Podcasts are a brilliant way for us to educate others on a myriad of subjects. There are topics ranging from general music and film to more niche subjects such as Greek mythology or like our very own podcast about China. Podcasts help us consume a large amount of information when we don’t have time to […]
Let’s put the “anal” in Competitive Analysis! I nerdily just cracked myself up with that one. But seriously, competitive analysis is tedious and dull, and yet absolutely critical for you to do for your website. The competitive analysis template that is downloadable above will help you get this task done without the headache. Once you’ve finished, you’ll have a good understanding of your market position and have a wealth of new sources for content ideas, designs and social media strategies.
It’s easy to get convinced that you’re the only person out there creating a website about a certain topic or product. Maybe you haven’t heard of or come across one before that provides the information or resources that yours will have. It’s time to put in a little elbow grease and find out exactly what’s out there and whether those sites are strong competitors to what you are offering. By the way, having competitors shouldn’t scare you out of creating your site. On the contrary, having competitors often validates your idea, proving that there is a market out there interested in your service or product.
If your website is already live and you still haven’t done a competitive analysis, don’t worry. No matter what stage you’re at in your business, you can glean great insight and inspiration from understanding who else is out there working in a similar niche.
You might be afraid to seek out your competitors, thinking that you’ll discover someone out there who’s beating you at your own game. Suck it up, soldier! It’s better to understand the threats facing your business and tackle them head on than to blindly find the competition after you’ve already sunk your blood, sweat and precious time into your project.
There are various methods of doing competitive analysis, but the one we’ll be focusing on here is to find out who your competitors are in Google. Unless you have a massive marketing budget (congrats for you!), you’ll want to make sure that people are able to find your website when they search in Google.
People that find your website by searching in Google or other search engines like Yahoo or DuckDuckGo are called “organic traffic” because they naturally find you without being served an ad or visiting your site directly through your URL. The more organic traffic you get, the less money you’ll need to spend on advertising to attract an audience. Plus, organic traffic is often more valuable than traffic created through advertisements because the people that come to your site are those who actually want to be there!
Determining Your Target Keywords
Before you start this competitive analysis, you’ll need to know which keywords you are targeting for your website. That is, what would you want someone to be typing into Google in order to find your site?
For example, pretend you run an e-commerce site that sells luxury dog beds. Potential customers might type keywords like “best dog beds” or “most comfortable dog beds” into Google in order to find your website.
If you already know which keywords you are going after, great, keep going! If not, take 20 minutes now to learn some strategies for picking great keywords from the links of resources that we’ve wrangled up below.
As a general rule, you should aim for keywords for which it will be possible to rank in the first page of Google. If all the links in the first page of Google are already being dominated by big names like Wikipedia, eHow, etc. for a keyword, then throw it out and go after some different ones. If you’re not sure about the strength of your competitors, you’ll know more about where you stand after completing the competitive analysis SOP available above.
Here are some resources from trusted sources for choosing the best keywords for your website:
Once you have your keywords ready, you can collect thorough data about your competitor’s websites. This task takes a bit of time but it doesn’t require any special skills. If you are strapped for time, pass the SOP document to your freelance worker and they will handle it for you.
Even if you’ve done a competitive analysis in the past, it’s best to run the research again every six months or so to make sure that there aren’t any new players on the market that you are unaware of. That’s why we recommend getting into the practice of outsourcing this task using the SOP template so that you can get it done regularly by a freelancer or virtual assistant without sucking up your own precious time.
Steps for Completing the Competitive Analysis Template
The process in the SOP template provided entails plugging your keywords into Google while using a special Google address that doesn’t skew the results based on your location or previous searches. This is all explained clearly in the SOP’s step-by-step instructions.
Afterwards, you will record the websites that come up within the first 15 positions in Google. You’ll then evaluate each of these sites using a free tool that will help you determine how strong of a competitor those sites are and how difficult it will be to outrank them in Google.
You can find key information, such as your competitor website’s domain authority, using some great free tools. These tools allow you to peek behind the curtain of your competitors, rather than having to guess. In online business data is king, so use it to your advantage.
The SOP download includes simple step-by-step instructions that anyone with basic computer skills will be able to manage. It will take you or your freelancer through all of the steps necessary to finish a competitive analysis and uses some excellent free online tools to collect the information that you need to determine your position in the market.
Get everything you need delivered to your inbox now by entering your email in the box above. Good luck with your business!
WHAT IS A CONTENT CALENDAR?
Whether you’re working with a group of freelancers or you’re going solo to produce content for your site, it’s easy to get bogged down with content. You can easily keep track of who is writing an article for you, on what subject and at what stage they are at in the writing process with a content calendar.
A content calendar is also known as an editorial calendar. Not only will it keep you and your content more organised, but it also creates accountability for yourself and other team members. Everyone knows their deadlines and responsibilities which in turn helps streamline your business. If you set dates for when you will publish your blog posts, you’re more likely to write and post on those days if they’re scheduled in your calendar.
HOW DO YOU USE A CONTENT CALENDAR?
My editorial calendar is often where I start my day. I know what content I need to work on or at what stage another article might be at. Although I use Google Docs and often use a filename to quick search a document, having all the links and information for every single piece of content allows me to quickly access documents for all our blog posts, podcast notes or video scripts all from one place.
