle goes for keywords, by the way…

SEO Competitor ReportOn the other hand, some competitive keyword research can also reveal some hidden opportunities.

SEO Competitor Report

Content Strategy

What flows from this is the content strategy.  Again, this is something you can do yourself.  It is less detailed than the competitive research, but it is a lot of work and just as important.  You content strategy will determine to a large degree how to make use of the competitive intelligence to your advantage.  That’s one reason that a complete content and social media strategy is part of this package, along with the list of 3,000 active Twitter users relevant to your niche.

Here is a snapshot of what is covered in the report.

SEO content strategy

If you are tempted to cut corners and try old fashioned link-building, you will not only be wasting your money, but most likely you will be setting yourself up for a very costly penalty, which Google seems to gleefully slapping on almost anybody who does almost anything that looks like SEO.  This strategy takes the approach that publicity can be harnessed to build your brand, your reputation and… well… that seems to be the safest and surest road to SEO success these days (it probably always was, as a long term strategy – the only difference now is how costly short term strategies have become).

One of the reasons this report is so crucial, whether you end up doing it yourself or hiring someone like me to implement it, is that you have a roadmap.  If you follow it, you should be able to keep all wheels out of the ditch.  The report even looks at the biggest social networks and what effort your business should be making on each of them.  For instance, there might be very little value for a specific business to be on Pinterest, but if there is a total absence of all competitors, it might be a small but easy audience to capture and engage in your content.

One of the reasons I am so comfortable with Arvid’s service, is because I agree with his approach to SEO.  He doesn’t think the basic methods have changed much over the years, notwithstanding the noise and the antics that get talked about the most.

“The formula is very simple – you determine your target audience, add value by offering content that can’t be found elsewhere and then attempt to earn mentions from sources that are frequented by your target audience. It worked in 2004, it works now and I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t work ten years from now. The only thing that changes are the channels used to deliver and amplify your content.”

He also scoffs ay keyword density, which I always thought to be a joke that SEO scammers used to have something to sell clients.  “Scoff!”  Yes, I do that, too.  And in your content strategy, he will almost surely talk about the importance of establishing authority.  Bingo!

Before you rush out to start working on SEO competitive intelligence or paying Arvid or anybody else to do it for you, I do need to add a caveat.  This type of competitor analysis is not for everyone.   This really works well when you have a very specific niche.  General blogs, news websites, many membership websites and others that target a number of niches really won’t benefit from this kind of competitor research.

So, if you’re writing a blog that doesn’t have a laser-targeted niche and doesn’t have a sales-based business model, I’ll say – don’t order my report.

A few extras that Arvid throws in.

I grilled Arvid (and I must appologize that I am not using everything he told me, because this post would get way out of control). Here are a few extras he tells me he offers along with the competitor analysis reports:

If I notice that a significant portion of competitor traffic is PPC-based, I’ll also do a PPC report looking at the best-performing paid keywords, optimal landing page layouts and even actual ads that generate sales.

Once we’re happy with the way the new content strategy is being implemented, we can look at the link acquisition opportunities in the 2nd part. I’ve shortlisted the links that work for the competitors.

During the Skype sessions (that come free with the report) I help the client with the content ideas, show them how they can find more high-quality link sources or clarify any technical questions they might have.

From then on it’s establishing a routine of monitoring your competitors and making sure you don’t repeat their mistakes.

If I have been too long-winded, here is a pretty concise explanation of competitive analysis.  And here are some free tools you can use if you want to go the DIY route.

DISCLOSURE: The link to Arvid’s services is an affiliate link.  That means that if you buy his service now, I will get a referral fee.  For that, I thank you – in fact, I will thank you tangibly.  I will give you $100 worth of social media coverage as a thank you gift – Free!  I would not recommend Arvid’s services if I did not believe it to hold great value.  For most businesses, the ROI should be substantial.

 


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What if Google doesn’t rule the world?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

While getting your site burnt to the ground in Google search is undeniably a huge setback, it is not the end of the world. Before abandoning your website, consider the alternatives to Google search traffic.

