Search Engine Optimization – Researching Industry Competition

Researching Industry Competition

by Dave Curtis on 03/28/2011

in Business Issues,Every Day SEO,Search Engine Optimization,Small Business SEO

As explained in my last article, after determining what the theme of your site is and what keywords will work best for you the next step is researching the top competitors for each of those keywords.

In my last article I pointed out that you may have thousands of keywords in your list based on the most exhaustive research you could do. The next task is to take each of these keywords and phrases and research each of them to find out how well each of your top competitors are optimized.

A quick indicator for how tough each term will be to compete for (how much organic SEO work has been put in to the sites that show up first in the search engines) is to look at how many paid ads are showing up on top of and to the right of the results. Generally the more you see the harder it is.

That doesn’t mean that all of the top sites are fully on-page optimized though. As a matter of fact in many cases they are not. They usually do have quite a bit of off site back-link optimization and quite often more than a few years of age – and this is part of the industry competition research I’m writing about.

The way to research industry competitors for each phrase manually involves building a spreadsheet for each main keyphrase or keyword, and then doing searches using that word or phrase, as well as separate searches for each individual word in a phrase.

Seeing the results of a search you’ll want to copy the domain name and go to Central Ops, Domain Dossier and place the domain name into the field provided and check the age of the domain. You’re limited to 50 domain searches per day from your IP address. You’ll enter the domain’s age into a column named “age” in your spreadsheet. Next you’ll need to see approximately how many back links the competitor’s domain has by going to Microsoft Watch at

You’ll paste in the domain name with the www in front to get an idea of how many sites are linked to your competitor. You should enter the total number of sites shown into the next field on your spreadsheet and call it “links”. You can also do an allinsite: search in Google and type in the full site name to see how many sites contain the url text, and you should also click on the links from Microsoft Watch to see what kind of keywords are used in each page’s text link. Place that text into another column of your spreadsheet and name it “link text”.

While you’re still on the Microsoft Watch page note the “Page Rank” of the competitor’s site and put that into another column of your spreadsheet and name it “PR”.

The next step is to determine whether or not the competitor’s page has any H1 headline tags, and what that headline is. You’ll want to copy this information into a column on the spreadsheet called “H1”. Now go ahead to ToTheWeb and use their search engine spider simulator and paste the competing page URL into there. This will show you how many words there are on the page in question, as well as the density of one, two and three word keyphrases. This is good information, and you’ll want to copy both the total number of words on the page as well as the keyphrase densities to another couple of columns “word count” and “density”. You’ll also want to note how many and what words on the ranking page are bolded and their density as well.

At this point you’ll  get a clearer picture of what that one competitor is doing. Now you’ll go to the next competitor for that one keyphrase and run that page through the exact same process, noting each result in the proper column of the spreadsheet and continue doing this for each keyword in your list until you have exhausted all of the words in your list.

There are several sites available to help you accomplish each of the steps I have outlined above. The most competitive industries (or businesses that desire to corner the search engine market for every term available) will have full site optimization, but knowing just how much optimization needs to be performed for each keyphrase must be done first if the SEO is to be performed scientifically. Both over-optimization and under-optimization can prove expensive, and most especially if both are performed on the same site for the wrong keywords.

There are professional tools available that will help with the above process that plug into both the paid version of WordTracker and Google accounts using your API key.

One of the nice things about Google’s free keyword tool is that it shows seasonal keyword trends. This is useful for sites that deal with things like flowers for mother’s day, Easter and other seasonal holidays etc. Often search trend frequency will tell you how early an upcoming event needs to be first added to a site or additional fresh content needs to be added so the search spiders will find the content to return to searchers in time.

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