I don’t care if you’re on top of the competition, if you’re somewhere in the middle, or if you're at the bottom of the heap—you need to pay attention to your competitors.
Too many times I’ve seen clients grow complacent: they’ve been at the top, their traffic is high, and their conversions are awesome. They coast along, kicked back and enjoying the ride until suddenly they open their eyes and realize that their success has vanished. While they’ve been coasting along, their competition has been diligently improving their SEO, offline marketing efforts, and online reputation. And much like the tortoise and the hare, while they rested their competitors won the race.
Peeking Behind the Curtain
To help you avoid being replaced as king of the hill—or to help you catch up to the other guy and take your rightful place as king—I’ve created a list of seven ways to check in on your competition. Now is the time to see where you rank online, to determine what the other guy is doing, and to find out how to do it better than he is.
1. Find your competition
A simple Google search for top keywords—“divorce attorney St. Paul,” or “plastic surgeon Louisville”—will show you who your online competition is. When you do this, write down the names that pop up in the search results. We hope that your practice or business is on the list, but there are sure to be others, either before your listing, after it, or both.
Pro tip: When you search, be sure to use the “hide personal results” in Google or the “incognito window” in Chrome or Firefox. If you don’t, you’ll get search results tailored to your history, preventing you from seeing what others see when they search.
2. Monitor their reputations
This is the most important factor to consider when scoping out the competition. It’s been shown that 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. So if you don’t have any good reviews, and your competitor has even a few good ones, the searcher will go with your competitor, not you.
Think about it like a restaurant. If you find two Thai restaurants within a few miles of one another, one with a 60 percent favorable rating and one with 90 percent, you’ll go with the 90 percent, no question.
To start, you need to take a long hard look at your own local listings. After this is done, see how many reviews you have. Do you have any? If not, or if you only have one from a disgruntled client or patient, it’s time to create a review-gathering strategy. To help you do this, we’ve created this detailed look at how to get the reviews you need.
As you begin cleaning up your profiles and gathering reviews, go ahead and check out how your competition is doing. This will give you something to aim for. So if they have four good reviews on lawyers.com, you want to have five. If they have a four-star rating on Yelp from 12 happy patients, you want to match these numbers, if not exceed them. This is going to take some work, but if you spend the time needed you will see a marked increase in your traffic and conversion rates.
3. Monitor their visibility in search for the best keywords
There are lots of keyword research tools out there, but I like all four of the keyword research tools suggested by Search Engine Journal:
By using a few of the free tools listed above, you can get a solid snapshot of which keywords your competitor is using. But be warned: keyword obsession can be dangerous. You’re looking for inspiration in your competitor’s keywords and should never just copy their keywords and use them as your own. Example: If your competitor has been successful with longer-tail, question-type keywords, use these as a springboard to craft similar long-tail keywords that target your ideal client, patient or customer.
4. Dig into backlinks
To see what backlinks your competitors have earned, use the same tools we use for our clients:
- Open Site Explorer
These tools will show you exactly which backlinks point to your competitor’s site. And if you haven’t used these tools to check out your own site, do so! You need to know how your backlinks stack up to your competitors. With this knowledge in hand, it’s time to up your own backlink game by using our most current advice on getting high-quality backlinks.
5. Check PageRank
Google’s PageRank system doesn’t tell you where you fall in Google search results. It's a 0 to 10 scale used by Google—zero meaning a site is brand new or most likely has been penalized, and anything over a three or four representing a good score in the legal and medical industries. Named after Larry Page, one of the founders of Google, PageRank is a metric used to judge the importance of a website. Again, this isn’t something to obsess over; it’s just another tool to add to your toolbox. If you notice that your competitor suddenly drops to zero due to a penalty, or jumps up three points, it’s something to make note of. The same goes for your PageRank.
6. Evaluate their social media efforts
What you’re looking for here is their activity on social media and their success in their efforts. If neither of you is doing much, or if they’re killing it on social media and you’re not, you have some work to do. You want to capture the attention of your audience, to compete with the other guy, or to step up your game and get the traffic that he’s not trying for…yet.
7. Analyze PPC ads
If your competitor is big-time into pay-per-click, spending thousands of dollars a month while you aren’t spending anything, you are going to struggle to compete. And if you’ve also been neglecting your SEO efforts, forget it; you will never, ever catch him. So before you decide to get in on the PPC game, you need to decide if it’s worth the time, money, and effort a successful PPC campaign will take. Because if you don’t put in the time and money, the other guy will catch you, guaranteed. And pay-per-clicks should only be a complement to your marketing efforts after you have gotten your local listings, backlinks, and SEO game in order; they’re the icing on the cake, not the flour, eggs, and sugar.
Get the Whole Cake From Your Competition
With this list in mind, it’s time to get started. As you do, don’t let the scope of the job overwhelm you. Instead, focus in on what your competitors are doing better and what you can do, today, to start making up some ground. You don’t want them to be taking advantage of four channels while you’re only using one. You want to get the whole cake, not just a slice.
What have you done to keep an eye on your competition? Please let us know by commenting below. We want to know exactly what you do to ensure that you don’t fall behind.