Like many things in business, and perhaps in life, one of the best ways to get better at something is to analyze what others are doing—particularly, those doing better than you.
This idea rings true when it comes to search engine optimization and winning in the game of search. Often, the best research you can do is understanding and analyzing the underlying elements that allow some sites to rank higher than yours for important keywords.
There are many reasons a site can rank well, but the following are the major components:
• Keyword optimization: sites that research and optimize their pages to rank well for specific search terms often improve rankings for these specific phrases.
• Content creation: this is my chance to promote the need for a blog and consistent creation of content.
• Authority: for the most part, authority has much to do with the quantity and quality of links that point to a site.
By employing a combination of the tools listed below, you can better understand how your site ranks for the factors above: how sites that rank above you or compete directly with you fare, and what you can do to fix issues, optimize more thoroughly, choose better keywords, and target the right links back to your site.
Each of these tools have premium or paid services, but the free tools are powerful enough for any business to get ahead in the search game:
The name says it all. This tool (http://compete.com/us/) allows you to become a better online marketer by monitoring your competition. Compete also provides you with great search analytics, referral analytics and ranked lists. The company maintains a blog that focuses on interesting sites that can be found on the Internet. I often turn here to get a quick snapshot of the traffic, as the numbers are considered the most accurate.
SEOmoz (www.seomoz.org/seo-toolbar) provides a toolbar that allows you to observe page metrics instantly when you open a Web page. In the Firefox version of mozBar, you can find link and domain metrics for each page visited, page status codes and redirect paths, and page load times. This toolbar basically provides you with quick access to very useful and powerful tools while surfing the Web.
3. Marketing Grader
This tool (http://marketing.grader.com/?s=wsg) allows you to enter your own website, along with competing websites, and receive a grade on how well your website is doing. The report includes the amount of traffic, any SEO problems, and how popular it is in social media. The report has its flaws, but I really like how it presents the view of your site from the marketing point of view, rather than strictly an SEO one.
The free version of Wordtracker (http://freekeywords.wordtracker.com) uses a keywords tool to help you find out what your customers are searching for and what your competitors aren’t yet targeting. Wordtracker also offers a tool that helps you acquire inbound quality links to your site. Thirdly, Wordtracker’s new tool finds your site’s best keywords and shows you how to use them to benefit you in whatever you’re trying to accomplish.
KeywordSpy (www.keywordspypro.com) allows you to spy on your competitors and use the valuable information to get ahead. Some of the benefits from using the tool include discovering your competitors’ keywords, receiving daily database updates, seeing a site’s spending for AdWords, finding profitable “keyword +” ad copy combinations, and access to over 127 million keywords.
Alexa (www.alexa.com) is useful to discover how popular a site is, find new sites, learn who owns a site and more. The information provided includes traffic stats, search analytics, audience, contact information, reviews, related links and clickstream data. It also includes a number for Alexa traffic rank, traffic in U.S. and sites linking in. The metrics are often very inaccurate, but paired with other data this can help easily put some pieces together.
7. SEO Book
SEO Book (http://tools.seobook.com/#freeff) is a resource that compiles a wide collection of free and paid SEO tools sorted by categories such as “Firefox Extensions,” “Web-Based SEO Tools,” “Premium Firefox Extensions,” “Premium Web-Based SEO Tools,” and “Listings” of additional SEO tools by category. The RankChecker extension is a great tool for measuring how you rank for your keywords in the top search engines versus your competitors.
8. Xinu Returns
Xinu Returns (http://xinureturns.com) is a tool in which the main focus is on page rank, backlinks, SEO rank and rank checker. By simply entering the URL of your site of interest, Xinu Returns will provide you with a very simple chart of the valuable information you are looking for. A major benefit for this SEO tool is the simplicity of finding ranks, bookmarks, backlinks and the like in a very effective way.
9. Open Site Explorer
Open Site Explorer (www.opensiteexplorer.org) is a linking tool from SEOmoz that provides you with your page authority, domain authority, root domains with links to your URL, and total links. Find detailed information of every site that links back to your own. With Open Site Explorer, you are able to get up to 1,000 links and unlimited use for free.
SpyFu (www.spyfu.com) allows you to enter domains to battle against each other. For instance, if you work for an e-mail marketing company and are interested in comparing your keyword overlap to your direct competition’s, SpyFu provides you with useful tools to do just that. Also, if you are not interested in battling, there is an option to simply search a domain and find information such as best-paid keywords, daily AdWords budget, organic keywords, top ad competitors and more.
John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, award-winning social media publisher and best-selling author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine. He is the creator of the Duct Tape Marketing System and the Duct Tape Marketing Consulting Network, which trains and licenses small-business marketing consultants around the world. This article originally appeared on www.ducttapemarketing.com.