Today, let’s talk about some basic building blocks of SEO and how monitoring our competitors can help us spot weaknesses in our own sites.
Search engines, such as Google and Bing, receive huge numbers of queries every day, as people type terms into their search engine boxes. The search engines return results for each term based on how they prioritize or rank the relevant sites. It’s in a company’s best interest to rank well for terms that are important to the business – especially in Google, the search engine that is chosen by people to use about 70% of the time.
In order to rank well, websites should at a minimum follow Google’s best practices. Overall, the better a site ranks, the more traffic it is likely to receive.
There are literally hundreds of factors that determine how much traffic your site will receive from search engines (also known as organic or natural search traffic). Some of the big factors include:
SEO basics takeaway: SEO strategies that include all of the above are needed to increase traffic to a site.
Let’s look at an example site. Below are how many visits the example site received from Google in the past year as compared to its competitors. Note that this traffic data was gathered from SEMrush.com and is used as a relative gauge. The numbers would not match actual traffic numbers found in Google Analytics.
As mentioned above, one of the biggest factors in ranking is domain authority (from Moz.com’s Open Site Explorer tool). Our example site has a domain authority of 36 out of 100. Domain authority is a measure of a site’s worth as compared to other sites, determined by how many other sites are linking to it and the quality of those links. Links are like “votes” for a site. A score of 36 is low; however, the example site has one of the higher scores when compared to its competitors. Domain authority is one factor that affects how much traffic a site will receive.
SEO basics takeaway: Quality content and social media signals are needed to increase “buzz” about a site, to encourage more links and increase domain authority.
Another gauge of a site’s worth is how many different keywords are driving search engine traffic to the site. This is sometimes referred to as a site’s “keyword universe.”
Below are the total number of organic keywords (from search engines) that the example site and its competitors’ sites received in the past year (from SEMrush.com).
SEO basics takeaway: Keyphrase research is needed to discover keyword opportunities for a site and expand the keyword universe.
In all three charts above there are two competing sites that are consistently in the number one and number two spots. These competitors have the highest combination of traffic, domain authority and keywords, and they are the sites our example site would want to watch and learn from.
Below are traffic and keyword graphs for the past year for the three sites:
Traffic and keyword graphs courtesy of SEMrush.com.