I recently guested on Aleyda Solis’ Crawling Monday series together James Brockbank. We discussed the fallacies and best practices of SEO strategies.
At one point, we talked about companies with very successful SEO strategies: Atlassian. Pinterest. CreditKarma. Amazon. I could have mentioned so many more.
But what really makes a successful SEO strategy?
I wrote about the fundamentals of a good SEO Strategy before but in this post, I want to zoom in on a simple tool that helps you find leverage against competitors and identify how you stack up.
It’s a numbers game
At the end of the day, even the most sophisticated machine learning algorithm uses numbers as input. That's why Google quantifies words into word embeddings (vectors).
Ranking web results is no exception. In theory, Google's ranking algorithms seem to have a numerical expectation for the top result. It's just too complex for us to comprehend. But all results compete for different spots on a SERP and their "competitiveness" has to be compared somehow.
We can't reconstruct those factors or signals but we can compare sites in the numbers we have available. It's essentially competitive analysis, just at a high-level. And it's a great tool to develop SEO strategies because it helps you find your strengths and competitors weaknesses.
You could create a quadrant on which you compare sites in terms of how strong their content and backlink profile is. That's the most basic level.
A step further would be adding a third axis to see where your site and others stand.
But the most helpful tool would be a tabular comparison of the most important link, content, and UX metrics.
A simple comparison sheet for SEO strategies
What makes this tool so effective is that it forces you to focus on the most important parts of SEO but still doesn't get you lost in the details.
Please feel free to make a copy of the spreadsheet and pull metrics for your own site + competitors.
How to use the comparison tool
Pull numbers from the SEO tool you have (that's why I wrote "Moz' DA, SEMrush's PS, Ahrefs' DR in the metric column). The only metrics that are not available across several tools are Majestic's Citation Flow and Trustflow. You can access these metrics in the free version but if you don't want to, the model also works without them.
You get "indexed URLs" from a simple site query on Google, e.g. "site:domain.com". Then, simply count the URLs. Is it perfectly accurate? No. But it should be enough for a high-level overview.
I added featured snippets, PAAs, and image packs as SERP Features but the model is meant for you to insert whatever makes the most sense for your verticals. For cooking sites, it would be recipe snippets, for software reviews sites, reviews. You get the hang.
Lastly, you can use Google's Page Speed Tool for Web Vitals metrics.
The way I use the sheet is to add 3- 5 competitors and look at where my site is stronger vs. weaker. Then, I craft a plan to attack a competitor's weak point or build out my strength. That could be simply creating more content or building a stronger backlink profile.
Make this tool your own thing. Add or take away metrics you deem important. Focus on subdirectories or subdomains. The possibilities are endless! What should remain is the principle of high-level comparison and using numbers to inform your strategy.