How to Handle Competition in an SEO Campaign

Obviously, I am a proponent of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) but there one un-nerving thing which relates to strategy; if your competitor outranks you in position for one or more keywords, then your leads and traffic can drop. Not only that the traffic will go to your competitor.

So what do you do in order to ward off these threats, fight it out or let go, if you’re a company, you will most probably have to fight it out.

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Understand the Threat

Your first step in understanding the threat. Before you understand or do anything with the newfound competition, you should know where it is coming from and what it will take to handle it.

  • First, look at what keywords your competitors are outranking you in. This can tell you so much about the competition, including what they’re trying to target, how specific they’re focusing, and whether their tactics are sustainable. For examples are these high volume or long-tail keywords? Are these broadly scattered, or related to one area of business?
  • Next, see if they are targeting the same audience as you. If they work with a different niche or work with a different audience then you may be able to co-exist. If not, you will need to start thinking about how you can differentiate yourself.
  • Does this competitor of yours work hard to boost the ranking, or was this a natural occurrence? Gauging the motivation of your competitor can help you plan accordingly; for example, if they work hard to maintain their ranking, then they will fight back even harder when you try to compete with them.
  • You should also consider how strong your competition is, evaluating how many links they have pointing to them, how long they have been doing this, and what form of resources they have access to. If you’re especially powerful you should try differentiating yourself, rather than provoking a standoff.

Once you grasp the seriousness of the situation, you can either move in two directions, you can differentiate yourself, eliminating the problem by removing yourself from the competition or outperform the competition.

Differentiation

Differentiation is a good strategy if your audience is significantly different or if your competitor is too strong to deal with:

  • Select new keyword targets. If your competitor has taken up space in a given keyword, you can try to select a new set of keywords which you can try ranking for. If for example, you are a bookstore café and the competitor are targeting the café side of the business, then you can choose to target the bookstore part of the business.
  • Opt for a different niche. For the same reason, you could try to target a completely different niche and adjust your campaign similarly. For example, if you are a marketing consultant and your competitor gets a lock on mid-size businesses. You could adjust your keyword sets, content, and even your overall direction to focus on small-size businesses. It’s a big adjustment, but one which will provide more business to you.
  • Narrow or broaden your scope. Also you could simple narrow or broaden your scope or targets. Keywords range from high volume, high competition to low volume, low competition based on how common or how specific they are. If you see increased threats when you are targeting one keyword, you can move to another end of the spectrum to avoid the threat.

Outperformance

Outperformance is a better strategy if your competition is at your level, and if you don’t have much wiggle room in your targets:

  • Mimic and expand your competitor’s link profiles. Links are the gold standard of judging how SEO is successful, and your competitor is probably working with the same kind of external publishers that you are. Use a link discovery tool to judge the competitor’s inbound link profile, and see if there are any external sources putting them over the top. Obtain some links which you don’t and add some extra so you can get the edge.
  • Produce better content. Better content is going to affect a ton of SEO factors, including creating more inbound links and for user satisfaction. Of course “better” is a subjective factor; write content that better serves your users needs, is more detailed, is more rich with visual media, and is packed with original research. If needed creating more content and syndicating it so that it reaches more potential users is an option.
  • Double down on contested keywords. If there are some keywords which you and your competitor are hotly contesting, double your efforts on those specific keywords. You can hold you position on uncontested keywords, so it might take extra effort to take a stand on the higher-competition ones.

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