This is a guest post by Andrew Rayner. Andrew is the Founder and Managing Director at e-mphasis, an internet marketing agency specialising in providing Search Marketing and Social Media Marketing. E-mphasis is a finalist in the National Business Awards 2010 in the UK for Excellence in Marketing. Follow Andrew on Twitter
When setting out on a web strategy most people soon realise that generating web traffic is not as simple as buying a domain, hosting and following search engine HTML recommendations.
Links are a key component of any SEO strategy. The internet is not described as ‘the Web’ without good reason; the links between websites are probably the most significant factor in determining your search ranking. Knowing which links are valuable, including where and how to get them is critical or you could be wasting your time or money.
Realistic SEO Objectives
First of all let’s focus on the objective of the SEO; Search engine optimisation is the process of getting the pages of your website listed as highly as possible on relevant search engine results pages (SERP).
However, eye scanning technology has proven that only the first 3 results get as good as 100% of searcher attention and therefore any less than that means that you may miss out on traffic. With so much competition for every phrase how can you make sure that your site gets seen.
Aiming at the Top 3 Search Results
Armed with this information, using SEO to target search phrases that you can actually expect to get in the top 3 obviously makes most sense. You certainly can’t assume that you can beat the competition without even checking first.
Assuming you’ve identified which phrases you believe you should target, how do you go about making sure that your site could get into the elusive golden triangle? Here are my top tips for analysing the competitor pages currently holding the top 3 spots:
1. BIG HITTERS:
Watch out for the search engine’s own pages and high profile sites e.g. International and national media, celebrities, global brands etc. since if they occupy the top 3 slots they may be impossible for you to topple. These sorts of pages are likely to be established in terms of age, and benefit from a significant base of inbound links or in the case of Google benefitting from Caffeine’s ranking criteria which rewards brands with higher positioning. A results page full of links of this type simply isn’t a sensible SEO target, and there’s probably no chance of achieving a top 3 result unless you are a global brand yourself.
2. ARE YOU A RANK OUTSIDER?:
In the context of Google’s, using the PageRank check tool you can compare the rank of any competitor page with your own. Note that it’s not disastrous if you are much lower but it’s important to know. Having identified the pages with higher page rank than your own, create a list of these for backlink analysis.
3. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE BACKLINKS
Check the quantity and quality of backlinks to your competitor’s web page by using the Backlink Analysis tool. Look out for pages with many 100’s of links, which may indicate that the page is already widely recognised for the topic. Also check for links from respected websites (especially the big hitters above) which can be difficult to replicate. You may find use of search phrase text in the links (anchor text) indicating that your competitor has probably already invested in SEO for this phrase. Note that the report of Backlink Analysis tool will provide you with all these info and with useful statistics.
There are 2 outcomes from the above, either you have identified a good opportunity or you may wish to reconsider your target phrases. We’ve established what you’re not going to focus on and what you are, at least in terms of competitor’s sites, this is step 1 of your competitor evaluation and the next step is to use their own SEO against them. On the next part of this blog post we will examine the practical SEO techniques that you can use to improve your website.
7 Other Ways To Number 1
Watch out for additional content appearing in search results, there are at least 7 other types of content that can be optimised to bypass the top natural results and these are images, video, shopping (or products), news, blogs, live social media feeds and finally, my personal area of expertise, local business listings. Each of these may be a more cost effective means to get onto that elusive first page.
Stay tuned because in the next article we will examine exactly how to analyze their SEO campaign and boost your own rankings.