Whatever it is you do, it is almost certain that there are other companies out there offering a similar product or service to yours.
In any crowded marketplace, you need as much information and insight as possible to gain an edge over your competitors. Simply knowing what they offer is not enough.
With the advent of new software and technology, marketers and business owners have the ability to know more about their competition than ever before. It is extremely important to regularly conduct a thorough competitive analysis in order to stay one step ahead.
If you sell a product or service online, you are likely competing with dozens, even hundreds of companies going after the same group of qualified leads.
Whether you are a local, national, or international company, there is probably someone in your company, often in the sales or marketing teams, who can quick-ly rattle off your top competitors — as well as what differentiates them from you.
If you need a little help identifying your competitors, Google is a helpful resource. By simply searching the type of service or product you are offering, it is pretty likely a few of your top competitors will show up.
How to Compete with Bigger Agencies
Almost every business in the country, big or small and regardless of industry, has some kind of web presence, and everybody’s competing for only a handful of positions at the top of search-engine results pages (SERPs).
Since larger companies-mega-corporations such as Walmart or Home Depot-already have millions of inbound links, decades of content, and a recurring base of online visitors, it’s no wonder why they generally appear in the top ranking positions when people search for commercial products.
And almost all of them work with the same behemoths of SEO agencies...
Regardless of what industry you’re in, you’ll always have at least one competitor who has been around longer and has tried harder than you have (allocated more budget and resources) to building their visibility on the web and in search en-gines.
So how can you, a small business or agency with limited experience and resources, compete with that level of online domination?
Thankfully, search engine optimization (SEO) is no longer about sheer volume. It’s not about who’s been on the web the longest, who has the most inbound links, or even who has the biggest library of great content.
It’s about which page or website is the most relevant for the searcher. Knowing that, there are several strategies you can implement that can give you the edge over the bigger, better competition.
1. Specialize In a Niche
One of the best things you can do as a small business is giving yourself a niche focus. Instinctively, you might think that the better option for search visibility is to cover as many areas of expertise as possible.
For example, if you work in heating, cooling, plumbing, roofing, construction and a dozen other home improvement topics, you’ll be able to appear in the search engines for queries related to any of those keywords.
However, if you’re trying to take down your biggest competitors, it’s better to take more of a niche focus. Having several areas of specialization gives you relevance for a wide range of keywords, but your relevance for each of them is somewhat low.
Keyword optimization remains crucial, even when it comes to social media. You can optimize your Facebook business page for SEO by placing Keywords in strategic areas of your page. Some of the essential areas to use keywords include your title page, URL, and the ‘About Us’ section. This will make your page appear top in search results hence improving your find ability.
However, you need to make sure that you do not overuse keywords: stick to a top six and mention them naturally in the proper context.
2. Engage in a long-tail keyword strategy
Long-tail keyword strategies try to accomplish a similar goal. In niche specialization, you sacrifice minimal relevance in a large volume of topics for maximum relevance in a much smaller volume of topics.
With long-tail keywords, you’ll be sacrificing minimal ranking potential with highly popular keywords for maximum ranking potential with less popular keywords.
Long-tail keywords are extended phrases Google looks for, such as “tips for in-stalling a toilet in an upstairs bathroom” instead of the much shorter, more popular “toilet installation.”
Ranking highly for long-tail keywords is much easier than ranking high for shorter keywords, so even though they bring in less traffic, they’re still more valuable for small businesses to go after.
Fortunately, optimizing for long-tail keywords is easy. You can research ideal long-tail keywords to go after using Webmaster Tools, or you can just publish lots of great content long-tail keyword phrases tend to appear naturally in the course of your writing.
3. Leverage Locality For Optimization
Another way to beat the competition is by targeting a much more local audience. Local search is becoming more relevant and more important, so in today’s context, being the best barber shop in Houston is far better than being an OK barber shop on a national scale.
Even if your business does operate on a national (or international) level, you can still capture a niche market share and edge out your competition in at least one key area by optimizing for a specific local area. In this section, I’ll introduce a handful of specific strategies you can use to build your reputation and relevance in your given city.
Event attendance and community building. Get your name out there by getting involved in the community. Attend major events whenever you can, such as fairs, festivals or community gatherings.
This will give you two opportunities: First, you’ll immediately generate more business simply by being at the event and offering discounts or promotions to event attendees. Second, and more importantly for SEO, you’ll have the opportunity to brag about your attendance online.
Post excellent content on your website, using local-specific keywords, about your company’s attendance, and syndicate a press release about the opportunity for some high-authority and local-specific inbound links. This is one of the easiest ways to generate publicity and build some local optimized content simultaneously. Local reviews, on directory and aggregation sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor, have become essential for local SEO.
With Google’s Pigeon algorithm update earlier this year, Yelp and similar sites received a huge boost in priority. Now, sites with large volumes of positive reviews rank higher than similar sites with few or negative reviews.
In fact, Yelp’s importance has increased so much that, in some cases, Yelp pro-files are actually ranking higher than the official pages of the companies they represent.
What this means for small businesses is a new, key opportunity to jump in the rankings without worrying about producing content or building links. Instead, you can focus on cultivating strong, positive reviews from your customers.
While Yelp explicitly forbids compensating your reviewers, or asking customers directly for reviews in any way, you can still encourage more reviews with Yelp stickers and occasional call-outs with a link on your social-media profiles.
Hyper-local content. Local search is getting more local, and taking advantage of that incoming trend could be the opportunity you need to crush a larger competitor especially if that competitor operates in the same city as you.
Google is getting better at identifying and categorizing neighborhoods within a broader city, so you can take local search a step further by using neighborhood specific keywords instead of just city and state names.
Your potential success is determined by how Google views your neighborhood boundaries, so do some research before you begin.
4. Personalize your social engagement
Aside from local search optimization, you can also increase your chances of overcoming steep competition by stepping up the “personal” factor in your brand strategy.
Large businesses tend to lose a portion of their personalities once they hit a certain point in their growth, but being small and nimble gives you the advantage of giving each follower a more personal, humanized experience.
Nurture your following on social media, and you’ll attract more posts and followers, and the bigger and more active your social-media presence is, the higher you’ll rank in Google.
5. Become a recognized, authoritative content publisher
Building brand awareness, loyalty, trust and credibility requires frequent and quality content publication. Most companies utilize an on-site blog to publish content, while others produce and distribute e-books, webinars, podcasts, videos and other forms of content through various other channels.
The keys to building your brand through a content strategy are quality and consistency. Maximize the reach of each piece of content you publish to maximize your return on investment, and be consistent with your publication schedule so you start to become recognized as a dependable author.
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