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Competition Analysis Basics for SEO
In my last article titled, “Keyword Research Basics for SEO” I discussed keyword research and the basics of keyword selection. Of course – you can't solidify your targets until you understand what you're up against. All the keyword research in the world won't help you rank for the keyword phrase “windows” in 6 months with a brand new site. So understanding how to analyze your competitors and get a feel for who you can compete with in a reasonable period of time is paramount to creating a solid strategy. I'll also be flashing back a bit on keyword strategy.
In the last article we closed with a list of potential keyword phrases, the idea that we needed to divide our phrases into major phrases and longtail phrases and also a new domain (just to keep things realistic). So where do we go from there?
Generally I start at the top. From the highest searched phrases to the lowest – I do a quick analysis of the major phrases to determine the long term goals and the short term. I also like to look for what I call “holes”. These are phrases that have competition levels lower than one would expect when looking at the search volume. So let's use the example I was using in the last article and imagine a US-based downhill mountain bike company. And let's begin with the major targets.
The phrases we'll examine for the purposes of this article are the top 10 phrases as ordered by search volume. They are:
- mountain bike
- mountain bikes
- specialized mountain bike
- trek mountain bike
- mountain bike frame
- full suspension mountain bike
- cannondale mountain bike
- giant mountain bike
- mountain bike parts
- mountain bike reviews
So what are we looking for? It's obviously not feasible to do incredibly thorough competition analysis at this stage. I've listed 10 phrases here but in reality there are hundreds to consider and so we need a quick(ish) way to determine the competition levels of phrases. First, let's install a couple tools to help you make some quick decisions. You'll need to install the Firefox browser and the SEO Quake add on. Now when you run a search you'll be able to quickly pull the competitor stats. I like to look at the PageRank, links to the ranking page and sitelinks. Remember now – this is the basic competitor analysis here.
Here are the stats for the top 10 ranking sites across the 10 top phrases (I'll leave out the URLs so there's no promotion):
Phrase: mountain bike
Site 1 – PR6, 70,268 page links, 71,177 domain links
Site 2 – PR6, 262,609 page links, 290,281 domain links
Site 3 – PR5, 0 page links, 604 domain links
Site 4 – PR6, 101,136 page links, 206,397 domain links
Site 5 – PR5, 741 page links, 118,791,902 domain links
Phrase: mountain bikes
Site 1 – PR5, 33,097 page links, 40,747 domain links
Site 2 – PR6, 42,010 page links, 91,385 domain links
Site 3 – PR6, 262,609 page links, 290,281 domain links
Site 4 – PR6, 101,136 page links, 206,397 domain links
Site 5 – PR5, 25,059 page links, 38,132 domain links
Phrase: specialized mountain bikes
Site 1 – PR6, 101,136 page links, 206,397 domain links
Site 2 – PR1, 1 page links, 206,397 domain links
Site 3 – PR4, 2,001 page links, 2,095 domain links
Site 4 – PR5, 734 page links, 738 domain links
Site 5 – PR2, 4 page links, 230 domain links
Phrase: trek mountain bikes
Site 1 – PR6, 65,464 page links, 178,712 domain links
Site 2 – PR4, 108 page links, 178,712 domain links
Site 3 – PR4, 127 page links, 523 domain links
Site 4 – PR4, 2,001 page links, 2,095 domain links
Site 5 – PR0, 0 page links, 3,854,233 domain links
Phrase: mountain bike frame
Site 1 – PR4, 6,348 page links, 44,535 domain links
Site 2 – PR2, 6 page links, 4,303 domain links
Site 3 – PR4, 196 page links, 523 domain links
Site 4 – PR0, 28 page links, 35 domain links
Site 5 – PR1, 0 page links, 294,361,703 domain links
Phrase: full suspension mountain bike
Site 1 – PR4, 58 page links, 178,712 domain links
Site 2 – PR4, 20 page links, 1,729 domain links
Site 3 – PR3, 7 page links, 9,959,894 domain links
Site 4 – PR5, 240 page links, 290,281 domain links
Site 5 – PR3, 0 page links, 294,362,703 domain links
Phrase: cannondale mountain bikes
Site 1 – PR6, 62,614 page links, 91,301 domain links
Site 2 – PR6, 410 page links, 91,301 domain links
Site 3 – PR4, 0 page links, 2,056 domain links
S ite 4 – PR3, 3 page links, 80,580 domain links
Site 5 – PR2, 3 page links, 9,959,894 domain links
