Coke developed Coke Zero, Pepsi developed Pepsi One. Dominoes offered $5 pizzas, Pizza Hut offered $5 pizzas. NetFlix started delivering DVDs to your door, Blockbuster thought they had better get in on that. Do you see where I am going with this? What your competitors do is extremely important to what your business does . If they have an advantage, you had better work to erase that advantage.
When beginning a campaign, be it SEO or SEM, we always make sure we are aware of the competition. It is a great way to find out where a client stands and what they need to improve upon. (It’s also a fantastic way to get new ideas!)
What Types of Things Do We Look At?
You could spend upwards of 40+ hours performing a thorough analysis of a company and it’s competitors. However, you can also get a good look at a t-bone steak by sticking…oh wait, that’s not how it goes. The bottom line is you can get a pretty good idea of a competitor by looking at the following variables (and it won’t take you a week to do):
1. Domain Age
The general conclusion is that the older the domain the more relevance it has in the eyes of the search engines (Yes, like everything else, this isn’t a certainty but if all else is equal, the older site will typically perform better). If your site is new this shouldn’t discourage you by any means, but it could give you an idea as to why a particular competitor is performing better.
2. Additional Sites Owned
What other types of sites does the company own? Are they related? Do they cross-link the sites? Is this something that you could or should do?
Example : We have a client that sells used equipment. While they have one main site their competitor has three different sites breaking up used equipment by industry. Does this mean our client should do this? Not necessarily but it does show them the approach their competitor is taking and the markets they also have to target.
3. Directory Listings
DomainTools will tell you if a competitor is listed in dMOZ and the Yahoo! Directory. More importantly it will provide you with the category they are listed in and the company description. How do these directories/search engines see them?
Search Engine & Traffic Stats
Do you sell your products online? Are all of your pages indexed? How many pages does your competitor have indexed? The number of pages indexed can play a huge role in determining your success and of course your competitors. If you only have 100 pages and your competitor has 10,000, it will probably be tough to compete for the more generic terms.
5. Incoming Links
This may be the most useful piece of information you will find. Yes, seeing that they have 3000 links to your 28 is good to know but what you really should ask is ‘What are those links?’. What types of sites are linking to your competitor? Are they paid links? Are they using social media? More importantly, What can you do to obtain these types of links?
6. Google PR & Alexa/Compete Data
Yes, I know these are not precise but they do provide some insight into where you stand in comparison to the competition.
On Site Data
7. Meta Tags
Is your competitor using title tags? Do they have meta descriptions? What keywords are they using in the title tags? Checking out a competitors meta data can also help you determine whether or not they are engaging in any seo.
Beside links, this is probably the most important piece of information you will find. What type of content do they have on their site? Do they offer resources? Articles? A blog? What type of content do you have?
9. Usability/Internal Linking Structure
As you are going through the site, take a look at the internal linking structure. Is the navigation easy to use? Are they using keywords in the anchor text? What types of categories or hierarchal structure do they have?
Other Information to Check
10. Keyword Rankings
Take 10-15 keywords that are important to your business and check them next to your competitor. Once you have this you can begin analyzing why they perform better for certain keywords (using all the aforementioned data).
Is your competitor running a paid search campaign? What terms are they bidding on? What position are they bidding for? Do they also rank organically for any of the terms they are bidding on?
A competitive analysis is a great way to gain insight into your competitors business and of course your own. Each piece of information listed here on it’s own won’t help you understand your competition but combined it will.
Competitive analysis can be as thorough as you’d like it to be and the fields listed above are just the beginning. What other areas do you check out when looking at competitors?