For over a decade, savvy business owners have found that good competitive intelligence (CI) is extremely valuable; especially when the data gathered is synthesized in a way that it is useable and actionable.
Back in the day (I’ve been at this since 1999) one method of CI involved selecting your most important keyword phrase, searching Google for it and seeing who is out ranking you for that phrase, then studying those sites for data and ideas that you could deploy, which ultimately would help close that gap between them and you in search. Who links their sites to the people that are ranking in the top 10 for your best phrase? Also, what kind of links are those link providers receiving? How many more links do they have than you do? How many pages do your competitors have indexed and what does their information architecture look like? Are they blogging? Are they involved in social media? Having data/fact-based answers to the right questions about your competitions success can definitely help you to improve your own marketing plans and ultimately your search rankings. If they are on page one and you are not, it should be obvious that they are doing something right and that you can learn by their example! The important CI questions ask what they are doing better than you and help you formulate and update your strategies, tactics, goals and plans.
So, what should you be looking for these days when you research your competition? Certainly there are some metrics that are more important and actionable than others. A basic competitive intelligence inquisition should answer at least these important questions regarding the top listed competitors:
Domain Age: are their domains older than yours and how long have they been doing business online? Are they a legacy site?
Google PageRank: Is their PageRank higher than yours? This is important to know because PageRank is Google’s indicator of the over all quantity and quality of the links to a web page.
Citation Health: Are more people talking about your competitors online. Who is talking about them? Do they know about you? Search engines love sites that others are talking about and referring people to.
TrustRank: How much authority and trustworthiness are the search engines assigning to your site, versus your competition?
Index Saturation: Which sites have the most pages indexed into search engines and how many more pages does your competition have indexed than you do?
Domain Referrers: How many pages link to all pages in competitors domain? Are you in the same range as the top ten?
Page Referrers: How many pages link to the each specific page that is ranking for your phrase? Are you in the same range as the top ten?
Link Popularity: Link popularity refers to how many links a document has pointing to it, it is a shear count.
Link Reputation: Link reputation refers to what other pages are saying your document is about, usually via anchor text, co-citation and keyword proximity.
Deep Link Profiles: Healthy sites have great content beyond their homepage. Do your competitors enjoy this benefit? Does your site enjoy deep links from other pages?
Inbound Link Authority: Do you’re competitors have links pointing to them from .edu (educational) and/or .gov (governmental) sites? Do you have any of these types of inbound links?
Listed in DMOZ: Is your competition listed in the Open Directory Project? If they are not there then this is a great opportunity for you by getting listed there.
Listed in Yahoo Directory: Are your competitors domains listed in the Yahoo Directory? If yes, then you should likely make the investment also. If no then you can look at it two ways… 1. it is not imperative for you to spend this annual fee, or 2. this is an opportunity that may help you be found in an important directory that they are not listed in that contributes to you search authority. It is a matter of perspective but sometimes, these little things can make a big difference in search.
Basic SEO Metrics:
Are the top ranking pages using the target phrases words in their page Titles?
Are the keywords in the URLs (uniform resource locators) of the top ranking pages for your phrase ?
Are your competitors taking time to write unique Meta Descriptions for their pages? How many of the top ten pages have your phrase in their meta descriptions?
How many of the top ranking pages are using the keywords of your phrase in their page headers (such as <h1-h3> tags)?
Is your competition active on Facebook?
Are they Tweeting?
Do they have a YouTube channel and/or use videos to educate prospects and clients and to promote their business?
Are your competitors blogging?
How much social clout does each of your competitors enjoy?
When you see all of this data, for each of the top 10 ranking sites and then put your sites data into the mix, well, trust me when I say that this is usually an eye-opening experience providing a snapshot of what it takes to rank for that phrase and what you will need to do to move up for that phrase. The ROI for time or money invested to get good competitive intelligence is extremely high.
If you have never had CI work done for your business, take it from an old pro, this is something you really need to treat yourself too. If you just answer the basic questions I’ve listed above, then you will certainly be glad that you took the time to do so, that is, if you are a DIYer with many hours available to do the research and compile the reports. If you gather this data, create a spreadsheet and study the information you’ve gained, you will see things with a whole new perspective than previously and take most of the guess work out of what you should be paying attention to and acting upon to further your business and get to the next level and beyond.
If you can get this data and need help synthesizing it, I can consult with you. If you don’t have the time or tools to get this data and would still like to have it to work with, I am available to provide this service to you. This basic competition intelligence research and report is available as a stand alone task or as part of my much larger Domain/Website Audit service.
This basic Competitive Intelligence work provides outstanding information to better your success online and easily segues into more comprehensive keyword forensics and link intelligence gathering for those who have budgets for such work.
I am easy to reach at: 970-379-2744 (MDT – Colorado Time) Monday-Friday 10am – 4pm.
I hope that reading this article was helpful in answering your questions about why getting some solid competitive intelligence may be the right move for your business. If you really enjoyed the read, please share this page or link to it so your friends and associates can read it too.
Thanks, and Namaste!