SEO Competition Research

Before starting to target your particular area online it is important to perform competition research first to find out as much information as possible. 

These are the main areas I need to have information about:

  • Is there traffic
  • Who are your competitors?
  • How much will it cost to compete?
  • How long will it take to get to the first page of Google?

Is There Search Traffic from Google?

SEO is of little use to a website that is selling a product that no-one has ever heard of.  The intention of SEO is to put your website into the stream of traffic that is already there, it is not a way to generate traffic where there are no current searches.

Knowing if there is traffic for the terms you want to target is important, there is no point in optimising for an area where there is no-one searching – this is fully covered within keyword research.  Keyword / phrase research is the basic foundation for all websites.

Who Are Your Competitors?

Your competition is not always the same companies on-line as off-line.  Often there are ecommerce websites, directories, and information sites in the online space.

Are you blindly going into a market dominated by large media corporations or universities?  It is essential to know the websites you are up against online.

If you have several different areas that you target you will have lists of keywords that are relevant to each of these areas.  Pick the highest volume keywords and create your competition list from these.  It is best not to choose too many to start with as you will then end up with 40 or 50 other websites in your competition list and that is overwhelming. However, I would always want a list of 10 competitors from two different keyword lists.  Less than this can skew your view of the SEO market online.

How Much Will it Cost?

  • How many pages on their site?
  • How old is their site?
  • How many links do they have?
  • Google Ads

Page Count

If your website has 5 pages and everyone in your niche competition has 50 pages you will find it hard to rank.  This does not mean you also need 50 pages, but it points to an issue.  In general, it is harder to rank very small websites unless they target ultra niches.

I cost a web page at about €150, however, a post like this one will take about two hours minimum and that cost is about €300.  Even if I am writing the page myself it is taking time from something else so the cost is not zero.  Also, add the cost of any images, every web page should have at least one.

screamingfrogI use Screaming Frog to crawl websites.  It is fast and it pulls a lot of useful information like page titles, descriptions, word count.  It is free to use up to 500 pages/ URLs.  Alternatively, you can use the command – this will list all the pages but it will include duplicates if a content management system is being used.  The other problem is that it will list only the pages that are indexed and generally I want the full picture.

Age of Website

Age of your site is one of the main ranking factors for Google, much less so for Bing – but almost no one is using Bing in Ireland.  However, during the last few years, the age of a website has become less of an issue for ranking quickly.

If your domain name is new don’t expect high rankings during the first few months.  However, after six months most age differentials even out, assuming you have been optimising your website during that time.

Check the age of the website on whois, this is the link to .ie domains.

How Many Inbound Links?

This is much harder to see than in the past.  Previously it was easy to look at one or two of the many SEO tools that list links to websites.  This part is still easy, however, the link graph has been messed up during the last few years by Google penalties.

Many websites will show 100’s of links in majestic but only have 20 or 30 that count or are useful for ranking.  It means taking more time to examine the link profiles of all your competitors in depth.

I cost links at €150 per link.  If you are outsourcing this, the outsourcer will pay for content and then time for a website to publish this content – something that is getting harder all the time as Google cracks down on any type of link building.

Many small business websites I work on in Ireland need only 50 or 60 links.  These CANNOT be done all in the one-month – that is a sure way to get negative attention from Google.

For this amount of links for a site that has none or few, I would spread the link building over six months.  This digital marketing strategy for small businesses guarantees a slow, but steady rise in rankings.

Please note that not all links are equal.  Spam links from a private network etc. are not a good idea.  Some of our work during the last few years has been helping companies recover from Google penalties as the result of cheap SEO and link networks.

I use more than one source for backlink analysis Majestic SEO and Ahrefs, both require a subscription.

Google Adwords – Pay Per Click

I like Google Ads, in general, I like any adverting that generates a good return on spend.  However, it is essential that your campaigns are set up correctly.  Setting bids to high or broad will decimate the return.  You can use Google Ads to place your advert on specific websites and for remarketing, (targeting users who have already clicked your ad or visited your website). Monitor and adjust daily at the start, then test ad copy over and over.  It works but it is not set and forget.

One of the main uses for Google Adwords is measuring traffic.  Your account will let you see how many searches there are for each keyword, assuming minimum volumes.

Semrush is a keyword research and competition research software for Adwords and search.  You can buy one months’ access for $99.95.  Here you can insert your competitor’s domain names and see what keywords they bid on within Google Adwords.  They also provide organic listings.

Total Costs

For a small website of 25 pages and the average SEO competition in Ireland the cost would be as follows:

  • 25 pages x 150 = 3,750
  • 60 links over 12 months = 9,000
  • Google Adwords basic budget = 500 per month, (6,000 over 12 months)
  • SEO Tools

Total cost over 12 months €18,750 – €1,562 per month.

How Long Will it Take to get to the First Page of Google?

It depends on your market.  If I was building a new website today in the Irish market I could rank on the first page within 6 to 12 months.  Most small business websites are in that range.

Achieving a Return on Investment

The above figures require additional business of€1,356 per month to break even.  However, some of these costs are upfront that are one-off never to be repeated or rarely repeated expenses.

If you know the search traffic, know the competition, and know how long it will take before you get a return on your investment you are able to plan accordingly.  Many potential online businesses fail these tests and often run out of money before they see a cent in revenue.  SEO strategy consultancy or training can help overcome some of these early mistakes that can end up being costly.  Contact us and see if we can help.

Seo our post on simple SEO wins for e-commerce websites as well.

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