Making the Most of an SEO Competitive Analysis

    October 31, 2005

Optimizing a website can be a challenging task, but make sure you take a good look at what your competitors are doing online, in order to stay on top of SEO efforts for your industry.

If you’re ready to embark on a search engine optimization campaign, you’ll want to take a close look at your competitors.

Either they’ll be ahead of you in the SEO world or you’ll detect their deficiencies and rush right past them in terms of search engine visibility.

Here are 8 key considerations.

1. Page Titles

See what kind of page titles competitors’ use. Do they only include their name or a page name? How much do they vary? Is there a different page title for every page? Do they seem to contain reasonable search terms? Are they dominated by keywords or marketing messages?

2. META Data

Do they do a good job of providing keyword-rich META descriptions? What balance do they strike between mentioning the company’s value or special offers and conveying core keywords?

3. Quality of Content

How much copy is apparent in each page? Is there any emphasis on the visible text? Can you even count 250 keywords on critical pages? How are the headers organized? Does the company take advantage of text navigation?

4. Robots Text File

See what the Web site owners are telling the search engines. Are search engine spiders encouraged or discouraged by the directions listed in the robots.txt file?

5. Link Building

Find out how many places are linking to the competitor. You may not have time to determine the quality of all of the links, but see how many they have compared to your Web site.

6. Saturation

Determine how many pages of the Web site have been indexed by the major search engines. How does each competitor compare to your efforts to provide relevant content that can be crawled by search engines?

7. Site Design, Architecture and Technology

Is it professional? How would you describe the design? Is it SEO-friendly? Does the site rely on static pages or dynamic content? Are there frames or Flash with the familiar “skip intro” button?

8. Rankings

As best you can, select 10 keywords and phrases and find out how well they’re ranking on the major search engines. Do they rank well? Can you catch up?

Michael Murray is vice president of Fathom SEO, a Cleveland, Ohio-based search engine optimization firm. A member of SEMPO, he authored the U.S. Manufacturers Resist Natural Search Engine Optimization and Online Sales Leads study and a white paper, “Is Search Engine Optimization Worth It? SEO and the ROI Debacle.”