The Internet is a highly competitive landscape, made even more competitive because just about every site owner knows a little bit of SEO (at least!) to help make their site that much more appealing to search engines and searchers alike. If you want to create an SEO campaign that is going to help position your site well in the search engines, attract more targeted traffic and ultimately lead to more business for your company, you need to understand what you are up against.

Here are 3 tips to better understand your online competition:

Be realistic

If you really want to understand your online competition, you have to know who they are. But it’s not as simple as saying, “Oh, my company and this company target the same demographic and sell similar products. We must be competitors.” For instance, the Banana Republic is a retail giant. Their competition is other big retailers like J. Crew and L.L. Bean. You may own a small clothing boutique, but you are not competing with Banana Republic for online domination. The simple fact is that just don’t have the money and manpower that some of the larger brands do to invest in your Internet marketing. Your real online competition is other small boutiques in your area that cater to the same audience.

You have got to be realistic when identifying your online competition so that you can formulate an SEO campaign that has a good chance of actually helping your brand! Big brands like Banana Republic are going to fighting with other big brands over industry-specific, high search volume keywords (dresses, slacks, men’s polo’s, etc), which means your best chance for success lies in the long-tail and localized keywords (Boston women’s clothing store). If you can’t properly identify your online competition, you won’t be able to find opportunities for growth and niches to dominate.

Subscribe to their blog’s RSS feed and company newsletter

Once you’ve established who your competition is, you need to get a good feel for their brand and online marketing tactics. One way to do this is to sign up for their e-newsletter and start reading their company blog. How often are they writing new blog posts? Do they recycle blog posts in their newsletters or it is new content? What demographic are they writing for? What kind of topics do they focus on?

Content marketing is a huge component of any good SEO campaign, the crux of which is often a business blog. By reading your competition’s blog you can get a good sense of what kind of content they are producing. You can also use it to find some inspiration for your own company blog! Obviously you never want to copy a post and call it your own, but you can pull a nugget of information from one of their posts and take a unique spin on it. You can also get a good idea of what the competition isn’t writing about, which is an opportunity for you.

Run an SEO link audit on their site

To understand where your site falls in comparison to the competition, it’s useful to run a link audit on their sites. A link audit will show you how many inbound links your competitor’s site has and you can determine what kind of links they are. If your competitor’s have 1,000 low quality, spammy links from splogs and link exchange partnerships, you know that own link building campaign is going to help propel your site ahead of theirs. If their site has 1,000 high quality links from a variety of sources, you’ll know you’ve got your work cut out for you in terms of matching the value of their link portfolio.

Running a link audit can also help you plan your own link strategy. What industry sites does the competition have links from that you don’t? What popular industry blogs are they guest authors on? Are they using social media or video marketing to generate links? The best link portfolios have links coming from many different sources. This makes it clear to the search engines that you are engaging in white hat link building and protects your site should one source fail (if all your links comes from Facebook, what happens to your site if your Facebook page is deleted?)

If you want your SEO to succeed, you have to know where you stand in relation to the competition. You need to have a clear picture of who your competition is and what they are doing for their own SEO before you start building your own strategy so you can identify where the opportunities for growth are.

About the Author – Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is the President of SEO agency Brick Marketing, a white hat link building and Social SEO solutions firm. With over 12 years of industry experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO tips in his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal (or SEO Journal) and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, ready by 150,000 subscribers.

Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or

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