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Step 11 to SEO: Internet Partners

Have I been building relationships with non-competing companies?

Why would I need to build relationships with non-competing companies, unless they’re stakeholders in my business?

Two things:

First of all, everyone is a stakeholder in your business.

Second, It’s not all about you and your business.

Just kidding! It actually is, but it’s also all about the other guy and how you can help each other out. You know, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

But rather than risk collecting someone else’s dead skin cells and DNA under your nail bed, let’s view this idiom through the lens of online business and internet marketing.

Forbes noted that “the best way to create a consumer Internet company worth north of a billion dollars is to build a digital transaction business – a company that connects buyers and sellers so they can more efficiently transact.”

So north of a billion dollars is rather ambitious but hey, we also don’t want to limit ourselves so let’s just say that anything is possible.

Now, in my opinion, this statement doesn’t target a particular type of business; this is every company that’s in the business of selling a product or service online.

Let me illustrate:

You have a dog training niche website that sells every possible thing a dog lover could want. Out there in cyberspace, exists a really cool app that measures your dog’s health, sort of like Fitbit, but for your pooch.

With this app, you can time your dog’s walks (and yours, incidentally), find breed-specific diet recommendations, manage your dog’s vet check ups, create a feeding and med schedule, and monitor his vitals. It’s even shareable so when pooch goes to the sitter, they have an automatic detailed set of care instructions without you having to list everything out.

Photo source

This is an ideal non-competing internet partner. You can install a link to download that app on your site, and that app can link to your site for extended, comprehensive information and all the cool doggie merch you sell.

Further, you can also link up with local vets, doggie daycares, and pet insurance companies, so that you’re providing your customer with a toolkit of dog care products and services.

The most important thing in all of this is that they can all drive traffic to your site.

Why Should I Purposefully Create Internet Partners?

It’s probably going to happen organically and randomly after all, why is a strategy necessary?

Think about it this way:

When you hit the gym, it’s for a purpose: to achieve your fitness goals, whatever they are. If you just allow the randomness of Nature or Chaos Theory or the Cosmos to guide you to it, you’ll end up on your couch eating cheese doodles and watching Game of Thrones, wondering why you have to undo the button of your jeans every time you sit down these days (I speak from experience).

The same is true for digital marketing relationships.

Every success starts with a goal.

And every goal starts with a strategy for achieving it.

A strategy involves a set of actions or behaviours that help you reach your goal.

You simply can’t get the goal unless you have some idea of what you’re going to DO (binge eating junk food and watching Netflix ain’t it).

But this is not a blog about productivity (though we could all use a little brush-up on how to be more productive), so I’ll get to the point.

Let’s look at what those actionable steps look like in your Build-BOSS-Net-Buddies strategy (Yes, I just used the word BOSS as a synonym for awesome. No, I’m not 21 and hanging-10).

Step 1: Go Local

Start with citations.

Create online citations so other local online businesses can find you. To learn more about how to do that, check out our Step 5 to SEO blog: Local SEO.

Step 2: Be Present

Develop a social media platform and get active.

I can’t stress how vital this step has become in this Insta-age. People won’t even go to a restaurant these days unless they’ve scoped out entire menus, read related reviews, and seen a catalogue of food pics first.

You need an online presence to be anybody now.

The great part is that it helps you find non-competing companies to hook up with. Even just a few minutes scrolling, searching, hashtagging, and commenting is time well spent.  

Photo source

Step 3: Network

Reach out to other companies and offer them something of value.

Remember the I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine idiom? Here we are. People love givers so be the first to give. You’ve got to give a little to get a little so don’t be afraid to spend your time or expertise helping other people.

This is where you get creative. How can you share your product or service with non-competing companies in a way that truly benefits them and also helps to promote your business?

For example, as a local SEO company in Whitby, Ontario, Canada, I’ve connected with dozens of local businesses in my community through a network called Java Jolt. It’s a member-led group of business people who meet up to help each other out and build a supportive network. From there, my network of contacts exploded and I’ve got partnerships with just about every industry you can imagine. (If you want to know more, check out my interview with Whitby’s Chamber of Commerce).

Now I had a starting point with which to offer my service to companies who needed some digital marketing expertise, perhaps a little nudge in the right direction. This contributed to my professional reputation in all the right ways and I got to meet and help some really cool people and be part of some interesting projects.

