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3 quick ways to size up your competition

CompetitorsAnalysis of three competitor sites

As in any battle, it’s good to know what you’re up against. George Washington always tried to understand the size and strength of the army he was up against even though he couldn’t see them directly. The good news (on the web) is that you can if you know a few tricks and what to look for. Knowing your competition is a great first step in designing a proper SEO campaign because that way you know how big the battle will be to get to the top. Here are a few hints and tools that you can use to win your own battle.

Find and manually size up your competitors

The first and most obvious step in the game is to actually find your competitors. If you’ve done your research right already regarding the viability of your business online, you should know who they are. If you don’t I would recommend doing a keyword search for obvious terms related to your business on Google and see who continually shows up in the results. If you’re a lawyer in Cleveland Ohio, then search for “lawyer Cleveland Ohio” and take note of who appears. Chances are, the companies that show up in the results will be your competition. Document their names, website URL and any other relevant information because we’ll be using it in the next steps.

Getting started with competitor analysis should simply start out by reviewing the competitor site manually. Actually go to the site and gauge your first impression. Do they look professional? Can you confirm that they actually compete against you and are they a threat with their services, products and pricing? Look for the pros and cons of their services. Steal ideas that look innovative and effective. Look for solutions that they’re using to convert visitors to sales. Look for special offers that they have that might influence a purchase. Ultimately, you should decide if you would feel comfortable buying from them. Be honest. If the answer is “yes” then you have an official competitor – keep them close.

1) Size up your competitors – Manually review their keywords and code

One of the easiest ways to see if someone is going to be a real competitor is if they have the basic elements in place on their site for successful SEO. Look through their site and observe if they are using the title tag properly on each page. The title tag is the text that appears at the top of your browser window when you are visiting a page. Often it will just be the name of the company. This is good for you. What you should see are the keywords that relate to that particular page. Document the keywords and phrases that you find and use them to build a “seed” list for your own campaign. This is a basic, necessary element to succeed with SEO. If you can’t find these keywords in the title or you can’t build a decent seed list, that’s good for you. That means that they could be conquered.

2) Size up your competitorsGoogle Pagerank

Google Pagerank is a simple rating placed on a website that essentially places a value or “trust” level on the site. Pagerank is a highly debated subject and you shouldn’t get too crazy about it. But at this level it’s a great way to size up a competitor. Pagerank is mostly determined by the number of incoming links a site has from external sites. The higher the Pagerank, the more incoming links it may have. In simple theory this means that there are sites that find value in this site and want to link to it. To Google this shows that the site is trusted and valuable.

Nobody really knows exactly how Pagerank is determined and it seems to be a very loose and inconsistent value, but it’s a nice way to quickly assign another value to a competitor. In theory, if a competitor has a higher PR it’s going to have more incoming links and therefore it’s going to be much harder to overcome them in the search results. Links are like gold in SEO and the more the better. Pagerank will help you see what you’re up against.

So how do you see a site’s Pagerank? Simply download the Google Toolbar or the SEOBook.com toolbar and it will automatically show for every site that you visit.

3) Size up your competitorsTraffic

To properly size up your competition you need to know if anyone even cares about them. Are people going to their site? Are they popular and actually attracting visitors to their site? At the most basic level you should know how much traffic your competitors have so you can see who is the “big dog” in the neighborhood. This will give you an idea of who you might emulate first and who’s going to be the biggest threat.

As usual there are many options for this but one of the easiest is to simply go to compete.com’s free tool and type in the domain of 3 competitor sites. You’ll be rewarded with an awesome graph and statistics as shown below. If it’s in the budget you can access much more information with a paid subscription.

In the example below, if you’re Radio Shack, you would obviously start the process of dissecting the BestBuy.com site and reviewing their successes to see what you might capitalize on and copy their methods.

competitor-stats

Using the previous three methods is a simple and quick way to learn about your competition and determine what you’re up against. Knowing your competition and doing everything in your power to emulate them, beg, borrow and steal from them is going to be a necessary part of your SEO campaign going forward. Take the time to find them and keep them close as you move forward in your campaign to overtake them.

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Chris Auman is a veteran Internet marketer, website developer, and designer with over 20 years of experience in the trenches. As President and Senior Strategist at Sanctuary, Chris has successfully guided the online marketing efforts for companies large and small. Chris’ clients range from family owned & operated retail operations with a local footprint of 1-10 stores to multinational Fortune 500 companies.

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