If Keyword Research helps us generate a list of keywords web searchers are looking for using Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines, Competitive Analysis is how we estimate how much time and effort it may take to achieve top rankings for particular keywords or search terms.
If entering a new vertical we can show you how many times a keyword has been actually searched by real people over the last month, plus how strong the competition for that particular keyword is. This “number-of-searches-to-competition” ratio is known as Keyword Efficiency Index, or KEI.
But this approach hardly works for established companies looking to optimize their online business. In most cases competitors are entrenched for years in the niche, leveraging aged referral backlinks and massive indexed content to rank high in organic search results. For these we look at site age, links to the ranking pages and sites, if competitors are leveraging domain names, site traffic estimates, and if demand looks strong over time.
Our process is to get the top ranking pages for a particular query (the top 5 or 10 is usually sufficient to capture trends), then run analysis on the domain, on page optimization and backlinks footprint. Since these numbers are directly tied to the ranking models for Google’s ordering of search results, we’ve found that the data is especially accurate in predicting the relative difficulty of ranking on page 1 for a particular search.
Your typical keyword competition analyst works like this: checks SERPs for [intitle:keyword], [inanchor:keyword] and compares results. This gives him your exact competition, i.e., those who use SEO (optimized titles and incoming links anchor text) to achieve rankings. Our Keywords Efficiency Index covers this approach, but relevant competitive analysis would not be complete without an in-depth review of top competitor websites for given keywords, including their backlink footprint. In the end you can say we generate for the each competitor the same level of reporting necessary to optimize our clients’ websites. Doing so allows us to spot specific strengths and weaknesses (meta and on-page optimization among them, to name just a few), together with backlinking strategies used to rank high for the target keywords (like preference for article directories or blog commenting, link pyramids or reliance on related keywords for anchor text).
Again, competitive analysis is not an once-off process – we run the reports periodically, once a month or more often, and compare the results historically to identify trends and SEO activities. Most of the times we are able to predict and counteract a competitor’s campaign before it starts showing benefits and causes a reshuffle of the top ranking sites – thus allowing our clients to maintain predictable levels of traffic and conversion without sudden increases in marketing spend and reactive changes of their overall online marketing strategy.
Deriving online marketing strategies from competitive analysis results can have an impact on the client’s brand sentiment and perception. Next we’d like to discuss how we address these concerns head-on with our Brand Management strategy.