Since the 1800s, the liberal arts have debated nature vs. nurture: are we determined by some fundamental qualities of our existence, or are we a product of our environment? Can a new website outrank an old one?
Can you defeat that stubborn exact match site? Can a non-branded site outperform a branded site? In competitive environments, can you ‘nurture’ your site to overcome the inherent advantages of precise match, site age, and brand? If so, how long will it take?
Jim published a nice blog entry about how he likes em’ old a while back. In many ways, site age is a huge advantage. Aside from the age of the site, there is the age of the document and the age of the backlinks.
Yes, even those spammy backlinks your old and crusty competition obtained 6 years ago have age, which increases their value. (There are more advantages, but I’m trying not to ramble, so I won’t go into them.) Where do you even begin if your site is very new?
Check That You Have All Of The ‘Low Hanging Fruit’ Backlinks And That You Understand Their Significance
Have current keyword research and content strategy, because they most likely do not
Improve your content approach to outperform older sites. If you’re up against one of those old crusty sites, I bet they haven’t done any keyword research in years 8 out of 10 times. Guess what: times have changed.
What linkable content opportunities have they overlooked that you may take advantage of? (Oh, and if you’re an old site owner reading this, Google loves new docs on old sites.) Whether your site is old or new, keep your content strategy current.
Links to Previous Sites
Can you find any of your past competitors’ links? Remember that old sites may have backlinks from other old sites.
Topics of Interest
Have content on popular themes and benefit from links from hot topics. They may only be blog links, but they are new and have the potential to generate a lot of traffic organically and spontaneously.
Create a Social Media Account Network
You can be smarter than them only because they’re bigger and older. Do better on social than your previous rival and you’ll receive those new links. One thing to remember about social media is that it has a high level of buy-in.
Before you can use your network for links, you must first establish it. Engage, tweet, like, + 1, answer questions, remark; anything it takes to develop a relationship with the authority in your online field and your visitors is worthwhile.
Although old sites offer many advantages, they also have many downsides, such as poorly done site architecture that emerged and grew organically as the site expanded without adequate design.
It is highly usual for outdated websites to have a large number of duplicate content concerns. Old websites also have jumbled URLs. These sites were built before webmasters realised that their URLs should not exceed the space in a URL bar. Use this opportunity
Branded Websites And Exact Match Domains
I’m becoming less concerned about exact match domains. Google finally recognised that just because you’re the exact match domain doesn’t guarantee you’re the most relevant or of the highest quality. Don’t get me wrong: this is still valid.
It is simply not as heavily burdened as it once was in some areas. However, exact match domains have some pretty serious natural advantages, such as, say, 500 backlinks with the top four anchor texts being ‘keyword,’ ‘keyword.com,’ and ‘http://www.keyword.com.’ How are you going to compete with all of that anchor text?
Branded websites are now available. These are the most aggravating for new and intermediate webmasters. Branded sites have all this fantastic domain authority and an infinite marketing spend to push everyone around. It appears that these sites simply construct a page about anything and rank, or they establish a couple of links to the page and outrank you.
Branded sites also benefit from ‘branded searches,’ which means that Google ranks the top 10 of a SERP with greater weight to branded sites – it is usually evident whether this is the case, because nearly everyone in the top ten of the SERP is a large brand.
So, as a medium-sized site, how do you deal with one of these people getting a chunk of your traffic pie?
Consider The Benefit And Proceed
There are two ways to compete with these types of websites: competing for the keyword and competing for search share. If you are competing with them for the phrase, there is no other way to put it: you must establish strong backlinks for that phrase or combination of keywords.
If your competitor’s exact match domain site is more than a thin affiliate or you’re competing with a powerful version of this type of site for general search share (short tail and long tail), the game changes.
These sites typically (but not always) do not rank for anything other than the phrase for which they are an exact match. If you’re in a highly competitive market, these sites may be quite well built and compete with you over a wide range of keywords. My first piece of advice is to assess your options.
What Is The Advantage Of Ranking For A Certain Phrase?
What will it take in terms of promotion to rank for that one phrase, or is it preferable to abandon it in favour of a less competitive phrase or a longer tail strategy?
Examine your analytics: does a small set of terms account for the majority of your search conversions, or do long tail phrases account for the majority of your conversions? Many webmasters become so focused on ranking for a few key phrases that they lose sight of the wider picture, there is a world beyond apex terms, I guarantee.
So there is a decreasing natural advantage for exact match domains, but a substantial natural advantage for branded sites.
As A Competitor, Consider Google
In order to make a certain point, I wanted to bring up Google as a natural competitor. For many webmasters, Google traffic is the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to traffic sources.
However, it is time to reconsider the long-term viability of such a plan because “what Google gives, Google takes away.” If you’re serious about your online business, try this experiment: look at your traffic sources and observe what is the cause of breakdown.
When you click on traffic sources off your profile in Google Analytics, you’ll see a really cool pie chart – how much of that pie chart is Google organic versus other traffic sources? When you can lessen your reliance on Google, you know your internet business is in good shape. Consider your traffic sources as a portfolio, and diversify so that if the big G turns off the traffic faucet, your business isn’t left high and dry.
There you have it. Website biology isn’t always fate, although some websites are clearly higher in the food chain than others.
Investigate Competitive Analysis Using These Additional Resources
Stuntdubl, Competitive Intelligence: Using KOB Analysis for SEO Campaign Planning. This is an excellent post on an organised ‘KOB’ approach to competition analysis, complete with resources and tool links.
Competitive Intelligence: What Can You Learn From Your Competitors?
Baker, Loren This is a great cool piece to check out if you’re looking for some of the things to consider for competitive analysis. You can use some of these components as a check list if you want to do a deep dive into a specific space or if you’re launching a new site and want to properly research the competition before investing.
SEO & Competitive Intelligence [LisaBarone’s liveblog – 6 July 2011].
This post covers some outstanding recent liveblog coverage as well as a few interesting nuggets. – marketing whiz (I had a named account, but I became attached to it.)