Webmaster tips » SEO

Nov 3, 2008
Nevil Darukhanawala

Is your competition beating you in SEO?

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You have optimized your website for winning keywords, are mid-way with your link building campaign, and have been going absolutely crazy creating fresh SEO friendly content that pleases the users and search engines.

You are obviously very serious about your online business, and yet you cannot seem to cross the rank No.12, Page 2 barrier of Google search listing for your primary keywords.

A series are questions arise from the imaginary situation above:

  1. Why is my ranking for the particular keyword not going up?
  2. Am I missing out on any SEO strategies?
  3. Maybe I am not building enough links? How much will be enough?
  4. Do I have to improve my content quality?
  5. The search engine has changed their algorithm (…again)
  6. Others are using illegal SEO techniques

Now while one could go over the questions in your head, read up on latest search engine algorithms, contact a SEO expert, or blindly start buying links out of desperation, there is an easier way to find your answers.

Simply ask why are the other 10 websites ranking before your website?

Now that does not mean that the above questions 1 to 6 are not relevant, but simply put, one of the easiest way to boost your search rankings is to study the top 5 to ten websites for your keyword and then apply what working for them into your own strategies.

Now I am not asking you to copy the competition or have a strategy that just involves beating the competition at the ranking game. It never works. What is needed is a better balance between your company's SEO strategies and of those of your competitors.

Like in any business strategy, you have to know your competitors, study what strategies they are using, and then apply the best of those strategies to your own game plan.

In the same way, in defining the SEO path ahead for your website you must analyze your competition. What are they doing to rank in the top 10 that you are not doing? After all those websites are listed on the top for a reason, and they are applying SEO strategies that the search engine in particular seems to like.

Now while finding the answers to those questions in the real business world may be difficult, in the online world all you have to do is to right-click and view the source of the page.

The above simple step will open up a world of information to you. (Editor note: you can use Site Information Tool and Keyword Density Analyzer to reveal some important information about your competitors' sites).

  1. Does the domain name contain the keyword? If the link is a sub domain then does the sub domain contain the keyword?
  2. In what Meta tags, title, etc has the competition placed their keywords?
  3. Does the link name contain the keyword? eg. www.seo-optimization-experts.com/mumbai-seo-expert.html
  4. 4. How many keywords are listed in the keyword tag i.e. is the page focused around one or two keywords, or is it a jumble of keywords listed out.
  5. Is the title and description captivating enough? How has the keyword/s been placed in the title and description and at what position?
  6. Is the page graphic intensive? Is the site using a lot flash or active server pages? Search engines cannot understand graphics, only the text it can read on the page. Make sure there is a good balance between the graphics and content.
  7. How long is the body text? Writing 400 to 600 words is normally fine.
  8. Has the keyword (keyword weight) been used appropriately in the body content? Ideally the first 25 words of content should be keyword rich, and the keyword should appear after every 100 words in remaining content.
  9. Is the content interesting to you as the reader? Does the content follow a theme? Is the content relevant to what keyword the page has been optimized for?
  10. What is the page rank of the page (You can check page rank of any website by downloading the Google Toolbar at http://toolbar.google.com.
  11. Which is the first place in the source code the keyword appears?
  12. Has the keyword been used appropriately in headline tags and link text?
  13. Does the site use java script, tables, frames, dynamic content, CMS etc?
  14. Is the page focused around a theme?
  15. How many inbound links are there to the page? You can check the link popularity of the page on www.marketleap.com? Visit the sites that have given the link? What is their page rank? What is the link text that describes the link to the website? Has the keyword been used in the link text?
  16. How many pages does the site have?
  17. Does the site have a good site map that lists all the content pages, videos on the site that search engine spiders can crawly easily?
  18. Are there any 404 errors on the website?
  19. What is the domain name extension e.g. .com,. net, .edu, .co.in
  20. How long has that domain name been in existence? Search engines rank those sites better that have been around for a while, or those that plan to be around for a while?
  21. How many directories has that page/ website been submitted to?
  22. Has the site used any spamming or illegal SEO techniques like keyword stuffing, cloaking, hidden text, duplicate content and other such Spam's? If yes you can inform the search engine of the same but do so with caution. For Google: http://www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html

Please note that sometimes you will find no reasons why the competitors' website is ranked above yours. And that's ok. I have experienced many cases of certain sites which go against the search engines guidelines (set by search engines themselves), and yet they rank above meticulously optimized pages.

Search engines are constantly trying to remove badly optimized or spam pages which offer little or no value to the users. Our intent here is not to focus on the missing pieces/loopholes of search engines algorithms or isolated instances of sites that don't deserve it and yet are ranking high, but to work within the framework and guidelines for the long haul.

By mapping out the answers to the above questions (preferable on a spread sheet), you will find the overall patterns of what is working for those sites and why, and then figure out ways to modify your SEO strategies to improve your rankings.

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About The Author
Nevil Darukhanawala is a SEO expert from Mumbai, India. Read his SEO blog here.
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