5 Things Your Competitors Can Teach you About SEO

4 min read

23 May 2015,

The most common way we seek out new information today is through a search engine. Businesses know this and seek ways to push information about themselves to the public through search engines. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a useful set of techniques for businesses and web page owners to draw traffic onto their websites by obtaining a higher ranking on the search engine's results page. The higher the ranking, the more likely a person will click on it.

If your site is ranked below your competitors there could be many reasons why. An easy thing to check are these five SEO techniques.

1. Look At The Keywords They Choose

Read through your competition's pages and see if you can identify which keywords they are focusing on for their pages. Currently, the keywords present on any page should be around 1-2% of the content and no more. Going outside of this range can cause your page to be misranked, especially if there are too many.

You can also try for more specific keywords. For instance, adding on the city to a keyword helps to narrow it down further. This is a very good technique for small businesses. People use more specific keywords to narrow down the number of results, so you should take advantage of this.

2. Check Your Title and Meta Tags

Creating a title that contains the keywords you are targeting is a big signal to search engines what your page is about. The title tag is arguably the most important tag on a webpage. It tells the search engines what a page is about, like a subtitle for a book. If you don't have a title tag, Google may assign one based on what their software think it's about.

The meta tag is a brief summary (160 characters) of what the page is about. If this is not set, Google will take the first paragraph of information it can find and use it. Unless you want the page to be found that way, make your own meta tag.

3. Stay Within the Word Limits

The length for title tags is ideally 55 characters or less, and meta tags should be 160 characters or less. If these tags are too long, Google will continue the tag with an ellipse indicating that the title has been cut off due to excess length. SEO experts keep the length short and the most relevant words to the left to emphasize to Google that's what you want to focus on (or to the right if your language reads right-to-left.)

The title tag is also what is displayed on the browser tab and how a bookmark will be identified by default. This is another reason to keep the title tag very clear so the reader can understand who you are and what the page is about. Take a look at the competition's names for their pages. Are they clearer than yours?

4. How Are Your Links?

The key thing that Google looks for in relevancy is the number of links to and from your site and whether they come from outside the website or inside of it. Internal links make your website look like a cohesive whole. External links show where people can find additional information related to your topic. If the correct resources are chosen it sends the message that they are knowledgeable about their websites subject.

More links isn't necessarily better though. Just a few are good. Again, study your competition's pages. How many links are on the page? Do they point inside the site or outside the site? Are the links relevant?

5. Are You Using The Available Tools?

Sometimes it's easy to see what a competitor is doing, but if they have a very complex site then it's good to use some help. Tools likeSEMrush and AHrefs can dig into your competitor's websites and find out all sorts of interesting SEO-related information. They are incredibly useful for finding data on keywords that a successful competitor uses. With that information you can update your own pages to better effect. For instance, you can attempt to target the same keyword, or find a unique keyword they don't use but your customers are looking for and incorporate it onto your site.

Excelling at SEO is an effective way to set yourself apart from competitors and learning from the competition is one of the best ways to improve your website. These topics just scratch the surface though! Remember, after making an SEO related change it can take a week or two for Google to re-rank your page. Use that lag time to study more about how you can use modern SEO techniques to improve the visibility of your website over your competitors.

About the Author

John Alas is an intern at Marketing Zen Group and a student attending San Francisco State University. He is excellent at emphasizing the positive qualities of companies and products, providing content that highlights the unique aspects of a client. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, fitness, and playing JRPG's.