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5 Competitive Research Tools To Boost Your SEO Performance

An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage. – Jack Welch
Many people may believe that obtaining top rankings in Google is nearly impossible. The competition for page 1 is fierce and it seems daily there is yet one more marketing must have that you must learn and apply to achieve top positions.

This is partly true. There are general markets that are hotly competitive, such as real estate, health and beauty, weíght loss or general medical supplies. Niche markets present an easier opportuníty to predict and/or manage the outcome of specific search terms.

Far from being an exercise in futility, top listings drive traffic and can lead to tremendous success online. You may be surprised to learn your competition can help you get there faster. Do not overlook the value of competitive intelligence in Search Engine Marketing.

When performing competitive research, the goals are to discover:

What methods and channels your competition is using, i.e. are they using social media such as video or social bookmarks?

How entrenched a competitor is and how hard it is to unseat them;

Level of SEO skills; and

Link prospects, so you can trade links, host articles and do reviews.
Competitive research should be an integral part of your SEO strategy. While it is sometimes painful to review and compare yourself to your competitors, it will always result in you improving your business and strategies.

There are several things that you can do to uncover competitive information and here we’ll cover:

1. Who is Top “Dugg”?

Social book marking sites can yield a wealth of information about your competitors and target market. What are the top stories in your niche area? This can help you to shape content that will draw your target audience. Check your competitors to see if they have any diggs and if so for what type of content. There are many social bookmarking sites such as Mixx, Reddit and StumbleUpon. Digg has a large content base which makes it a good site for assessment.

2. Determine Link Popularity.

Using tier 1 keywords, do a Google search. Pick the top three ranked Google sites. Take this information and check the link popularity using marketleap.com.

Take note of the number of incoming links. You want to review sites with the lowest number of incoming links and highest Google rankings. Do not limit your review to Google but check Yahoo and MSN results as well.

3. Perform Keyword Research.

Use the search term suggestion tool at inventory.overture.com, and look for keywords and their permutations with a good search volume. Continue looking at the tier 1-type terms until you spot an opportuníty to build on. Use other tools like Google keyword tools (free) and keyworddiscovery.com (paid). Use the keywords you select in this step by adding pages to your site, a common and ‘must-do’ SEO practice.

4. Find Sites to Target.

Go to Google and enter “allinanchor: tier 1 keyword” If your tier 1 keyword is weíght loss you will type “allinanchor: weíght loss.” This will restrict the results depending on the number of links coming into a site based on that key word phrase. You are using this to determine sites from which you will target links. You can combine this with “allintitle:” as well – showing keywords used in tag of your pages(s).

5. Read Their Content.

Read and keep competitive marketing messages you receive in email or traditional mail. Review the messages, call to action statements, and special offers. What are they doing to engage customers and encourage them to buy? How does this compare to your marketing messages? Visit their website and compare it to your own. Is the site easy to navigate? Does the content encourage conversion? Do they emphasize call-to-action statements like “download a white paper,” “sign up for this newsletter” or “buy this product now”? Are they using long tail keywords, such as “weíght loss products for women in South Beach?” If they are using this method, you should consider employing it in your efforts.

Competitive research is an integral part of any marketing effort.

Competitive intelligence provides valuable information about your market, trends and your position. Include online and offline channels in your research to get a comprehensive view of your competition. Use tools like UrlTrends to track your progress and SpyFu to look at advertising costs, giving you an indicator of your competition’ s activity, spending and strategy.

The hard work is worth it as someone once famously remarked, “competition breeds excellence” and that excellence can result in a dramatic upside to your bottom line.

About The Author
Jon Rognerud is a recognized authority on the subject of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) , and has spent over 15 years developing online solutions at companies like Overture and Yahoo. His business, ChaosMap.com, provides informative articles and resources about search marketing.

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