SEO Competitive Analysis: Tackling the Tools - Steve Parker, Jr.

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We're beginning our "Go Big or Go Home" series with a piece on how to size up the competition in SEO (search engine optimization). We begin with SEO because it is truly important to lay the foundation for success on your website early on, thereby setting the stage for future optimization. Determining what the competition is doing in the space is a great first step in identifying opportunities for your own site.

To begin, we'll share some (free!) tools with you to help you better understand where your competition stands.

The most basic of these tools is probably the Google Keyword Tool . We have referenced it before in a post about social messaging. It is valuable because it can help you decide which keyword to target. It does this by offering two important pieces of information: 1) volume of queries, 2) status of competition.

It also offers you keyword ideas–that is, keywords that may be related to your search queries that also have a good volume of searches.

The second of these free tools is the Google Insights for Search. This tool can be reached through the Keyword Tool by simply clicking on the keyword you wish to discover more about. This will give you some more in-depth information about the month over month volume of queries and the country or countries where the keyword is most often implemented. Additionally, the Insights for Search gives you ideas about fast-growing related keywords. For "discounted hotel rooms," for instance, it suggested "hotel discount codes," which has seen a growth of +70%. This not only tells us beneficial information about related keywords, but that also perhaps the competition is encouraging customers to book online by offering promotion codes that can be typed in at checkout.

Our third helpful SEO competitive analysis tool is Open Site Explorer, which was created by SEOMoz in order to promote link transparency. It gives you relevant information about the backlinks a competitor may use. Here is an example of what you might find there if you typed in the Wall Street Journal. Beware, however, that unless you upgrade your account, you may only look at five site reports a day:

Web Page Test is a good source of finding out your competitions' site load time. What does that matter, you ask? Well, Google has made it clear that a fast site load time is factored into their algorithm. They know that people do not want to wait for 10 seconds for a page to load. You can test a site (including your own) on all the different browsers as well, which could also help explain bounce rates (if you are seeing a difference in browsers). Since it has been shown that customers will not wait longer than 10 seconds for a page to load before exiting, it's important to know how accessible your site is compared to the competition.

Compete and Alexa are our last basic tools to tackle. This simply compares two sites' volume of unique visitors. Though the reliability of the data has been questioned , we usually find these to be helpful as an overview. Here is an example of a few things you might find with these tools when typing in quick service oil change:

A slightly deeper dive into the top result looks like this:

It is important to remember that getting a broad view of your digital space is just as important as diving deeper into an individual competitive brand. By using these competitive analysis tools, you can find openings in the digital space where you need to be present. Perhaps your brand can take advantage of the less-searched but highly-converted long tail keywords. All of this information will enable you to make better decisions about how you build your website and how you implement SEO changes.

This article was syndicated with permission from Asking Smarter Questions.

Steve Parker, Jr. is a Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Levelwing, a digital advertising agency that provides data-driven marketing solutions. Steve can be reached at Follow me on Twitter at @sparkerjr.

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