When most people think of the word “search engine”, they think about Google. Just “Google it” is even considered a verb by most people. While Google is the number one search engine, and mighty convenient much of the time, it is not the only search option. That is really good news for bloggers and small business owners who have been devastated by the recent Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird blitzes.

In fact, when done right, you can find the other search engines so useful to your business that you might not have to rely on Google search for your business ever again.

Alternatives to Google search

First, Google is not the only search engine. Surprisingly enough, other search engines like Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Ask, Blekko and DuckDuckGo exist to help you find whatever you are looking for online. These smaller search engines make up approximately 26 percent of searches around the world.

While nowhere near Google’s dominance, over the past year Google has slipped to 67 percent of searches. What that means is that Google’s lead while strong is not infallible to a disruptive search technology – remember when Alta Vista ruled search and Netscape ruled browsers?

Where else do people search?

Second, you could also start searching through directories.  Remember how directories like DMOZ , Aviva and JoeAnt used to be how people found things before search engines took over? In fact, that’s how Google used to find websites.

Niche directories can still be more useful than search engines, such as local city directories (I’ve used Ottawa Start for certain searches.)  You can sometimes find more detailed and categorized information in these directories, and you don’t have to wade through irrelevant results from similar-sounding searches.

Niche directories like Aviva and Technocrati even have blog directories, where you can search for peer bloggers in your niche. This is a superb resource for blog research and blogger outreach.

Third, you might find what you want in video format. Have you ever considered that video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo are just large video search engines? Video is not just for music and old TV shows anymore.  You can find almost any information you want on YouTube.

While YouTube is a Google product, they have their own search engine on the site specifically for videos. Also, Vimeo is a great place to find specific channels with quality information, since they have standards on who is allowed to post content.

Fourth, use Amazon search for your product needs. Amazon can help you find almost any book, electronic, MP3, or product on the planet. With millions of their own products, plus Amazon stores with millions upon millions of additional products, this truly is the search engine of shopping.  Oh, and eBay.  And Kijiji here in Canada.  And Craigslist.  Lots of great places to look for products, new and used.

If you are a retailer, setting up an Amazon store and getting found on their search engine could be more important than being found on Google. Think about this for a second? Would you rather have your clients searching on Google, going from site to site, or on Amazon where they have one click processing for registered users?

Fifth, welcome to the era of social search. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have very dynamic search features. Twitter invented hashtag searches, which are now standard also on Facebook, Pinterest and Google Plus.

Facebook has recently been updating its search recently to try and compete actively with Google search. Its graph search not only takes in the words you are looking for, but also incorporates your own social network in the results. That way, you can search for information that people in your network already provide.

Think about this example for a moment. You write a blog post about “Real Estate Investing.” While that might be a crowded term on Google, you know that a number of your friends on Facebook regularly search for this keyword to build connections.  The next time they do a search on Facebook for real estate investing, you have an increased chance of showing up in their search. What we are talking about here is targeted prospects learning about what you do, and coming to see your content.  So it matters who you know on Facebook.

Google Plus is beginning to use this approach, but it is too early to tell if it will catch on.

Twitter search, while a bit more limited, works in a similar fashion if you want to see who has spoken about specific topics. You can do twitter searches for specific keywords, and find out who is talking about your product and/or industry. This is a great way to prospect for new followers and blog subscribers – much better than using a search engine.

Sixth, industry search engines are also used for business to business searches.  You have to pay for your place in Thomasnet, but it can bring in  a lot of business.  Many companies search for suppliers in busines-to-business search engines. Even if you cannot be found in Google, your listing in a niche search engine can be found when people search Google.

More than one way to be found

As you can see, while Google might rule traditional search, there are still a lot of ways for people to be found via other social networks. The key is to figure out where your target market is, and how they search. Then you can augment your strategy to be found on multiple search engines. My question for you is where do you want to be found online?

 

 


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