“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. This has often been attributed to ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu, and sometimes to Niccolò Machiavelli, but there are no published sources that can confirm its origin to predate its use by “Michael Corleone” in The Godfather Part II (1974). No matter where it came from, it has a distinct SEO and digital marketing application. Businesses should keep track of what their competition is doing to promote themselves online. You may ask “why do this?”.
As smart as you might be, you are not the originator of all good ideas. I know this might be difficult to grasp for some, but most of the time, your competition is having a level of success for a reason. There’s a good chance that they have thought of something that you have not, and it would benefit you to find out what that is. Let’s go over the ways to check your competition.
- Visit your top competition’s site every so often. Once or twice a month should suffice. This will afford you several insights.
- You can make note of anything that you really like that you think would make a great addition to your site, and then add that to your own site. Maybe you like how they have “FREE SHIPPING” at the top of the home page, or the way use a popup to capture email addresses. Whatever the case, write down the things you like, and then talk to your web guy about whether or not it would be smart to add them to your own site.
- You can be aware of any sales or promotions going on. Knowing this will allow you to match or better their offers if you so choose.
- Know what keywords your competition is ranking for. This does not take away the necessity of doing your own keyword research and coming up with your own plan of attack for SEO, but this is a great way to supplement that plan. Knowing the keywords your top competition is targeting can have serious value, especially if they’re a big company with a big marketing budget. You might be able to piggyback on the keyword research they’ve done to see where you might want to focus as well. It also might help you know where to pick your battles. If you’re a small player with multiple large competitors, it’s a good idea to go after more detailed keywords that aren’t as competitive. Knowing where they’re focusing their SEO efforts can help you avoid proverbially banging your head against an SEO wall. You can get limited information on this for free at SEM Rush or Spyfu. Those are two of the top competitive research tools, and you do have to pay to get access to their complete information. You can find a good list of several other tools (paid and free) here. A simple free way to do this research is to use Google’s Keyword Planner Tool. While it won’t be all-encompassing, it does give you a good idea. All you need is a free Google account to access the free Google Keyword Planner Tool in the Google AdWords interface.
Log into AdWords, navigate to the Keyword Planner, and locate the “Find new keywords” option.
Then, select “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category”.
Once you’ve opened the form, click on the text field under “Your landing page” and enter your competitor’s URL, and then click “Get ideas”.
Google will now take a moment to crawl that URL and generate a list of keywords related to both the page and the website as a whole.
When Google finishes and displays your results, click the “Keyword ideas” tab below the graph to see your list of competitor keywords.
- Another way to know what keywords your competition values, is by looking to see where they are paying for clicks. After and during your initial keyword research, look to see who is showing up in the sponsored results in Google, Bing, and Yahoo. If they’re willing to pay for the clicks on a certain keyword, they probably think highly of it. SEM Rush is again a great tool for this.
You don’t want to obsess over your competition, rather use this information to help you pick your battles, glean the good from what they do, and get a better understanding of what does and doesn’t work in your industry. Obviously, come up with your own personalized plan, and execute that according to your situation. As always, if you have any questions about any of this, let us know!
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