Competitive SEO Reporting
As discussed previously, effectively optimizing a Web presence can be built around answering three simple questions and their related sub-questions:
1. What do I do?
Which keywords, content, channels do I focus on? Questions best answered by near real-time data, keyword and content research/discovery tools and custom dashboards to bring it all into focus in one place.
2. How did I do?
Have the SEO strategies and tactics I’ve performed delivered the desired results? Standard SEO reports delivering metrics and trends related to keyword positions, website traffic, conversions, social signals, backlinks or other content performance indicators.
3. How are they doing?
Who are my competitors? How do I compare to them? What can I learn from them? The primary topic discussed here, which will cover both the discovery/research and reporting sides of keeping tabs on your competition.
Who Are My Competitors
Before you begin monitoring your competitors, you must first determine exactly who they are. Most organizations have a clear understanding of their real-world, off-line competition, but fail to realize they may have an entirely different set of online competitors. Online competition is effectively any domain/content standing between your content and the top of the search engine results based on the keywords you want to be found for. As such, developing your list of online competitors should begin with keyword research and the identification of a core set of keywords you intend to focus your SEO and content marketing efforts on.
Depending on the size of your organization and Web presence this may be as few as 10 or as many as 50 keywords. Having developed a “focus” list, you should then review the top several pages of search results for each keyword and note domains/content, which consistently appear; these are your true competitors, from which you can glean data and insights to help develop your own optimization plans.
How Do I Compare to Them?
There are a number of comparison points you may want to refer to when conducting a competitive analysis in order to gauge your relative discoverability including:
- Keyword positions – Simple comparison of which competitors’ content maintains higher or lower keyword positions on a keyword-by-keyword basis. Seasoned SEO professionals will tell you this only tells part of a much bigger Web presence story.
- Keyword position distribution – Aggregate comparison of the total number of pieces of content ranking for a specific group of keywords. A closer indications of your content’s potential to be discovered via organic search.
- Keyword visibility scoring – A quick measure of your content’s visibility relative to your competition. Generally based on assigning a value to each of your keyword positions and dividing by the sum of all position values to arrive at a percentage score.
What Can I Learn From Them?
- Competitive Keyword Discovery – What keywords are your competitors optimizing and/or being found for which you are not? Analyze your competitors’ website structure (Title Tags, Headings, Meta Data, Content, Internal Links and/or Backlink Anchor Text) to determine their general keyword focus. Keep in mind, when you do this you are assuming your competitors have taken the time to optimize their web content for specific keywords. Depending on the industry and the online marketing savvy of your competition, this may or may not be the case. Some organizations choose to rely on the strength of their brand or focus more of their attention on pay-per-click (PPC) or other strategies.
- Social Activity/Engagement Comparison – Compare which social networks your competitors are active on and how engaged their audience is based on followers and/or shares relative to your own social footprint.
- Backlinks – How many backlinks do your competitors maintain and from how many unique domains? Note: To gain true insight, focus on the quality of your competitors’ backlinks, rather than the quantity.
- Technical Comparisons – How many pieces of the competitions’ content have been indexed by the search engines? What is the age of your competitor’s domain vs. your own?
Devise, Execute and Monitor an Optimization Battle Plan
Armed with data regarding your top online competitors, including where and how they are bettering you, you should be ready to develop a Web Presence Optimization strategy to improve your relative discoverability in search and social. In today’s world, where SEO and Content Marketing are intertwined, the basis of your plan should revolve around developing relevant, high quality content your target audience wants to read, like and share via their chosen distribution networks.
Depending on the sophistication and commitment of your competitors, your strategy may come down to “out-contenting” them in order to establish your brand as a dominant authority for the products or services (i.e. keywords) you want to be found for. We’ve several reference guides on developing optimized content marketing strategies/tactics and would be grateful to hear those, which you’ve found to be most effective.