Stop Measuring SEO Success by the Competition

Written by Nick Stamoulis

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A former client of ours was an international enterprise software company. And even though they weren’t even half as big as IBM or Oracle, they measured the success of their entire SEO program against those two industry giants, and not against companies they were truly competing with in terms of size and scope. It should come as no surprise that their SEO (or social media marketing) never lived up to those standards and they completely lost site of the real successes they were having. This is the downfall of many companies—they measure their SEO success by the competition, and either they are looking at the wrong competitors or they fail to see how far their own site has come.

Pie Chart InfographicThink about a company like IBM. They operate in dozens of verticals across both enterprise and commercial industries. Their main site could easily have billions of pages, giving them the ability to target every single keyword they could ever want; not to mention the dozens (maybe hundreds) of other sites they own/operate. And as such a big company they are constantly going to be in the press for one thing or another, and they are getting linked to from a myriad of sources for a never-ending range of reasons. Some companies are just too big to fail. That doesn’t mean they are doing a great job with their SEO, but Google would actually be doing a disservice to their users by NOT including those sites. And as harsh as it is, Google doesn’t care about anything other than ensuring people come back to Google. If your site helps them create a better user experience than you’ll find yourself a spot in the SERPs. Imagine you were shopping for something (anything!) and didn’t see Amazon; you’d be pretty surprised if it was missing, right? It may not be fair (and I doubt Google will admit it), but I bet you’re used to seeing certain sites all the time. That’s not to say that your site will never be at that level, but you need to be realistic about how fast your SEO program can progress.

Yes, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your competition so you know exactly what kind of odds you are up against. If you are trying to break into a highly competitive field that is dominated by several big played, you have to manage your own SEO expectations from the get-go and know that it’s a long uphill battle. Conversely, if you have been around for a long time and yourself are one of the industry leaders, then you need to see what companies are trying to unseat you. Who are the new players on the block that came out strong? Who has slowly and steadily been infringing on your SERP turf? What things are the competitors doing that you should also be looking into (and what are they doing that you should NOT attempt?)

But even though you need to keep an eye on your competition, you should not be judging your success by their success. The only thing you should be caring about is how YOUR site does overtime. How much search traffic was your site getting 6 months ago versus now? What new links has your site earned in the last month? What referral links popped up as a new driver of traffic? The only way to judge your SEO success is to measure against yourself.

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