Understanding your competitive landscape is one of the best ways to gauge how well you’re doing within your niche or industry. Below are some criteria to follow in order to better enhance your company’s own SEO.
A lot of your SEO strategy’s success relies on having a solid information architecture on your website. In the simplest of terms, information architecture is the way pages and content on your website are structured and organized. A website with strong information architecture tells search engines and the end user where they are, how to find what they’re looking for, and what the main benefit or call-to-action is on the website.
There are certain tools like Xenu’s Link Sleuth or Screaming Frog that can help you audit a competitor’s website and determine its information architecture. Make note of how your competitors structure their pages and decide how your site stands up to theirs. A website URL can usually tell you your location within the site. The words that follow the domain (*.com) in a URL (such as .com/about/blog) usually indicate which page you are on in the website hierarchy.
The more pages under a domain, the more spread out the “juice” of a domain is. An unwritten rule is that you should only be 3 clicks away from any page on the website, but of course, it also depends on the type of website.
User Experience Analysis
A website is useless if it doesn’t serve the end-user. Test your website yourself, and then ask close team members to test it. Once you have it to where you’re ready to show it to the public, ask clients and customers for their feedback. Your goal is to determine how each user moves through the site, which sections they gravitate towards the most, and where you ultimately want them to land on.
This requires extensive testing and analysis. UX Analysis can be broken down into the technical and the subjective. Here are some of the things you should look at when you’re on someone else’s website, and areas of improvement for your own.
The technical aspects of user experience are more to do with organization and formatting. This includes:
- URLs – Is the domain a .com? Are the pages organized well?
- Text to HTML Ratio – While not a direct ranking factor, having a high text to HTML ratio can lead to better user experience, faster indexing, and site speed.
- Word Count and Page Markup – Your pages should follow a proper markup convention, using H2s and H3s (the smaller the number, the bigger and more important the title is), and making sure that there are no paragraphs that are so long they might bore the reader.
- Site Speed and Site Scripts – The more scripts you have, the slower your site will run. The slower your site runs, the less likely people will stay or revisit.
- Mobile-Friendly – Almost everyone now accesses websites on their smartphone or mobile device. Make sure your website works properly on smaller screens.
Subjective UX differs with each person’s personal preferences, reading ability, and user path.
- Calls-to-Action – Do you have strong calls-to-action? A button that says “Read More” or “Buy Now” can push readers to actually convert.
- Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score – This is a measure of how easy it is for someone to read a post. While not a direct ranking factor, having too many complicated words or sentences can severely diminish your potential audience size and retention. Readable.io has a tool which can help you determine your page’s score.
- Internal Linking – It’s not enough to have links to each page, you have to have your pages link to each other. At the end of a blog post, place a few links to similar, related blogs. Link to your homepage in case a certain page gets shared online. Make sure people can find their way around your website, so they’ll be more willing to explore.
- User Journeys – Notice how people move through sites at their own pace and path? Try using heat maps to determine how your users navigate your website.
Take a look at the keywords your competitors are using and ranking for. This will give you a good idea of how competitive the landscape is, and how seriously your competition is taking digital marketing.
SEMrush is a popular SEO tool that can help you pull the keywords your competitors are using, and see how you rank against them for a particular keyword. Keep in mind, it doesn’t filter out brand names, and you may not want to compete with brand names (since whichever brand owns that keyword will almost always end up at the top, if they know what they’re doing). Just go to the Organic Research section, and click on Organic Positions.
Content Analysis (Ahrefs)
There are even tools right now, such as the Content Explorer by Ahrefs, that will help you determine the most popular and most shared pages of a website. This is an invaluable tool that can help you understand which pages and topics resonate the most with the intended audience, and how these certain pages are constructed in a way that promotes sharing and discussion.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- How are these pages titled?
- How do these pages organize the content? Is it comprehensive, or simple?
- What is the content? What makes it appealing and stand out from other people who post the same content?
- How can you encourage your readers to share the work, or to engage and comment?
- How will you make the content more interesting? Is it through humor? By adding imagery?
- How will you promote the content? Through social media? email campaigns?
Site Structure, UX Analysis, Keyword Rankings, and Content are just a few components of SEO. There’s much more that goes into the whole system. Hopefully, this gives you just an overview of the best SEO strategies involved and the various areas you can start analyzing, whether it’s your website or a competitor’s.
Next, you should focus on ranking factors as part of your SEO strategy. Read our blog on the three ranking factors in 2017 to focus on.
Still confused? Check out our article of 10 common SEO buzzwords that marketers love to use.
SEO isn’t all code and text, it’s about images too. Read our post on optimizing images for search engines.
And remember to follow the Arcalea blog for more news and information on SEO, paid search, social media, and content writing.