As an SEO consultant evaluating search competition for clients is an absolute must. You need to know who your competition are, why they rank where they do for certain keywords, where they get links from, what anchor text and on page optimisation methods they are using and most importantly HOW TO BEAT THEM.
There are many theories with regards to search competition, some say your only really competing with the first few pages of results, others say you are competing against every page that shows up in the serps for a particular keyword. My own personal opinion lies somewhere in the middle.
In my experience your only competing with those sites that are actively targeting a keyword, one good way to find out which sites these are is by simply taking a quick look down the search index. The competition will be those sites that are using the targeted keyword in their title tag.
For example if you type the keyword “search competition” into Google you will see that highly targeted pages begin to fizzle out after the first 5 pages, the results then become a little more vague.
When I am working with a client or on a project of my own I like to see what the sites sitting in the top 5 places are doing right and how I can tweak my efforts to beat them. It is one of the most important aspects of implementing an SEO campaign, those sites sit at the top for a reason as they are doing something Google likes, therefore we should try and mirror it, but then go one better.
Some SEO experts have said that you need to be innovative in order to beat the established competition as a new site lacks little authority to trouble domains that have been registered for years. It may be true that authoritative sites are going to be hard to dismantle but you can not neglect building the basic foundations.
You don’t build a house by trying to think of new architectural rules, you follow the basic fundamentals and then start getting creative once your structure is solid and can last the test of time. This is my opinion and in my experience you will be building the correct foundations by structuring your site in a way that is already seeing success in Google, like those that are sat at the top.
OK, I hope I have convinced you that analyzing your search competition is important but what are we looking at what are the most important factors??
I don’t mention this first because I think it is the most important factor, I have mentioned it first because a site sitting at the top of a Google search with a high PageRank is going to be hard to beat, why? Because the chances are they are doing everything else right as well. On the other hand this can also be a good site to research in depth, to discover exactly what they did to get there. PageRank equals authority, if your competing sites seem to have high levels of authority you are going to have to put together a strong linking plan that will help build your sites authority.
In my opinion this is usually the determining factor with regards to which sites sit at the top of Googles search. When you analyze your competition you need to be looking at what anchor variations they are using, are they optimised? Are they natural? Usually the anchor text of top ranking sites is highly optimised and you will have to decide what it will take to beat them in this department.
On Page Factors
You need to look at how your competitors have optimised their page and what importance they have given to well known SEO areas, title tags, headings, alt, and general keyword density. The top 5 sites at the top of Google may have very similar off page factors and the way they have set their content out could be the determining factor. Also you should look at the Meta tags especially the the keyword tag. If a site is well established it will no doubt have done it’s keyword research, this can help you identify new profitable keywords that you may have well missed. Always back up any keyword possibilities with your own research.
Unfortunately you are going to have to take this into account as Google uses the Top Level Domain age to establish the authority of a site. It is used to weed out the spammy, low quality sites. This information can be used to inform you in terms of timescales. If a domain is 7 years old your going to have to be self motivated and consistent to catch them. If a site is a year or two old you will see results much quicker.
One thing I would just like to finish up with, is by advising you to back up your findings with your own personal research. Not all sites are optimised equally, some sites sit at the top simply by chance and have not been targeted at all. SEO is a game of patience, short term pain for long term gain. All you efforts will need to be tweaked month by month until you are happy that your on the right tracks. SEO is not something that can be performed in a month of even 2 months, it is an ongoing process that eventually becomes less arduous the more authority you build.
The way to beat your search competition is by using the weapon known as patience!
See you next time,
Author: Tim (292 Articles)
Tim Grice is the owner and editor of SEO wizz and has been involved in the search engine marketing industry for over 7 years. He has worked with multiple businesses across many verticals, creating and implementing search marketing strategies for companies in the UK, US and across Europe. Tim is also the Head of Search at Branded3, an SEO agency in Leeds.