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STEP TWO to SEO: Competitor Research

Have I Found Usable Insights From Top Organic Competitors?

Why should you do competitor research?

Well, SEO strategizing is like storytelling.

One guy can tell a story so well that you feel like you’re actually there. A different guy can tell the exact same story, and you feel like you lost 10 minutes of your life you’ll never get back.

One had the power to bring the story to life. The other completely missed the boat.

Similarly, some people are really good at growing traffic, increasing their following, and converting potential customers into regular users or buyers. They’re smooth sailors. They seem to have all the answers.

Others can barely keep their heads above water.

Although it may come as a surprise, successful SEO is not about having all the answers.

It’s about asking the questions you don’t even know you should ask to get the answers you didn’t know existed.

Great storytellers and successful online marketers have tactics that don’t just help them toward success. Those tactics are the very reason they succeed.

We can tell a thousand stories or write a thousand pieces of content, but if we don’t have strategies in place for targeting or engaging our audience, we end up with a pile of literary or digital vomit. Stinky words without meaning because no one is there to receive them.

So, what questions do you need to ask to develop the right strategies?

Multiple factors are at play in search engine rank. And there are skippable steps in SEO–competitor analysis isn’t one of them.

No one should begin any SEO campaign without investigating not just who they’re up against, but why they’re up against them.

To become successful in your industry or niche, you need to find out three things:

  1. Who your competitors are,
  2. What makes them successful, and
  3. How to use those insights to develop your SEO strategy.

Let’s start with #1.

Who Are Your Competitors?

Looking to your competitors is crucial for identifying usable insights you can include in your SEO campaign.

But insight tells us more than just what we should do; it also tells us what we shouldn’t do, or what isn’t worth our time or effort.

Competitor analysis isn’t a passive step. It’s also not intuitive, meaning you can’t just think you know who your competitors are or what makes them successful (or not) without doing the research. Sure, top of the head can be a good place to start. Then you have to go digging.

Now luckily, sussing out the competition overlaps with keyword research so you can double up and make a day of it. You can use keyword research (see step one in SEO success) to identify your main competitors. Take the most important keywords you want to rank for (or all of them) and see who comes up in the SERPs. If you see one domain in most of your searches, this is one of your top competitors.

Or, you can use paid tools like SEMrush. I encourage you to use every tool available, but as I mentioned in a previous post, make your brain your #1 go-to tool.

Then, like the clever little investigative mouse you are, find out what keywords your competitors are ranking for that you aren’t and add them to your keyword list(s).

Armed with your top four or five competitors, you need to evaluate each one by determining their strengths and weaknesses through the lens of your brand.

This is where questions #2 (why are they successful) and #3 (what usable insights can you gain) come in, and while you can make this a systematic linear process, it doesn’t have to be. If you’re the creative, artsy type, your research may be more dynamic.

Competitor ≠ Enemy

Now, many SEOs audit their competitors with the idea that competitors=enemies.

I totally and completely, to the power of infinity, 100% disagree.

Enemies work in opposition to us. Our competitors want the same thing we do.

Competitors are essential for helping you grow and succeed in your industry because they provide a vital point of reference. They show you what’s working and what’s not.

Why Are They Successful?

Now that you know who your competitors are, you want to find out why they’re rocking your industry and then use their insights to guide your SEO campaign.

But remember–everyone has flaws, so pay close attention to where your competitors are failing. Those gaps will be your most usable insights.

UEO: The New SEO

In addition to some cut and dry strategies, one of the first things you want to note as you visit each competitors’ site is its usability. Note when you feel frustrated, confused, or impatient and why, and then compare those irritating features to your site. If your site shares any of those attributes, change them.

Even the best SEO won’t help if your site is a pain in the ass to navigate.

Keep this in mind: SEO is more about user experience optimization (UEO) than optimizing the search engine.

As you navigate through your competitors’ sites, ask yourself these questions:

  • How quality are the images and videos used on their pages?
  • Are there links to organic content/informative pages that naturally extend the user’s journey?
  • Are their CTAs logically placed and do they lead the user to the place they said they would?

