Competition Analysis SEO Checklist
In the first section of the checklist, we analyze the amount of resources and time it could potentially take us to get #1 ranking for our core keyword. We take into consideration the key factors of the top 3 rankings sites for your keyword and check if it’s a commercially viable decision to go after that keyword.
Even though there are a ton of factors that decide where your site ranks on Google, but most of them are simply nice-to-have’s. The only ones that we need to focus on are the 7 dominant factors that are the deal-makers when it comes to SEO.
1. Domain Age
As per my observation, old domains tend to rank better than new ones. But don’t confuse domain age with content age, newly updated/published content tends to rank higher than old pieces of content.
Old domain + Refreshed content updates = Awesome!
2. Page Authority
In case of authority sites that are ranking just because they are huge, page authority can prove to be a better Yardstick than domain authority.
Since, we’ll be competition against one page rather than the whole site, it makes a little more sense to keep a check on the page authority before dismissing the keyword just because you’re competing against a high authority domain like Amazon. To check the Page Authority, you can use the OpenSiteExplorer tool. Anything below 45 is a good indicator for us.
3. Indexed Content Pages
I wouldn’t worry about it in case of judging authority sites. Rather, this metric applies to sites that are focused towards the one core keyword that you’re looking to target. A large number of content pages is a bad indicator for us because the domain name has built up relevancy around their site for the single keyword they are targeting.
This isn’t much of an issue since adding content is pretty easily outsourced, but you should definitely lookout for niches where there is an obvious deficiency of good content. You can fill in the void and Google will reward you for it.
4. Inbound Links
The number of incoming links has always been the most looked upon metric by SEOs and that’s because it matters. But things are changing a lot now; you should definitely work upon quality rather than quantity. I’ve personally outranked sites that have over 100,000 back links with a brand new domain name with 150 relevant links from authority sites.
5. Linking Root Domains
Getting 500 links from 1 domain name is unnatural and can be considered a link scheme. If your competitors are getting a lot of their links from a handful of sites then that is a good indication for you.
Make sure you have a lot of different websites linking to your website. Moreover, you should also focus on getting links from a diverse range of platforms like WordPress, weekly, pligg, wikis, forum boards, etc.
6. Dominant Link Type
This is something that you really need to focus on, NOW. In the past years, it really didn’t matter what kind of links you were getting as long as there were plenty of them.
Aaaah,the good ol’days.
But now the number of links or even the number of linking domains isn’t as important as getting the right kind of links.
If your competitors are getting links from keyword-relevant pages on an authority site. It’s going to get tough for you to rank for that keyword. But if most of your competitor’s links are from random pages, web 2.0s with spun content and blog comments, that’s a good indicator for you!
I believe that now you can evaluate and decide upon the difficulty level of your competing websites and see if you can actually take the leap.
This is the point where 99% of the SEO’s go wrong. Not because they don’t put in the right keywords but because they don’t understand the human psychology. SEO isn’t just about ranking your site at #1. It’s about getting an audience for your message. Honestly, you can drive in more traffic by ranking at #2 than #1 just by crafting your meta title and meta description in the right way.
If you’re having trouble coming up with a nice set of these, checkout what Adwords marketers are doing? Remember, they’re paying for every click and at the same time they are competing for more clicks.
Content is gold when it comes to SEO. Unique relevant content can do wonders and that exactly what I use for all my on-page as well as off-page SEO. Each of my backlinks comes from a well written unique piece of content that is relevant to my keyword and from an authority site.
That is how I rank my sites. I get right to the basics.
So, when you’re setting up your website, you need to make sure that it’s really easy for Google to establish the purpose of your website and nothing does it better than good content. I’d recommend you to add a 2000 word article on your homepage to start, so that by the time Google indexes it, it knows for what keyword your site is relevant for.
Works every time.
For secondary content, I’d recommend you to target atleast 5-10 long tail keywords and 500 words should be more than enough to target for secondary content. Note that the word limit isn’t mandatory. You should write only what’s important to the reader. Do not fluff it up just to reach the word count.
Keep it fun for everyone. Deliver Value.
This exercise is pretty important for two reasons:
1. Relevancy: When you add content that is targeting long tail keywords (which are related to your core keyword) you reinforce relevancy of your website to that keyword.
Just like we prefer to see a dermatologist rather than just a regular doctor, when we have skin problems. Google will prefer to rank your website above Wikipedia, Amazon or Wikihow, if you can establish your site as the most relevant website for that keyword.
2. More Traffic: You’ll receive a little more traffic for all those long tail keywords that you have targeted plus you can throw in the large number of unique queries that are being searched but aren’t documented in the Google Keyword Planner Tool.
If you’re on WordPress, then this shouldn’t be much of a task for you. If you’re on any other platform, I’m sure you’ll find a tutorial on Youtube. You need to set your permalinks so that you can have custom-text as your permalinks.
We know that Google definitely takes Keywords in url/domain name into consideration while ranking websites. You can check by doing a simple Google Search. People have built whole businesses around the same fact, so yeah! Make sure you have it right.
Adding your website to the Webmaster tools is your personal choice. I don’t and it has never affected my efforts. That said, I’d still recommend you to create a sitemap for your readers and an xml sitemap and add it as a link to your website because it helps Google, a great deal in indexing your website.
