The value of competitor analysis should not be underestimated when it comes to organic SEO. When taking on a new client, or even determining why a keyword ranking may have dropped; analysis of competitors’ sites should always be a top priority.

Once keyword research has been completed, you need to know where (if at all) your site currently ranks, and what you need to do to get to the top. This is where competitive analysis comes in as you need to determine exactly what you need to do to rank above the top sites. Generally, similar sites will target the same types of keyword. When you search for your chosen keywords in Google, you will probably find that there are 3 or 4 sites that consistently appear in the top 3 results; these are the competitors that you want to check out.

Competitor analysis generally falls into 3 categories; content analysis, structure analysis and back-link analysis. In the first part of this 3-part series, we will be analysing content.

We all know content is King, and it can make a huge difference to rankings. The more useful content you have on your site, the better your chances of increasing visibility in search engines.

Once you have found your top competitors, review their results to determine how and why they are ranking highly for certain keywords. Take a look at their landing page; their copy should be at least 250 – 300 words and, if they are ranking well, should theoretically conform to best practices. Are they clearly targeting the keyword that they are ranking for? Think about the user experience; will a potential customer find what they are looking for on this page? If they are carrying out ethical SEO and conforming to best practices; the main keyword for that page should appear around 3 times throughout the copy. They should also have internal links using other keywords. You can download a fantastic app for your browser called Quirk Search Status. This tool gives you information on the Meta Descriptions for each page as well as a list of keywords the competitor may be targeting. Not only does this help you to analyse their site, it may also give you ideas for alternative keywords that you might not have thought of.

The Meta Titles and Descriptions should contain the targeted keywords for that specific landing page. You can normally determine which keywords are being targeted just by looking at each; the URL of the landing page should give you a clue as to what they’re targeting also, but we will look at this further in the next post.

Content doesn’t just apply to landing pages; check out the competitor’s blog and social media platforms. Are they producing and sharing unique content? Is it interesting enough for others to share it too? In the third part of this series, we will look at back-links and content sharing as a way of increasing authority.

Finally, take a deeper look at their online presence; are they also making use of pay per click services such as Google Adwords? If so, what keywords are they targeting and are their landing pages relevant to the keywords they’re purchasing clicks for? If the competition is an e-commerce site; do they appear in the Google Shopping results? Lastly, do they appear in Universal Search and Google places?

Once you’ve analysed all of the above; you are ready to look at the competition’s site structure. In the 2nd part of this series, we will look at how structure can increase authority of pages and why technical site requirements are important in SEO.

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