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SEO Competitive Analysis for Small Businesses

Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.
Improve your marketing efforts by performing a competitive analysis to see what your competitors are doing and how well they are doing it. This article will help you get started. SEO Competitive Analysis for Small Businesses

Competitive analysis offers a valuable way for small business owners to improve their marketing efforts by studying what their competitors are doing.

While you don’t want to copy other businesses directly, competitive analysis can help you identify your competitors, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and identify opportunities for you to improve your company’s marketing efforts and website.

A competitive analysis can also help you find opportunities to differentiate your business and stand out in the marketplace. How is your business unique? What do (or can) you offer that’s different than your competitors?

You can also get a sense of how active your competitors are marketing themselves. Are they investing in search engine pay-per-click (PPC) ads? Are they active on social media? Are you promoting yourself actively enough?

Only by paying attention to what others are doing can you get a good sense of what might work best for your company.

Start With Search

The best way to start a competitive analysis is by taking the very same steps your potential customers will follow if they need your service or product — and that, of course, is a search engine. You can launch a generic search such as what you offer and the name of your city or town to see which businesses — hopefully yours and your main competitors — are listed on the front page.

Start by clicking on your competitor’s sites and paying attention to:

  • How they describe their services or products. This can indicate potential keywords that you should be using, or using more often on your site.
  • Their site’s appearance. Is it outdated? Is their service and contact information easy to find? Is the site easy to navigate?
  • Their target audience. Who are they trying to reach? Does their target match yours? Can you change your site to reach your market more effectively?
  • Do they have customer testimonials?
  • Do they have summaries of articles in local newspapers or blogs?
  • How many images or videos do they use? Does that content make the company more appealing to site visitors?

Pay particular attention to the keywords they’re using to describe what they offer. How often do they mention the cities and towns they operate in? Do those references sound natural, or are they cramming in place names for SEO purposes?

While broad-based keywords such as “plumbing” or “exterior painting” will be obvious, look for more specific keyboards or phrases such as “toilet installation” that can pull in prospects who are conducting more detailed searches. More specific phrases will be searched less often, but attract a more focused audience.

Social Searches

Next, look for your competitors on the leading social media platforms. For a consumer-based business, this will include Facebook and Instagram, while a B2B company will focus more on LinkedIn and Twitter. Regardless of the platform, see how often they’re active, the types of content they post, and how often they respond to comments or interact with site users.

While social media activity requires an investment in time and effort, that investment can pay important dividends in attracting or nurturing an audience.

And it can be difficult to understand whether your competitors are making that kind of investment unless you perform a competitive analysis to see what they’re doing, and how well they may be doing it.

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