With millions of websites and companies clamoring to get to the top rank in Google, search engine optimization is becoming an insanely competitive marketing channel. If you’re looking to rank on a national scale, it could take years of hard work to build a solid foundation. Even so, SEO is one of the most cost-effective and worthwhile digital marketing channels available, and if you strategize efficiently, you can get the edge over your competition.
The fundamentals of SEO (i.e., a keyword-rich content strategy, backlink building, social media syndication, etc.) are pursued by almost every business with a web presence, but there are some excellent strategies your competition is likely neglecting:
Okay, so your competitors are probably doing a bit of competitive research on their own. But what you research and how you research it matter in the world of SEO. Your competitors might be looking at certain keyword phrases to monitor the level of competition for each, then selecting the least sought-after terms to go after. You can take this level of research a step further by delving deep into your main competitors’ content and SEO strategies.
Start by taking a look at the title tags and meta data on your competitor’s site. The title tag present on the home page likely contains the main keyword idea they’re trying to go after. Also take a look at the type of content they publish. How often are they publishing? What subjects are they writing about? What types of users are responding with comments? You not have considered before. The better you understand your competitors’ strategies, the more you can do to outperform them.
We use the term “zagging content” here to define content that proverbially “zags” where other content “zigs.” You can do this as a complement to your competitors’ strategies, or as a dissenting opinion to a popular view.
As a crude example, if your competitors are writing all about hamburgers, you can write about hot dogs. Both are popular,similar American-style food items, so the audience base will be similar, but they’re different enough to capture different segments within the population. Since your hot dog content “zags” against the “zig” of hamburger content, you won’t be directly competing, but you’ll still be capturing a similar section of your shared target audience. It will also help you optimize for long-tail keywords that would otherwise go neglected.
You can also offer content that presents opinions or ideas that aren’t necessarily popular. As another food-based example,consider content that focuses on hot dog toppings. Thousands of people will have written about ketchup and mustard, but how many people have written about ranch dressing on hot dogs? It’s a viable option that most people haven’t considered. This type of dissenting content is powerful for two reasons: one, it demonstrates a strong opinion, which is always valuable for gaining attention, and two, it’s different, which will help your content stand out in your industry.
Forum participation is a strategy that incorporates elements of standard backlinking and social media marketing. It takes some time and extra effort to find and actively participate in forums related to your industry, but odds are your competitor aren’t investing the time.
Participating in a forum as a regular contributor can help your campaign in two ways. First, it gives you frequent opportunities to post links pointing back to your site in a natural way. Look for topics that are relevant to your business,and include links to articles on your site that are relevant to the conversation. You don’t want to be flagged as a spammer, but as long as you are posting relevant, engaging comments, you should be fine. You can also include links back to your home page in your signature block. These aren’t seen as high quality links, but every bit of help counts.
Second, you’ll be building a community. Forum participants may not be involved in social media, and therefore represent a unique section of your audience. Forum members are often looking for expert advice, and if you can be that expert when your competitor isn’t even trying, you’ll win a ton of new business.
Local directories are becoming increasingly important for local businesses. Directories like Yelp and TripAdvisor recently received a massive ranking boost from Google’s Pigeon Update, in some cases ranking directory review pages above the individual sites for the companies they review. For businesses that depend on local web traffic, this represents a new avenue for building web traffic from search engine results. If a Yelp page is the first thing your customers will find when looking for your type of business, you need to make sure you have a stronger Yelp page than your competitors.
To effectively manage your listings in local directories, first you’ll need to claim your page on as many outlets as possible. This includes sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Urbanspoon, and any other industry-specific directories you can find. Fill out as much information as you can, and make sure your name, address, and phone number information is exact and consistent across each platform. Then, encourage your customers to find you and post positive reviews—the more, the better. Don’t pay for reviews or post fake ones; you’ll get caught and penalized. But do encourage review posting as much as you can to get the edge over your competition.
Videos are an important type of content in any content marketing and SEO strategy, but you can do more than just posting a handful of videos on your own YouTube Channel. With video community building, you can create a tight network of backlinks and mutual support with your vendors and partners.
If you use a certain product in your business that you love, make a short and personal testimonial video and offer it to company that makes that product. Companies love to receive testimonials, especially in video form, so if you’re lucky, they’ll post it on their site as a blog post or on their Testimonials page. Include a link back to your site if you can. It’s an easy and natural way to diversify your link building strategy, add more videos to your repertoire, and increase your brand visibility all in one brilliant tactic. You can even reciprocate by encouraging your customers to post video reviews of their own pointing back to your site.
Implementing these strategies may not be the magic bullet that puts an end to your competition and puts you on the fast track to a number-one ranking, but it will give you a competitive edge. When working in tandem with other consistent SEO best practices, eventually you’ll see some pretty impressive results.
Of course, if you’re new to the world of SEO, this is a lot to take in. Not only do you have to worry about making sure your onsite and offsite strategies are in order, you also have to stay on top of the ever-changing adjustments to Google’s ranking algorithms and respond to the moves your competitors are making.