One of the first things we ask potential clients is to give us their competition.  They all give us lists of local companies, or those that do what they do.

However, though they may sometimes compete for the same clients, they may not be their true competition online.

What is “True” Competition?

True competition are those companies who consistently rank on the first page for your service or product in search engine results.

Often, only one or two of the competitors our clients gave us rank for their target keywords.  Why is that?  It’s because there’s a difference between online and offline competitors.

Online vs. Offline Competitors

An online competitor is one that has a web presence and consistently ranks for your target keywords.

An offline competitor is one that may have a big ad in the Yellow Pages, but doesn’t have a web presence.  Or their website is buried in the bowels of the Internet.

Sometimes a competitor can be online and offline.  Sometimes they’re one or the other.

Why Competition Changes Online

Your online competition may completely differ from your offline competition for several reasons:

  1. Competitors may not have a website.  If they do have a site, it could be poorly optimized.

  2. Competitors could have conflicting or outdated business information, damaging their rankings and letting other competitors overtake them.

  3. Savvy competitors may have good websites that are optimized.

How to Find True Competition

If you’ve already done your keyword research, you will know the terms to research.  If you haven’t researched keywords, here’s how to do so.  Then follow the steps in this video:

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For you text learners, here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Download Google’s Chrome internet browser (if you haven’t already)

  2. Open an incognito window.  It’s a great way to research competitors without letting your browsing history bias the search.

  3. Type in Google.com.

  4. In the search field, enter your first keyword or phrase.

  5. If your clients are nationwide, click the “Search Tools” box below the search field, click the location, enter “United States,” and click “set.”  This will change your scope to the whole country, instead of biasing the search to only local results.  If you’re only interested in local results, then do nothing.  Google will automatically limit searches to your geographic area.

  6. Then enter your keywords one at a time.

  7. When you enter a keyword, scan the first page of results and copy the URLs of relevant results to a spreadsheet.  A relevant result is a competitor.  Unless you’re competing with Amazon, Wikipedia, and other giants, don’t add them to your list.

  8. Don’t go past the first page because you want to see what it takes to be #1.

How to Use Your List of Competitors

Once you’re done finding the first page competitors for your target keywords, you want to see how they got there.

We use powerful tools to know exactly how our clients can compete with those on the first page of their keywords.  It’s our secret sauce, but here’s a free tool you can use to get a general idea how to compete: Moz’s Open Site Explorer (OSE).

  1. Open OSE and enter your competitors’ URLs one at a time, and click “Submit.”  It’ll show you how many links they have and from how many sources.

  2. Add that data to your spreadsheet.

  3. Separate the competition for individual keywords with an empty row in your spreadsheet.

  4. Then average the links and root domains for each keyword.  For example, if your keyword of “power tools” has 5 competing first page sites, average their links and root domains.  This will tell you, generally, how many links and from how many root domains your site needs to also appear on the first page for “power tools.”

I know we got technical towards the end there, but hopefully it helps you better understand who you are really competing against online and what it’ll take to compete with them.