Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is always a competition. Starting from scratch, you’re studying the Page One search results content. You try to figure out how to rank on that very first page. Ranked one, you’re studying improvements made by ranked two and three. There is no room for complacency.
How Do You Rank on Page One
What makes a good article, blog, or service page? It answers a question someone searched for clearly and thoroughly. It comes from a trustworthy source. The content written is sourced. It matches terms and key phrases that were searched for. But when more people are able to check all those boxes, it isn’t that simple to rank on page one. So how do you stand out from the rest?
Demonstrating Industry Expertise
There are many law firms out there covering a variety of case types, from personal injury to medical malpractice, to family law. Florida personal injury lawyers compete with firms for car accident claims in a state with one of the highest rates of car accidents, by far. So when all of those firms know SEO basics and want to present their ability, competence, and knowledge online, who ends up on top? The industry expert does. Well, actually, the one who paid for an ad will rank higher, but after them, the industry expert is on top organically.
Sometimes that industry expert is the best-known name country or statewide, with many office locations. Or it’s the best-known name locally with the most five-star reviews and the most comprehensive take on the subject potential clients or customers need help with.
Take the query “Car Accident Lawyer (name of city accident occurred in)”. The best result has the most apparent prestige, perhaps mentions affordability, tells you the steps that need to be taken right away, and makes it easy for you to contact them. “Free consultation” is normally there as well. It provides you with everything you’d need on one comprehensive page.
What is Comprehensive Content?
Some time ago, the top-performing blog or page for a dental service website would be “Does Getting Your Wisdom Teeth Removed Hurt?”. It’s a common concern people type if they’re nervous about the procedure. What they found was a medium-length blog reassuring them that they’d be put to sleep during the procedure and the recovery length and process. It’s exactly what the searcher would’ve been looking for, but when every dentist with a blog now provides that same reassurance, it wouldn’t remain number one.
Today, that high performing blog would drop off huge. Why? Googling (or Binging) that same query would now pull up “Wisdom Teeth Removal: What to Expect Before, During, and After”. A more comprehensive blog that covers all concerns you may have and others you didn’t previously think of, from what you may need to before the procedure to reassuring and letting you know the steps to ensure your recovery time is as painless as possible. A complacent SEO wouldn’t have seen a flaw in the previous blog. They answered the question clearly and had a nice call to action (CTA) on top, not noticing a competitor was going for the top spot all along.
Learning From Your Competitors (Direct and Indirect)
The benefit of this field is most of the time you can clearly see why you lost your rank or how to improve it. If you’re doing SEO for a client of a certain industry, they’ll likely be able to identify their direct competitors for you, but as an SEO expert, you can recognize other competitors on the results page.
Search for these competitors, review their knowledge panel, does one even come up? If so, do they have more reviews than you? Has each one been responded to? Search through their content. Look for content that overlaps subjects –– who covers the subject better? What’s their link building strategy? How’s their website? Is it faster than yours? There’s always something to learn from and improve.
It should go without saying, never plagiarize. But if you and your competitor both have pages about “What to Expect Getting Your Tonsils Removed” and you notice your competitor has a section called “Consequences of Tonsillitis Left Untreated” and you don’t, you should add a similar section based on your own research and experience to make your content more complete, and continue thinking of other aspects of tonsil removal relevant to that page.
How to Compare Your Site to the Competition
SEMRush is an SEO tool that breaks down the performance of every site you type into it. Typing Amazon.com into SEMRush shows their organic search traffic, paid search traffic, backlinks, top organic keywords, their ranks and a lot more. It’s a must for website audits.
SEMRush is also useful for looking at both yourself and your competitors. SEMRush breaks down each individual page of the website you typed in and shows you the different queries each page ranks for, the page rank for each query, and any recent increase or decrease in rank.
Domain vs. Domain is another SEMRush feature in which you’re able to directly compare 2-5 websites directly. You can see how a small company compares to a large one in terms of keyword traffic and gain perspective from the massive gap. You can compare two websites of similar scale and see who comes out on top. You can compare two completely unrelated sites to see if there’s the slightest overlap out of curiosity.
Compare by search volume, compare by SERP rank. The data is there for you to use and learn from and see what the competition is doing better than you.
The Importance of SEO Competitive Research
As SEOs become more knowledgeable in this field, these practices are going to be even more and more commonplace, but along with reading the latest blogs, remember you can always learn from the competition as well.