Now, let’s go digging.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of some of the more important aspects of your competitors’ sites that you’ll want to examine and analyze to determine what is worth extracting for your site – and what’s not.

Investigate link opportunities.

Link building is a major contributor to ranking. The more links that point to your site show Google that your site is trustworthy.

How many referring domains do your competitors have? This points to site popularity and strong SEO.

You can use the MOZ link explorer tool (free for 30 days) to generate a list of all the backlinks to your competitors’ sites. From there you can compare those links against yours (use a spreadsheet for this) to see where the gaps are, if any.

If you’re already ahead of your competition, this is not your current focus (but, don’t lose focus of this important aspect). If you are behind, time to step-up your link-building strategy.

What sites are linking to your competitors and not to you? Reach out to them.

Perform a keyword gap analysis.

Follow the same steps as you did to discover the gaps in competitors’ links but now focus on keywords using SEMrush or Ahrefs (both are paid tools). Although we can guess where the gaps are, this process helps us know with certainty.

Determining what keywords your competitors are ranking for that you aren’t is a starting point for creating unique content. Notice what works well for your competitors then take that a step further and make their best ideas even better.

One way to do this to type your main keywords into Quora or Answer the Public (both free) to discover what people are asking about it.

Content

Is their content well-written and does it provide valuable information that the user can’t find on a hundred other websites?

We live in a time of consumption. Anybody can claim to be an expert in anything by scouring the web for quick-digesting info and posting those regurgitated tidbits to their site. It’s the new-age style of digital research. But we end up with copycat versions of the very same thing, which ultimately, lowers the quality of the information.

Ask yourself: What content can you create that is going to set you apart from your competition?

H1s

Notice if your competitors have unique H1 tags that represent the content. H1s are a major ranking factor. While other features trend hard for a while in SEO, the significance of H1 hasn’t changed and it likely won’t.

H1s are the most obvious text on the page. Follow these quick tips for determining the quality of your competitors’ H1:

  • Is there only one on each page?
  • Is their H1 the title or does it accurately reflect what the page is about?
  • Does it include a target long-tail keyword? (this helps Google index the page appropriately)
  • Does it respond to the user’s intent?
  • Is it 20-70 characters?
  • Does it stand out on the page?

Social Media Presence

Buzzsumo is a good paid tool to find out how many people are talking about your competitors’ brand, your niche, or a specific topic identified by a target long-tail keyword. Type in your general topic and refine your search by adding or removing words. This tool will also help you determine your competitors’ social media presence, which is growing in importance in SEO.

And, spend a few minutes each day with a double-chai-matcha-ball-latte smoothie swiping through Insta to check up on your competitors from a user’s perspective.

How can I use those insights?

Hopefully you’ve gained some major insights by analyzing your competition. With these insights, you can develop tactics for improving or enhancing your SEO strategy.

Now, ask yourself:

What should I prioritize? (Where are you falling short of your competition? Or, where can you outshine your competition?)

And,

What is not worth focusing my efforts on?

Consider this last question carefully. We may think something is irrelevant (or important), but the metrics can surprise us. Unless you’re beating the pants off your competitors, you want to be as comprehensive and inclusive as possible in your SEO strategy, but you also don’t want to be barking up the wrong tree. It is an exhausting waste of energy and effort.

Text about Rand Fishkin and Moz

End of an Era with MOZ and the SEO Community

SEO Rockstar Rand Fishkin Steps Out And Moves On

College dropout-turned-SEO-messiah, Rand Fishkin is a legend in the SEO world. Co-founder of Moz, Rand held the seat of CEO for one of the top software analytics companies in the world for years. His SEO empire Moz grew out of the humble web design business he started right around the time Google entered our lives and changed the virtual world. Talk about being in the right place at the right time–and with the business acumen of a pizza pusher at a Blue Jays game (with the right amount of MOZ-arella).

