Five essentials to help beat your competitors at SEO
By Matt D. Wright
Mastering search engines is a key part of driving sales online and even a basic understanding of what makes a website appear at the top of Google can be game changing.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is often regarded by businesses as a low-priority task on a long to-do list, which means that it often simply never gets done. And when getting to the very top of the Google search ranks seems like an impossible feat for even the most successful of businesses, it can be difficult to find the motivation to tackle it.
Historically, a bit of time and money spent on SEO positioned a business right at the very top of a natural Google search, providing a healthy slice of web traffic.
Today, however, it’s far more complex and competitive, requiring more sophisticated tools and expertise. Here are five SEO essentials worth taking a look at:
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1. The basic operator (free)
Using what’s known as a “site colon search” – or “site:” – can help you to see what pages are live and optimised on your website in Google search.
Most SEO experts will use this at some point to find out whether Google’s search results represent a business’s offering well enough. They might also use it to find out whether there are too many irrelevant site pages that don’t relate to typical searches being made for your products or services.
Bad SEO can be spotted if common search terms for your product or service (for example “carpet fitters London”) aren’t presented efficiently enough in the blue and green lines of text, or the page information.
You can edit or change this via your website or content management tool to better match up with your desired search terms.
Watching out for duplicates is important too. Google doesn’t like duplications of the same content and words, because it’s hard for it to choose between pages from the same domain for the same keyword searches.
2. Links (free/paid)
Apart from the content itself, links are often the most important factor in SEO rankings. If other authoritative websites link to your pages, Google might determine that your site is notable or important.
But it’s about quality, rather than quantity. Many website owners have been caught out in Google algorithm updates – such as one called Penguin – that penalise websites with lots of low-quality links pointing at them, which is done to to deliberately boost ranks.
Tools such as Majestic enable you to understand what worthwhile links your competitors have. With this knowledge, you can emulate their authority signals more accurately and compete more strongly in search.
Links aren’t just about authority; relevance is also essential, so try to get more links to point to your pages from niche websites or companies in your sector. A great source of referral links could be a specialist directory, or a top 10 list of products specific to your sector.
3. Analytics (free/paid)
Taking a look over the fence at what your competitors are up to can offer helpful insights as to how to improve revenues from natural search. Ahrefs, for example, is a tool that helps you to see what pages and keywords drive most traffic to your competitors’ websites, whatever the sector. It’s very helpful when you need to know what keyword traffic volumes and opportunities are delivering results for other companies.
Google Analytics also offers some great insights. With this you can understand what traffic is coming to your own website and from where. This is the same for Google Search Console, a tool that enables you to find out what Google thinks the keywords should be that you are ranking for.
4. Topic analysis (free)
Keyword topic density is becoming important in the SEO world, which has been the case ever since Google's Hummingbird update struck smarter ways to understand the wider topic relevancies between website content offerings and searches.
By copying and pasting your competitor website content into a
density tool, it’s possible to understand the topics that competitors mention. These contribute to their ranks in Google.
Use these topic ideas on your own website. Research such as this can help your SEO enormously, by helping you to restructure your site sections, or page headers, to mention the relevant topics.
Today Google ranks a single web page for roughly 10 major keywords. Knowing the terms that your competitors mostly use in combination is a great way to make your online content as effective as possible.
5. Paid insights (free/paid)
Paid keyword insights can help you to understand the most effective keywords from the many thousands of variations out there. By putting together a small campaign in AdWords, you can start to see what variations of keywords actually provide conversions, assuming that you have set conversion funnels up in Google Analytics.