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07.09.09

To Rank High You Need To Know What You Are Up Against

By Patrick Hare

If you're trying to get first page placement on the Google search engine, you need to know what you're up against. Several years ago, the standard way of getting good website rankings was to look at the top 10 results for a competitive search term, and examine the structure of the sites that had the best rankings. Google changed the game by placing greater emphasis on links to your website. In the search engine optimization (SEO) industry, these are known as "backlinks" and they play an important role in Google and Yahoo positioning. If you want to find out what it takes to get a top ranking, you need an SEO tool that tells you how many back links your competitors have.

Our SEO Competition Report shows you the top 10 sites in Google, along with other information you may find useful. The reporting system also lets you download a PDF copy once it is finished, so you can save it for later.

Here is the information that the SEO Competition Report will give you:

• Google Ranking As expected, the rankings will be listed from 1 to 10.

• Yahoo Ranking Yahoo rankings vary, especially given that Yahoo still practices paid inclusion, which effectively lets you buy your way into the "natural" results. Don't be surprised if some competitors rank highly in Google but are nowhere in Yahoo.

• Number of indexed pages The number of pages that the search engines have found for the site. Note that big sites may have thousands of pages, but you can still get good rankings with less than 10. If you know that you have more pages, you probably have a problem with your website that is preventing search engine spiders from reading it.

• Backlinks The number of links pointing at the site. If your competitor has a high number of links, keep in mind that relevance is a highly important factor. For example, Wikipedia usually has about 3.7 million links, but only the relevant links play a part in rankings. Another big factor in its rankings involve on-page relevance and trust factors. One of the great things about SEO is that you can get a handful of relevant links from trusted sources and beat sites with thousands of low quality links.

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• Registration Date When the domain name for the site was registered, or renewed if it lapsed. Older sites generally have a better chance of getting good rankings.

• Archive Date The site's first appearance in Archive.org. Note that if a domain name lapsed, you can see an archive date older than the registration date. In general, search engines should have found the site around the same time, and a site's trust factor "clock" starts when it is cached by the engine. If you buy an old domain name that never had a site on it, you are effectively starting now.

• PageRank Also known as the "toolbar PageRank," this is the relative value of all the links pointing at the site. As always, note that PageRank is not an endorsement about anything else on the site, especially relevance. As we say in the SEO business, "PageRank is a good place to start, but a bad place to finish." Still, you may notice that all the competing sites have high PageRank, which means you should be building a robust link structure to counter the weight of the links against you. A general rule about PageRank is that high PR sites tend to get crawled more frequently, sometimes as often as every few minutes in the case of a PR10 site like CNN.com.

These results may differ slightly from the Google results you see because they are taken from a Google datacenter closer to our own IP address. Google shows different results to different searchers, because it tries to provide the best information based on the searcher's geographical area. Someone in Salt Lake City searching for "Jazz" may get basketball team information, while someone in Nashville doing the same search will probably get more results about musicians and jazz clubs.

If you find that you are trying to get into a field that has a high rate of competition, or that your site is not as old as most sites on the list, then Web.com Search Agency can help you evaluate your options. We have several different custom SEO and link building packages that can level the playing field. As always, the most profitable keywords require more advanced and aggressive level of optimization. Some of the top players in the SEO field may be actively adding links and optimized content on a daily basis in order to keep their clients in the top 10. Even without the head start, it is still possible to position your site among strong competitors, assuming you have the resources to do so. In any case, hiring a search engine optimization agency is highly recommended, given that advanced link building must be done in a strategic and search engine friendly manner.

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About the Author:
Patrick Hare has been managing online and offline marketing projects since 1999. From 2005 to present, he has been with Scottsdale Arizona's Web.com Search Agency (formerly Submitawebsite). Patrick provides Search Engine Optimization and Marketing advice to in-house customers and Web.com Jacksonville's web design group.

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