Competitive Research – Who’s Your SEO Competition?

SEO Guide Step 2

Now that you’ve brainstormed a long list of potential keywords, you may be wondering which keywords are most important. Good question! We’ll spend two lessons on competitive research to help provide some answers.

First you’ll learn who’s your SEO competition among the top-ranked websites.

Identify the Top-Ranked Websites for Your Keywords

In this step, you begin to evaluate your potential keywords by finding the websites currently ranking for those terms. Knowing these “keyword competitors” helps you determine whether your site belongs in the competition for that keyword.

competitive field

Do I really belong on this competitive field?

You can think of a search engine results page (or SERP) as a competitive field. Each search query changes the game and the opponents entirely, depending on what the search engine perceives the searcher’s intent to be. Identifying who’s competing for a particular keyword topic can tell you what type of game is being played and whether you should even step on that field.

Some keyword competitions just won’t be your game.

Remember, your keyword choices influence who can find your website. So optimize your pages for the phrases and terms that buyers, not just window shoppers, might use to find what they need.

You must select keywords that interested site visitors would search for. And then make sure the content on your page answers their needs AND uses those keywords.

What do you hope your site visitors will do — make a purchase, sign up for your newsletter or other? Then figure out which queries those people will search for.

Fortunately, the search engines are trying to figure out the same thing — what people really want — for every search query. So the best way to tell whether a keyword could lead to conversion on your site is to see what kinds of results the search engine delivers.

If at least some of the top 10 websites offer the same types of products, services or information that yours does, then that’s probably a relevant keyword worth putting on your list.

Know Your True Competitors

Are all the top-ranking sites really my keyword competition?

Well, yes and no.

If you operate a campground, you might find that the Parks Service shows up a lot in related search results. Will your website ever be able to compete against this authority .gov website? Probably not for certain keywords. You probably don’t consider this government site or other high-clout sites (like Wikipedia) your direct competitors. Nevertheless, where these and other search result giants are competing for the same SERP space, they are among your keyword competition.

Still, the results reveal what kind(s) of pages search engines think are most relevant to this keyword’s perceived user intent. If ALL the top-ranking sites serve a different kind of visitor from the person you want to attract, then maybe you don’t want to compete for that keyword.

Bruce Clay in a go-kart

Bruce Clay optimizes the company’s annual holiday party with go-karts.

For example, say that your business designs go-kart tracks. Should you optimize for the keyword “go-kart racing”?

Looking at search results shows the answer: none of the top-ranked websites offer what your company offers. The search engine assumes that everyone searching for “go-kart racing” wants to go for a ride, so it will probably never consider your design company a relevant match.

You’d better keep doing keyword research. Look for more relevant keyword phrases whose top-ranking websites include some true competitors.

You can see how keyword research leads to competitive research, which leads to more keyword research, and so on.

Now that you know who’s your SEO competition for the important keywords, keep their URLs handy.

Next up in this SEO guide, you’ll use competitive research tools to spy on those websites and do some SEO competitive analysis.

Need more SEO tips?
See additional information on Competitive Research.

Related blog posts and articles
Back to Basics: Competitor Research – How to Beat Giants in the Search Results
Back to Basics: SEO Competitive Research: Data Analysis

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