Search Engine Optimization Starts With The Competition

Analyzing your competition is a good place to start when optimizing your web site for search engine placement. SEO or search engine optimization is about topping your competition. By looking first at web sites that rank high for your key word phrases you will have an understanding of the time and cost involved to have high rankings in the search engines. If you are going after a competitive keyword phrase the amount of time involved will dramatically increase.

When analyzing the competition, search for your keyword phrase or phrases in Google, Yahoo, and MSN. Look at the top sites and especially look at the sites that rank high in all three of the major search engines. You now have a list of competitor web sites; these are your targets to pick off one by one.

Check your competitors’ backlinks or links to them from other web sites; this is going to be the best indicator of how much effort you are going to have to put into your search engine optimization project. You can check backlinks in Google and MSN by typing link:www.yourdomain.com. In Yahoo you would type link:http://www.yourdomain.com. Yahoo also has a special command that will show you all the links to an entire web site. This can be done by typing linkdomain:www.yourdomain.com. Now you can see all the links to the home page and sub-pages in a web site. The linkdomain command is the most helpful when evaluating links. Be sure to check links in all three major search engines so you do not miss anything. Also check backlinks on competitors sub-pages. You will not need as many deep links but this can make a big difference when trying to get a keyword to rank on a sub page.

When evaluating your competitors’ links, keep in mind that this can be a link source for your web site. See if the web sites linking to your competitors accept web site link submissions. When submitting to other sites use your keyword phrase for your anchor text when ever possible.

Using the Google toolbar can be helpful too when evaluating links. Google assigns each page a page rank score based on a 1 to 10 scale with 10 being the highest. Do not solely look at a page’s page rank score; it is better that the page be on topic rather than an irrelevant topic and a high score.

Next look at the competitors’ title tags; are they using keywords in the tag? Be sure to check the keywords tag and description tag – I always find good keywords this way. There are some great free SEO tools on the internet that will automate these processes. Just do a search for free SEO tools and you will have a lot of tools with different and unique features for your needs.

Links are very important but if you are smart you will not need as many to beat out the competition. Build your inbound links slow and steady, and from a variety of sources. Make sure to use your keyword phases in your anchor text and vary the text for some of the links. This will appear natural to the search engines and should help you to avoid over optimization or spam penalties. If you are trying to acquire one hundred inbound links to your web site, space your acquisitions out over a three month period or longer. One hundred backlinks appearing all at once looks very unnatural especially if you do not keep building backlinks at that rate. Make sure you have well written relevant content. When optimizing your web site stay with in all search engine guidelines. The guidelines will give you a good idea of what and what not to do for you web site to rank well in the search engines. You do not want all your hard work to go to waste because of an over aggressive tactic or simple mistake that is outside of the search engine guidelines.