Are you not sure if your competitors are optimising their websites for search? Are you not sure whether you need to be doing it too? Here is a short and simple guide to find out whether your competitors are optimising their websites and whether you need to too!
Working in digital marketing and SEO, we take for granted how much we know. For example, we can almost instantly tell whether a website has been SEO’d, not to mention whether it’s been done well (or badly!). Sometimes it’s easy to forget what you know and what others don’t, so here is my quick and simple guide to evaluating your competitors’ use of SEO.
Are my competitors optimising their websites?
6 minutes: On-page
On-page SEO is the name given to the elements of the website itself. There are many aspects of on-page SEO but you can quickly check some of the most basic:
Title Tags (3 minutes) – Are they optimised?
Check your and your competitors’ title tags. From your website you can see you title tags in two ways.
1st way – hover over the tab of the page you are on. You can see the beginning of the title tag in the tab and will be able to see the whole tag by hovering over it.
2nd way – you can view the source of the page by pressing Ctrl + U, or right click and ‘view page source’. Here you will be confronted with the code of the page, if you press Ctrl + F to search the page, search for “title” and you should see something like the title tag:
This is the most basic and fundamental step in on-page optimisation. If this tag is not optimised then it is generally unlikely that they have been working with an SEO agency. How do I tell if it’s optimised, I hear you ask!
As a general rule for Homepage title tags, they will look a little lke this:
“Home – Hallam”
“We are an award winning agency who prides ourselves on our honesty and straight talking nature. We live and breathe technology and marketing and have full to the brim with expert talent in a wide range of fields.”
“Digital Marketing Agency: Hallam”
“Hallam: Digital Marketing Agency Nottingham”
“Digital Marketing | SEO | PPC | Social Media | Email Marketing | Hallam Nottingham, Leicester, Derby”
(Tackles too many themes and services and is very long)
If the title tags of your competitors need further investigation try navigating yourself to one of their main services pages or product pages, these title tags should have a clear focus for the service or product on this page. For example:
Our social media marketing services page:
“Social Media Marketing Nottingham | Hallam”
You can see we have named the page in accordance with the theme but have not over optimised by stuffing too many keywords in there, and have not under optimised either.
Meta descriptions (3 minutes) – Are they written, are they duplicated?
Meta descriptions are the small descriptions you see under a website in the search results, here:
You can write these meta descriptions yourself, if you do not write them then Google will usually pull in some content from your website to generate it. Although meta descriptions do not help you rank higher, a well written one can help you entice a searcher to click on your website, so it is a fundamental step to get these written and make sure that they are all unique.
First – does the homepage have a meta description?
To do this, view source (Ctrl + U) and find the following piece of code:
Our full meta description here reads:
“Our Clients trust us to deliver ethical digital marketing services including SEO, Social Media campaigns, Email Marketing and PPC. Give us a call for a chat.”
This is not stuffed full of the keyword for the page, but includes helpful information and a call to action at the end showing that we’re open to talk.
As a general rule:
Not present or a very long description of the business with no relevance to the title tag or usually the content on that page.
Like the meta description above. Written in whole sentences, makes sense and is written to be enticing and clickable and no longer than the meta description above.
A long list of keywords, a sentence that doesn’t really make sense but includes the same phrases included in the title tag.
Quickly navigate to another 2 pages, view their meta descriptions (if they exist) – are they the same? If so this website has either not be optimised or optimised badly.
4 minutes: Off-Page: Check their Links!
Of course, on-page optimisation consists of a lot more than title tags and meta descriptions, but any website that has had any decent level of SEO work done on it, should have these elements sorted – although very large websites and ecommerce websites can have problems with this.
Off-page optimisation is what is not on the website, but other factors including the links that point to a website. To check the links of your competitors navigate over to ahrefs and enter your competitor’s website. You can get some free access to information on here – although the paid version is definitely worth it if you use it every day (like me!).
Rank and number of links (1 minute)
Here you can see the URL Rank, Domain Rank, number of back links and referring domains. For all of these, generally the higher the better, but if there are a large number of back link with a small number of referring domains then that is not the best good combination and if it is a small business website with thousands and thousands of links then this could be a sign of bad SEO.
Types of links (1 minute)
On the left ahrefs will give you a little table of types of links. Just look here for anything unnatural or impressive. Government and educational links are the best, so high numbers of these will usually mean you have stiff competition. If there is a drastic difference in followed to no followed links then this might also set of warnings of bad SEO – or just an unnatural looking back link profile.
Check Anchor Text & locations (2 minutes)
Ahrefs will give you a map and word clouds to look at. Here you will be looking to see if, again, these look natural. Here you can see that Hallam has most of our links from the UK and other English speaking countries which you would expect.
Anchor text is the text that features in the link. For example the anchor text of the link I am about to include about links for long term success is “links for long term success”. Keyword rich anchor text was used hugely in spam techniques is previous years and many websites to have had bad SEO will feature this tell-tale sign. Our anchor phrases are very natural:
But if this read something more like “Digital Marketing Agency Nottingham”, “SEO Agency”, “PPC Agency” then this would suggest we had been actively engaging in low quality link building.
As a general rule with links:
It’s easier to tell that a website has been engaging in low quality link building than a website that is actively trying to build high quality links. High quality links not only look natural, but are natural! If your competitors have well rounded, high quality back link profiles it may be time for you to do something about it! And by that something I mean make your website high quality and useful, writing blogs and informational resources will help you to attract links naturally – because the content is doing the work for you.