Before you dive into creating a new website, or optimizing an old website for the new client, assessing the strength of your competition is the crucial factor which will show you exactly what you need to do to outrank them. And while a lot of competition is a good sign when you’re researching the market (millions of results for your keyword usually mean that there’s general interest and money to be made there), it’s different when it comes to optimizing your website for the search engines. But there are steps to do, and if you do them right,
The numbers aren’t as frightening as they seem
If your Google search for the targeted keyword phrase returns 5 million results, it’s important to remember that most of them aren’t doing any optimization, and that most of the other part is probably optimizing for another keyword, so don’t get discouraged by this number.
The numbers you should look for are those that show the results listed when you search with operators allintitle: and allinanchor: – those will be the pages that optimize for the keyword you’re going after, and thus your competitors.
Now, not even all of these should you be worried about. Some webmasters are more skillful than others, and some of the websites listed are old and abandoned. Your true competition are the websites who found their way to the first page of search results, beacuse you aren’t interested in being No. 62 or 428. So you see, you’re not competing against five milion websites; you’re competing against the best of them.
Assessing the strenght of your competition
After you’ve defined your competitors, it’s time to see how strong they are. By „strong“, we mean how well their website is optimized for the targeted keyword, and how many links are pointing back to them as well as what is the quality of those backlinks and the anchor text they use.
The main data you should look for include:
Domain Age – Search engines tend to favorize the older domains, so if your competitors have newer domains, it will be easier to beat them.
PR – When you’re checking the Page Rank, examine both the PR of the homepage and PR of the page ranking in the SERP. While PR isn’t much of a ranking factor by itself, it reflects the overall strenght of the links pointing back to the website and to its pages.
On-site data – Explore titles, H1 and H2 tags, internal architecture of their website. That way you will be able to see what they did wrong, and what you can do better.
Indexing – If your website has only 50 pages indexed in Google, and your competitor has 500, it will be more difficult to beat them for the terms that are more generic. Also, the large number of indexed pages is sometimes a sign of an authority website, that is hard to compete with.
Incoming links – The number of links is one thing, the quality of links is quite another. Your competitors can have thousands of low-quality links (blog comments, footer links, links from linkfarms etc.), but you will easily outrank them with a much lower number of quality backlinks, like those from guest posts. On the other hand, by closely examining the link profile of your competition, you can find many backlinking opportunities for your website.
If all the numbers are looking good, you can easily beat the competition and claim your place on top of the search results. If they aren’t as promising, don’t give up – you can always look for some easier keywords to start from. Optimizing your website for several easier words can get you as much traffic as the #1 for a tough one, so it’s not a bad place to start.
Jeff works at nPromote, a NYC based SEO company. In his free time, he enjoys writing articles on the latest SEO and Internet Marketing tips.