SEO Benchmarking: The Importance of SEO Competitive Analysis in 2019
Theodore Roosevelt once said that comparisons are the thief of joy. While I understand the philosophy behind that particular statement, I found that using others as a benchmark is a reliable way to give myself a boost, as long I’m being smart about it. Right now, I’m dipping my toes at writing fiction. No, I’m nowhere near as good as Capote was when he first started writing short stories but when I read some of the things that are published in the local papers, I don’t think I’m that far behind.
Yes I know it sounds like very much I’m patting myself in the back there but the point I was trying to make is that as long as you’re using reasonable benchmarks, comparison can be a useful tool for evaluation. Take the field of SEO for example and consider for a moment the O in that acronym. Optimization is good yes but optimizing for what? And how can you tell that you’ve been optimized? The answer to those questions as any decent SEO services could probably tell you lie in SEO competitive analysis.
Harder, better, faster, stronger but compared to what?
Let’s step away from SEO for a minute and in honor last week of Australian Open talk about tennis a little bit. Is Federer, with a record 20 Grand Slam titles – the highest among male players – the greatest of all time? Or is it Nadal, who only has 17 Grand Slam titles but a winning record of 23-15 against Federer? And what about Novak Djokovic, who has a winning record against both Nadal (28-25) and Federer (25-22) but with only 15 Grand Slams to his name?
That is just scratching the surface, dig deeper and you’ll find dozens of metrics you could use as a comparison to try and find your answer. The world doesn’t exist in a vacuum and even if those three players rarely face each other on court, there are a lot of numbers you could use to make direct comparisons between these players. Competitive analysis like this is even more important in the business world because even if you think that you’re actually doing great, the only way you could tell whether you are is by seeing how others are doing.
Assume for example that you are now ranked highly for a particular keyword. That’s great and all but before you bust out the champagne, ask yourself just how relevant that keyword is. How many times has that keyword been used over a certain period? And was that keyword used by people you’re trying to court? You see, there might be a reason why your competitors aren’t focusing on that particular keyword and before you know it, you’ve already wasted your SEO efforts on something that isn’t likely to give you results.
Know what you’re aiming first
SEO is all about optimization that much is true but what to optimize exactly? Search engines yes but what, are you suggesting we flood Google with e-mails asking them to bump us up in the rankings? Of course not, it is actually Google’s algorithm that decides the rankings for each search query based on the things they found around the internet and it’s these ‘things’ that we’re optimizing for in regards to certain queries that are now defined as keywords and there’s that word again, keywords.
Keywords are essentially the foundation for each SEO efforts and if you’re just starting out, it might be a good idea first to learn the keywords that are particular to your industry. Once you’ve gathered a set of keywords using the various keyword research tools available across the internet, you can try inserting them into Google to see how your competitors are doing in terms of each keyword. It’s like trying to pick a battlefield in war, some keywords are more popular and more hotly contested while the more specific keywords might not be as populated and it’s up to you to decide how to allocate your efforts.
Sizing up your competitors
During the course of testing the keywords you’ve gathered, you might notice that some of your competitors will rank high on certain keywords while being nowhere near the top in others. This is because each business occupies their particular niche. For example, Jetstar, Virgin and Qantas are all airlines but they don’t exactly occupy the same space in the market. Qantas actually owns Jetstar with Qantas being a full-service carrier while Jetstar is a strictly low-cost carrier and Virgin acting as a kind of a compromise between the two.
For a competitive analysis, you want to check out competitors that occupies the same niche as your company. Generally, a backpacker looking to travel across Asia would want to check out the cheapest flights possible and would probably pay little attention to Qantas. Knowing and understanding these little details is important because the buyer profiles you’re trying to court would be different and the associated keywords will be slightly different as well.
What can sometimes be lost in the conversation around SEO is that getting more traffic isn’t actually the goal, traffic is just a means to an end, and converting that traffic into paying customers is the ultimate goal. There’s a metric in SEO referred to as Bounce rate, which is the ratio of visitors who left your website after only visiting a single page and can be an indication that the there’s a disconnect between what you’re offering and the traffic you’re getting, possibly caused by mismatched keywords.