Competitive Intelligence Tips For SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a game of many elements. You have to focus on your on-page optimization to make sure your content is relevant for the terms you want to rank highly for, you have to ensure your technical SEO is up to scratch and that your meta data, canonical tags and any of the myriad of factors that can lead to a page either succeeding, getting lost amongst competitors or even being omitted from Google’s index are all planned for and executed perfectly. You also have to make sure you have thoroughly researched your target terms. Planning is such a critical part of the project, and without solid keyword research, you run the risk of not being found by your target audience. In this article we take a look at how you can leverage your competitors to give you the edge in the search results pages (SERPs).
The importance of well-planned keyword research
Keywords are funny things; quite often the ones we think we should be ranking for are not always the ones we should be ranking for. When it comes to determining which keyword to target for your SEO, it pays to be analytical. In the first instance, you should dispense with any pre-conceived ideas about what your target terms should be. Just because your competitor down the road is targeting a certain term, does that mean you should be? Should you be targeting terms simply because that’s how you describe your product or service in-house? With keyword research, you should first think about what your target audience (your potential new customers) are typing into Google when they are searching for what you offer. If they are calling it one thing and you are targeting another, you could be missing out on a lot of traffic.
How do you test this? There are plenty of keyword research tools out there that can help you explore the popularity of keywords. Google Adwords is not just a PPC ad delivery option, it’s also a very useful organic keywords checker as you can use simple, low cost campaigns, using lists of potential keyword targets to see which terms generate the highest number of impressions. In Adwords, impressions generally equate to popularity, and by analyzing which of your ads gets the most impressions, you can use figure out which of the target terms generated that visibility.
Who are your competitors, really?
SEO experts agree that when we talk about competitive intelligence, we’re really interested in analyzing data from our true organic competition, not our perceived competitors. Before we take a look at how our competitors are achieving their results, we need to think about identifying the most useful competitors to analyze. It’s easy and understandable to consider your competitors as those brands that offer similar products and services to you; perhaps they target a similar customer profile to you and operate in a similar geographical area. That might well be a direct competitor, but are they a ranking competitor? Not necessarily; going back to our initial keyword goal, our objective is to rank highly and improve our search visibility for our target list of keywords, phrases and topic areas. If you perform a few searches for those terms, then those pages that appear around you, direct competitors or not, are your ranking competitors. A productive competitor search will unearth the ranking competitors you need to back to engineer the success of those that rank highly for the terms you’re chasing.
How to use competitive intelligence to win at your SEO
Armed with your list of target keywords (the terms your target audience are commonly using to try and find you) and your list of true ranking competitors (as opposed to your perceived competitors), you can start to engage in a little competitive intelligence and start to figure out what they are doing that can help you to leapfrog them in the SERPs.
Take a look at how they have organized their content and where are they placing their keywords. Google may well have stopped using the keywords meta tag to infer any ranking benefit, but that doesn’t mean that your competitors have stopped using it. Take a look at their HTML code and see if they’ve left any clues in there as to what they are targeting.
Another important part of keyword competitive intelligence is exploring your competitor’s inbound link profile. If you can determine which of their inbound links is passing the most ranking benefit, you will be able to add that data to your link acquisition campaigns as well as uncovering the anchor text that is helping them out the most.
The key to successfully analyzing your competitors for keyword intelligence is careful planning; make sure you are targeting the right words and the right competitors. High quality competitor analysis can help you to direct your SEO tasks to the jobs that will have the most impact.