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How to use your competitors to improve your SEO strategy

Let’s face it, the world of online marketing is cut-throat and the old adage of “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” is one that can be highly beneficial for those looking to improve their own SEO strategy! Original thinking in the marketing industry is of huge value, but learning from your competitors can help with how to build your SEO strategy.

By studying and analysing your competition, you will find a wealth of information on how they implement their strategies, while also getting the competitive edge – you may even beat them at their own game!

1.    First – identify who your competitors really are

To do this, you need to identify those websites and companies you compete with for web visibility and traffic. Ideally, aim at creating a list of at least 10 competitors – a comprehensive competition search is no small task but the results will speak for themselves! Use industry keywords to search for similar businesses to yours on the major search engines.

An effective tool is Google Alerts – use this to set-up an email notification on updates on competitor’s products, to be notified whenever your company is mentioned, and to stay on the pulse of your industry’s latest news.

2.    Analyse which keywords you are competing for

Once you have properly determined which keywords are most relevant to your business – through many hours of brainstorming and keyword research – you can start looking at who else is ranking for those keywords.

Google Keyword Planner is a fantastic tool for this, it allows you to enter the URL for your competitor’s website and find out what keywords Google defines as being closely related to the topic and content on the site. To dig even deeper, you can use a tool like SEMRush to view what keywords the website ranks for organically.

3.    Scrutinise their content

It is a well-known fact that, in order to increase brand awareness, improve rankings and boost organic traffic, you need to produce high-quality content on a regular basis. Learn from your competitors by taking note of their successes and pitfalls. Important things to take note of, even when building your own content strategy, are:

Purpose:
Does it serve the audience with useful and relevant content? Content should be keyword focused and targeted to the correct audience.

Style:
Does the content talk to the audience, not at them? Blog posts should be value based and not focus on products or services – they are not a sales pitch! The content should include visuals or media – or both.

Complexity:
The content should contain just the right amount of information – not too much and not too little. Pages on the site – such as the Home page, About page – should be at least 350 to 500 words, while blog posts should be 1600 words.

User Experience:
This is also known as UX, and is highly important! The content should address the questions of the audience in an appealing and accessible manner – and being mobile responsive is a huge benefit to any company’s website. Other essential aspects are the speed at which the pages load, how the content is laid out on the page and the ease with which the content guides users to the end goal.

4.    Beat their Blog

When thinking of how to build your SEO strategy, a blog is always a highly significant aspect to consider. As well as looking at the competition’s content, you should be carefully examining their blogs. Important things to look for is how often they post, what topics they post on, the quality of their content and whether they are syndicating their blog posts to their social media accounts consistently.

Blogs can be a highly effective vehicle for generating more relevant content for your audience, and can also improve the search engine rankings of your website – even if you think your industry is boring, you are sure to find interesting and relevant topics which your audience will share!

5.    Suss out their social presence

The most popular social media platforms your competitors are likely to use are:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • Instagram

To use social media presence as an effective learning tool, try to explore more than one competitor’s social presence – this way, you will have a larger pool of data to wade through when implementing your own SEO strategy.

Keep an eye on their total number of followers/page likes (depending on what social media network you are on), the frequency of their posts, the engagement levels of their audience, the frequency of their original content and how they use the features of said social media network.

6.    Bust broken links – on their website and yours!

If broken backlinks are left unattended, they can add up and cause damage to your site’s ability to improve in rankings, so it is vital to find them and manage them. Take note of how many broken links are on your competitor’s website and aim to have less, if not zero. Other than affecting the ranking ability of your site, broken links have a negative effect on user experience, which deters customers and potential clients!

7.    Examine Title Tags

Title tags, or title elements, are of vital importance to on-page SEO, and so are a good place to start when assessing your competitor’s SEO strategy. Title tags communicate to the search engine, and to users, what the page content is focused on.

When making an assessment of your competitor’s page, you should look out for the following:

  • Are the title tags unique for each page? Having identical tags on numerous pages is considered duplicate content and will be penalised by Google.
  • Do the title tags include targeted keywords, which relate to the content?
  • Are the most important keywords at the beginning of the title tag?
  • Do they reach the correct character limit?

8.    Local SEO – are they using it?

The marketing efforts of your competitors in the local capacity are important to look at, especially if you have a brick-and-mortar establishment or location. One of the keys to local SEO is having a presence on popular online directories – so, to see whether your competition is using local SEO, find out if they have up-to-date details on local profiles. The tools to use for this include Google My Business, Yahoo Local (powered by Yext), and Yellowpages.com.

You should look for consistency between the contact information on their business website and on their local profiles, how well and to what extent they have utilised the profile’s features, if they have any views or interactions form their audience and whether they have replied to these.

These SEO tips should equip you with a thorough strategy for assessing and exceeding your competition. As we all know, knowledge is power, and with the knowledge of where your competitors perform well – and not so well – you will be able to improve on how to build your SEO strategy, and become a stronger contender in your industry.

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