So I’ve always liked the idea of just diving into a project to get the wheels turning, after all so many people over-analyse everything before getting started and end up getting nothing done. However when it comes to building a site a big factor in your success will be how well you can do in the Google results. Often webmasters will have an “ideal” keyword that they want to rank for which perfectly describes their site and is guaranteed to bring them targeted traffic, but if it’s a valuable keyword won’t there be lots of other people chasing it too? If so is it possible to work out beforehand if you can beat those sites? I realised it is possible and that some analysis can save you months of time and money by avoiding markets that are unrealistic. Even so competition analysis isn’t an exact science so here are the main things to look out for.
How many links exactly?
The number and type of links pointing to any site has a big factor in how much authority Google assigns to it, however just looking at the site’s pagerank is a serious mistake. Another mistake is to look at the total number of links (as returned by yahoo) as this doesn’t take into account links like blogroll or site wide links. For example you could have a few thousand links from only a couple of sites, which is not the same as one link from thousands of different sites. To get a real picture of the backlink profile use a service like open site explorer (www.opensiteexplorer.org) which will tell you the number of unique domains and also the anchor text ratios of your competition. OSE is great because it gives you a specific number to beat.
What type of links?
Link analysis is one of those things you can get lost in for days, it’s easy to try and analyse every link your competitor has but the truth is you can never know how much benefit they are getting from any one link. What I try to do is get an overall picture of the diversity of links they are getting, e.g. are all their links coming from forum signatures? Or maybe they’ve all been created on social bookmarking sites? Google loves diversity because when a site gets popular naturally many different types of sites link to it from all sectors of the internet. If your competition has just one type of man-made link from one part of the net then they could be easy to beat.
Quality content or just a big domain?
Often people new to seo will see a big authority name in their target market like Amazon or eBay and give up all hope. All is not lost however as frequently the amount and quality of content on these listings is poor, often Amazon just lists some manufacturer technical data and even that is mostly duplicate from somewhere else. The point I’m making is that if you can create an entire site with 100s or even 1000s of pages on a specific topic it’s a clear sign to Google that you are more relevant than just a single page (even if it is on an authority domain). Even though links are important I still believe that the amount and quality of your content has a big impact on your rankings, so if your opponent is just has one page on the subject that’s one more area you know you can beat them on.
Putting it all together
There are other factors like site age and keyword density but I don’t feel they are as useful for competition analysis as links and content. It’s important to remember that what you are looking to get is an overall picture of the difficulty of your competition, if you’re trying to isolate every possible factor you could be in danger of falling into the over-analysis trap (i.e. you never get anything done!). At a basic level I want to know that I can beat my competitors in the key areas of content and links but it doesn’t need to be volume either because as mentioned a few quality links can beat thousands that Google will ignore. It’s also important to remember that as SEOs we are all working at different levels, I can rank for things you can’t and vice versa, you have to use your own judgement when it comes to going for the market or not.
About Guest Author: Article by Paul, I hope this article helps if your thinking about taking on a new market, if you’re interested in different ways to market and earn money from your site then check out my new webmaster blog sometime.