Rand built his success, somewhat reluctantly, upon the general lack of knowledge about SEO and page ranking that existed at the time. While businesses clamoured to gain a first-page spot on any SERP, Rand outsourced research to SEO experts to meet the needs of his clients. With the demand for SEO expert knowledge and their prices increasing, Rand took it upon himself to become an authority. Massive research and self-study led to the birth of his blog SEOmoz and his successful venture to uncover the secrets of SERPs, which eventually became what it is today–Moz software business empire.

Rand’s SEO empire ranked #334 on the Inc. 500 list in 2010, has received multi-million dollar financing from high-profile investors, and receives over three million visitors per month. Its three primary products, Moz Pro, which includes Keyword Explorer and Open Site Explorer, Moz Local, and Moz API service everyone from professional SEOs to the local paint store owner to individuals who want site data and analytics.

After stepping down from his role as CEO of Moz and a subsequent four years fulfilling a variety of roles, Rand’s journey with Moz ended this past February. Rand’s last day at Moz was over a month ago and it was hard to digest.

Logical Mix Has Benefited Immensely From His Teachings

I know he’s doing more ‘whiteboard Friday’s’ (in fact, he lined up about a dozen before he left), but he’s gone to do… Sparktoro.

You can check out what the heck Sparktoro is by clicking here, but first, the million-dollar question lingers: If Moz is so successful, why the heck did Rand leave? The search for a clear answer leaves a pile of earth and stones. But reading between the lines of his personal blog, we can extract a sense that Rand was aggrieved by the operation of Moz over the past several years, which may be why he stepped down from CEO in 2014–this is mere conjecture though so don’t quote me on it. But he did write,

“On a scale of 0-10, where 0 is “fired and escorted out of the building by security” and 10 is “left entirely of his own accord on wonderful terms,” my departure is around a 4. That makes today a hard one, cognitively and emotionally. I have a lot of sadness, a heap of regrets, and a smattering of resentment too.”

Personally, Rand taught me a lot about the SEO game, one of the most significant being that it actually isn’t a game. When it comes to SEO best practices, he clearly demarcates between quick hacks for instant rankings and hard-won experiences as a result of consistent hard work. He reveals that his “secret sauce” for SEO success is not so secret at all and anyone who isn’t transparent about his SEO activities is likely up to some shady business. He insists that there is no one right move that will accelerate the growth of any business. The value is in the whole, not its individual parts. Anything else smacks of black hat biz.

But damn, even with the success of his SEO enterprise and the years of hard work under-riding it, Rand is an uncommonly humble guy. Personally, I suspect that is the cornerstone of his success. Humility supports a continuous desire to improve.

“I’m not sure I’d call Moz a ‘success,’ at least not yet. We’ve raised venture capital, and that means returning money to our investors, hopefully at a very high multiple. It’s a very tall task, but I believe one that’s possible – just an incredibly hard thing to do.” 

A juicy last tip from Rand: Put your customers first. VCs are important for economic growth but you’ve got to listen and respond to what your customers want.

Love him or hate him–that dude is a legend in SEO. White hats off to you Rand!

Check out Rand’s recently released book, Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World.

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the Griswolds looking at the sky in front of a house with Christmas lights

Happy Holidays from Logical Mix

Taking time to reflect on the internet and digital marketing business in 2017 has brought much joy to our hearts.

The internet is becoming more user experience focused…and we like that trend! The 2018 digital marketing landscape is going to be filled with change. Adapt or die.

The Good News:

We’re on pace to reach our long term goals with all our clients.

Thanks to all our clients for trusting us and believing we are the right company to grow your company online. We will not let you down.

Happy Holidays to all and to all a good night!

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Shopify logo

What Lessons Can We Learn From Shopify?

What Makes Shopify One on the Most Innovative eCommerce Solutions on the Planet?

We’re glad you asked.

Did you know that in just one year, Shopify increased their revenue by 90%? It’s probably why some short sellers are questioning the business model.

In the matrix of digital marketing, Shopify has found their niche: customized, SEO-rich lures that have made them one of the most innovative and effective ecommerce solutions in the world.

