How To Scope Out Your Competition's Website SEO and Branding
If you've chosen a business that sells similar products to everyone else, it can often be difficult to get regular website traffic from Google.
Even if you run a business in a niche which has relatively low competition (such as "Toowong Baby Clothes") it can be difficult to appear at the top of Google if your competitors have an older website or have spent more time on it.
So how do you compete with other businesses selling the same or similar products to you?
Here's a quick guide to finding issues with their website and beating them at their own game.
For this guide, we recommend downloading SEOQuake, a free toolbar that can easily help you analyse your competition. It's quite simple to install and use, and if you don't want to use it later on, it's equally easy to delete or toggle on/off.
Source Code Analysis
Once you've opened up the page source, you'll be faced with a whole lot of code. Don't worry though - it'll be easy to find what you're looking for.
Simply press CTRL+F and do a search for "meta" or "keywords".
You'll be looking for a code that looks like:
[highlight color="cool-blue" style="style-1"]<meta name="keywords" content=[competitor's keywords here]>[/highlight]
If you can see keywords, then those are the ones that your competitor is trying to rank for in Google.
While you're in the source code you can also check for:
[highlight color="cool-blue" style="style-1"]<meta property="og:title" content="Site Title" />
<meta property="og:url" content="www.theirwebsite.com/" />[/highlight]
This coding allows images and previews to be preset for any link shared to Facebook. Not having an open graph protocol can lead to very messy looking link shares.
Diagnosis - This is a more in depth look at your competitor's website. Some things here are more or less important but some of the leading to check include:
- URL and Title
- Headers. Heading tags tell search engines what titles are important.
- Images. Alt attributes help indicate to search engines what images are about.
- XML Sitemaps. A sitemap can be submitted through search engine webmaster tools so that search engines can more easily track and index content on your site.
- RSS feed. Important for promotion, tracking information and commonly used by visitors.
If you've downloaded the SEOQuake free toolbar, it can come in very handy for quickly scoping out your competition. There is a lot of information we can get from this toolbar, but we'll just stick with three main things in this guide.
PR - This is page rank and is a very general guide of what Google thinks of a website based on their authority and backlinks. Page rank goes from 0-10 with 10 being the best. Most small business websites will vary between 0-4. If the page says n/a or 0, this generally means they haven't put a lot of work into promotion. However this is only 1 of about 200 factors Google uses to decide rank.
Age - You can tell when a domain was first registered and noticed by Google. Are they new on the scene? Is there domain years old but only recently built? Click on the age to have a look at copies of their page as it appeared in the past - you may get an idea of how they've changed or upgraded it.
Above The Fold
An important part of any website, in Google's eyes, is the area above the fold. This basically means the area that appears as soon as you visit a page or site, before you have to scroll down to see more.
Above the fold should have minimal advertising, quality and relevant content and avoid a single huge image or anything else that will detract from the overall ability of the site to immediately give the searcher what they're looking for.
Analysing Your Competitor's Social Media and Branding
It's often quite easy to scope out your competitor with a quick Google search for their name. There are a few different things you can look for:
- Is their name so common that another, unrelated business is ranking higher than them in Google?
- Do they have other social media pages and accounts appear in search?
- Does their website appear in Google, and if so, does the title and description seem clear and well designed, or has it simply been pulled from their basic site description, ending with a ...
- Do they have listings in directories and does their name appear in other places that they don't directly own or run?
- In Google, does their title and description show clear forethought in planning to appear in search results?
- Directories - are they appearing in directories or other advertising places online?
- Outside mentions - how many blogs, pages and websites are talking about them?
- When their website links are shared to Facebook, do they have neat and pre-made preview images and text?
- Do they have a presence on multiple social media sites?
- Do their social media pages include a strong about section, listing their website, location, contact email and description of their services and products?
Figuring out exactly how strong your competitor is
Once you've had a look at all the different aspects of your competitor's brand and promotion, you can figure out just how hard they're working and how hard you'll have to work to beat them.
Here's a quick checklist of things they should and shouldn't have, where you can beat them at their own game:
- Page rank: 0 or n/a is the lowest.
- Either keywords listed in their meta tags [although we no longer recommend meta tag keywords], or obvious use of relevant keywords on their pages.
- Strong header tags - H1 tags used at least once and H2 tags used for titles and other relevant parts of the site.
- Strong titles - straight to the point wording describing their location, products or what they do.
- Clear Layout - Does their website have a clear and easy to understand layout with clear menu titles?
- A search friendly above the fold area - minimal advertising and information that doesn't require scrolling down.
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