Over the years, I've assisted hundreds of organizations with building out their content strategies and improving their overall search engine visibility. The process is fairly straight forward:
- Performance – Ensure their site performs well with regard to speed.
- Device – Ensure their site experience is superior on desktop and especially mobile.
- Branding – Ensure their site is attractive, easy-to-use, and is consistently branded with their benefits and differentiation.
- Content – Ensure they have a content library that includes each stage of their buyers' journeys, and utilizes every medium in a well-structured page.
- Call-To-Action – Ensure they provide visitors with what to do next on every page and with each piece of content.
- Promotion – Ensure that they have an active strategy to ensure their content is shared online via social media, high-quality directories, industry, and influencer sites.
Search isn't just about producing content, it's about producing the highest-quality content in comparison to your competitors.
Who Are Your Search Competitors?
That may seem like a strange question, but your competitors on search engines are not just the companies that have competing products and services. Your competitors on search engines are:
- Industry websites that compete for the same keywords and may push traffic to your competitors.
- Online Directories whose sole purpose is to rank better than you so that you may be compelled to advertise with them.
- Reference websites like Wikipedia who have extraordinary search ranking authority.
- News websites that may compete with you on your branded terms because of their search engine authority.
- Education websites that may have classes or courses on the same topics. Education sites often have outstanding authority as well.
- Social media sites that are trying to actively engage with your potential customers so that you may be compelled to advertise with them.
- Influencer websites that are actively engaged with your potential customers so that they can sell advertising or engage with affiliates.
Case in point, Martech Zone is absolutely a competitor with many Martech providers when it comes to ranking and traffic. In order to monetize my site, I need to compete and win on highly competitive and high-traffic keywords. When I do that, more people will click on the ads on my site or the affiliate links – driving revenue. And often, my ranking leads to companies sponsoring posts and categories to try and drive more leads their direction.
How Do You Find Your Search Competitors?
While you may think you can just do a search and see who shows up in results, that's not a great means of identifying who your competitors are. The reason is that search engines personalize search engine result pages (SERPs) to the search engine user – both topically and geographically.
So, if you truly want to identify your competition – you should utilize a tool like Semrush that collects and provides intelligence and reporting around search engine results.
Semrush can help you identify how your domain is performing across keywords and help you identify gaps and opportunities in how you can improve your overall ranking against your competition.
Step 1: Look Up Your Domain's Ranking by Keyword
The first step I take when doing competitive research is identify where I'm already ranking. The reason for this is fairly simple… it's easier for me to optimize and move up on keywords that I rank on already than to try to rank on keywords that my site is not found for.
The filters I use vary:
- Position – I start with positions 4-10 since I'm already on page 1 and if I can get to position 3, I know I'm going to significantly increase my traffic.
- Difference In Position – I like to look at positions where I'm already increasing my rank month-to-month because that means that content is gaining authority and I may be able to optimize and re-promote it to drive it up further.
- Volume – If volumes are in the tens or hundreds of thousands, I may optimize those pages but I won't expect immediate results. As a result, I tend to look for search volumes between 100 and 1,000 searches per month.
Case Study On Optimizing A Ranking Page
You'll notice that I moved up on Valentine's Day Contest. That was a keyword that I worked on last month in preparation for Marketers that were doing research on social media contests… and it worked! I received thousands of visits by optimizing an older article and refreshing the data and images on it. I had even optimized the post slug to better target the keywords, changing “valentines-day-campaign” to “valentines-day-social-media-contests”.
Last year, I received about 27 visits from search engines between February 1st and 15th. This year, I received 905 visits from search engines. That's a nice increase in organic traffic for a small adjustment in the content of that page.
Step 2: Identify a Keyword Opportunity
The first keyword on that list is actually a brand, so I'm not confident that I'm going to rank well or win that traffic. If someone is looking for Acquire.io… they probably want the actual website.
However, the second keyword – content library – is one that I'm absolutely interested in ranking better on. It's a core to my business services and I'm passionate about helping marketers become more efficient and effective with their content productivity to drive marketing results.
TIP: Does that page already rank on associated keywords?
Don't forget that you can actually hurt your overall search traffic if you take a high-ranking page and ruin its optimization for a specific keyword. So, the second thing that I do is see what else that specific page ranks for by clicking on the URL in the Semrush report. I clear all of my filters and then sort the list by the position.
So… this is looking good. While I rank for building and creating a content library, obviously getting my rank up on content library will drive much more traffic to my site.
Notice also, in the SERP features that there are featured snippets, videos, and reviews. I want to see if I've incorporated anything that can assist in my article that already ranks.
Step 3: Identify My SEO Competitors
If I click on content library in the first column, I can now see who my competitors are in the search engine results pages:
Step 4: Compare Your Content To Their Content
Using the SERP features from before and analyzing each of these pages, I can now come up with recommendations on how to improve my overall content to be indexed better for content library, as well as identify some opportunities for how to promote it to drive some backlinks… which will ultimately get me ranked better.
I actually have more backlinks to my page than several of the pages ranking above me. Of course, some of those domains have greater authority so I've got my work cut out for me. The top-ranking article on that page appears to be written in 2013, so I'm even more confident that I can drive some better results. And, in analyzing the list of articles… some of them aren't even pertinent to the keyword at all.
Step 5: Improve Your Content
Let's face it… my article isn't the greatest… so it's time to really enhance it. In this case, I believe I can:
- Optimize the title of the article.
- Insert a more compelling featured image that will drive more traffic from social media promotion.
- Add a video where I explain the strategy overall.
- Add more diagrams within the article.
- Insert more detail around the buyers' journey and how content drives more engagement and conversions.
In this case, I believe updating the content and reshaping it on social media is enough to actually drive better search results. The new wave of people reading the content and sharing it online provides the necessary indicators to Google that the content is superior, fresh, and should be ranked better.
Step 6: Republish and Promote Your Content
If your article is on your blog, don't be afraid to republish the content as new, keeping the same URL and slug. Because you're already ranked, you don't want to change the URL of your page!
And, as soon as it's republished, you'll want to distribute and promote the content through your email newsletter, email signatures, and throughout your social media profiles.
Step 7: Watch Your Analytics And Semrush!
I typically see an immediate boost in visits upon republishing and promoting the content but not an immediate change in the overall ranking. I typically revisit Semrush in 2 to 3 weeks to see how my changes impacted the overall ranking for that specific URL.
This is a winning strategy that I deploy on a weekly basis for my clients… and it's amazing how well it works.
The Semrush Content Marketing Platform provides a wide range of solutions for developing a successful content strategy and creating content that engages your audience. Combine creativity and analytics on each step of your workflow.
Semrush has been rebranded and their keyword database grew from 17.6B to 20B. Two years ago it only included 2B keywords – that's 10x growth! They also adjusted their plans:
- Pro – Freelancers, startups, and in-house marketers utilize this package to grow their SEO, PPC, and SMM projects.
- Guru – Small business and marketing agencies utilize this package. It has all of the pro features in addition to the content marketing platform, historical data, and Google Data Studio integration.
- Business – Agencies, e-commerce projects, and large sites use this package. It includes API access, has extended limits and sharing options, and Share of Voice reporting.
Disclosure: I am affiliate of Semrush and I'm using their affiliate link throughout this article.