Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Checking Out Your Competitors Online

Now this is a bit late, sorry about that! There just so much going on these days it hard to keep track of the time, which seems to just fly by!
Now back to blogging…

In my last post, I talked about knowing your neighbours and what they’re doing, which is actually Competitor Analysis. I picked out some of my ‘competitors’ if I was a SEO business and came up with a few names. Based on their names and URLs names I could already pick out a few things about them which I found quite interesting.
Here’s a list of my ‘competitors’:

The first two are on the first page for ‘SEO Nigeria’ and as you guessed it, they both have ‘SEO Nigeria’ in their URLs. Google always favour brand/keyword specific URLs. By that I mean URLs and domain names which use their keywords or brand names, this is the reason why in most cases brand name searches come up first when that’s the name of the company website (I’ve mentioned this in a previous post on brand name and keywords if it still doesn’t make much sense).

Based on that, I’ll say it’s a fairly good idea to include keywords into your brand name and consider this when buying your domain name. There are other ways to go about this by buying other keyword specific domains and redirecting them to your brand based domain names, which I always advice to be the main website. Might seem as though I’m contradicting myself here, but I’m pretty sure ranking for keyword specific domains in Nigeria isn’t going to last very long as more and more people begin to optimise their websites so I definitely won’t say this is the be all and end all of optimisation tricks. In the UK market, you absolutely CANNOT get away with this, so its only a matter of time before the same happens in the Nigerian market.

(So now is the time to start investing in keyword specific domain names especially now that Nigeria has its own TLD (.ng). I'm pretty sure they'll be going for something quite good in the near future...)

If selecting a keyword related domain name doesn’t work for you, the other useful thing to do when analysing your competitors is to carry out a Backlink Analysis. Now there are a thousand and one ways to go about this but I’m just going to do a basic and simple backlink analysis using Open Site Explorer. Here’s a screenshot of my backlink profile from OSE:
Once I’ve done this for all my competitors I can download the results to Microsoft Excel and have a look to see who is linking to them and try to get my website on those websites as well by sending emails to the webmasters. There's no guaranties with this method though, its time consuming and might not amount to much, but it gives you an idea of what your competitors are doing and what you need to do to be better. If your competitor has 2,000 links, then you need to have just as many or even more to outrank them. There's no such thing as too many links, as long as they're legitimate links...

Now, you can optimise a website for search engines but you still need to build links to your website to make sure it’s accessible on the Internet and for search engines to trust your website. The more websites that link to yours the stronger your website becomes online. So link building is something you actively need to do to get better ranking and backlink analysis of your competitor is a great starting point for this.

Once you’re done with backlink analysis there are other ways to build links to your website, something I’ve talked about on my tips for building links blog post. However, I've found backlink analysis to be very useful for building initial links, especially when there's a particular competitor whose doing extremely well online.

Thats a brief introduction into competitors analysis and hopefully I'll update this series as I go alone, but in the mean time if you have any experience in competitor analysis feel free to share your experience with me! 

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