As an experienced SEO professional, I understand the challenges of designing an SEO strategy that leads to results.
If you're looking for online visibility, you may know the right keywords for your business but remain unsure about what it takes to get search results. Or perhaps you’ve already invested in the process but have little or nothing to show for it.
Fortunately, there are ways to identify a strong SEO strategy. You'll need to use the right metrics as your base. And let's keep in mind how search engines work, starting with Google.
Google is a relevancy and authority search engine. When a user or potential customer enters a keyword(s), Google will run through its 200+ ranking factors and return what it thinks are the very best results. That's because relevant and credible search results will please users and ensure people will keep going back to Google for their queries.
Over the years, the world's most popular search engine has become very sophisticated and also much more skewed toward big brands. In Google's view, websites with an established “brand" tend to have these factors in common:
- Larger sites have lots of great content
- They tend to get lots of quality backlinks
Google's web crawlers search the web using key metrics such as great content and quality backlinks to reward great websites with traffic, and to bury the less appealing ones. Thus, you can determine an SEO strategy by analyzing the Page 1 ranking of your competitors. This helps to establish the baseline of what metrics you’re SEO campaign needs to use.
Here are three steps that will help you become an SEO authority in your industry.
Step 1: Pick the Right Keywords to Analyze
Most businesses know who their top competitors are. However, your top SEO competitors can be different from your business rivals. So make a distinction and identify which competitor websites you want to analyze. (Keep in mind that you want to rank high in search results.)
To start, you'll need to pick the right keyword(s) to use. As an example, let’s look at my website outreachmama.com. Because it provides blogger outreach services, I want to rank for buyer keywords in that industry, not general keywords. I'd rather not compete for a general term like “blogger outreach” because I'd be battling against powerful authority sites like articles from Kissmetrics.
Why fight a war you can't win?
Continuing our example, you should instead identify websites that also offer this particular service (blogger outreach) and search for “blogger outreach services” or “blogger outreach agency." Apply this same process to your website by picking the right suffix (i.e., longtail keywords) for your product or service. And once you’ve identified your top keywords, gather your top-ranked three to five competitors. Then start quantifying how much authority they have.
Step 2: Determine the Amount of Referring Domains Each Competitor Has
Referring domains is another way of saying how many websites link to a particular site. The more quality domains link to your site, the more authority Google will assign to your site. But keep in mind that websites that use black-hat methods such as spamming their way to thousands of referring domains will risk getting blacklisted by Google and other search engines. Generally, these aren’t the type of websites you’ll find on Page 1.
Related Article: The Game Has Changed: 3 SEO Realities to Be Aware of in 2016
Step 3: Identify the Size of Each Competitor’s Site
Finally, go to Google and use the following operator: “site:yourcompetitor.com." Google will show you how many average results there are for that search. That information will also show how large your competitor’s site is.
Now compare these referring domain and site size values with your own website to get a sense of what metrics you should strive for in your SEO campaign. For example, if your website has 200 pages indexed in Google and your top competitor has 1,000 pages, then you should consider investing more marketing dollars into growing the unique content of your site. For instance, you can grow your blog, increase user-generated content, establish a more comprehensive FAQ section, improve your resource section or all of the above.
The reason why larger sites translate into more SEO authority is because more pages mean more opportunities for Google to crawl your site. More content also means more opportunity to establish internal linking as well as gain backlinks.
If your website has 60 referring domains and your top competitors average 400 referring domains, you need to strategize a quality link-building campaign that can generate more links per month until that link gap is closed. Based on the quality of links you’re targeting and the quality of the content you’re looking to generate, you can then estimate an appropriate SEO budget.