Guest post by Helen Stark:
Most of today’s business battles are taking place online, as websites have become the most vital place for communication with consumers. Millennials, who mostly use the Internet for their research of goods and services, also impact the way businesses represent themselves online. This is good news.
The bad news is that pretty much all your rivals are already here. Or soon will be. It means that you will have to fight for the client’s attention and get traffic, visits, and customers to your website. The right way to beat your competitors is in performing a proper keyword research, identifying your goals and audiences and stealing some traffic from your rivals.
Start with keyword research basics
Most people are used to Google Keyword Planner – a tool mostly aimed at PPC research and which has little to do with real keyword targeting. It gives limited info about keyword value. And since it has started grouping keywords and showing only the average number of monthly searches (e.g. “1K – 10K”), this tool should not be your top-priority option.
There are tons of free tools like Soovle and Ubersuggest, but they usually show the raw list of keywords with no data available. So it’s better to choose more advanced products that offer the following metrics:
- Monthly search volume (exact numbers) that allows you to choose more attractive keywords
- Keyword difficulty (from 1 to 100) that shows you how much effort you should give to rank in Top-10 for the given keyword where 1 is absolute no-brainer, and 100 is totally impossible if only you’re not Google itself
- Estimated traffic that suggests the amount of traffic you may get to your website with this keyword. A perfect metric that helps you to focus your top-priority keywords
- Number of clicks helps to identify the most “clickable” keywords. It’s obvious that keywords that answer short questions (e.g. celebrities’ age or the location of a restaurant) may not attract clicks since the answer appears right in the SERP. Thus, you should focus on keywords that provide a high number of clickthroughs.
Various keyword tools may offer you different metrics for keywords. Thus, Google Keyword Planner, along with many others, shows suggested bid or cost per click. This helps website owners who wish to try paid ads in Google.
Identify Your Competitors
Most resources divide competitors into online and offline ones. But inside those two groups, their types are pretty similar. Offline competitors can be identified as follows:
- Direct competitors. You must already know them all. It’s the companies that offer the same products as you do, e.g. McDonald’s and Burger King
- Indirect competitors. These competitors have a broader range of products with only a few categories that are similar to yours, like McCafe that tries to take on Starbucks
- Perceived competitors. These ones require deeper research. They usually are in a different business niche, but consumers may see them as a substitution to your products in some way. Like healthy-eating stores may rival McDonald’s in terms of the quality of foods they offer.
The main thing in identifying and outperforming online competitors is finding and outrunning them in terms of keywords they rank in Google. So first you may wish to check out Google’s SERP to identify them.
To find out the businesses that compete with yours, you may research them in Google typing your top-priority keywords into the search field and identifying the businesses that already rank for those keywords. You’ll then produce a list of the top websites ranking for those keywords.
You can also put your website into an SEO tool you like and check your competitors there. E.g. in Ahrefs you can drop your website’s URL into the Site Explorer tool and then click the Competing Domains tab in the sidebar:
Thus, you will get a nice list of 20+ competing websites and may start building your strategy to outrun them.
Researching keywords to outrun competitors
After you get a list of competing websites, you may check them one by one to find out what keywords help them to rank in the Google’s Top-10. It is a well-known “keyword-stealing” technique. Just paste each competitor’s URL into the SEO tool you use. Then check out the organic keywords it ranks in search engines. In Ahrefs you can sort out those keywords according to positions from 1 to 10 (you wish your website to rank in top-10, don’t you?).
Then copy those keywords to a Word document and repeat the same manipulations with the other competitors’ URLs. You’ll get a large list of keywords you may use to improve your website’s rankings.
Choose your top-priority keywords
After you get your list of keywords, you’ll need to shorten it a bit and concentrate on those that can bring you the most traffic and the highest positions.
First, sort out keywords to find out where to focus most of your attention. The ways you can sort them are as follows:
- Parent topic. Long-tail keywords should be your main focus point. But it’s good to find out the “parent topic” for a bunch of them. Thus you may get a list of more general keywords that include many specific ones and try to rank for all of them under one huge topic.
- User search. It is usually the user’s intent to find something they need in Google. Try to figure out what keywords from the list answer the user’s intent in the most precise manner and may lead users right to your website or its page.
- Try to figure out what keywords are the most valuable for you and can bring to your website traffic, shares, natural backlinks etc. You should check ROI opportunities when sorting out your keywords. Choose ones that can bring you the maximum ROI with a minimum of effort.
You can also indicate for each keyword its difficulty level, traffic potential, possible results (leads, traffic, clicks, customers etc.). You should also check out the competitor’s pages that bring them the highest ranks and analyze what can you copy from them to get higher in SERPs (post structure, images, answers to user’s search, backlinks etc.). Then try to optimise your content in a similar fashion to get to the top!
About the Author:
Helen is a marketing manager at Ahrefs.com. She explores new things everyday to impress her readers with catchy stories. Apart from all that marketing stuff, Helen loves listening to rock music, reading and traveling. A lot! Follow Helen on Twitter.