Yesterday David Harry and I participated in a Searchmetrics webinar entitled "Competitor Analysis: Realize Your Visibility" and since my post today is related I thought I'd mention there is a recording of the webinar here and the featured picture above is a slide from the presentation. This post will provide further back ground and links to other resources that will help
Three types of Audits:
- Site Audit: Technical SEO and server config review
- Content Audit: Review of types and quality of digital assets for each step in conversion funnel
- Engagement Audit: Comprised of review and analysis of link profile(s) and Social signals
When your content is not targeted at the right audience it will not be as effective and some types of content are better suited to fill a user's need at a precise point in the conversion funnel (eg: video on lead generation landing page) therefore ROI is lower! We use the audit process to determine a content strategy based on what the site could use or needs to develop to improve conversion; have the right digtal assets; and have implemented assets in a manner which maximizes visibility and discoverability of the assets. In the age of Penguin and Panda any SEO worth doing, is worth doing well, or not at all!
Mediocrity is no longer rewarded and really low quality content on 3rd party sites with EMA links resulting in MANUAL penalties and significant ranking loses for some sites in some query spaces.
A content strategy should deliver the best digital asset to the right audience/person at the right time. For a campaign to work there are two keys to success and higher ROI! Success comes when you have delivered a digital asset that gathers link equity, Social engagement and/or sales (on established campaigns).
Competitive Analysis as KPI Benchmarks
A key component of all types of audits is the competitor analysis element. It is not a big part of a Site Audit but it is a huge component of the Engagement and Content audits. The best way to benchmark your content is to compare it to similar types of content by your competitors. You use inbound link data and Social signals (likes, shares, retweet etc) to benchmark the quality of a site's content and identify content that has been successful for your competitors.
Your clients seldom know their real competitors. They know the ones they perceive to be their competitors but often these competitors are based on vanity and other criteria which do not really take Total Search Visibility into consideration. We use search rankings across a select and/or diverse set of keywords to determine true visibility and competitors. Sometimes it is good to review both a very select set of keywords and a very diverse set of keywords because if you choose too many keywords you are reviewing a lot of sites that targeted the long tail. Using two very different sets of keywords enables you to see the degree of long tail targeting by the competitor.
We use Searchmetrics benchmark tool and Citation Labs Link Prospector to identify the competitors for analysis. Link Prospector, because it provides details about the ranking pages and the number of occurrences for any set of keywords I provide. Searchmetrics, because it provides more details about the domains from a much larger set of keywords with more countries/cities and search indexes to choose from. I outlined how to find competitors using Link Prospector and Searchmetrics here.
Competitor Review for Content Strategy:
We do not spend a lot of time reverse engineering our competitors link profile especially when many of the links are from what we feel are suspect sites.
- We review the total links
- the domain breadth,
- type of content/site
- techniques (article marketing, foundational etc).
We carefully review all the digital assets competitors implemented on the conversion pages, information and landing pages on ecommerce and lead generating sites. Occasionally we find a competitor that has done a really good job of finding an audience or an effective technique and for these we do a more thorough review of the link profile and engagement on the site and in The Social Networking sites .
Don't just access types of links and engagement in general terms, distinguish what is participation in forums (added value) from forum profile spam (often implemented using a bot) and "dropping links". You shouldn’t necessarily think all blog comments or forum Sigs are spam. Again it comes down to; does it look like a link drop with EMA (exact match anchors) links for the username or just bot spam?
Here's a tip; do not enter a website and use your name or a known handle when commenting on forums unless your participation is huge with few or no signature links.
That way if we do add a link to relevant content it's pretty clear (even if the blog/forum is do follow) we are not doing it to manipulate the SERP we are doing it to add value to the conversation. We are indirectly building our brands with less risk by sharing what we have learned. That is the problem with many of the current link removal services I've looked at.
An important part of the audit process is determining your marketing campaign KPI (Key Performance Indicators). Using competitor content as a benchmark is a logical means to determine quality because of the shared challenges you and your competitors have in the query space and market niche. Each has it's own unique set of challenges and barriers to conversion. Leveraging your intelligence from competitor campaigns with effective implementation is the fastest way to raise visibility.
Conclusion: Audit Findings Should Shape Your Content Strategy
Using the review of your competitors content and the KPI's established from your competitive analysis you've identified the types of content that work, the best places to put it on your site, what and where to include it in your Social Engagement programs and how to leverage ROI and conversion with the right Digital assets. For established sites you have benchmarked your content quality, missed opportunities and gathered information about your audience's content likes and needs.
You now have what you require to implement a strong content strategy that is based on the needs of your target audience and their position in the conversion funnel. You also have identified the types of content that work in the query space which are techniques that are as old as SEO itself.