When it comes to the SEO Game there are clear winners and losers. If you ever want to check where you stand do a quick Google or Bing search – if you’re not on the first page for your top keywords, you’re on the losing-side. However as more Domainers become developers the question continues to arise, “How can I get on the first page of the search engines?”
While there is no guaranteed step-by-step process I can give you, I help you use some simple tools to understand what kind of work is required to get onto page one. Every niche is different as is every keyword phrase so this will be different for every domain. I’d be willing to guess that less than 10% of domainers that are now developing their names are doing even basic competitive research. If you think that just having an exact match domain and a few pages of content will propel you to the first page of Google you will most likely be sadly mistaken.
In many cases your competitors might not be doing much to beat you, and with an exact-match domain you can beat them…but you have to play the SEO game, not just the DOMAIN game. The first thing you need to do is go to Google and perform a search for the keywords you want to rank well. Look at who is in the top five spots in Google – these are the guys you want to beat – start with #5 and visit the website. Pay attention to a few key things:
- How many pages of content does your competitor have?
- What are the page titles your competitor is using (very important in search)
- Is there a way for visitors to interact with the site?
- Does the site have a professional logo or header?
- Is your competitor collecting email addresses through a free give-away?
- How many backlinks does your competitor have?
You need to understand all of these items listed above if you want to beat your competitor. In general this should take you about five minutes per site so I’m not asking you to do anything over the top here, of course there is an essential tool you should know about, Linkscape by SEOMoz. This is not a sponsored post or an affiliate link, it’s the tool that I use and you can sign-up for a free account with SEOMoz and get great access.
Linkscape lets you see how many backlinks your competitor has and who they are coming from. While quantity can be one factor quality is important – still if you notice that all five sites on the first page of Google each have 500 backlinks or more you may need to at least come close to beat them. If all you have is a domain name with content why would Google put you on the first page when there are other sites with content and reliable sources linking to them.
I like to think of backlinks like references in a job application process. When you launch a site you are essentially applying to Google, allowing them to Rank you in order of reliability. Sure if nobody else in your niche has backlinks or content an exact-match domain could be all you need…but in highly competitive niches you’ll most likely need to prove to Google that other people know you exist. The more people that link to you the more reliable Google sees you as a source, makes sense right?
If you’re not using a tool like Linkscape then you have no idea what might be involved in beating your competitors. I was excited to find this weekend that one niche I’m currently expanding-into has sites on the first page of Google with under 200 links. This is achievable and with the exact-match domain I am confident I can get a beautiful spot in a lucrative niche. Of course I am constantly running-into great niches with competitors that have hundreds of pages of content and thousands of backlinks. Yes – you can beat these sites…but it’s going to take putting-together a comprehensive SEO strategy.
So next time you scratch your head wondering why you’re not on the first page of Google or Bing, take a look at your competitors, see what they are doing, and chart a course to beat them!