5 Competitive Research Tools to Boost your SEO


It's a commonly-held misconception that gaining a top ranking in Google is next to impossible unless you're a huge site with lots of cash to splash around. It's very true that competition of the top spot in Google is extremely fierce and, if you read the SEO forums then it looks like there's another marketing 'must have' that's discovered each and every week.

In a sense all this is true, for the extremely competitive and hotly-contested markets at least. These include markets such as food supplements, health and beauty, weight loss, real estate, financial services and general medical supplies where many large sites and manufacturers are competing with one another for top positions. If, instead, you're in a niche market where there's much less competition then you (even as a single individual) have the opportunity to rank very highly for a given search term.

It's been well established that the difference between a #1 and #2 spot on Google can mean a five-fold difference in traffic. As a result, rather than being an exercise in futility top listings can dramatically improve your on-line success. There are a whole range of things you can do to improve your website's rankings. But the one thing that many internet marketers and website owners ignore is the potential value of competitive intelligence... The fact that your competitors can help you to improve your rankings.

Using competitive intellignece, you are attempting to discover:

  • What methods are your competition using to improve their rankings: things like, are they using social media (social bookmarking and video); how many links they have.
  • How entrenched is your competitor in the market... This gives an indication of how hard it will be to unseat them.
  • Examining your competitors' web pages (particularly the underlying HTML) will tell you their overall level of SEO skills.
  • Find out how many potential link prospects there are in your market. Also, how easy is it to write and submit articles or reviews in your market. Each of these brings you much-needed back-links.

Things you should do include:

  1. Determine Link Popularity
    Using primary (tier 1 in web parlance) keywords (the main keywords that you are targeting your site against) pick three top-ranked Google sites in your niche. Using this information you can now check the link popularity using marketleap.com.
  2. Perform your Keyword Research
    I know this is tedious, but the importance of keyword research really can't be stressed enough. Pick the top keywords that you are targeting your site/pages against then use a search term suggestion tool such as inventory.overture.com to analyze these keywords and their permutations. You will now see what the actual search volume of these terms is and how much competition you have against those keywords. This will allow you to spot those keywords which you have an opportunity to target. You're looking for keywords with decent numbers of searches but low competition. Also use other tools such as Google keyword tools (free) and keyworddiscovery .com/?id=303238" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">keyworddiscovery.com (paid). Once you've selected a bunch of keywords you can now add pages to your site that target these keywords (a common and 'must do' SEO technique.
  3. Find Sites to Target
    This is the way that you find the sites to request links from. To do this you can use the Google search page. Al you need to do is to type "allinanchor:tier 1 keyword" into the search box and then click on the 'Google Search' button. Remember that the 'tier 1 keyword' is the primary keyword you're targetting, as described above. For example, if your 'tier 1 keyword' is 'african recipes' then you would type allinanchor: african recipes into the Google search box. This will give you all the links that point to a site using that particular phrase. You can combine this search with allintitle: tags. which show the keywords used in pages'
  4. Analyze Digg It's interesting how social bookmarking sites have exploded onto the internet scene and they now play a key role in many websites' internet marketing strategies. Because of this social bookmarking sites can actually offer you a wealth of information about your competitors and about your target market. Obvious things are checking the current top stories in your target market (and if you can produce a new slant on these then that's additional content for your site). Also check if your competitors have and diggs. This will tell you the type of stories or content that gets you noticed so that you can add similar content to your own site. Just remember that though Digg is the social bookmarking site with the largest content and user base there are a number of others out there.
  5. Visit your Competitors' Sites
    This may seem obvious, but you should visit your competitors' sites to see what they're doing. What kind of content are they adding, how are they expanding their site. What does their site look like... All this should affect the design and content decisions for your own site. But don't stop there. Sign-up to your competitors' newsletters and email announcements. Find out how they are marketing their site and products. Could you do it better than they are? Have they missed something that you could do? This can also tell you what kind of marketing your competitors are focussing on. Are they trying to grab the main slice of the market by targeting the most popular keywords, or are they taking more of a 'long tail' approach by targeting a small portion of a chiche (eg 'african recipes from benin').

If you're serious about your internet business then competitive intelligence must be an integral part of your marketing efforts. After all, your competitors are using this technique. It's amazing what you can learn with competitive intelligence... about your market, your competitors, the developing trends in that market and where you stand. You also maintain a comprehensive view of your competition and how you are performing in comparison with them.

Admittedly this is hard work, but if you use competitive intelligence correctly and apply what you have learnt to your marketing efforts then you will see a quite impressive increase in your bottom line. Just remember that five-fold difference in traffic between the #1 and #2 positions in Google rankings.

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