Have you ever wondered what your competition is optimising and trying to rank for in Google?
There are a few simple things you can do to gauge what they’re doing just by knowing where to look, what to look for and and what tools are available to help you do this. I’m going to show you some of the basics and give a few real world examples along the way.
Select Your Competition
Just to clarify, your competition does not necessarily have to mean the business down the street that provides or sells the same products or services that you do.
If you’re trading online, the Internet means your actual competition could potentially be based at the other end of the country and is very applicable if you provide goods or products that can be shipped, services that are conducted remotely or whereby your potential customers are prepared to travel to your location.
If you’re a business owner that depends upon local customers visiting your shop or premises then by all means pick your competition based upon who are most similar to you or whereby your interests clearly overlap.
A recent Google change to its search engine nick named Venice, now means they’ve started to favour showing local businesses in their results which pertain to the same or similar geographic region as the person searching regardless of where a town, city or place name is used.
i.e. if I were to type in “hair dressers” it will automatically detect that I’m in Nottingham and show me local hairdressers, rather than waste my time with businesses that aren’t nearby.
Find & Identify their website in Google
If you already have a good idea of who your competitors are then you can fire up a new browser window with Google ready & open.
So let’s imagine for a minute that I’m a driving instructor, and I recognise Elliot’s School of Motoring as another driving instructor that routinely works within the same areas as me and for all intents and purposes is a competitor.
Let’s type their name into Google.
Start by doing a search for your chosen competitor’s company name and following through to the subsequent set of search results.
Check out their Title tags
The Title tag is the first line of blue hyperlinked text that appears above the website address.
The Title tag is used to define or list the words and search engine queries a business or website would like to be found for when someone searches for a particular query.
If I’m a driving instructor, then it makes perfect sense that I would want someone to find my website when they type “driving lessons” into Google!
Notice how Ellitot’s have this phrase in their title. This is an indication that their website is at least in part optimised for the phrase “Driving Lessons”.
At this stage I might be asking myself: What would I like to be found for in Google? Or what else would my competitor want to be found for that might also benefit my business?
Now click through to your chosen competitions’ website
Anything written in the Title Tag will then also appear within your browser at the top of the window.
We can now also more clearly see they’re attempting to optimise and be found for “driving schools” “crash courses” and “cheap driving lessons”.
The Early Things to Look Out For
The pipe symbol > | < is used to segment and separate one keyword or phrase from another. If their Titles are using this symbol, it’s a very obvious sign that they’re either doing SEO or may have done it in the past.
They’re very evidently doing SEO! Should you also be doing this?
They’re not doing SEO. Could you be?
A clear sign that someone is NOT doing SEO, or they are doing SEO very badly is when their Titles contain fluffy messages like “Welcome to our website” or incorrectly use the name of the page such as “Home Page” (as seen above) Seeing a website that pipes its keywords is not an absolute indication, but a very common tel. They might also be using commas or hyphens.
Check their Meta Keywords Tag
There exists another special HTML tag called the Keyword tag (HTML code is what your website is written in) that’s purpose was once upon a time to provide a bearing on what any given page was about as well as serving as the words you wanted to be found for when someone searched.
Due to extensive misuse, Google now ignores this tag.
However people still continue to use this on their website because it was once such common practise. Now it can be used to obtain a handy list of the words and phrases you can be reasonably certain they’d like to be optimising for. Unlike the Title tag, the Meta Keywords tag isn’t mandatory, so there might not be one present!
How do you check? It’s possible to view the HTML source code of their website. Just right click on the web page itself and cheekily select “View Source”.
Fortunately Elliot’s do have a Meta Keywords tag present on their website!
Wow, so now I can see a whole list of the words this business wants to be found for through web based searches such as Google.
“Driving Lessons Derby, Driving Schools Derby, Crash Course Derby, Cheap Driving Lessons Derby, Driving Instructors Derby, Automatic Driving Lessons Derby, Female Driving Lessons Derby, Reliable Driving School Derby”
[These words were copy & pasted straight from the code of their website.]
By having this on their page do they rank higher? Nope! Does it still show the intentions behind what they think they’re optimising for? Yes!
These are very rough checks and are by no means conclusive, but they’re a great early indicator that yes they are doing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) along with what words they’re optimising.
And remember just because somebody is doing SEO, it does not mean they’re doing it right!
Should you copy your competitors?
Now you might be tempted to copy what your competitors are doing.
By all means it’s useful to know what they’re doing. If they’re appearing at the top of the results for the sorts of words and phrases you know are also good for your business then it makes perfect sense that they’re doing something right.
However, how do you know they’ve chosen the most beneficial keywords? It might stand to reason that a phrase such as “learn to drive” might have more people searching for it and have less competitors optimising their websites for the same phrase. This is determined by carrying out Keyword Research.
If they’re doing something wrong then by copying them you also risk repeating the same mistakes they’re making.