SEO, like any other marketing campaign, requires a competitive analysis. It’s necessary to understand who your online competition is (which might differ from your offline competition) and how they are marketing their business online. This information is used to shape your own SEO campaign.
Online competition may differ from offline competition because the Internet is essentially a wide open space, unlike the physical area that you are located in. Many service based businesses work with clients or customers outside of their immediate area and products can be shipped anywhere today. Even if you have been able to build a strong brand offline, it doesn’t mean that you will quickly get to the top of the search engine results page for the keywords that you’d like to target. If you are new to SEO, there’s a good chance that many of your competitors have already beaten you to it. Due to the long term nature of SEO and the amount of time that it takes to build search engine trust, you need to be in it for the long haul and understand that success won’t happen overnight.
If this sounds scary, this might help a bit- you need to remember to be realistic about who your online competitors actually are. If you sell manufacturing equipment, you aren’t competing with every manufacturing equipment distributor out there. Niche it down. What is your specialty? Your true competitors in the online space are only the companies that sell the exact, or very similar, manufacturing equipment that you do and have a similar sales and pricing model.
Once you’ve identified your true top competitors in the online space, you can start to do some digging to find out how those sites are performing in comparison to yours. How are they marketing themselves online? Do they have an active blog? Are they utilizing social media properly? Is content marketing a part of their strategy? What kinds of traditional links do they have pointing to their websites? An SEO tool like Moz will allow you to run a competitive link analysis and provide you with the inbound links pointing to a competitor’s site which should give you a good peek into their strategy. Once you know what your competition is doing you will have a better idea of what you need to do on your end in order to compete.
Once you have ample competitor data, it’s a matter of knowing how to use it. The wrong way to use it would be to just duplicate everything your competitors are doing. Here’s why this approach is wrong- first of all, if you are just doing what they do there is nothing to differentiate your business. Second, who’s to say that the approach that they are taking is the right one? Just because a competitor has an inbound link from site it doesn’t mean that you need an inbound link from that site too. Is the link even valuable? Check to see if the site gets any traffic or if the right audience visits it before attempting to get your own link there. Competitor data should be used to look for new opportunities and ways to stand out. What long tail variations of keywords are they not targeting? What sites have they missed that offer great guest posting opportunities?
While competitive data is important for an SEO campaign, don’t become overly consumed with it. Focus on your own site first instead of worrying about what your competitors are doing.
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