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Six steps to successful SEO – Step 2 – Know your enemy

Six steps to successful SEO – Step 2 – Know your enemy
Monday October 10 2011

In my last article, I gave an overview of SEO. Now it’s time to move onto the ‘action’ stage. By Clare Green.

When considering how best to market your website the first thing you should research is your competition.

For those of you who think that ‘Know your enemy’ is a slightly over-dramatised term, consider this definition, “Competition arises whenever two or more parties strive for a goal that cannot be shared”.

There is only a certain amount of pie to go around and you need to make sure that you get at least your share.  I’d hazard a guess that there are no unique businesses or websites and so everyone has to compete with someone. 

If you run a business that operates in the physical world as well as on the internet, then you have both advantages and disadvantages when compared to a solely online business.  Physical businesses often have more overheads, e.g. a shop or premises but also have a locality and are offering a service to those people who have not yet embraced the online shopping experience.  You will also have local competition, which you are no doubt aware of.

Online businesses - whether they also have a physical location or not - face a world of competition.  You not only have to compete with people in a 50 mile radius, but a world-wide arena.

For example, there are 8 florists in Leamington Spa.  Their success is based upon location, parking, marketing, reputation, quality, display, value and customer service.

But when I put ‘Florist Leamington Spa’ into Google, it returns 847,000 results.  That is a whole different ball game. 

I’m proceeding as though you are selling a product or service, but if you have any other kind of website, the same principles apply.

Think about the terms that your prospective website visitor will use to search for your website on a search engine.  They are unlikely to search for ‘Pete’s Pie Place’ but are more likely to search for ‘Pie shops in Portsmouth’ or ‘Pie deliveries UK’ (I realise that I’m talking about pies again, but I am hungry).   An easy way to do this is to go onto Google or another major search engine and do relevant searches, noting how many results for each search and which websites are gaining the pole positions on the first page.

The next step, of course, is to visit those websites and look at what they are doing that has gotten them the top slots. We will look at pinpointing your direction more in the next article.  For now, research is king!

Of course it’s no good at all just replicating the work of your competitors.  That will not guarantee you success, but will just ensure that they continue to beat your site in searches.  After all, they are more established than you and are consistently already getting more hits. It’s a vicious circle – if you are at the top of search, you get more hits and the more hits you gain, the more you stay at the top.

So what can you do right now to improve your chances?  A Google Place Page is a good place to start http://www.google.com/places/ .  When you search for something in an area, like the example I used above ‘Florists Leamington Spa’, Google first displays those businesses that have registered a Place Page and shows their position on a small map at the top right of the page.  Even if you are running a UK or Worldwide business, it would be counterproductive not to take advantage of this free, easy to set up service.  If you are a smaller business or operate solely in the local area, then it is essential.  The great thing about a Place Page is that you can set it up even before your website is ready, so you are already competing.

Before we move on to the next stage in the process of search engine optimising your website, you need to do some homework, I’ve summarised it below and will be going over it with my vicious red pen later!

1. What is the aim of your website?
2. Who do you want to bring to your site?
3. What will they search for to find you? (Aim for 5-10 relevant search terms initially)
4. Who are your competitors?
5. What are they doing right and wrong?
6. What do you offer that is better?
7. What is your unique selling point?

Then, put your Google Place Page into action and check back here next week for the next thrilling instalment in the series.

- Clare Green is a search engine optimisation consultant and freelance journalist based in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.  If you’d like to read more articles about SEO or get in touch with Clare personally, please visit www.seo-to-go.co.uk.

Tagged as: seo | search | google | rankings | places

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