SEO is part science, part art – and all business. And when it comes to business, people need to get serious. After all, that bacon isn’t going to appear on your table by its own volition, is it?
When you what get to the summit of your niche, you need to find creative ways to vanquish all competitors. And in order to persevere over adversaries, you need to outmatch them. To achieve such a thing, you must be able to scrutinize what they’re up to, so you can do better than that.
Other articles will point out a bunch of best SEO tools that you can rely on for espionage purposes. The present article though, is all about understanding the essence of SEO espionage. You need to realize that to outmatch your rivals you must be able to scrutinize them with the whole of your being. All your senses must come into play, if you intend to perform a thorough analysis of a competing website.
Sight: Look at their surface information
This is the most obvious and basic piece of advice, and yet it will lay out the base of your subsequent investigations. To begin with, you need to look at the most obvious performance indicators of a website: PageRank, Alexa Links, mozRank, Compete rank if you will. There are dozens of ways to check these, but if you mean business then you need to get a plugin for your browser that will conveniently display such information for all websites you visit. (If you’re using Firefox, we’d recommend the free plugin SearchStatus.)
Next, you want to take a peek backstage, and look at the Meta information in those competing pages. Granted, this information is not as relevant towards rankings as it once was, but there is certainly no harm in using it… and that’s just what most webmasters do; and by looking out to the meta keywords, meta description, meta titles, and even image alt tags (all of which you can access through your browser’s handy code view)… you may just get a clear view at exactly what your competitors have been trying to achieve.
Smell: Investigate what they are up to
How do you use your sense of smell to gauge your competition? Well, to begin with you need to bear in mind the present dissertation obviously hinges on metaphorical principles. Now, what you’re going to do is effectively sniffing out the external optimization techniques used by your rivals. In specific, you’ll be looking at what they’ve been doing in terms of back-link building.
To this effect, you can start with a simple Google search using the “link:” operator next to the URL of your nemesis. Next, you can use a free resource such as Yahoo! Site explorer (or any Yahoo Site Explorer Alternative) to get a clearer picture. If you’re up for some in-depth analysis, try some pro-grade solutions such as Open Site Explorer.
None of the tools and resources available to “spy” the backlinks on someone else’s websites are completely flawless, mind you. At best, you’ll get an approximation of a website’s back-link portfolio – and that’s plenty good to smell what the respective webmasters have been up to in terms of on-line promotion.
Listen: pay attention to the buzz around them
Okay, at this point we have told you to peek backstage and sniff out a website’s on-line promotional efforts, so you’re probably expecting we may follow-up with some really neat covert tricks, right? Well sorry, but for the rest of the article we’re going the opposite direction. At this point, you need to experience that competing website not as a webmaster, but as an actual user.
So… to begin with, you are going to listen to the buzz surrounding this website you are trying to supersede. How do you do that? You Google, of course! Search for their brand name and see what kind of content comes up. Add search terms like +review, +feedback, or +opinion to get a sense of what people are saying about that website.
Look around forums and blogs (you can filter search sources in Google’s vertical left menu, if you didn’t know), and make a list with their strengths and weaknesses, as judged by actual users. This research can be invaluable, because search engines follow people. And if you make an effort to build a website that mimics their strengths while building up on their websites, in time people will come to you.
Taste: experience their user interaction mechanisms
By now, you have scrutinized your rival website from inside and out. Having done so, it’s time you actually… use it, you know? Get out there and participate in their comments section, participate in their forums, leave some comments, contact the webmasters asking any questions that randomly cross your mind…. If you’re serious about understanding your competition, you need to have a good taste of it, from the standpoint of a client.
If they’re selling something, buy it – just like a normal customer would. Observe how fast they deliver the goods, how organized the customer support happens to be. Call them of the phone for a little chat, and see how they react to any complaints you can think about, real or imaginary.
Take note of every impression you get during this process – both sweet and sour – since those will be your golden opportunities; your entry angle for outmatching your rival.
Touch: poke at their weak spots
If you follow all the steps outlined in this article, you will end with a good deal of information about your competing website. You will have a strong idea of what they’re trying to accomplish, and how successfully so. Most importantly, you will have abundant intel regarding their operative shortcomings. This is probably the most critical information you can hope to find.
Remember, any potential weakness you can get a taste for will potentially be one of your strengths, as you figure out a way around it for your own business. So all through your analysis, your main focus should remain upon uncovering the weak links in your operation. Not because you will use this information to attack them in any way (not directly), but because in order to be “numero uno” you will have to come up with something better, stronger and smarter than what they have in place.
Remember, the point of this article is not to show you specific tools. Rather, we want to convey the idea that you need to be creative and thorough in your research, if you ever want to be the best in what you do on-line. SEO espionage is a game that calls for all your senses, which ideally need to be rather sharp. So keep working on your spying skills, because they will surely become much finer with practice.
This guest post was written by authors from the “fix slow computer” website. Come see us anytime you need advice on how to improve your PC performance. And if you hope to spy on us, you’d better wait for the follow-up article on SEO counter-espionage tactics!