One of the key areas of SEO is competitor analysis, this is important for a number of reasons, If you have 5 main competitors who are ranking higher than you in Google you need to look at the following:
1. Detective work - Pore over your competitors website with a keen eye. Look at everything! Go in deep!
2. Keywords - Look at the keywords your competitors are using, take note of what their page titles are called, their urls, and H1 tags, their main service/product pages if they have them. If 3 of your main competitors are using the title "logo design" it's probably a good idea to use the same, you may think that logo development is a better title for your logo design page but if your competitors are all using logo design, it makes sense to keep to the same. Obviously you don't want to plagiarise anyone, but if this is the most popular title and search term for a page it's a good reason to use it.
2. Navigational structure - look at how your competitors have structured their pages together, do this for both websites that you're competing against locally and also websites that rank the best nationally, so you can see the bigger picture. Put together a spreadsheet and list how they structure their pages together, you may see a pattern and you will be able over time to work out why a particular website is ranking better than others.
3. Page content - Look at what content is on your competitors web pages, make a note of how they have put together their pages, look at the titles, the order of body text, photos, what sub titles they have used. By looking at competitors websites who rank better than you you can figure out how and why they rank higher than you.
4. Word Count - Look at how many words are on a page, Google recommends a minimum of 300 words, but remember there is a balance between having too much text and a visitor not reading it and not having enough. Make use of H1, H2, H3 titles, use them correctly to help search engines understand the relationship and importance between your words.
5. Serp Tracking - Once you have your keywords you can use a keyword serp tracker to track how your website is performing for each keyword. You will also be able to view how your competitors are performing for your keywords. You can then see which websites are performing better for a particular keyword and by looking at their pages you can work out what might be the reason why they are ranking higher than you.
These are just a few of the elements of competitor analysis and research, it's a vast and interesting subject that is a key ingredient in SEO.
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