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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.

Santa reading

Have A Great Holiday Season

It’s been a great year! Internet marketing is such a joy for us.

We’ll be working hard, but everyone at Logical Mix wishes you all a great holiday season.

Happy Holidays.

 

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seo buttons

SOME TAGS NEEDED FOR SEO

On-Page search engine optimization (SEO) is certainly an important part of the website building process. If you want to show up on the first page of any search engine’s search results, on-page SEO is a must. Logical Mix outlines the 3 most crucial elements needed to improve your on-page search engine optimization.
1) Title Tags: Can also be called ‘title elements’. The title tag is the text used to define an online document or the website page. Other than the relevant content on a web page, the title tag is the most important component to on-page search engine optimization.
2) Meta Description Tags: This is where your description is shown when getting search engine results. Your website’s content will be described exactly how you want the reader to interpret it on the search engine results page of Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. This is created on the back-end of your website using the HTML tags properly. Ask your developer to code this accurately to your specifications.
3) Alt Image Tags:  Alt Image Tags allow search engines to understand the attributes of an image by describing them in text form. Search engine robots/spiders have a hard time crawling images for SEO purposes without text on them. Another advantage to Alt Image Tags is if the picture doesn’t load on a website, at least there will be a description of what image should be shown. Again, these tags should be applied by whoever is building your website (whether it is you or a developer).
Two extra things to mention are using ‘Header Tags’ (accurate descriptions to summarize the content on a web page) properly and applying proper ‘descriptions/ file names to the images’ you will be displaying on your website. For example, PICTURE-DESCRIPTION.jpeg or PICTURE-DESCRIPTION.gif.
We hope this helps with your internet marketing efforts now and in the future.
Please write us or post if you want to discuss more.
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Business road sign

WHY IS SIGNAGE SO IMPORTANT FOR BUSINESS

Let me share a personal story regarding business signage I encountered a few years back. When I was living in Vancouver, BC, there was a unique and delicious family owned pizza restaurant. It was a pizza place where they prepared the pizza for you, and you took it home and cooked it, making your entire kitchen smell like freshly baked pizza. The idea was brilliant, the pizza was amazing, and the customer service was out of this world. I visited the restaurant on a regular basis until a year after opening the owners moved north, and they ended up selling the business to a new set of owners. The new owners kept the same idea, used the same ingredients, and appeased the already existing customers, yet one simple poor marketing choice cost them their business as it ended any potential for attracting new customers – they changed the signage. The original owner had a simple but bright sign that could be seen from the nearest intersection, as well as handed out flyers and coupons door to door every Saturday morning. Their strategy was simple, but it worked. The new owners however did not upkeep these strategies and changed the sign to a black and white, non-visible, size 10, Arial font banner.  They then complained about not reaching people, but the reasons were evidently clear. Simply put, their signage cost them the entire success of their business.  Soon after their six month of opening, they shut the business down as it was costing them too much to operate and they were making little to zero revenue. The spot still remains empty and vacant to this day.
Now you may believe this case to be an extreme and rare, but the experience taught me at a young age the importance of signage, especially if you are taking over an already existing business. A sign can either attract someone in such a way they want to enter your business and learn more about what you offer, or in the case of the pizza store, your sign may cause them to laugh in embarrassment at the printed paper you have draping over your windows. The importance of advertising is vital to the overall success of a business, especially with small businesses. Signage is extremely important and can end up being the make or break in the overall success of your business. Here are some simple questions you should ask about your current signage on a monthly basis:
1.      Does this sign send the right message to my customer?
2.      Is the message relevant and eye-catching?
3.      Are the colors and design bright, vibrant, and noticeable?
4.      Is the sign visible in the early morning or late evening? Does it light up in the dark hours?
5.      Is the signage in tip top condition?
If your answer to any of these questions is no, then it is time to either invest in new signage or fix your current signage to accommodate the needs of your customers. If your signage does light up, but some of the bulbs are burnt out, the overall first impression from your customer is that your business does not have the time or care to replace the bulbs and update the sign.  More often than not, customers base a business purely off of their signage because it is the first thing they notice and it is their first impression. By ensuring that your signage is noticeable and in good condition, you will have a better chance at attracting the customers you desire to attract. Have good signage (logos/branding) online too. Get noticed.
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water on rocks

Blog About Needed Content

When blogging, you want to be the expert in your field. Own it!

Create content people are looking for or have a need for. If you are missing quality content to write about…avoid writing altogether and repost other peoples interesting articles.

Try searching your topics before writing. If they are already saturated with blogs, maybe rethink another strategy.

People want to be entertained and/or educated. Sometimes both. Get outside of the box if you have to.

Even though we should be taking our own advice. Blog on a schedule. Once per week, bi-weekly, per month, etc.

Write about relevant content.

Blogging can be done anywhere you want. This blog was written in the woods after working remotely around Ontario.

Remember…

Be the expert in your field!