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Uncovering Your Competitors' SEO Strategy

Do you know how your competitors are using SEO? These free and simple tools can provide you with valuable insight to help enrich your own SEO strategy.

By
Diane S. Thieke,
February 26, 2013

Uncovering Your Competitors' SEO Strategy

by Diane S. Thieke

A good question to ask when you’re evaluating your search engine optimization strategy is how your competitors are using SEO. You might think it’s hard to peek beneath the hood of your competitor’s website, but it’s actually not. Using a few free and simple tools can provide you with some very worthwhile insight that can enrich your own SEO strategy.

Google and other search engines

First, brainstorm a list of the words your customers might use when searching for the products and services you offer. Then, simply conduct a search on the major search engines, and look at the results. This is a great way to identify which keywords a competitor might be using in their SEO strategy – and how well they might be succeeding.

Google’s Keyword Tool is another way to use Google to gain useful insights. Type a competitor’s domain into the website search box, and evaluate the data in the columns. The last column is “Extracted from Webpage,” and it shows the terms that Adwords recognizes from the domain’s index page (or other web pages, if there’s no index page).

What to include in your final report:

  • Keywords that have your competitors on the first page of results
  • Ranking of your competitor on each page
  • Potential keywords that have low competition but a decent local search volume

Alexa

If you like data, you’ll love this tool. On the Site Info tab, enter your competitor’s URL into the search box. The resulting dashboard provides a wealth of information, including traffic ranking, top queries from search traffic (the keywords people are using to find the site), and audience demographics.

What to include in your final report:

  • Top 10 queries driving search traffic to the site
  • Search terms in which ads for your competitor have appeared on the search results page
  • High impact search queries (popular search terms relevant to the competitor’s site and targeted by advertisers)
  • Audience demographics

SEMrush

This tool provides insight into the online advertising strategy of your competitor. It also provides data on the terms the competitor is buying, and how well this advertising strategy is working by showing traffic generated by the ads versus the traffic generated by organic search terms. A top-level report is free, but to get deeper data a monthly membership is required. And at $69.95 per month, it’s not cheap.

What to include in your final report:

  • Top organic keywords
  • Top ad keywords
  • Position of the site for this keyword in results
  • Volume
  • Cost per click
  • Percentage of traffic coming to the site from this search
  • The number of results returned from this search

Taken together, these data points can give you a good picture of what keywords your competitor is using for both their SEO and paid advertising strategy. The rankings data will provide insight into how well their strategy is working, and the audience demographics can be useful in determining if you’re targeting the right audience for your product.

Diane S. Thieke is the president and founder of Simply Talk Media, a digital media marketing consultancy. With more than 25 years in digital media and technology, she helps clients build stronger relationships with their customers and communities, using both social and traditional channels. Follow her on Twitter at @thiekeds or visit her blog at www.simplytalkmedia.com/blog.

SEO photo from Shutterstock.

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