Once you have optimized the onsite factors from part one of this series it’s time to launch into the external factors. External SEO factors generally refer to the internal links to your, and your competitor’s, website.
Analyzing the links to your competitors is not a simple matter of running a link:www.competitorsdomain.com on Google and rushing off and duplicating what you find there. First of all, Google does not display all of the links they find to a site and thus, this count will leave you with about 5 or 6 percent of the real links to your main competitors. Yahoo! is much better at displaying all the links to a site however even this has it’s shortcomings in the analysis process. Secondly, the number of links is only a fraction of what’s important in their development.
To fully grasp how your competitors are ranking highly for your targeted phrases you will want to know a number of things about the links to their site including:
- How many links do they have?
- How many of these links come from the same sites?
- Are these sites relevant?
- What is the PageRank distribution of the links?
- Are these links image or text links and if text,
- What anchor text is used to link to your competitor’s site?
Why Are These Factors Important?
These factors are important as they define the value of the link. The number of links is perhaps the least important of these factors. A site can have 10,000 incoming links and if they are all from a single unrelated site with a low PageRank then the value of these links is negligible.
Knowing how many of the links to your competitor’s site come from the same site or sites will let you know where they have bought advertising and also help isolate weakness in their link counts. Multiple links from the same website are not given the same value as multiple links from different websites. If your competitors have thousands of incoming links that come from 5 different websites you have far less work to do that if they even had a couple hundred, all from different sites.
The relevancy of the incoming links is extremely important and gaining importance every update. Unfortunately this is also the hardest factor to gauge as, “what constitutes relevancy?” and, “how exactly do I find out if my competitors links are relevant without visiting every one of their links?” can be problematic questions.
Gauging relevancy can generally be done with a simple thought: if I am on a site and the link makes sense to be there (for example, a web design company linking to a web hosting company) then it can be considered relevant. Basically, if there are people who will actually click the link then it is relevant. Finding out if your competitor’s links are relevant without visiting every one of their link partners is a different hurdle to jump.
Rather than visiting each-and-every link it is easier view only the most important ones; that would be the ones from high PageRank pages. But how does one do that?
As with the use of a KDA tool in part one, we use the external analysis features of Total Optimizer Pro to tear apart the external factors our main competitors are using to hold top ten positions. While in part one I was able to note that there are other tools out there that break down keyword density elements, I am not able to do the same with offsite optimization factors. Total Optimizer Pro is the only tool we use that allows for such detailed analysis of external SEO factors when dealing with competition analysis.
The first step is to isolate which domains the links are coming from. The more links coming from a few domains the better as this indicates that the competition is lower than a pure link-count would indicate. Moving on from there we look to the PageRank breakdown of the links. The higher the numbers of high PageRank links the more difficult the competition is however, once you have isolated which domains the links are coming from it is often simply a matter of visiting the site and establishing the same links to yours either through exchanges, directory listings, or other tactics.
While you are on the sites, assess whether the content is relevant. You will undoubtedly not want to visit each and every page that links to your competitors however if you visit all the top sites (i.e. PageRank 3 or higher) you will get a very solid idea of the relevancy value of the links. Once we know the value in regards to relevancy of the content we now need to know what they’re doing in regards to transferring that relevancy along in the form of their links.
Using a tool such as Total Optimizer Pro it is simple to determine exactly what types of links are pointing to your competitors, however it is possible, though much more time-consuming, to do it manually (i.e. you will have to visit every page).
An important factor in SEO and the building of relevancy to your site comes in the form of anchor text. The verbiage used to link to your site, or the alt text in the event the link is an image link, can play an important role. To illustrate this with a great example; searches on Google for “msn” results in the page www.submit-it.com in position seven. If you view the cache, rather than receiving the highlighted use of the term “msn” (as noted in Part One of this series) you receive the note that, ” These terms only appear in links pointing to this page: msn“. The relevancy of the anchor txt in this case is so strong that this page outranks many with “msn” optimized for using onsite factors.
What Do We Know?
So what do we now know about our competition? We now know where their links are coming from, the PageRank of those links, the relevancy of the top links, the anchor text and/or alt tags used to link to your competitors’ sites, and how many of those are multiple links from the same site. Basically, combined with the information that was attained in part one of this series in regards to the onsite factors we effectively have a blueprint for what is required to hold a top positions for a specific phrase.
Where Do We Go From Here?
So now you have a blueprint, but what do you do with it? The onsite factors covered in part one need to be duplicated. The offsite factors (i.e. incoming links) need to be duplicated however what you also must keep in mind is that you are working to beat someone out. They in turn will work to take back their position, and there may be others working to do that same that just haven’t shown up yet.
Here we follow the 10%-more rule. In regards to onsite factors, all you can do is work with the average keyword densities and make sure your content is well written while maximizing the usage of keyword density and special text to give you the biggest boost possible. After that the 10% rule comes into effect. Once you know exactly what your main competitors have done in regards to their incoming links, do that but add 10% either in numbers or in value and relevancy.
While this entire process can be very time consuming, the goal here is not to save time, it is to maximize the effectiveness of the SEO performed on your site. Spending a fraction of the time to produce little or no results is never as desirable as insuring you’re doing it right from the beginning and then taking the time to do what’s needed, thus increasing your odds of success greatly.