The Bottom Line…

Forging new relationships is a vital part of any business development but it’s absolutely crucial for SEO. It’s the other less technical, softer and squishier side of SEO because it deals with real, honest, and often face-to-face interaction if you’re sticking local.

Consider all the people, consumers, businesses or otherwise who search and buy based on recommendation. Consider all the times you’ve searched for a product or service based on someone else’s recommendation.

So the bottom line is, if you want to show up in an online search, Build-Boss-Net-Buddies. That is, create and foster giving relationships with non-competing companies.

Logging out,

Logical Mix

STEP 2 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.

Keep in mind that no one recipe is going to work. The strategies offered here are dynamic, flexible, and relative to your brand and business approach. Read far and wide, talk to people in the industry, and follow your nose to broaden your SEO arsenal.

Last words of advice…

Don’t rush the process.

Use the available tools–anything of value is worth the investment.

Know that competitor analysis is an ongoing process so keep it up.

Logging out,

Logical Mix

Feature photo credit

whitby chamber m2m logo

Logical Mix Chats with Nat from Whitby’s Chamber of Commerce

I recently had the pleasure of catching a ride through Brooklin with Whitby’s Chamber of Commerce CEO, Natalie Prychitkoas, a guest on her YouTube series “Chat with Nat”.

I was a bit awkward at the start. I tend to wear an expression that makes you expect to see a couple of stray feathers sticking out my mouth, a little tweet tweet echoing from inside me. That expression intensifies when I’m a bit nervous and then I stumble over my words a bit.

For example, she asks me––

“You’ve got young kids, don’t you? You know how I know? Because your front porch is full of young kid plastic stuff,”

I reply as my usual witty self with this awkward gem:

“You didn’t think that was me?” I joked, as if to suggest I spend my afternoons wearing swimmies, splashing in a kiddie pool or practicing my golf swing with a Little Tykes 3 Wood.

Because as a guy in the digital marketing biz, that’s exactly the image I wish to portray.

But permanently-etched mental images aside, Nat was correct. Our house is overflowing with every kind of plastic toy you can imagine because my wife and I have two young boys (three, if we include my afternoon antics). The point is, I know I’m awkward but that perma-grin is really because I’m just kind of a big kid inside.

She asked me about my history and why my family and I moved to Brooklin from Toronto. My wife and I grew up in Toronto and we loved living there but once we had our first son, our house became a bit too cramped for us so we entered Suburbia. We chose Brooklin because it’s a little bit like Pleasantville––everyone waves and smiles, and smiles and waves. There are paths connecting this street and to that park and to Heber Down (if you haven’t been to Heber Down, do yourself a favor and check it out), and there are some really great burgers right in town. What more do you need in a community than great neighbours, nature trails, and good grub?

And then we moved onto business. Nat asked about what I do and why I do it and what I’m anticipating for 2018.

I love this question and it’s one of the reasons I’m happy I got the chance to chat with Nat. I love having an SEO company in Whitby and I want to tell everyone who will listen.

In addition to being a dad and a husband, I’m also a digital marketing geek who started up his own biz in 2011. Before that, I worked for a company called Contractors.com, which did internet marketing for tradespeople. It was awesome and the site was receiving 200K visits per month right up until Google changed its algorithm that removed ranking authority from domain names. I sat in on one of their meetings and was fascinated by how Internet search engines could be so strategically manipulated. That was essentially how I got started in digital marketing, which led to the creation of Logical Mix.

Nat asked––“Why did you join the Commerce and what are you anticipating for 2018?”

When I moved to Whitby, it felt like a good time to immerse myself in the community so I joined the Java Jolt––a member-led group of business people who meet up to help each other out and build a supportive network. They opened my eyes to the Chamber so I checked them out and like their vibes––Bob’s your uncle.

As for my 2018 goals––well, basically, I’m a community guy. I want to help people and the way I do that is by helping local businesses grow and build their online exposure. It’s what I know and what I do. It’s why I’m so proud of the work the Whitby Chamber of Commerce does for the community. They are true ambassadors for businesses in Whitby and the Durham Region.

I’m grateful to Nat for her time and for sharing our chat on YouTube––check it out below: