Knowing what your competitors are up to will give you a head start in any walk of life, and SEO is no different. Competitor research gives you a heads-up as to what marketing strategies your closest rivals are using. Competitor research also encourages you to look at the quality of the top ranking sites, to gauge if they are in reach or not.

In this, the 3rd installation of Ten Steps of SEO we take a look at what advantages can be gained looking at your competitors. We will take a close look at who is linking in to your competitors. We’ll also look at the quality of these links. The reports we produce can usually help you gauge what social media activity they are involved in too. You may taken back by all of this and think maybe it’s a bit over the top, but I guarantee, if they have a half decent online marketing campaign, they will be looking at your site.

Overall quality of the competition.
We will not spend too long on this area but it’s definitely worth spending a little time on. For this exercise we will look at the top 10-12 sites for the main keywords you came up with in Step 2: Keyword Research. There is a very useful plug-in for Firefox called SEO X-ray this, I recommend installing this as it is great for quickly getting a snapshot of a pages SEO. Take a few minutes looking at each of the sites. Look at the number of inbound links to the page, the keyword density, and the age of the domain. SEO X-Ray will display all of this. A final check I would do would be to work out the average PR of the top ten sites. As a rule we shouldn’t be put off by the PR of our competition however if the average PR of the top ten sites is high, then we know that this is going to be a tough nut to crack.

Know your enemy.
The next step is to look at your closest competitors as these are the people you are in immediate & direct competition with. Throughout your SEO you are going to need some of link reporting software. I use Advanced Link manager; however this is not free software. There is lots of free software out there all do pretty much the same thing. Link reporting software not only tells you how many links you have but who is linking back to your site. Once you have your link reporting package, run it on both your site, and your closest competitor’s site. Look at the sites that are linking in to your competitors, check out the links this will give you an idea about what kind of SEO activities they are participating in. Are there lots of links from blogs, article sites? Are the links from authority domains, and what kind of page rank are these? If there seems to be lots of links from social media sites, then we know your competitors are engaging in a lot of social media activity. If they are not then here is an opportunity to get a step ahead. The great thing about this exercise is we now have a list of potential sites/pages to link into your site. After all if they feel that your competitor’s site is important enough to link back to, why shouldn’t they think the same about yours?