Analyzing your competitors and identifying their strengths/weaknesses
Once you have a list of target keywords, it is time to analyze your competition.
SEO competitors does not necessarily refer to business rivals. It can also refer to websites that are competing in your targeted searches on Google. It is not uncommon for businesses to provide us with a list of competitors. We then find out that the websites that are stealing their traffic online are totally different from the ones they have pinged to the office dartboard.
For a few reasons, it’s crucial to understand who you are up against.
1. Competitors who are smarter than you can help you save time and show you the right way to do things. You can win if you do more than theirs.
2 Competitors who are less savvy can point out serious flaws in their approach that you can exploit to jumpfrog them.
Let’s begin at the beginning. Search for the keyword that you want to rank for on Google.
TIP: Check Ranking
You can check the ranking of your website as seen by others by using Private Browsing and Incognito modes in your browser.
Google Chrome or Google Google Search will show you search results that are tailored to what you have searched for and what you have browsed in the past. Your own website will show higher in search results for your searches than it would for regular searchers. This gives you an inaccurate view of your actual ranking.
You might have just realized that your site ranks lower than you thought. I am sorry. SEMrush and other rank trackers can be used to search, so they won’t have the logged-in biases that a browser search might. You can try SEMrush free for 30 days at https://thankyouninjas.com
Don’t worry about your ranking in the ranking check. Here, we’re going to be focusing on your competitors.
* Who ranks well in this search? Do they have direct competition to your business? Are they large information sites such as Wikipedia? Information sites are a sign that the phrase is more informational than commercial. To beat informational websites like Wikipedia, you will need to have detailed content on your website.
* Do any of your competitors show up more than once?
* Is there a lot Google advertising for this keyword?
* Do these ads appear to be being used by any of your competitors?
* Does Google suggest similar searches at the bottom? These searches should be added to your keyword list.
* Do the websites that display small businesses have large businesses?
* Does a map show up in search results?
* How many map results do you see?
* Are there many reviews for the map listings?
* Competitors may be showing up with a small number of reviews. This could indicate that they are ‘accidentally ranking’ for this phrase. This is good news. Listings with a lot of reviews are either very popular or actively trying to get those reviews. To beat them, you’ll have to be at the top.
After you have read this page, select another keyword to target.
* Is the exact same competitor listed in the top search results?
* How many positions are taken by the competitors who appeared in the previous search for this keyword?
* Are these the same companies that were advertising in the previous search?
This exercise is repeated with three to five top keywords in order to get the general idea. This is done to understand the top online competitors for Google’s top positions. We’ll need to examine each competitor’s strategies for each keyword to see if they are competing for the top spot.
It is a sign that a website consistently ranks first for all keywords. It’s usually a niche website or one that is very close to home. This could be due to luck or an old ranking.
Next, we’ll choose three major online competitors from sites you have noticed rank highly. We are not necessarily referring to businesses that directly compete with yours, but rather search competitors. These could be large chains, online retailers or websites that offer information.
There will be at least three major competitors if your market is particularly lucrative or competitive. If this is true, choose the three largest competitors and note them down.
If your market is very uncompetitive, or populated by technophobes it may be possible that there aren’t three online competitors. If this is the case, thank God and list as many as possible.
How to deconstruct the success of your competitors
Now, we’ll analyze your competitors’ websites to determine how they got there.
If readers are not comfortable with technical terms, they can skip to the next section.
Search for the keyword that ranks highest for your top competitor. Let’s take a look at what appears in search results. Look at the title of the listing on Google. Does it include the keyword you searched? Is their listing title short or too long so that Google has reduced it? It’s likely that you will notice their brand name in the title. Is it at the beginning or the end?
Take a look at the description under the listing title. How many keywords are in it? Is it written in a normal style or broken up with ellipsis? Broken descriptions can indicate that Google has decided to disregard the description and instead take text directly from the site.
Pay attention to the descriptions and titles on each page. Do they grab you to click the links or are they boring and repetitive? Which one would you click on if you were a customer? Google’s results page has a lot of information that is relevant to our mission. It’s worth taking the time to notice which titles and descriptions make you want to click on the link. These enticing titles can be borrowed later when we write page titles and meta description in Section 2.
Once you have made a mental note in your mind of the main target’s title and description on the results page, click the link to their website.
Click on the link to see which page opens. Is it the homepage (e.g. Is it www.ninjasupplements.com or a different page (e.g. www.ninjasupplements.com/protein powders
You’ll see that the URL of the page that opens on sites with high SEO has the keywords you searched. You can see in the above example that the page ninjasupplements.com/protein–powders has the words “protein” as well as “powders”. This is a good practice, and we’ll be discussing how to do it later.