Find out how Shopify cracked that egg better than the other guys in the industry–but who are they again?

They Help Customers Before They’re Even Customers….

Shopify’s “try before you buy” free trial provides time and tips to get your business up and running before you’ve paid a cent. Once hooked, their pricing system has budget-friendly options.

Then, they break down new business start-up step by step, right from the home page, and provide real examples that everyone can relate to.

Shopify discovers what people want and own it. They create ToFu content and subdomains from highly searched keyword phrases. Their useful content draws in and assists all kinds of folks.

Daily blogs. In-depth guides. Instructive podcasts. Video courses taught by industry experts. All expertly optimized. Shopify create interesting, usable, and varied content, a little something for everyone, without email opt-in. One stop shopping for ecommerce education.

Shopify address new business owner concerns through a seven-day email series. Each one takes you one baby step further in set-up. But it’s not entirely altruistic. The introductory email congratulates the new business owner, while the CTA button reminds of the extra goodies available with a paid plan.

In addition to baiting new customers, Shopify go fishing… at the competitor. They identify and solve the primary pain problem competitors’ customers have with straightforward copy.

And of course, Shopify make good with their old friends too.

Their Twitter support channel broadcasts their awesome customer support, which makes them look really good too, like that 22nd selfie…nailed it!

They Take Smart Risks….

Shopify inspired the entrepreneurial spirit of thousands through Build a Business. Seemingly crazy, and $uper risky, it was the motivation behind the start of thousands of new, successful businesses, for a total revenue of $3,543,191 by shop owners. BOOM.

They make evergreen webinars available almost as soon as you sign up. Then they advertise them as a limited time offer (except they aren’t). This creates a speed-laced dangling carrot that turns traffic into regular users.

They Roll With the Big Guys….

How about a brilliant affiliate marketing scheme that benefits everyone? Shopify’s done it. With their affiliate referral system, Shopify have turned their customers into a mass-marketing, super-bomb Shopify team. And they use industry innovators to create awesome apps and designs just for Shopify–so they can hoard the good ideas for themselves.

And, for every app they partner with, they create keyword-rich, integrated landing pages that lead potentials to their free trial.

They Juice Up the Dry Stuff….

Shopify get how significant those little CTA buttons are. Theirs use a different kind of speak to respond to email subscribers. Totally refreshing. But who cares about the newsletters? It’s all about the free-trial, right?!

They have designed an attractive, interactive, and current product update page that gets thousands of social shares without any buttons.

They make meat of ToFu with perfectly-matched ad copy, super specific PPC landing pages, and MoFu keywords that lead the searcher to exactly what they want.

And all those little things, like logging and out stating the terms of service (yawn)… They take them to the next level, to be just that bit better than the other guys–remember them?

This all just smacks of clever business sense.

*All material researched and used can be found at: Shopify’s Website

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Birthday cake with 6 candle

6 Years In The 6

Today is the 6 year anniversary of Logical Mix.

It has been an awesome ride. Helping small to mid sized businesses grow their online presence has been one of the most rewarding things our company has offered the world. We pride ourselves on customer service and reliability, and that is what has kept us alive and well. Spending our clients money like it’s our own is our secret to success.

The online marketing world is an ever-changing one. We are constantly reading, listening, educating and going to conferences to learn about the digital world. We pass this knowledge on to our existing and new customers. We don’t focus as much as we should on our brand, because we are so focused on your brand. If your brand grows… Logical Mix grows.

SEO marketing in Toronto has been our bread and butter, but we do whatever it takes to get companies the exposure they deserve online. Whether it is web design, getting on local listings or directories, pay-per-click or social media…search engine marketing is what we do! (We stated that six years ago).

6 years in the 6 just sounded like the right title for this article.

This adventure has been incredible. We owe everyone we have had the opportunity to work with everything.

Thank you Toronto and the GTA (and Vancouver, USA, England, Thailand and China), for allowing us to work and build your economies.

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