What Is Competitive Intelligence?
Many elements are required for an effective search engine optimization (SEO) plan. All technical SEO components have to be refined and match up to Google’s preferences. There needs to be a focus on acquiring backlinks. On-page optimization is also essential, as your content needs to feature the right search terms that will generate organic traffic. The question is: How do you know which keywords will ensure your target audience finds your business?
One way is with competitive intelligence.
As the name implies, competitive intelligence is a method where you gather public information about your competitors. By learning which online marketing routes your competitors are taking, you can gain an idea about what is – and isn’t – working for them with their SEO tactics. This is particularly pertinent when it comes to effective keyword research.
The Importance of Strong Keyword Research
You cannot simply start targeting keywords you think will work for your business. When you go with this approach, you’ll tend to pick keywords that are not worth ranking for in search engine results. This is why it pays off to be analytical and research the search terms that will deliver the best results.
To do this, you first need to eliminate any preconceived opinion about what keywords to target. For instance, even if you have a certain way of describing a product in-house, this isn’t necessarily how your target audience is trying to find the product via searches. You could be aiming at a certain search term while they are typing a different one into Google, which means you could be losing out on a large amount of potential new customers.
So how do you test which keywords work? Thankfully, there are many different keyword research tools available that allow you to discover the popularity of search terms. Another useful tool is Google AdWords. That’s right: it’s not just for PPC ads. AdWords allows you to use lists of potential keyword targets and place these into low cost, simple campaigns. You can then see which of these generate the largest number of impressions. In general, the higher the number of impressions, the more popular the keywords are as search terms.
When you are armed with a list of targeted keywords, you can start to put together a competitive intelligence plan.
Who Are Your Actual Competitors?
As mentioned, competitive intelligence is all about learning what the competition is doing with their marketing. However, it’s essential you skip looking at the perceived competition and analyze your actual organic competitors.
How do you find the right competition to investigate? After all, it’s all too easy – and even understandable – for you to believe any brand offering similar products or services is worth exploring their online presence. This is especially the case if you’re located in the same geographical area and aim at a similar target market. Yet even if they are a direct competitor, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a ranking competitor.
Remember: you only want to rank high for your list of targeted keywords. If certain competitors are not using these keywords, you don’t want to analyze what they’re doing with their SEO strategy. Fortunately, you don’t have to put in much work to find the right competition. Simply input your targeted keywords into Google, perform a few searches, and select the businesses that pop up on the first page.
Even if they’re not direct competitors, these are your ranking competitors. Each competitor will provide insight into what’s necessary to rank high for the keywords you’re chasing.
Improving Your SEO with Competitive Intelligence
You have your target keywords. You have your list of ranking competitors. Now it’s time to perform a spot of competitive intelligence, so you can begin to figure out what the competition is doing – and how you can use this information to leapfrog them in search results.
To begin, analyze how their content is organized. See where their keywords are placed. It’s also worth looking at their HTML code. Google stopped utilizing the keywords meta tag, yes, but this archaic technique might still be implemented by your competitors. The HTML code may reveal bigger clues than you expect as a result.
Another integral step of competitive intelligence is reviewing the inbound link profile of your competitors. If you learn which inbound links are delivering the biggest ranking benefit, you can use this data for your very own link acquisition campaign. An added bonus is you can uncover what anchor text they’re using for these inbound links.