An important part of any good SEO campaign is the careful analysis of your main competitors to see how you can emulate their success.
When you start this analysis, you need to make sure you're prepared to do the job correctly. Competitors' website's, if carefully analysed, can give you all sorts of information that you can use to increase the traffic and the popularity of your own website. You can also use this research to analyse your own market.
If a competitors website gets a lot of hits it has to be doing something right. Check out where it is ranked, what keywords it uses, how it is formatted, and what you can do to exemplify the good and filter out the bad. Also be sure to keep copyright laws in mind as a copyright infringement suit is never good for you or your website.
You need to start off by identifying the major players - a good place to do this is Yahoo's directory. It's not as comprehensive as it once was, but it's good if you're looking for the major players.
Look for large companies, as well as innovative approaches and new products. Also use this examination to try and identify the niche markets that the major players have not currently exploited. If you can find new niches that could create a high demand, you're basically set as far as traffic goes.
Also consider that since Yahoo!'s directory is the place that you look to find the big players, it may be a good place to get listed in order to become a big player (The same argument applies if you use Google to conduct your research). These little associations are important if you want to 4 attain more and more traffic and conquer a niche or category.
A good thing to do, is to find out where you main competitors hang out and start hanging out their yourself. Many large players now use the social networks to spread their message, so you should be prepared to do the same. This may involve running a blog and signing up with the likes of facebook, linkedIn, twitter or digg.
You can learn about the relative traffic enjoyed by your major competitors by using Alexa. Alexa is a free add-on to your browser that ranks the traffic to each site you visit, telling you whether it's in the top 100, the top 1000, the top 10,000, and so on. This gives you a rough idea of where your competitors are in the pecking order.
An inbound link analysis of your main competitors can also yield information about how popular a website really is.
To check how many inbound links a competitor has visit Google or MSN Live and type the company web address - link:www.yoursitename.co.uk – into the search engines search box. This will show how many inbound links point to your competitors website. The listings from Google and MSN Live will not be quite the same.
At Yahoo! the link format is slightly different. You have to give the full URL of your competitors website, as either:
Interestingly, the Yahoo! listings are different for each of these two options.
By seeing how many inbound links your competitors have, you can get a rough idea of how popular their website's have become.
The next step is to study the top 5 or 10 competitors very closely. There is a lot that can be learnt by looking at a competitors website and analysing it. These are the things that you should look for.
When you're dealing with publicly traded companies, you can often get detailed information from their Company registration details and even get customer comments about the company by searching online and using the Company's name in the search engines search box.
Write down the names of the key players and then look for any interviews, press releases and speeches they might have made about their website. make a note of them.
Now, summarise the information you've found into a few sentences for each competitor, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each one ( A spreadsheet is often a good way to record this information).
Note any steps that are going to be necessary to counter their current offering - these steps will naturally depend on your own website's strengths and weaknesses. If you're a small business then you'll need to be resourceful to exploit your competitors weaknesses.
With this research, you can create a marketing plan. Be sure to include how you intend to deal with the competition, and what steps you think you'll need to take for you site to come out on top.
Once you've finished analysing your competitors, you need to consider whether it would be better not to compete in this market at all, and find a less-saturated market.
Don't get frightened away prematurely though. Make sure you know what you're getting into before you start and don't let the major players intimidate you. Remember that you can react and move faster than they can!
All you really have to do is offer your customers things they can't find or buy anywhere else!
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