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How to Become an Expert SEO Spy

January 13th, 2009 | | SEO Keyword Research, Site Review & Analysis

A Chinese general from around 400 B.C. was quoted as saying “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”  The spirit behind this saying is that friends can benefit you or not if they do the smallest thing, but your enemies can harm you by doing anything.  Though this phrase was talking about war, it has been used in any type of competition.

SEO is, by nature, competition.  Ranking higher than the other guy is the purpose of SEO because people don’t have time or interest to visit every single page that comes up for a certain keyword.  I read a forum that said the word “spam” can stand for “Sites Placed Above Mine.”  The war continues with Black Hat SEOs pointing and laughing at White Hats, while White Hats frustrate them with upgrading algorithms and actually providing quality content and service.

It’s all competition.

Luckily, you don’t have to take on the entire community of SEO experts, you just have to worry about your keyword family.  Researching keywords and search behavior of your potential customers is a large and should be the biggest part of SEO.  You want to define your service or product into words that the customer will type into a search engine.  Sadly, the competition is so fierce that it can’t stop there.

Fortunately, SEO efforts of your competition can be partially viewed and analyzed.  Knowing your main competition and what they are doing will help you see what you need to do better.

1. Write Down Your Main Keywords and Phrases
These will serve as a guide for all your SEO efforts.  If you still are stuck at this part, then take 5 minutes and go here.

2. Enter Those into Google, Yahoo! and Live

The top three search engines have the most market share together.

3. Take Note of the Top 3 Places
Do this once a week to gauge any movement.  If you specialize in local search, take note of all 10 of the movement of the Google Map results.  Movement of certain names up the list should be flagged for interest.

Lets say after a few weeks of tallying, you notice that there is one other site that seems to your main competitor.  There could be several, but you should concern yourself with the top three.  After you have your “enemy” in your sites, it is time to start some basic analysis.

4. Note How They are Using Their Title Bar and H1 Tags
This will show you if there is some low hanging fruit to pick off and add to your site.  If your competitor has “Welcome to Competitor.com” or “Home,” you are free to giggle only if you have put your keywords in your own title bar.

5. Note Who is Linking to Them by Typing “link:competitor.com -competitor.com” in Google
This is a quick way to see how many sites are linking to them.  The “-competitor.com” part takes out any internal linking in the results.  For a comprehensive look, also hop on over to Yahoo! and enter “linkdomain:competitor.com -competitor.com”.

6. Setup Google Alerts With Their Name and URL to Keep on Top of Any Activity
A comprehensive alert will keep email you any news story or blog or anything else that might have been “crawled” by a bot.  Press Releases and Reviews of your competitors can be sent to your inbox.

Doing these basic steps will give you more knowledge on how to pursue your own SEO efforts. If you are feeling particularly blood-thirsty, I recommend reading this.

Remember, it’s all fun and games until someone is knocked down in rank.

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  • Lohith

    I am a great fan of PPC Hero. SEO Boy has impressed a lot. As a SEO I strongly believe in google alert. It helps a lot when it comes for online reputation.Thanks for your tips on competitive analysis.

  • http://www.seoboy.com Eric

    Thanks Lohith!

    Feel free to share any tidbits you’ve picked up in your own experience. There’s always little nuggets of wisdom that can be picked up.

    As for Google Alert, yes – it makes life a LOT easier.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    Nice graphics but I think the link to Flickr needs to be adjusted, as it tells me “This is not the page you’re looking for” — but then it provides me with a link to the page I AM looking for.

    Are we practicing a little click-through tracking on Flickr?

  • http://www.seoboy.com John

    @ Michael,

    DOH! Thanks for pointing that out. It appears that Flickr pulled a fast one on us and the link to our photo set was changed.

    No click-through tracking… but a lesson learned in constantly checking important out-bound links.

    Thanks for stopping by (and helping trouble-shoot the site)!