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BACK TO BASICS: SEO Competitive Research, Part Two: Identifying Competitors

BACK TO BASICS: SEO Competitive Research, Part Two: Identifying Competitors

by: Bradley Leese, January 2006

A New Perspective

Optimizing for the wrong words will result in failure to achieve sales goals.

Step one: create a website with high sales conversion with minimal effort. The secret to spending less time on your SEO campaign is by getting a better understanding of your website's true competitors. This is achieved by changing the focus of your SEO campaign away from dominating the competition towards improving the product and service sales. Sound alluring? Learn to channel your company's desire for website greatness towards high profitability through competitive research.

Know Thy Self

Learning to see yourself through your customers' eyes will help you to define what improvements are needed to increase sales conversions.

See your website through your users' eyes by going to each search engine and typing in what you think your site is about. Often websites are well ranked for phrases that people never type in. What are the results? How easy was it to find your site? Confirm that the sites that are well ranked for your most important terms are relevant to your industry.

Next, do a little Q&A by browsing your site with these questions in mind:

  1. Is the information on the site labeled in a clear way? When I navigate the site are the pages labeled to match the content on the page?
  2. How much content is on the page? How well does the content explain the subject? How many pages on this subject are there on the site?
  3. How many links are linked to the home page? How many links are linked to the major subjects on the site? Review your links page how relevant the links pointing out are. Are they related to your industry? Review the sites that are linking to you, how relevant are they to your site?

At this point you may have discovered that the keyword phrases that you thought users were searching for are vastly different than what visitors are actually typing in to find you. If this is the case then you need to start research to determine which the phrases are most accurately leading to your product/service content.

Sales Conversion Defined

By defining which keyword phrases convert to sales, you can increase profit and decrease overhead.

Compare and contrast which of your keyword phrases bring in the customers who buy your products and services. Identify which words cause your customers to buy through your shopping cart or pick up the phone and buy via a customer representative. By learning to identify which keyword phrases are profitable and those which the cost exceeds the benefit, you can maximize the effectiveness of your SEO campaign. Sales conversion for organic search results can be quantified by subtracting sales generated from well ranked pages by the effort required to rank these pages. Get started with a complete list of all the keywords by including all the major phrases from website content, your website's log files, and the complete list of keywords from your PPC campaigns.

With a powerful web analytics program in place this task will prove to be much easier. Learn about how to maximize your results with minimal effort through PathStats, our newest SEOToolSet offering. PathStats offers the ability for you to track ROI on organic and PPC campaigns alike to ensure that each dollar is spent toward maximum profit. The sad lesson you will soon learn is that the majority of your keyword phrases while bringing in huge amounts of traffic fail to convert to actual sales. The solution lies in finding and studying the competitors that are directly taking away your profits. This exercise has undoubtedly revealed that the websites you thought you were competing with are actually mere bystanders as far as profitability is concerned. What you do with this knowledge will determine your success or failure in becoming a worthy player rather than being lost at the wayside.

Traffic vs. Conversion

Shifting the focus away from broad high traffic phrases towards lower traffic, higher conversion keywords will eliminate marketing cost waste.

So what is the big deal about optimizing your site around high activity/large traffic keyword phrases rather than placing a larger emphasis on targeted/high conversion keywords? The simple answer is the bandwidth while a more complete answer is the bandwidth/effort. The only problem with ranking for a huge activity word like "internet" is that you are likely going to find that ranking for a word this broad will mean that you will have to pay for a great deal more bandwidth to account for the increased number of visitors. While this doesn't sound like a bad thing when put into prospective, it may start to sour. The effort it takes to get and keep this word ranked along with the low conversion to sales and the price of increased bandwidth might end up costing more than it is worth. The alternative is to instead focus on multi-word phrases that people who are ready to buy actually type directly into the search engines. Choose keywords that will provide you with pre-qualified customers who are ready to buy. The reason is with lower bandwidth, lower effort and high conversion keyword phrases you can make more money faster and for an extended timeline.

Identify True Competitors

Identify your website's true competitors by analyzing high conversion keyword phrases.

Identify high activity, high conversion keyword phrases taken from your log files and words gleaned from an analysis of your site analytics. Enter each keyword phrase into the big three search engines, Google, Yahoo and MSN and record the top 10 to 20 sites for each phrase. Then go to each of these websites and determine which are closest to your own product/service offerings. After eliminating the sites that are least relevant, it is time to scour each site for its most vital keyword phrases. Remember not to discriminate which phrases to keep before analyzing the activity of each keyword phrase. Next, get the activity for each phrase and eliminate the lowest activity keywords. Then repeat this process until new phrase acquisition has been depleted. When you have eliminated the low activity phrases revisit the each search engines to determine the relevance of each phrases by evaluating the relevance of the search results. The last step is to understand where you fit into this new picture. Go out to each search engine and record your keyword rankings. It is time to face the truth; how do you measure up? Are you even a blip on the radar? After making a complete circuit of Google, Yahoo and MSN what percentage reside in the top 10, the top 20, the top 30 and the top 200? At the completion of this exercise you will have your industry's most critical keyword phrases and your website's true competitors.

Bonus: If you want to cut the time it takes to identify competitors in half, login to the SEOToolSet and read about our competitive analysis tools.

Next: Part Three, Measurable Parameters

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Learn how to dissect a competitor into measurable parameters that quantify high keyword rankings.

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