This usually indicates that the page was targeted for keywords like “protein powders”.
Next, we will take a look at the webpages of your competitors to determine how often you searched for that phrase.
To search for the page content on a Mac or PC, press cmd+F. Type in the phrase that you are searching for.
It will show you how often the keywords were used in the content of the page. This number can range from zero on poorly SEO-optimized sites to more than 30 on highly optimised and optimized sites. It will typically be somewhere in between. Is the phrase in the page’s title? Is it in the menu? The main content of this page?
Next, determine how often the individual words appear in the phrase. Also, look for variations such as “roof”, “roofing”, or “roof”. Google knows that the keywords refer to the same thing so it’s a smart idea to include keyword variations. Are there any keywords that your competitors have used in their text?
We will next look at your competitor’s website to find out what optimisations they have used. Sometimes, we may be able to borrow their strategies.
Right-click on the page sideways, away from text and pictures, and click View Source.
You will be able to open the page’s source code in a new tab. We are specifically looking for sections:
We’ll start with the first section.<span class=’wordai-block rewrite-block’ data-id=’64’>.</span> <span class=’wordai-block rewrite-block’ data-id=’71’>This is what follows</span><title><span class=’wordai-block rewrite-block’ data-id=’87’>Tag is the title of the page that appeared in Google Search.</span> <span class=’wordai-block rewrite-block’ data-id=’110′>It is worth checking the title to see how often they have used the keyword that you searched for, and any variations.</span>
It’s important to note that if the title does not contain the keyword phrase or keyword (or maybe it’s just the brand name), this is a strong indicator that the site has not been properly optimized.
The page title is the most important and fundamental SEO element on a website. If a competitor has their brand there, it’s a complete waste of space that could be used to target keywords.
Find the following: section, known as the meta description.
It is possible to find it on a site that is not optimised. This is good news. For most websites, even if they are slightly optimized, it is still possible to find it.
This description is the recommended descriptive text that search engines should use in search results. However, Google may choose to display text directly from the page if it feels it’s more relevant to the search or the content of the page.
The meta description of your competitor can provide valuable insights into their SEO strategies. People fill it with their target keywords to give a summary of what their searchers are searching for. They also fill it with USPs they believe their customers will find most valuable.
This example’s meta description reads: “Make delicious protein drinks using Whey Protein from Bulk Pounders. Find the UK’s lowest priced protein powders and shop for it.
The length of meta descriptions on competitors’ sites is another indicator of site optimisation. We will be discussing meta descriptions more in detail later. Google tends to reduce meta descriptions to between 155 and 160 characters. This is a sign that the site is not optimized properly. Google flirted briefly with meta descriptions of 260 characters. All of the SEO professionals immediately began the daunting task of updating each page. Google changed it again. It was hilarious.
We’ll end our search with a line that starts:
If you see this line, it means that the website owner tried to optimize their website for Google. You can see further down the line the list of keywords that they have tried to target.
This Meta Keywords field is completely useless. Google hasn’t taken Meta Keywords seriously in over a decade.
While you should not assume they have the right list, it is helpful to look at keywords that your competitors have chosen. You might even be able to find some you didn’t know about. This research is done to learn from your competitors before we can decide where and how to attack.
Close the source code, and go back to the website.
It is a good idea to have separate pages for each of your key keywords. The URL and page title will include the keyword. You should include the keyword multiple times in your text. Variations can be defined as different versions of the same word, e.g. Roofer, roofing, roof. Modifiers can be described as ‘add-on words’. For example, the keyword roofer might have one modifier: ’emergency’, which would mean ’emergency roofer.
You can see if your competitors have many pages that are focused on the same keywords, or only a handful of pages that target a large number of keywords. Take some time to look at their navigation and see which pages appear to be targeting specific keywords. These pages might not be listed in the main navigation so you may have to look a bit deeper to find them. It’s great if you can find a link on their sitemap. You can find a link to their sitemap at www.theirdomain.com/sitemap.xml.
These keyword-targeted pages will often be linked to from the footer of your website. This is done to avoid cluttering their website’s layout with links to many pages. However, they can still link to them from every page. These people effectively sweep them under the rug and place them at the bottom of the page, out of view. This is becoming more and more spammy. While it is acceptable to have pages that target different phrases, you must ensure that those linked pages are of high quality and valuable to visitors.
Let’s get to the point.
Although it may seem like a lot of work, this is actually a great way to save years of trial and errors!