When Google crawlers follow the link to your sitemap from your homepage, it will get notified about all the pages that exist on your site.
I love building links and see how it affects my website on the SERPs and unlike a lot of people perceive it, Link Building isn’t rocket science. It’s just about understanding the fundamentals and sticking to them.
In this section, we’ll be discussing 2 things:
1. What kind of links work. Why?
2. How to build links? (Getting into the details)
Everything you might have done till now can be easily replicated by your competitors and thus can seem to be pretty insignificant when compared to link building. But that said, onPage optimization and competition research is still a very important aspect of the process.
What kind of links work?
As I have already mentioned, link building is all about the basics. So here’s your equation to a successful link building plan.
Relevancy And/Or Authority = Awesomeness!
I have put And/or because I would not recommend to bring all your links from authority sites. That’s plain unnatural. I’d rather suggest you to keep links from new sites on a little majority side. But relevancy should be kept intact.
What are the 3 best ways to go about building links?
1. Social and Web 2.0 properties focused around your Keyword/Brand.
2. Guest Posts on blogs in your niche
3. Mini blogs that are privately owned by you.
Now, we’ll go in detail for each of these strategies and how to go about building them.
Anchor texts are the word that you use to link back to a website.
Example : <a href=””> Anchor Text</a>
In the past, keeping a 100% exact match keyword anchor text was a loophole to establishing rankings for that keyword but since that’s not natural so Google soon started penalizing websites that had a high percentage of exact match anchor texts on their backlinks.
For the sake of simplicity, we’ll be discussing the four ways in which you can spread out your anchor texts and what percentages should each carry while we build links:
1. Domain name : This is when you link using the exact domain name .
Eg : <a href=”http://yoursite.com”>yoursite.com</a>
2. Exact Match: This is when you use your core keyword as your anchor text.
3. Partial Match: This is when you add a suffic/prefix to your core keyword or use a long tail keyword as your anchor.
4. Brand Name: This is your domain name without the tld extension. If your core keyword is same as your domain name then use domain name as your anchor instead of brand name.
How I distribute my anchor texts is provided in the checklist.
How to build Web 2.0s?
If you don’t already have a list of a preferred Web 2.0s where you’d like to get a link from, I’ve included it inside the package. 😉 Getting links from Web 2.0 properties is amazing because
a) They are high authority sites,
b) it’s free to create your properties.
Here are the exact steps:
1. Signup for the web 2.0 and confirm your email.
2. Choose a unique design and remove the default widgets and links.
3. Add your content, a couple of images and embed a related video from YouTube.
4. Place your links naturally using a keyword variation. Frame a sentence around it so that it fits in with the context of your content.
How to Guest Post?
Guest posting works and you can get some amazing results with it but it is time consuming and a tedious job. But again, it’s worth the effort.
Here’s how you need to go about it:
1. Make a list of 100 blogs in your niche and if your niche is too narrow then find them in related niches.
2. Categorize these blogs into their core niches and craft a set of posts related to each niche which will bring a tremendous amount of value for their readers.
3. Contact them with the proposal. I’ve attached a template for the proposal but make sure you tweak it so that it connects with your prospect blogger.
4. Attach the article along with the mail and do let them know that you’d like to place a link back to your website as reciprocation.
For guest posting to be a successful exercise, you need to make sure that you have a quality site up. Create a website that people would love to link to and would actually add value to the experience of their audience.
Create your Own Mini Blogs
This is my personal favorite but I do not recommend it to those who are still to turn a profit from their websites because it is expensive.
Setting up a blog from scratch can be hectic since it involves getting a new/aged domain name with privacy, a new hosting account, a bunch of unique articles and some tier 2 backlinks to get them indexed and add a little authority to them for your range of keywords.
But if you do have the budget then here’s what you need to do to setup your own mini blog network:
1. Get a domain name: I would suggest you to keep the ratio of new to age domain names at 2:1.
You can either acquire aged domain names and sites in your niche or you can find expired ones at http://moonsy.com/expired_domains/.
Note: It is important to get privacy for every domain name to avoid any footprints.
2. Buy a hosting account: I would suggest you to go with any basic shared hosting plan since we just want to get rid of any footprints. Plus, it’s important to have your mini blogs setup on different ip addresses.
3. Set them up on different platforms: I generally go with WordPress, Weebly and plain html but you can get started with WordPress if that feels comfortable.
4. Different Design: Make sure that the basic layout and the design is different for each website.
5. Micro Niche Focused: Keep each blog focused on a different micro niche.
For example, if I’m looking forward to establish a website on MBA then one of my mini blogs would be focused on a list of all MBA programs/universities in my state/country.
My second mini blog would be focused on the best books on MBA. And my third mini blog would be focused on the Top 10 courses that will get you the best jobs in the corporate sector. Get the idea about how I use relevancy?
6. Link out to other relevant resources: Make sure you link out to other relevant sources like Wikipedia pages and government sites in the same niche.
7. Add media: Add a bit of different media like images, videos and slideshows to your mini blogs to add a natural aspect to it.
8. Use unique content: I’ve already mentioned it and I’ll say it again. Maintain quality even while building secondary sites.
That’s pretty much all you need when it comes to link building. Just focus on the fundamentals, keep it natural and consistent.