Phrase: giant mountain bikes
Site 1 – PR3, 7 page links, 136,232 domain links
Site 2 – PR4, 2,001 page links, 2,095 domain links
Site 3 – PR0, 6 page links, 6 domain links
Site 4 – PR4, 2,262 page links, 2,392 domain links
Site 5 – PR2, 1 page links, 60,131 domain links
Phrase: mountain bike parts
Site 1 – PR4, 610 page links, 2,366 domain links
Site 2 – PR4, 851 page links, 4,303 domain links
S ite 3 – PR4, 6,348 page links, 44,535 domain links
Site 4 – PR5, 4,612 page links, 20,931 domain links
Site 5 – PR6, 4,612 page links, 20,931 domain links
Phrase: mountain bike reviews
Site 1 – PR6, 262,609 page links, 290,281 domain links
Site 2 – PR5, 240 page links, 290,281 domain links
Site 3 – PR6, 560 page links, 361,873 domain links
Site 4 – PR5, 0 page links, 604 domain links
Site 5 – PR4, 22 page links, 90,123 domain links
Now, I'd definitely look further down my keyword list than this but for the purposes of this article let's assume this is all we have. If that's the case – what do you suppose would be the primary choice(s)? Were it to me I'd go with:
mountain bike frame – we have a range of PageRank, a range of links and a range of sites. Basically – we're not up against a wall of high competition and the search volume is solid.
full suspension mountain bike – a full range of sites. Higher competition than “mountain bike frame” but we're looking at a phrase that would sell a whole bike which needs to be considered and a slightly higher competition is thus acceptable.
So of these two phrases what would I do? Well – if this was all we had to work with I'd select “full suspension mountain bike” as the main phrase and follow that up with “mountain bike frame” as a major secondary phrase and thus a prime target for proactive internal page link building and optimization.
So now let's look at whether there are any good longtail phrases. In this industry we'll be looking for specific parts. Since going through all the different types of parts would be a nightmare in an article I'll focus on a couple parts I just ordered recently and that was a new handlebar and and a new rim. To keep things simple I'm going to focus on just a couple brands in the research BUT in reality we'd take the extra time and look into all the part types and all the brands that we'd be able to sell on our site.
So for handlebars, here's the long and short of the numbers and competition:
Brands researched – origin and easton
“easton handlebars” with 1,000 estimated searches/mth with low competition outside of the manufacturer is a great start. Further, when we look up the manufacturer we further see that the ea70 and ea90 Easton models are both sought after as well.
When we build our site we obviously want to build a structure and heirarchy that are conducive to longtail rankings overall but what we're looking for here are ideas as to where to put our energies when it comes to content creation and link building. Handlebars looks good by search volume. The average sale per item would be around $25.
And now to rims:
Brands researched – mavic and sun
“mavic rims” and “sun rims” both come in at 1,900 estimated searches but the comeptition for “sun rims” is significantly lower with lower link counts and lower PageRank sites ranking. The average sale here is also going be in the $40 to $45 range.
Based on this my first efforts for the whole site wold be “full suspension mountain bike” for the homeapge, mountain bike frame” as a major internal page and I'd focus my first efforts on “rims” (“sun rim” specifically).
Now – we'd of course look further than this but what we can see is the direction that we'd go if all we had to go on was the above data. As noted – were we launching this site we'd look into every brand and every part type and research further than the top 10 phrases but that would have made for a book, not and article and let's be honest – it would have been a very boring book unless you were planning on launching a mountain bike site.
So now you've done enough competition analysis (remember – it's basic research we're talking about) to figure out what direction to head in. In my next article I'm going to cover more advanced competition analysis. We'll go in knowing what we want to accomplish in the way of keywords and be working to map out how to take the top spots.
Until then – get your campaigns sorted out for potential keywords and keep reading … this is where it gets really interesting.
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