With just a single position available atop each list of search engine results, it’s a simple fact of the matter that SEO is a zero-sum game in which ascendance cannot occur without displacement. It’s commonly understood that the visibility afforded by a high-ranking search result is exceptionally valuable to businesses across all industries, which helps underscore the absolute necessity that all companies take meaningful action to incorporate effective SEO strategies in an effort to stand out from any and all competitors.
Of course, the efficacy of SEO strategies is always subject to change due to the ever-evolving search-engine algorithms utilized to determine the order in which search results are listed. It is therefore incumbent on company leadership to keep pace with these changes as they occur, especially with the knowledge that a failure to do so provides competitors with a golden opportunity to benefit from enhanced search-engine visibility — all while simultaneously reducing the visibility of any competitive adversaries.
As you are surely already aware, it is always a sound idea to keep a close eye on what your competitors are doing at any given time, and this certainly applies to SEO. In fact, there is quite a bit you can learn from your principal competitors about effective SEO strategies, and this information is invaluable regardless of your current SEO standing.
It doesn’t matter if you are looking to significantly enhance your SEO ranking or simply wish to keep your current place at the top of the rankings; reviewing the strategies employed by your competitors offers a great deal of insight into the best way to accomplish your SEO goals. There are countless methodologies available for effectively leveraging your competition’s strategic approach to SEO for your own company’s benefit, so take a few moments to review each of the following 10 ways to enhance your SEO methodologies.
It’s important to point out that SEO competition is often far more extensive than expected. Since so many business leaders underestimate the total breadth of their SEO competition, achieving the desired level of search engine visibility becomes something of a struggle. This is why your first step should be focused on accurately pinpointing your principal competition so it includes not just similarly focused companies within your industry but also any websites appearing among the results for any of your desired keywords.
You are competing for search-engine visibility, so be careful to avoid overlooking the websites that might displace you from your position in the rankings — even if you wouldn’t consider them a competitor in the traditional sense.
During this process, it is also valuable to identify competitors appearing within any industry- or geography-specific results, focusing primarily on those that appear on the first page. Pinpointing your competitors in this way is a critical first step for ensuring the greatest level of efficacy for each of the subsequent methods outlined below.
Social media, along with a host of other digital platforms featuring lively community forums, provides an uncommon level of insight into the minds of consumers, including the very consumers you hope to entice through marketing and SEO strategies. Take full advantage of the opportunity to see what consumers are saying about your competitor’s marketing and SEO strategies, as doing so will provide the kind of consumer feedback necessary for adapting or refining any effective strategies while avoiding or eliminating any ineffective strategies.
Reviewing the available consumer feedback is especially helpful once you begin the analytical processes used to determine the specific results generated by a specific element of SEO. Once these processes are complete, it is also worthwhile to return to the available feedback in order to further validate any conclusions made about the efficacy of certain marketing and SEO strategies.
As you review any consumer feedback made available through social media and other platforms, you should be able to draw conclusions regarding why a consumer finds a certain kind of content appealing. Search engines continue to value “shareable” content, which is why it is so vital that you review what it is about your competitors’ content that earns the attention and engagement of a wide audience.
Take the time to carefully look at the quality of the content as well as any other relevant elements, including tone, focus, volume, layout, and even the frequency of publication. A close review of each of these elements offers valuable insight into why your competitor’s content is deemed “shareable,” which, of course, has a profoundly positive impact on SEO rankings.
Social media platforms are a critical component of any marketing and SEO strategy, and it is easy to analyze how your competitors choose to take full advantage of these platforms as a means of reaching consumers and creating an appealing brand identity. Take note of the number of platforms utilized by your competitors, the nature and frequency of posts or interactions, and the type of content posted.
Make sure to review any posts that generated a lot of interest or activity, and don’t forget to analyze the ways in which consumers reacted to the post. Of course, you should also carefully review the posts that were not nearly as effective, as this will help you refine your approach to social media in a way that is most appealing to your audience.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of UX when it comes to digital marketing and SEO, particularly since it is nearly impossible to overcome a poor user experience.
With mobile so clearly poised to take over as most popular among consumers in the coming years, it is beneficial for you to analyse how the UX decisions made by your competitors have contributed to or detracted from the consumer experience in any way.
The quality of the user experience and the level of versatility across multiple platforms — especially mobile platforms — also provides valuable insight into how search engine algorithms regard UX in determining the order of search engine results.
Of course, the level of visibility you achieve through SEO and other marketing strategies means very little if it doesn’t result in high levels of lead conversion. There are many different ways your competitors might try to entice consumers — discounts or freebies, for example — to sign up for a mailing list or social media account.
Review the conversion strategies favoured by your competitors and analyze the results those strategies achieve, but don’t forget to review consumer feedback as well: You might discover that certain enticement strategies appear effective at first but are ultimately viewed negatively by consumers for one reason or another.
Local SEO strategies are more important to some businesses than others, as companies with traditional brick-and-mortar locations simply stand to yield greater benefits from locally focused SEO efforts.
Geography-oriented SEO is an excellent strategy for companies looking to stand out from local competition, so look to local sites, profiles, and directories to determine how your competitors use local SEO for the sake of differentiation within the local market.
These differentiation strategies typically include features, reviews, or other types of articles appearing in locally focused digital publications, but might also incorporate regular participation in forums or online communities associated with a specific geographic area.
Closely reviewing the efforts of your competitors will ultimately reveal opportunities for you to fill gaps in the marketplace, especially since you can analyze these gaps while continuing to review the consumer feedback posted via social media and other platforms.
Consumers are rarely shy about sharing their thoughts regarding the price of a product or service and freely offer suggestions regarding any potentially useful — or currently useless, as the case may be — features a company should consider incorporating in the future.
Analyzing the type of links — including, for example, a review of whether they are internal or external links, high-authority links or just spam — as well as the overall volume and quality of the links, offers key insight into the relationship between your competitor’s link-building strategies and its resulting SEO ranking.
Obviously, a relatively deep data dive is often required to determine the relationships between SEO ranking and the use of specific keywords along with the structuring of URLs and page titles. Google provides an easy-to-use tool — called the Keyword Planner Tool — for this specific purpose, allowing you to punch in a competitor’s web address in order to review data regarding keyword usage and content focus.
This is invaluable data, so take advantage of the fact that it is so easily accessible and offers a wealth of relevant information for refining your SEO and fully leveraging the strategies utilized by your competitors.
Reed Gusmus is the director of marketing at QASymphony, where he offers exceptional insight and expertise as a marketing leader and specializes in lead and demand generation as well as advanced data analytics.