Identifying SEO Competitors: Relevance, Direct + Indirect

The world of SEO is a comprehensive one, and it requires attention to several different areas for success. One of these that's important for virtually any business looking to maximize SEO and digital marketing returns: Identifying and tracking primary competitors in your industry. 

At Be Locally, this is just one of many themes we assist clients with within our SEO programs, which include everything from on-site optimization and local SEO to web design, PPC and various other off-site areas. Before you can learn from your competitors in the SEO space, you need to be able to properly identify them; this two-part blog series will go over a few different strategies we may recommend for doing so.

identifying SEO competitors relevance

Relevancy and Direct Competitors

A big part of this broad approach is the theme of relevance and direct or indirect competitors. You will have "relevant" competitors within each of these areas, possibly, plus another:

  • Direct competitors: Competitors who sell very similar or even identical products and services, and to the same target audiences.
  • Indirect competitors: Competitors who may sell a similar product, but to a different target audience or in a different market. Also possible here is the flip side: Those who market to similar customers but don't actually sell a competing product.
  • Semantic competitors: This term refers to competitors who don't even sell a product in many cases, but rather offer newsworthy or important information about a certain range of products to earn visibility -- often from the same audience you're targeting, which is why being aware of them is important.

With direct competitors, the need for understanding is pretty clear: You want to know what they're doing, how they've positioned themselves and what tactics are working for them. We'll go over these in our next sections, however.

Utilizing Indirect Competitors

One of the larger mistakes we see companies make is only utilizing direct competitors for their intelligence, and in doing so they're leaving out a lot of valuable insights. Indirect competitors can provide a unique perspective on the market as a whole, often revealing areas where your target audience is being spoken to, but not by you.

There are two ways to glean this kind of intelligence: Watching what they do and looking for marketing channels you're not utilizing. As you watch what indirect competitors do, you'll want to note things like the topics they cover, the tone of their content, the design of their website and how they're using social media.

Utilizing Semantic Competitors

In addition, there are even uses for semantic competitors as you look to glean insights from your competition. Knowing where your audience goes to find information about your product or service can give you a good indication of where to allocate resources for content and marketing.

One way we like to use semantic competitors is by utilizing Google AdWords to identify keywords that they're bidding on and/or ranking for. This will give you an idea of the topics they deem important, and in some cases, even the keywords you should be targeting yourself.

In part two of our series, we'll go over some other approaches to identifying and learning from your SEO competition. For more on this, or to learn about any of our SEO services, speak to the team at Be Locally today.

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