One online marketing approach is to try to find words and phrases to use on your pages that you believe your customers will likely use to find your site while using a search engine, and that you expect they will want to see on those pages, and incorporate those words into your pages.
While that is fine and good, you can also find out some interesting things about the folks you believe are your competitors by looking at the words that they may have decided to focus upon within their pages.
If you want to play along at home, here is a method to use to explore whom you think you are competing with, and whom you really are competing with, when you target certain keywords (or do keyword research.)
1. Take three sites that you think are your online competitors
2. Take three sites that you think are your offline competitors (if not the same as the online ones)
3. Look through each site, and try to identify the keywords that they might be trying to rank well for in search engines, by looking at the words that they use in page titles, in headlines on pages, in links to other pages on their sites, and in phrases that appear in meta keywords tags, meta descriptions, and within the content on the pages of the site. If they have optimized their pages for keywords, you should see those in places like these.
4. Make a list of those keywords for each site. You can even assign some of their keywords arbitrary categories first, if you think it will help.
5. Go through your site, and perform the same exercise. Follow the criteria that you used to try to figure out what keywords your competitors use, make a list of your own keywords.
6. Compare your list of keywords to that of your competitors. Do you understand why some of the words might be the same? Do you understand why some of them might be different?
7. What might the choices of keywords tell you about their perceived audiences, if anything?
8. What do the choices of keywords tell you about their strategy for reaching those audiences?
9. Consider how well, or how poorly their choice of keywords might match with the marketing message that appears on their pages.
10. Think about how well their keywords might match the business objectives that they seem to be aiming at with their sites.
11. Perform the same analysis on your own site.
12. Perform searches on Google, Yahoo!, MSN and Ask Jeeves for your keywords, and for the keywords of the people whom you believed were your competitors, and see if you can discover whom your competitors really are for those keywords. Who do they appear to be in competition with? Which are the sites that rank the best for those keyword choices? Why?
12. After you are done, consider if you should change any of your keywords.
You can hone your skills with this exercise by looking at sites that aren’t your competitors, but may be competing with others whom you can identify. For instance, I looked at Best Buy, and Tiger Direct yesterday, and started pulling out their keywords just to see if they could tell me anything about the two companies. Best Buy seemed to be making a strong effort to try to achieve online success, while still attempting to attract people to their retail stores. Without any retail shops of their own, Tiger Direct focused more on an online shopping experience. But the words in the title of their site were somewhat telling:
< TITLE >TigerDirect.com Best Buys – Computer Parts, PC Components, Desktop Computers, Laptops, Notebooks< /TITLE >
I wonder whom TigerDirect considers to be one of their online competitors?