Last week I wrote my first post here on SEO competitive research and promised to follow up on exploring your competitor’s most effective techniques. But before that let me first share my thoughts on defining who actually to compete with. Finding your direct competitors is one thing but deciding whose strategies to research and learn from is yet another topic often overlooked and misunderstood. There are two factors you should bare in mind while analyzing someone else’s strategies:
- You never know which of your competitor’s techniques actually worked. I often see people evaluating competition simply by counting his (linkdomain) backlinks. You never know which of these links actually influenced Google’s opinion unless you take time, effort and imagination to look deeper.
- You cannot compete with time. Age and well-established history is crucial for gaining authority. You cannot outdo it by the intense link growth or on-site optimization.
Determining who to compete with
Both of the above factors brought me to one effective technique: find and learn from your young and already successful competitors at the first stage. If you are a startup, there is no point in trying to beat the sites that have been on top of Google for the last 3 years: fight in your own weight category.
There are several advantages of this approach:
- It is much easier to explore younger sites’ link building techniques, simply because they have fewer backlinks than the ones that are 3+ years old;
- With new sites you will see techniques that really work now (not 2 years ago);
- New sites are most likely to use new techniques, so that’s great for educative purposes.
To find those new sites with great potential I search Google and analyze the results using SEOquake FireFox plugin. This tool lets me see all necessary information within Google results page and what is more I can sort results by any of the set parameters:
This plugin allows you to quickly evaluate your competitor’s age, traffic, both linkdomain and page backlink numbers, Google index and PR data, even Yahoo and Dmoz directories and social media mentions. This provides exhaustive information necessary to make the decision if this site is worth further analysing. It also saves time immensely by showing you all the information on one page in a readable and sortable way.
So now having completed the first two parts of the competition research, we are pretty ready to move to the actual competitor’s techniques analysis. And that is yet another story I am going to describe in the third post of the competitive research series at SEJ.