SEO: Outrunning the Competition

Search marketing is a competitive game. There’s a wealth of traffic to be won by outcompeting just one of 10 sites ranking for a particular keyword. And it’s this effort to outcompete one of the 10 that separates those with top 10 rankings and those without.

To get your share of top 10 traffic you don’t need to be the biggest and you don’t need to be the best. You only need to be a little better than the weakest site in the top 10.

Researching your competitors page optimization, site structure, internal linking methods, keyword targeting, marketing strategy, current rankings, inbound link volume and quality as well as the rate at which they acquire new links are all essential aspects of adult SEO.

It should be the job of every site owner, or their SEO consultant, to not only identify the weakest of the top 10 ranking sites, but also to identify the key metrics to spy on and to understand how to use what you discover to your own benefit.

Spying is a necessary and well-established business strategy practiced across virtually every industry, both offline and on. You need to know what your competition is doing in order to do it better, faster and more profitably. If your goal is to rank within the top five for a popular keyword phrase you will have more success if you study how the currently ranked top five sites got there, and what they’re doing to stay there. Only then will you really understand what you have to do to break into that group.

Researching your competitors page optimization, site structure, internal linking methods, keyword targeting, marketing strategy, current rankings, inbound link volume and quality as well as the rate at which they acquire new links are all essential aspects of adult SEO. In this month’s column I’m going to outline many of the specific metrics and strategies that you should be keeping an eye on in order to keep pace with your competitors. When spying on competitors you should pay attention to:

Where They Get Their Links

Knowing exactly where they get their links can help you to follow their same ranking path by working to get links from the same, or similar sources. Knowing where they get their links can also help you to discover new categories of link sources and can give you new ideas of other creative avenues of acquiring links.

How They Get Their Links

Understanding how they get their links is just as important as knowing where they get their links. By researching how they get their links you’ll be able to determine how many links they naturally receive compared to how many links the trade and how many links they buy. This can give you an indication of their strategy, their goals and of their budget.

The Value Of Their Links

Researching the value of all of their links will reveal not only the most valuable link sources, but will give you an idea of the value of links you can expect to have to obtain in order to competitively rank. Once you have a list of your competitors most valuable links you can work to get links from as many of the same sites as possible and you can also research those pages most valuable links in order to build a longer list of potentially valuable link sources.

The Rate At Which They Get New Links

The rate at which you get new links, otherwise known as your link velocity, is a very important metric to keep an eye on. Your link velocity will either send signals to search engines like Google that your links are being acquired naturally or that they’re being built unnaturally, and therefore should be devalued. Keeping an eye on your competitors link velocity is important so that you know the pace at which they’re acquiring new links, so that you’ll know the pace that you must maintain, or exceed, yourself.

All Of The Keywords They Rank For

Once you determine who your primary competitor is, for the target keyword you’re considering, you should expand your research to learn all of the keywords that particular site ranks for. This will not only give you an idea of how formidable this website might be, but will reveal many more potential target keywords that you can go after yourself. And for each of these additional keywords you might not necessarily compete with the same website, you may find new target competitors for each target keyword depending on the strength of the websites that rank within the top 10.

The Percentage Of Their Traffic From Search

Attempting to gauge the traffic volume of a website by using Alexa ranks, is in my opinion, too ineffective to rely on. Alexa only gives you an indication of traffic volume since their metrics are gathered only from people using their partner toolbars or direct monitoring services. A more reliable method is to use professional SEO research tools that not only monitor overall website traffic but that categorize it by traffic type. Understanding competitor traffic sources can give you insight into their marketing strategies.

But Who Are Your True Competitors?

Before you invest any time into dissecting other top 10 ranking sites it’s important to decide which site you should actually consider a competitor. A competitor in search is not necessarily the same as a competitor in your market. Assume you operate a dating site and are trying to rank for a particular keyword, your first assumption might be that the other big dating sites ranking for the same keyword are your competitors. In most scenarios this is true, but in this instance any site that you can outrank should be your target competitor. Or, if the top 10 is dominated by only dating sites, your competitor won’t necessarily be the site you compete for affiliates over, rather it will be the one with the fewest links and least ranking authority. Your competitor is any top 10 ranking site you have the best potential to outrank.

There is a story commonly passed around among SEOs that illustrates this concept well.

Two men are walking through the woods. Suddenly, they see a bear in the distance, running directly towards them. They turn and start running away. But then one of them stops, takes some running shoes from his bag, and starts putting them on.

“What are you doing?” says the other man. “Do you think sneakers will help you out run that bear?”

“I don’t have to out run that bear,” he says. “I just have to out run you.”

Adrian “Yo Adrian” DeGus is a 12-year adult industry veteran and founder of Adult SEO Partners, a professional adult SEO agency catering to large established adult sites. DeGus, who has provided advanced consulting services to many leading sites in the adult industry, also operates Adult SEO Training, a popular service that helps webmasters, program operators and affiliate managers to learn in-house SEO.


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