SEO & Competitive Analysis

October 6, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

We’re back after a super speedy 15 minute break.  Up on stage we have Dave Cook, Gradiva Couzin, Jeff MacGurn, and Taylor Pratt.  Taylor is wearing a cowboy hat. I have already awarded him 5 Cool Speaker bonus points.

But enough about that, speaking first is Gradiva. Helloooo, Gradiva.

Why Competitive Analysis?

  • no lonely metrics
  • managing expectations
  • steal ideas and strategies
  • ammunition

No Lonely Metrics

No lonely metrics is an idea put forth by Avinash Kaushik: “Never ever never never never ever present any metric all by itself.”  You want to create context for your findings.   It needs to be knitted into everything you do in SEO. She sees it as a tonic you pour all over your SEO efforts. It makes everything better. Like chocolate. And beer. Mmm, beer. Okay, that part came from me.

Context can find your findings more impact.  It’s the difference between having 14 seller ratings in Google and knowing you have 14 but your competitor has 235.   It can benchmark where you stand against your competitors.  It makes you sexier and what you say more persuasive.

Competitive Analysis Tool Round Up

Sometimes you pound the pavement – when you can, you use tools! lets look at some tools through the SEO life cycle

Keyword Research: Idea generation. What keywords are competitors ranking for, using on their site, or targeting in PPC?  Tools are good for ideas, but they can’t tell you which keywords are bringing your competitors value.

Which keywords are actually sending traffic? You can use these tools to find out.

  • Compete
  • Alexa
  • Hitwise
  • ComScore
  • NetRatings

Goals & Benchmarking: Evaluating the difficulty of the space – how powerful & well-optimized is the competition?

Ranks & Traffic: What is their overall traffic level? Who is ranking for my targeted keywords? How can you assess their rankings to understand their threat to you?

Link building: What backlinks does the competitor have? You want to know this not only because sometimes sites linking to your competitors could link to you, but also because you can gauge a lot about your competitors linking strategy.  You can also see whose buying links.

Social media listening: Monitoring Twitter activity

  • Follow them on Twitter [Private Twitter lists are awesome. #justsayin]
  • Twazzup
  • Topsy
  • Tweetdeck
  • Tweetbeep alerts
  • The Archivist
  • Trendrr

Monitoring Facebook Activity

  • Facebook’s own search
  • SocialSenseFB
  • Like their company page

Reputation monitoring: General Web listening & dashboards – at the crossroads of competitive analysis and reputation monitoring.

Next up is Jeff.  He’s from Covario.  He lets us know they’ll be giving hangover meds later after last night’s open bar party that they sponsored.

Jeff lives in San Diego. He goes to the San Diego Zoo a lot.  Like, 20-30 times a lot.  At the zoo, they teach you how to deal with animals that escaped.   If a tiger escapes, you don’t try and outrun the tiger.  You just have to outrun the guy next to you.  [That’s why I go places with Rhea.  I could totally take her in a lion attack.] That’s what he wants to talk about in terms of competitive SEO.

How Fast Should I Run

  • How much should I be spending on my SEO campaign?
  • What is my rank saturation compared to my competitor’s rank saturation?
  • Based on industry standards, how much of the traffic are they getting on non-branded items based on their rank versus me?
  • Does it align with my market share?

Looking at your market share vs your competitors market share can be a really powerful way to prove that you should be spending more money on SEO or that you should maintain a particular level of spend.

Where Should I Run?

What kind of content do my competitors have? What kind of content is ranking for the keywords I want to rank for?

  • Training?
  • Introduction?
  • Comparisons?

You may need to re-evaluate your content strategy. Maybe that’s UGC, maybe you need to hire people, etc. Competition is about do you feel out of place on a particular keyword search.

Whats the best way to run?

  • do I need to create content?
  • do I need to fix technical issues?
  • Do I need to build links?

Where did everybody else go? What are they doing?

  • Social media
  • widgets
  • blog mentions
  • press releases
  • hub analysis

They look at a lot of the social sites now to see if their competitors have a social strategy. You can do site searches on social aggregators and see how many times articles for their domain have been submitted. You can sort that by date, popularity, whose submitting them, etc. You can gleam a lot of information this way.  You don’t need to do it on every site, just do it on a couple. has a lot of good examples to help you find other tools to use.

Dave Cook is next. It’s not the American Idol David Cook. Hopefully you’re not too disappointed.  He’s also not Dane Cook. He sounds like he hates his name.

