July 22, 2009
Have you ever noticed that competitive runners achieve their best race times when they are pitted against worthy competitors?
You can be an excellent sprinter, but odds are you will not run your personal best on a track by yourself–most of the time it’s the spirit of a heated race and a determined runner breathing down your neck that makes you dig down deep give it all you’ve got.
The quest for a higher search engine ranking and more website traffic is much like athletic competitions. When you’re trying to get your site ranked higher in Google, you are not operating in a vacuum–you have competitors, whether you acknowledge them or not.
Your progress is not only dependent on your own efforts at marketing your site, but the efforts of your competitors–if other website owners are more consistent, more reliable, and more focused in their marketing, there’s a good chance that they will outrank you.
With website rankings, there is a constant jockeying for position, so it is extremely helpful when you’re trying to market your site and get a higher search engine ranking if you will use your competitors to your own advantage.
Before you start your next link building campaign, take a look around the playing field and gather some intelligence about those you’re running against.
How Can You Tell Who Your Competition Is?
It’s actually quite easy to tell who your top competitors are–just do a search for each of your keywords in Google.
What site is at the #1 position?
Unless it’s you, that website is your top competition. Repeat this search for each one of your keywords.
When you’re starting out, you may want to limit yourself to 3 main keywords whose competitors you’re keeping track of. That way you have 3 competitors to keep track of, and that will give you a good idea of how you’re progressing and also how far you need to go to catch up to the #1 position.
What Type Of Information Should You Keep Track Of?
Alright, now that you know who your top competitors are, it’s time to do a little investigating. Here are the main bits of info that will help you get an idea of where your site stands in relation to site holding the #1 position.
1) How many backlinks does the competing website have?
You can do a backlink check by typing the word “link:” (following by a colon) and then the competitor’s URL into the Google search box. The results will be a listing of sites that are currently linking to their site, and at the top of the page you can see a total number of backlinks.
2) What is their search engine rank for the keyword?
For the first month at least, their ranking is #1.
Another thing that will be interesting to you is to see how the site that is ranked at #1 can fall if they are outdone by another site further down in the ranking. If you are consistent with your link building campaign, you can see your site climbing up the rankings each month, until finally your #1 competitor drops from the number one position and your site takes over.
3) What is the other site’s PageRank?
PageRank (PR) is a tool Google uses to reflect the authority of a web page. The rankings go from 0-10, where 10 is the best. You’ll likely notice that a website does not need to have a PageRank of 10 in order to hold the top ranking for a keyword–many times sites with lower rankings hold the top position. Why is this?
Remember, it’s all about competition–the top ranking website may have a PR2, but the other sites who are competing for top listing for that keyword have lower authority. Of course, there are many other factors that go into determining who has the top rank in Google, and only Google knows all of their criteria for judging.
At any rate, it is helpful to know the other site’s PageRank, especially in comparison to your own. If you see that the competing site has a PR4 and your site has a PR2, you can set a goal for yourself to achieve PR4 or higher.
With all of these indicators, it’s nice to get an idea of what you’re shooting for. Being aware of your top competitor’s stats can help you strategically jump up the rankings and keep your motivation going to earn the #1 spot.
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