SEO step-by-step: Learn from your competitors

This is part 2 in the series, SEO Step-by-Step.

You want people to find your website when they search Google.  Or, perhaps a better way to put it would be that you want potential customers to find your website when they are searching for what you have to offer.  That’s a business owner’s dream, to be catch people right when looking to buy your product or service, and then be able to direct them straight to your sales page.

So where do start?  Why, Google of course!

Start building your keyword list by searching Google and examining the results.

For example, let’s say you want to create a website offering a service to restore old photos using Photoshop.  You start by entering a search term like, “Digital photo restoration.”  Now you will see all the top-ranked sites for that keyword phrase.  You can examine each one and try to determine why.  You can also generate new keyword phrases so that you can hone in on the best ones to focus on for your website.

When you are thinking of keyword search phrases, you need to put yourself in the place of your potential customer.  You don’t want to use a term that only has meaning to you.  Let’s say your name is William Wolfensburger and you self-published a book on controlling anger named Chill Pill Bill.  You could probably be the number one Google search result for the search phrase, “William Wolfensburger Chill Pill Bill.”  But you would not sell any books because no one else in the world would ever enter that particular search term.  If someone wanted to learn how to control their anger they would most likely search for “anger management” or “anger control.”  Those are the search terms you should optimize for.

Let me share my own experience, because that’s sort of the point of this blog, to chronicle my own journey to success so that you can do the same thing.  I’m developing a platform, called dbEasy, that will enable anyone to easily create custom web and mobile application services.  The first product, that I’m about to release, is an online forms manager that will let you define a set of questions that you can put on your website to gather information from your visitors.

So I go to Google and enter an appropriate search term.  The simplest search term would be “forms.”  However those search results include paper forms, government forms, dress forms.  I need to add more words in order to target people wanting to add a form to their website.  So I enter:

online form

Here is the first place where Google helps.  As I type, Google provides its search suggestion box showing the most popular terms that include what I am typing.

Online form search suggestion

The Google search suggestion feature is actually a good way to see what people are searching for.  As soon as you start typing Google will give you suggestions based on your previous searches and what others are searching for.  If the search phrase you are thinking about contains several words then you should enter a search with each word being first and pay attention to all search suggestions to give you the most ideas.  This technique is not perfect because Google tracks every search that you’ve ever done and weighs your personal searches highest.  In a later post we’ll show how you can get more accurate suggestions through the Google Keyword Tool.

Based on the suggestion I change my search to:

online form builder

These search results will serve two purposes:

  • Gauge the competitive landscape
  • Get more keyword ideas

If you find there are a lot of companies already out there doing what you want to do, that does not mean you should give up.  It should actually be encouraging to see that other people have sustainable businesses doing something similar to what you are considering.  You have to ask yourself:

  • Can you provide a better product?
  • Can you provide better service?
  • Can you do better at marketing?
  • Are you able to have lower costs than your competitors?
  • If you have a brick and mortar business then is your local area under-served?
  • Can you find a new niche to focus on?

One thing you should look out for is if there are a lot of companies offering what you want to do for free.  Not just a free trail, but a totally free service.  Free is hard to compete with.  But if there are growing companies that are able to charge for a product or service and you feel you can do it better or find a more targeted niche then you have an opportunity.

Now you use your search results to get more keyword ideas.  Start by creating an Excel spreadsheet with these columns:

  • Name
  • URL
  • Description
  • Title
  • Keywords

You want visit the top 20 or 30 sites and enter the information into your spreadsheet.  Name is the company name, URL is the web address of the site.  Description, Title, and Keywords are all  meta tags that are hidden inside the head area of the HTML for the web page.  To see them you can right-click on the page and select “View Page Source.”  You’ll see some code that looks like this:

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN” “”&gt;
<title>EmailMeForm – Online Form Builder. Online Surveys, Web Forms</title>
<meta name=”description” content=”Free online form generator helps you to create HTML forms for your blog, site, contact forms, feedback forms, web forms, php forms, within minutes, no programming.”>
<meta name=”keywords” content=”free html form, web form, php form, email forms, contact form”>

The text between the <title></title> tags is the title.  The title plays a part in Google’s Page Rank algorithm  and it also appears in the Google search results as the heading for each listing, so title is important.

The next two bits of information are what we call the meta tags, <meta name=”description” and <meta name=”keywords”.  In the early days of search engines people used to try to manipulate search rankings by packing these tags with keywords that had nothing to do with the website itself.  Because of this Google gives almost no weight at all for the contents of these tags, other than the description appears in the Google search result under the title and URL.  However, these tags are useful to you because this tells you additional keywords that your competitors think are worth targeting.  So you should consider them as well or use them as inspiration to stimulate your thought process to think of better ones.

Digging through the page source of 20 or 30 websites is a tedious job.  You can make it easier on yourself by using a tool to automatically extract this information.  A good one that I have found is Meta SEO Inspector.  It is a Google Chrome extension.  Once you install it then you can browse each of your search results in Chrome and it will show a popup info box with all the meta tags for the site.  You can copy and paste these into your Excel spreadsheet.


When you are done with this exercise you will have a spreadsheet with all the relevant information about the top-ranked sites for your initial search terms.  You can generate 100’s of new keywords from this.

In the next post in this series I will show you how to use Google’s Keyword Tool to find out how many people are searching for these keywords each month, how much competition there is for each search term, and I will give you a formula to calculate the most profitable keywords to optimize your site for.

Be sure to subscribe to my blog feed so that you won’t miss any of these posts.



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  3. […] Increasing Your Google Search Rankings Through Using Google+Long Duration Hire Role – Google Search Appliance Technical Expert – MORRISTOWN, NJThe Truth About Anchor Text BacklinksSEO step-by-step: Learn from your competitors […]

  4. […] Enter these search phrases into Google and analyze all the top results in order to get new keyword ideas and learn from your competition […]

  5. […] Read part 2: Learn from Your Competitors […]

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