Using Your Competitors Keywords for Search Engine OptimizationRobert K. McCourty
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There are quite a few new software and search engine optimization solutions and products out there these days. The main focus of them seems to concentrate on getting the best keywords for your site. Some even offer to scan your competitors web site in order to find out which keywords they are using, suggesting that all you have to do is copy them and you too will show up within the top ten listings.
Unfortunately, most companies who offer these types of services are merely preying on the lack of consumer knowledge in regards to true search engine optimization (SEO). They are banking on the fact that there is an uninitiated market out there which will unknowingly purchase these products. Usually the web site selling the product is a plethora of testimonials and hyped marketing jargon designed to do one thing, convince you the product is the greatest thing on Earth. I feel sorry for the consumers who do purchase these types of so-called search engine marketing programs, only to discover after their money is spent, that there is a lot more to online marketing than meets the eye.
It also leaves a bad taste in their collective mouths and truly inhibits the integrity of the SEO industry. Once burnt, the average consumer is a lot more wary about SEO the next time around. Many simply fail to believe in SEO at all after a bad experience, which does neither the consumer nor the professional SEO firm any good whatsoever.
One of the latest marketing forays by this type of pseudo-optimization software is the claim that all you need to do is analyze what your competition has on their web site for their keywords and phrases, and simply copy that formula for success. Yeah right! They guarantee you a top ten placement by simply following this procedure. See what the competition uses and do the same. It worked for them, so it will work for you, right? Please don't fall into this trap. If it were that easy don't you think everyone would be doing it? As a web site owner, use a little common sense and look beyond the hype.
A competitive analysis of a web site of similar nature to your own is in itself an excellent idea, but let's get realistic about it. Sites which rank near the top of their categories are likely to have great keywords and phrases placed throughout the web site, but that's only one part of the equation. The top sites also have a lot more going for them, such as excellent content, great meta tags and a good number of incoming links all relative to the subject matter on the site, to mention only a few requirements. By simply copying their keywords into your own site, you haven't helped yourself at all. In fact you may have seriously damaged your chances for success. Here's why: Let's say you are in the hot tub business. Your competitor sells fiberglass hot tubs, you do not. Obviously if you simply copied the keyword phrase "fiberglass hot tubs" into your own keywords not only may you be a fool, but if the search engine spiders come by and see that particular phrase within your keywords, but find no reference nor content on your site to support that phrase, you may be penalized. Which in layman's terms means your site could have a 'black mark' against it. Search engines tend to greatly frown upon web sites which have keywords and phrases that are unsupported within the sites textual content. It's one of the measures they take to weed out unscrupulous marketers, who will chock a site full of car insurance terms to get a high ranking, but once clicked upon, ends up at an adult XXX site.
Although misrepresenting your site may not have been your intent, by merely copying your competitors keywords and using them as your own, you run the risk of being found guilty by association. Try explaining that to the search engines once the damage has been done.
The analysis of your competitors keywords and phrases is a good exercise to ensure you have similar terminology within the content of your site. Use them as an example of how it should be done. Do not, I repeat do not simply copy them to your own site! Your site should have its own tone and individuality. Treat your own keywords with respect. You must have appropriate textual content on your own pages to support the keywords. Anything less is an exercise in futility.
At its best, a competitive keyword analysis will give you a good basic idea which words you should be using within the content of your site. Incorporate some of them into your own sentences and descriptions but try and keep a realistic approach to the process.
One of most valuable aspects of a keyword analysis is the ability to spot words and terms you may be missing from your content. But before simply cutting and pasting, take a little time to find out which terms have the most 'weight' or most value, when it comes to usage by the searching public. Think about the keywords and terms originating from the searchers' point of view. If you were trying to find your site without knowing it was on the Internet, what would you search for? What would Aunt Martha search for? What words and terms is your targeted customer likely to use when searching for your goods or services? Here's a real tip: Don't guess!
There are tools you can use to assist you in this decision making process. Take your competitive analysis keywords and run them through a site such as Overture's Keyword Selection tool <http://inventory.overture.com/d/search inventory/suggestion/>
Originally designed for advertisers to select the best terms for pay for click advertising, it will show you how many times the term you used was searched for within the past few months. You may discover that "hot tubs" although generic enough to score highly, could be greatly enhanced when used as a term by adding a single word such as "accessory" or "portable". The power of a single word (different from your competitors) also helps to set your site apart and dare we say, in some cases, may help your site to rise above them.
Remember - Choose the most popular 'searched for words and terms' and ensure they are contained within the content on your site before using them as keywords within tags or title descriptions.
Robert K. McCourty, is a founding partner and Director of Marketing for Metamend Software and Design Ltd. The firm specializes in the development and implementation search engine optimization technologies and solutions for the improvement of web site placement within the Internet's top search engines. The company is regarded by many to be the world leader in its field, with clients in 57 countries around the world.