Any good search engine optimisation campaign will start with keyword research and then the all important competitor analysis. You simply cannot embark upon a campaign without having a full understanding of who you are up against and what they are doing to achieve the rankings they are enjoying. In understanding this, you can replicate the effective strategies they are using as well as devising additional methods in order to overtake them.

The process of competitor identification can always be a surprising one. The businesses that you might traditionally consider to be your biggest competitors might not be competing in the search engine optimisation stakes. Do Google searches on your core keywords and take a look at the top ten already ranking. These are the main sites you are competing with.

The next thing to do is to go through the websites of each of your competitors. Identify what the top three performers in Google have in common, where relevant. How are they using the keywords on their pages and how are they linking to their landing pages? You should not aim to replicate their websites – this will do you no favours. And don’t copy their content. Don’t look at this as an exercise on replication. Instead look at this as an opportunity to identify things on their websites that you can incorporate into your own site, without copying, and indeed identify opportunities where you can above and beyond what they have done and improve it.

The next step then is to check out their inbound links from other sites. Tools such as Yahoo Site Explorer will, at no cost, provide some insight into the link they have pointing to their sites. You should find out not only how many links they have pointing to their site but how many different sites these links come from and the methods the competitor has employed to get them. Visit some of the sites that link to your competitors and establish how and where the links are – in content links? Maybe links in blog comments?

The real work, however, starts when your competitor analysis is complete and it should be a high priority for your to implement strategies that go beyond what your competitors are doing, with a view, eventually, of getting high rankings than them.

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