opinion

SEO: How to (Really) Beat the Competition

SEO: How to (Really) Beat the Competition

Search marketing is a highly competitive enterprise. You can win a tremendous amount of traffic by outcompeting just one of the top 10 ranking leaders for a particular keyword. This is the philosophy we work by at Adult SEO Partners.

To get your share of top 10 traffic your site doesn’t need to be the biggest, nor does it need to be the best. It just needs to be a little better than the weakest site in the top 10.

The competitor you focus on should be the site among the top 10 ranking sites that you have the best potential of outranking.

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 monitor and to understand how to use what you discover to benefit your site’s ranking.

Monitoring, or spying on, your competition is a necessary and well-established business strategy practiced across virtually every industry, both offline and on. It is essential that you know what your competition is doing so that you can devise ways to do it better, faster and more profitably. If you have established a goal of ranking within the top five for a popular keyword phrase, you will have greater success if you study how the sites currently ranked in the top five got where they are, and what they’re doing to stay there. Only then will you really understand what you need to do to break into that group.

Researching the strategies your competitors use for 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 SEO. In this month’s column, I’m going to outline a number of the specific metrics and strategies you can use to keep an eye on the approaches your competitors are taking in this regard in order to help you keep pace with them.

When monitoring your competitors, focus on the following:

Where They Get Their Links

Knowing exactly where your competitors source their links can help you to follow the same ranking path that has worked so well for them by attempting to get links from the same, or similar sources. Knowing where they get their links can also provide you with an opportunity to discover new link source categories and can give you new ideas of other creative avenues of acquiring links.

How They Get Their Links

Understanding how your competitors get their inks is just as important as knowing where they get their links. Researching how they get their inks enables you to determine how many links hey receive organically as compared to the number of links they trade for or purchase. This can give you an indication of their strategy, their goals and their budget.

The Value of Their Links

Researching the value of all of your competitors’ links will reveal not only the most valuable link sources but will also give you an idea of the value of the links you will need to obtain in order to rank competitively. Once you have a list of your competitors’ most valuable links you can do your best to get links from as many of the same sites as possible. You can also research the most valuable links on those pages in order to build out your 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 monitor. Your link velocity will either send signals to search engines like Google that your links are being acquired organically or that they’re being built unnaturally, and therefore should be devalued in the search engine ranking pages (SERP). Keeping an eye on the link velocity of your competitors is important as it provides you with guidance as to the pace you should be maintaining, or exceeding, when it comes to acquiring new links.

All 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 in order to discover 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 also reveal many other potential target keywords for your SEO efforts. You might not necessarily compete with the same website for each of these additional keywords, as you may find new competitors for each target keyword depending on the strength of the websites that make up the top 10 in the rankings.

Their Use of Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords are typically less expensive and time-consuming to rank for than the one or two-word keyword phrases that most companies focus on. Monitoring your competitors’ use of keywords of this type can help you determine your own approach to keyword length. If you have a fair amount of time and money to devote to SEO purposes, using only long tail keywords, which typically are used by a smaller subset of consumers, may not be optimal. However, the greater ease of ranking for keywords of this type can make doing so an attractive option, either as part of a more comprehensive SEO campaign which also includes shorter, more difficult to rank for keywords, or as a stand-alone campaign. In either case, gathering intelligence about what your competitors are doing in this regard can provide valuable tips about what long tail keywords you may want to rank for.

The Percentage of Their Traffic That Comes From Search

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

Who Are Your True Competitors?

Before you invest time dissecting other top 10 ranking sites, it’s important to decide which sites you should actually consider to be competitors. 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 with; rather, it will be the one with the fewest links and least ranking authority. The competitor you focus on should be the site among the top 10 ranking sites that you have the best potential of outranking.

Adrian “Yo Adrian” DeGus is a 15-year adult industry veteran and founder of AdultSEOPartners.com, 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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