Monthly Archives: June 2013

Your Competitors

Determining and understanding your competitors

Understanding the competition should be a key component of planning your SEO. The first step is to understand who your competitors in the search results really are.

Affiliate and Spam Sites

Affiliates that cheat tend to come and go out of the top search results, as only sites that implement ethical tactics are likely to maintain their positions over time.

Real Competitors

Who are your competitors whose efforts you would like to emulate? These competitors are likely to have websites that consistently dominate the upper half of the first page of search results in the search engines for a range of important keywords that are popular and relevant to your target audience.

To assess competitors’ competence at SEO, you need to answer the following questions:

  • Are their websites fully indexed by Google and Yahoo!? In other words, are all their web pages, including product pages, making it into the search engines’ databases? A competitor with only a small percentage of its site in Google probably has a site that is unfriendly to search spiders.
  • Do their product and category pages have keyword-rich page titles (title tags) unique to each page?
  • Do their product and category pages have reasonably high PageRank scores?
  • Is anchor text across the site, particularly in the navigation, keyword-rich?
  • Are they spamming the search engines with “doorway pages”?
  • What keywords are they targeting?
  • Who’s linking to their home page, or to their top-selling product pages and category pages?
  • If it is a database-driven site, what technology tricks are they using to get search engine spiders such as Googlebot to cope with the site being dynamic? Nearly all the technology tricks are tied to the e-commerce platforms the competitors are running.
  • How does the current state of their sites’ SEO compare with those of years past? You can reach back into history and access previous versions of your competitors’ home pages and view the HTML source to see which optimization tactics they were employing back then.
  • The Wayback Machine provides an amazingly extensive archive of web pages.

    Obsessing over rankings (rather than traffic) can result in poor strategic decisions. keep an eye on your visitor and conversion statistics.

Your Business Assets

It’s more than likely that your company/organization has a number of valuable commodities beyond your
website that can be used to improve the quality and quantity of traffic you receive
through search engine optimization efforts. Possible assets you may have at your disposal are discussed here.

Other Domains You Own/Control

If you have multiple domains, things to think about are:

  • Can you redirect some of those domains back to your main domain or to a subfolder
    on the site?
  • Do you own exact keyword match domain names that would make for effective
    microsites?
  • If you’re maintaining those domains as separate sites, are you linking between them
    intelligently?

Partnerships On and Off the Web

Partnerships can be leveraged, particularly on the link-building front. If you
have business partners that you supply, or are supplied by, or work – there may be
an opportunity that you can implement link strategies between their sites and yours.

Content You’ve Never Put Online

You may have content that you’ve never published on your website but maybe immensely valuable
to your SEO efforts and may include:

  • Articles or journals you may have published when you were shipping a print publication via the
    mail are a great fit for your website archives.
  • You should take all of your email newsletters and make them accessible on your site.
  • If you have unique data sets or written material, you should apply it to relevant pages on your
    site (or consider building out if nothing yet exists).

Customers Who Have Had a Positive Experience

Customers who have good things to say about the service which you provide can be a great resource especially
if they are willing to contribute all kinds of content. Seriously, if you have usergenerated
content (UGC) options available to you and you see value in the content your users
produce, by all means reach out to customers, visitors, and email list subscribers for both links
and content opportunities.

Your Fans

This principle applies equally to generic enthusiasts of your work. For many businesses that
operate offline or work in entertainment, hard goods, or any consumer services, chances are
good that if your business is worth its salt, you’ve got people who’ve used your products or
services and would love to share their experience.

Like customers, fans are terrific resources for link acquisition, content creation, positive
testimonials, and social media marketing (to help spread the word).

It is often far easier to optimize what you’re already doing than to develop entirely new strategies, content, and
processes. Particularly on the link-building side, this is some of the lowest hanging fruit around.

Search engines drive dramatic quantities of focused traffic by which your business
can earn significant revenues by leveraging the quality and relevance of this traffic for direct sales, customer
acquisition, and branding/awareness campaigns.

Visibility in search engines creates an implied endorsement effect, where searchers
associate quality, relevance, and trustworthiness with sites that rank highly for their
queries.

Dramatic growth in the interaction between offline and online marketing necessitates
investment by organizations of all kinds in a successful search strategy. Consumers are
increasingly turning to the Web before making purchases and so organizations cannot afford to ignore
their customers’ needs.

Sitemaps

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XML Sitemaps

Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft all support XML Sitemaps.
Using the Sitemaps protocol you can supply the search engines with a list of all the URLs you would like them to crawl and index.

Adding a URL to a Sitemap file does not guarantee that a URL will be crawled or indexed.
However, it can result in pages that are not otherwise discovered or indexed by the search engine getting crawled and indexed. In addition, Sitemaps appear to help pages that have been relegated to Google’s supplemental index make their way into the main index.

XML Sitemaps should be used with and no be a replacement for the search engines’ normal, link-based crawl. Some of the benefits of having a Sitemap include:

  • For pages the search engines already know about through regular spidering activities, they use the metadata you supply, such as the last date the content was modified and the frequency at which the page is changed, to improve how they crawl your site.
  • For the pages the search engines don’t know about, they use the URLs you supply to increase their crawl coverage.
  • For URLs that may have duplicates, the engines can use the XML Sitemaps data to help choose a canonical version.
  • Verification/registration of XML Sitemaps may indicate positive trust/authority signals.
  • The crawling/inclusion benefits of Sitemaps may have second-order positive effects, such as improved rankings or greater internal link popularity.