The thing about SEO is it's constantly changing. This is exactly what makes it hard to master and confusing to implement. But the real problem is not SEO itself. The real problem is how you're trying to approach it. In other words, rather than approaching SEO like a game you have to learn all the rules to master, why not approach the "game" by focusing on the other players rather than the game itself? That's exactly what I'm going to show you in this blog post...
Reverse Engineer Your SEO Strategy
Since the rules of "the SEO game" are constantly changing, it makes a lot more sense to focus on the other players in your game instead. This is an extremely effective way of developing your SEO strategy because the nature of SEO is different for every single market. If you're in the "e-commerce women's shoes" marketplace, for example, the challenges & competition & overall situation is going to be much different than someone in the "indoor plants" marketplace. That's inevitable.
You can easily reverse engineer your SEO strategy by looking at what your most successful competitors are doing, do the same types of things, and then do it even better.
Identify Your Top Competitor Websites
To start this process, you'll first need to identify your top competitors. This is easy enough. You just need a list of 5, 10, or 25 keyword phrases you'd like to rank #1 on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Then, either using a tool like SeoKeywordRanking.com or by manually searching yourself, find out who consistently ranks at the top for those target keyword phrases.
You should identify 3-5 competitors who all consistently rank at the top of the search engines. For our purposes, 3 should be enough.
Compare Code Optimization
Next you're going to need to look at the overall structure of those 3 competitor websites compared to your own website. You'll need an analysis tool like Seo-Profiler.com to quickly and easily analyze your own website and your competitors' websites. Whatever tool you use, be sure to use the same tool to analyze all websites including your own.
This initial analysis report will give you an idea of where your website has holes & issues that need to be fixed. If you have the technical expertise, get to work fixing these yourself. If not, hire someone who can do it for you.
The reports are also going to give you an idea of where your competitors still have issues. Your objective is to optimize and "clean up" your website so you can outscore these competitors based on the analysis results of the tool you're using.
Compare Content & Copywriting
Once you've cleared the code optimization section, it's time to begin analyzing content. This is going to be more subjective and will require some degree of "marketplace literacy" to analyze, but here are some general guidelines.
Start by checking your competitors for content publishing. Look to see if your top 3 competitors are all blogging. If so, how frequently are they publishing new posts? How long are their posts? And what are they writing about?
Next, you'll want to look at the core landing pages of competitor websites. How are their landing pages structured? How many total words? What kind of multimedia is used? Usually, these landing pages will be the pages that are showing up at the top of search engine results for target keyword phrase searches. In some cases, your competitors' home pages will be top-ranked. But look for these sub landing pages as well.
The information you gather from this part of your analysis you'll need to take back to your own website to determine where you need to improve & then do even better. You'll want to blog more often. You'll want to create stronger landing pages. You'll want to create a better homepage, and so on.
Compare Social Media
Next, you'll need to look at the social media activity of your top 3 competitors. Which networks are they using? Where are they most active? Where do they seem to get the most engagement? Are they sharing blog posts and landing pages? If so, how often?
Also, what kind of social engagement is built-in on their website? Do they have Facebook like buttons, Twitter retweet buttons, Google Plus +1 buttons, etc?
This information will be extremely useful in building your own social media campaign strategy. Again, the goal is to reverse engineer your own SEO strategy but we also want to do a much better job. Again, determining how to make things better is always subjective but the more of this cross-comparison you do the better you'll get at separating the good from the mediocre from the bad.