Competitive SEO and mapping the digital world

You probably have some hefty goals for 2011… and one of those probably has something to do about ‘becoming rich and famous’ online.

To help move towards that goal, I want to share some ideas about the basic mindset you need to have regarding where your online presence is heading in 2011. A key item to consider is what competitive SEO can do for your business. There are A LOT of pitfalls and mistakes you can make, so cutting corners during the training and strategy part is a big mistake.

Lets think about your “competition” for a moment.

You probably have a list of companies and web sites that you want to go head to head with.

Forget that idea. You should never go head to head with someone unless you want to spend 90% of your effort and budget cultivating your ego.

What you really want to do is beat them to the opportunity.

Opportunity isn’t defined by brands or web sites.

  • It is defined by conversations regarding supply and demand.
  • It is detailed by the process points between the supply and demand.

Supply and demand exists for a few basic reasons involving market shift and consumer knowledge

  • someone caused demand to increase
  • supply levels decreased

Conversations, Keywords, Competition

Everyone wants to be on the first page of search engines because they believe the “holy grail” of successful business is volumes of traffic coming the their site.

This is only partially true.

If you don’t understand how those visitors convert into dollars, then you just wasted a whole bunch of effort.

Create a list of five keywords you feel are good for your business. Do a quick search on Google and write down the site for top three search results for each keyword.

Look at these sites. Ask yourself if these company websites are your “competitors” and ask these questions:

  • Are the results relevant to your business?
    • think about how are they making money from these visitors.
  • What are your competitor stats?
    • check out or to view basic site information.

Think about Relevancy and Process

You have a business process that occurs during your sales cycle. Try to identify what questions a *good* prospect has when they are going through the sales cycle. Try to think about process points that identify a good prospect before they enter your sales pipeline.

Example: you sell new homes as a real estate company. You can either ‘fight’ head-to-head with other real estate companies during the lead process of someone searching for a new home, or you can engage with them at an earlier process point and win the relationship before your competitors even know they exists.

For real estate such pre-process points could include moving into a new job (an executive relocating into a position who is forced to buy a new home) or someone getting married/divorced (indicating a severe shift in income for better or worse.)

Think about your brand

When someone does a search to fill a need, they are exposed to multiple other entities and sources of information.

  • If they find the name of your company next to ten of your competitors, you have the challenge of differentiating your value statement from those of your competitors.
  • If you appear near the brands of disreputable companies, you could suffer from brand devaluation from appearing to be associated with the ‘wrong crowd’

Competitor Analysis

Once we think about relevancy, process, and brand… we can now consider what a qualified competitor may look like. You may need to go back into Google and look at a few extra keywords and repeat the above steps.

When we have a good list of search phrases that we feel are really worthwhile, we can now look at the challenge and difficulties of getting on top of those keywords.

Look at each keyword on the search engine and get this information:

  • How old are the sites on the first page?
  • How often are the sites updating content?
  • How many inbound links do the sites have?
  • How many pages indexed do they have?
  • How is the SEO structure of the pages setup?
  • How are they driving traffic outside of SEO?

Prioritize Your Keyword Effort

You need to sit down and think about what these keywords mean to your business.

Even if you can rank your site on the first result for the keyword, don’t fool yourself into believing that you can convert 100% of those visitors. Getting the search engine ranking is only one portion of the game and you still have to put forth effort to:

  • create a usable experience
  • eliminate ‘abandonment’ from new visitors
  • encourage return visitors
  • define business goals to drive visitors into
  • define a method to convert visitors
  • refine lead conversion process
  • establish short term and lifetime value of new clients
  • make money

Hopefully these tips and ideas have pointed you down the right path for figuring out what competitive SEO strategy you will be going with this year. If you are new to SEO, take each piece of information in chunks and do the best you can do. Optimizing your business is a 24/7 challenge that requires constant vigilance.

Do you have any tips for reaching your competitive SEO goals?

10 thoughts on “Competitive SEO and mapping the digital world”

  1. Another great article, Barry. Can you expand on your example in the Relevancy and Process section a bit more though? I love the idea of engaging earlier in the process, but I’m a little unclear as to how to accomplish that (maybe I didn’t have enough coffee this morning). Basically, can you elaborate on your example a bit more? If I’m guessing correctly, it sounds like you’re suggesting a realtor optimize their site for terms such as “real estate new job” or “new home divorce”. Those don’t seem like likely search terms though so I’m obviously missing something. Those are probably topics that would make for useful blog posts for a realtor, but I still can’t imagine a scenario where someone who lost their job would search for content related to “finding a home after you lost your job”. They’ll still just be interested in content related to “finding a home”. Perhaps what you’re saying is simply that we should be optimizing for niche’s. That makes sense to me.

  2. The idea is about identifying what happens before and after your process. If you sell homes as a realtor, you know that several things happen after the process: people get moving fans, enroll in schools, look for spouse jobs, etc. Most professionals know the exact series of events that follow our business model, but few people take strategic advantage of the processes that happen before it.

    You have to think about the processes that lead to your business.
    Job and relationship changes lead to buying a new home.
    Buying an iPhone leads you to buy new apps.

    Rather than think “new home divorce” as a keyword, you may look at developing SEO around “Everett Wedding Chapel” and think about how you can build a funnel newly wed couples into buying a new home. This could include giving 2-3 reviews of local wedding chapels to SEO as content, but also writing 2-3 articles highlighting your expertise in dealing with helping newly weds get into a new home.

    On the job example, you could provide unemployment tips for people trying to find official state unemployment or job fair information. “Jobs in Everett” as an SEO term puts you ahead of your business cycle, which means you’ve engaged a niche of consumers before they have been exposed to your competitors.

    Does that help clarify?

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