Note: I wrote on HVAC keyword research last week. You Must complete that first, or doing competitor research will not be fruitful. You’ll have no idea what you need to compare, track, and measure.
Let me speak briefly to the beauty of using Google to do competitor research. The analogy I’ve heard many times, and I think is apt, is to liken the competitor research process to playing poker with everyone showing their hands. This is especially so for on page optimization. Google is telling us what it want’s to see to get your website onto page 1.
There are 6 main things I’m checking when doing competitor research through Google.
- Meta titles
- Meta descriptions
- Heading tags
- Content length
- Keyword density
Now, the process
The first thing I do is take the main keyword and type it into Google’s Chrome browser. We can continue with our theme from my keyword research article and use “air conditioning repair Houston” as our keyword. For your purposes, just switch out the keyword if your’s is different and also include your city as the geo modifier.
What I do at this point, is create a spreadsheet to jot down all my data. The left vertical column is where I list the url’s for the domains. The top columns have each data point I will be keeping track of.
Three crucial pieces of information are immediately available once we type in our main keyword and hit “Enter”.
- URL’s– We can see which url’s are ranking for our keyword. Are they branded domain names (als.com)? Are they exact match domains (airconditioningrepairhouston.com), or close approximations with a hyphen between one of the words? Are they partial match domains (alsairconditioningrepair.com)?
- Meta Titles– is the main keyword in the meta title? Where is it in the title? Is there some modified version of the keyword in the meta title?
- Meta Description– Is the keyword in the meta description? Where does it appear in the description? Are they using a modified version in the meta description?
Make a note of the information for each of your competitors on page 1, and enter it into the spreadsheet you created earlier. At this point, we will be visiting each of your competitor websites to conclude this part of the research.
The 3 things we are on the lookout for once we are on a competitor website are:
- Heading tags: These can be likened to the headlines in a newspaper or a magazine. Naturally, the most important headline- usually the first- and biggest headline should give you a quick idea what the rest of the page is about, but more importantly, for ranking purposes- it gives Google a quick idea what your page/ website is about. Headlines on a website are classified as H1 to H6. Does your main keyword appear in any of your competitors’ headlines? Note this. Do other versions or different keywords appear in the headlines?
- Content length, or how many words appear in the content on the page. What I do now, copy all the text content on the page and paste it into a word counter. You can literally type “word counter” into Google and get an entire page of them. They all work equally well, so you can choose any of them. I’ll put a link to one right here to make it just a little easier for you. Google’s official word is that you should have a minimum of 300 words of content on a page or post. The consensus of SEO’s is pretty much at least 500, though some swear by Much more than that. That’s the point of our research. We won’t guess. We go into each of our competitors’ ranking pages and find their actual word count. We then have a much better idea of how much content it will take for us to compete and beat our competitors.
- Keyword density: Simply, we want to see if our main keyword appears in our competitor content, and if it does, how often. We also include heading tags when calculating keyword density. For most of us, with less authoritative websites, around a 1% to 2% keyword density what we should shoot for. Again, we don’t want to guess about these things, so we go straight to the source. So, now we see how many times our main keyword appears on the page, if at all, and make a note of it. To calculate the keyword density, we take the number of instances of the keyword appearing on the page and divide that by the content length. As an example: 4(keyword appearance) / 500 (content length) = .008 x 100 = .8% keyword density. Now, do this for the rest of the competitors on page 1 and get your average.
That’s it. That’s how you can know, without a doubt, that your on page optimization is exactly what Google is looking for. There’s a bit of work involved, but you don’t have to know one bit of SEO or have any technical knowledge to complete this entire process and have a perfectly optimized page for ranking.
I hope you find this useful, and I’d love to hear how it worked for you. I can pretty much guarantee that if you apply this, along with the keyword research from my previous article, you will improve your rankings dramatically and faster than you think.