This is a quick follow-up of the You Can Be Found Anywhere from West Point last week. This time we are in Annapolis at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, home of the Navy football team. One of the biggest rivalry games in sports is the annual Army-Navy football game, which takes place this weekend, so I found it fitting to combine these two historic locations to point out the importance of competitive research.

Competitive Research in SEO

Are you offering a better user experience than your competitors?  There are literally hundreds of factors that matter to your SEO rankings and their weight can differ depending on the search the user is making. Often business owners come to me with a list of competitors, and when we dig into the search environment we find that your SEO competitors are different from the ones that you think of as your key competitors.

Focus on the right competitors:

First of all, when doing competitive research, you need to focus on those that are actually outperforming you in the world of SEO. Then you need to understand what they are doing and how strong they are and then develop a plan to not copy them, but to outperform them.  The mistake many companies make with competitive research is to just copy their competitors. This actually can hurt you. What competitive research can do for you is see who is linking to competitors and giving them strength. You may have some of those same relationships.

Find concepts you didn’t think of:

Another great thing to use competitors for, if you choose the right ones, is to find new concepts they may be addressing that you hadn’t thought of. Often seeing a competitor list of service pages will give you ideas of new pages or sub-services that you offer that can be accentuated.  “Content is King” is becoming more and more important.  If it was King two years ago, it is the all-powerful emperor this year, especially as the algorithm shifts of November keep rolling out.

Everything is Relative (Reviews, Links, Speed, etc.)

If your competitors are ultra-fast and you aren’t, then that may be a high priority issue for you. If you are all about average, it may not be a priority, but maybe a difference-maker opportunity. Everything is relative so look at the leaders’ speed, link strength (by page and domain), and reviews to see where you stand. If the top-ranked site has 100 reviews and averages over 4-stars and you have 20 and average 3-stars, then that becomes an immediate priority. If you have more reviews and a higher score, then you are doing something right and you can keep that process rolling while you focus high priority attention on other areas.

Army-Navy Competitive Research

Just like Army and Navy coaching staff scouts their opponents to try to see where they are succeeding and what their weaknesses, to take advantage, you can do that with your SEO competitors.  Do coaches think they are weak up the middle and build a game plan on running up the gut, or do they think their strength is outrunning them to the outsides with speed and athleticism? One of the reasons this game is so interesting each year is the competitive landscape is fairly even and it comes down to performance on that day.