He’s a fan of SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

Know your strengths…and your weaknesses.  Are you new or small?  Be honest with yourself. Don’t try to beat the big guys out of the gate. If you’re a smaller enterprise, you’re not going to compete for [running].  Where can you compete NOW?

Competitive Analysis

Where do they get traffic/sales?

  • SEM keywords and sites
  • SEO keywords and sites
  • Facebook, twitter, etc.
  • Compete for traffic funnels

They like Google Insights for search. They found a keyword they know their own traffic on, then they plug it into GI and get their number. They create a baseline off that which they can use to break keywords into buckets.

Natural Search

  • Anchor text analysis
  • Keywords driving traffic – SEOmoz, Open Site Explorer (uses this one the most), Majestic SEO

Content Analysis

What keywords appear on their page?

  • Page content
  • internal anchor text
  • site hierarchy

Crunch time

De-dupe and compile keywords into a spreadsheet. Look at keywords, source, traffic potential, competitiveness, etc. Decide which keywords make sense for you.   You want to find opportunities to play on right away.

Add Content

Add alternative keywords and phrases to your pages to case a wider net, especially if your page has authority.

Internal Links: Optimize internal anchor text for target terms.

External links: Start with who/what you know. Who do I work with that has a patner or investors page? Who do I know that maintains an online presence? If you can’t think of anyone you need more friends.

Community Building

Where are your potential linkers? what are they reading? Blogs? Use Google Blog Search to find relevant blogs. Follow blogrolls through a few hops.

What’s your contribution? What can you give? Content? Product? Research? Ads you can barter? Figure it out. What do you add to the conversation?

He thinks the biggest threat is spending too much time staring at your competitors. They’re a moving target, they’re not sitting around staring at you all day.

Up next is Taylor Pratt.

Mission Objectives

  • Identifying targets
  • Operation:Search – on-site optimization information gathering
  • Operation: Anchor – off site optimization tactics
  • Enemy surveillance program – competitive analysis strategy

Identifying Targets: Determining who your competitors are

Identify broad and niche competitors

  • Broad competitor: competitor in your market
  • Niche competitor: competitor for a segment of your market

How to Identify

  • Take note of competitors routinely showing up for related searches.
  • Ask the client to compile a top 10-20 list of online and offline competitors
  • Survey customers
  • Research industry associations, forums and networks

Operation: Search

Goal: Determine what their strategy is, how successful they are at implementing it and to learn from it.

Operation Search: Keyword Analysis

  • What keywords do they believe are priority
  • What keywords they are targeting that you should?
  • How well are they ranking for their targeted keywords?
  • How well are they optimizing their Title tag structure?

Operation Search: Content Analysis

  • What keywords are they focusing their headlines on?
  • Are they focusing heavily on branding or optimization
  • Are they optimizing their internal link structure?
    • Which keywords are they using the most as anchor text
  • How often are they creating new content?
  • What types of content are they creating?
    • Is it link bait like content or just branded content

Operation Search: Technical Analysis

  • How well is their site rendering in the search engines?
  • How are they optimizing their navigation>
  • What are their calls to action? Are they obvious>
  • How well is their site being indexed in the SERPs?
  • How clean is their HTML? Does it look like they are actively optimizing their code>
  • How quickly is their site rendering? How does it compare to yours?

Operation: Anchor

Goal: Determine what their external site optimization strategy is and to learn to capitalize on it.

Operation: Anchor – Backlink profile

  • Total # of backlinks
  • Date backlinks were created. Pay close attention to growth patterns
  • This pages receiving the most backlinks (outside of the home page
  • Anchor text being used. Pay special attention to which pages are being linked to.
  • What percentage are images/no-follow?

Operation: Anchor – Types of Links

  • What forums are they participating in?
  • What associations/organizations are they members of?
  • What conferences are they sponsoring?
  • What blogs are they guest posting on? At what frequency? On what topics?
  • Can you tell if they are buying links?

Operation: Anchor – Acquisition

  • What are they doing to acquire these links?
  • What is their content creation strategy?
    • Are they inviting guest bloggers?
    • Are they creating viral content?
    • Are they creating free tools and widgets>
    • Are they conducting interviews?
    • Are they holding contests?
  • Are people reviewing their products on their own sites?
  • Where are they getting mentioned and what is the sentiment of those mentions?

Enemy Surveillance Program

  • After initial competitor review, revisit every quarter.
  • Determine how their strategy is evolving
    • How have their rankings increased/decreased?
    • How many inbound links have their built?
    • How much has their site grown?
    • Did they launch any major link bait programs?
    • What were their successes and failures?
  • How does this compare to your site?
  • Are there any new links, communities, keywords for you to target

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