In the beginning, it may be easy to remember what content that you have written about in your blog but consider that you may be running this blog for several years or even decades if you’re successful, so you may not remember all the topics that you’ve covered months or years down the line. A content calendar is a quick way to sift through all the content that you’ve already posted to make sure that you avoid duplicate posts on the same topic. You can do a quick search by using the ‘find’ tool in Google Docs.
Of course, you can always add other content as well as blog content, however, I like to keep my various different mediums in separate tabs of the same spreadsheet. You can easily add a new tab to the template by clicking the + button on the left-hand side. Some of my additional tabs include video, podcast and pages for the site. However, I keep my social media separated because it’s quite extensive and this is something I outsource to a freelancer using a Social Media Schedule.
I often use our editorial calendar to brainstorm ideas for future blog posts, podcasts etc. I may have a random idea and just add them to the calendar without including a publishing date or even started writing any content. It’s great to to go back through the the ideas that I’ve had as sometimes they can help prompt me in the future to write content for these ideas and titles.
Since this content calendar is a spreadsheet, it’s easy to move content around. So, even though I often use the editorial calendar to brainstorm ideas I can move my content easily so that all the content that I’m working on at present is altogether and easiest for me to view and work on.
There may be times when you have an idea for content that would be better published at a later date, especially if it is a keyword that might get a higher search during a certain holiday. For example, an idea about goal setting might be more relevant at New Year than during the summer. Some topics may have lost popularity by the time you come to write it, but there may be a chance to write something in the future, so keep these ideas for a later date.
ADDING NOTES FOR UPDATING BLOG POSTS
A content calendar is also good place to add notes about the posts that you’ve already published. For example, you may need to update images and content at a later date and you can this information to remind you in the future. You can also keep track on when your content was published, updated or may need updating again, especially if you have seasonal posts.
You might also want to use the editorial calendar as a way to highlight which posts are more popular. This will be extremely helpful for creating content that will more likely to engage your audience.
OUTSOURCING CONTENT CREATION
If you working with a team of people who are writing content for your blog, the editorial calendar is the perfect place to make sure everyone stays organised and knows when they are expected to post content. If you have freelancers who are researching or writing blog posts they can also add information so you can keep track of that progress.
You should make sure that your freelancers keep track of their work by filling in the content calendar where necessary. Forgetting to update the status of an article they are working on, this will slow down efficiency and create more work in the long run.
Even if you’re currently working as a ‘one-man band’, consider that as your blog expands you may want to add more content writers to your blog. Getting in the practice of using an editorial calendar is good exercise in staying organised and will greatly benefit any future writers who work on your blog. It is a small and easy way to look professional and make an easier transition from working on the blog by yourself to employing team members to help you. Retrospectively filling in this content is way harder than filling it in as you go. That’s why this template is extremely valuable even if you are working alone.
CUSTOMIZING YOUR CONTENT CALENDAR TEMPLATE
Although there are many paid content calendars available now, using a content calendar spreadsheet is not only free but is also easily customizable to fit your own personal (or team’s) needs. In my own editorial calendar, I use colour coded tabs so that I can easily scan through my sheets and see which posts are in the research, writing or published phase. This also means that well researched and written content never gets forgotten!
If you’re using Google Drive you can easily add the links of all your content, so that you can easily access any blog posts that are currently being written, as well as view images, audio or video files that will be part of your content.
Although I have a main sheet that I use to schedule blog posts that I’ll publish or update during the week, I also have individual sheets for each type of content. For example, this spreadsheet includes sheets for blog post, reposts, videos, podcasts and any important social media campaigns we currently have running.
You can download our Content Calendar Template by entering your email in the box above and having it send to your inbox. You can start using the content calendar immediately to organise and streamline your content creation.
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HOW CAN WEBMASTER TOOLS HELP GET YOUR SITE ON SEARCH ENGINES?
Put simply, Google Webmaster Tools is a set of extremely useful tools (obviously) that help you to see what is happening on your website. Sounds like yet another way that Google can spy on you? Well, that’s kind of the point. One of the key features of Google Webmaster Tools is to get your website to show in Google search results, also known as indexing. This means that when people begin searching for a keyword that you are trying to rank for, it will show in their results. Basically, Webmaster Tools is essential for SEO and there’s a good chance you’ll get more traffic through Google if you’re using it. Although Google Webmaster Tools can’t guarantee you a top 10 ranking keyword, it will help your customers find you.
Connecting Webmaster Tools to your site is one of the first things you should do when setting up a site, especially since you want Google to begin indexing you as soon as possible. If you’re still in the design stages of your site, you can hold off on the indexing part, but once you have connected Webmaster Tools to your site, all you have to do is click a button to complete the process!
Many of Google Webmaster Tools features allow you to track your sites performance in order to make improvements. For example, there are several additional resources such as speed testing your site. Once your site has been tested, you will be provided with a score out of 100 and ways in which you can improve the site’s speed across all your devices. This kind of test may seem simple, but can be the differences between disgruntled users fed with up with your slow loading site, and customers who enjoy browsing your user friendly site.
HOW IS WEBMASTER TOOLS DIFFERENT FROM ANALYTICS?
You may have heard about or used Google Analytics before, but Google Webmaster Tools can be in used in addition to Google Analytics. In fact, some of the information provided in Webmaster Tools is not available within Google Analytics and we strongly recommend using both on your site.
Google Webmaster Tools helps you to discover errors and spam that may be affecting your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as well as their user experience. Like Google Analytics, it provides you with information about keywords that people can use to organically find your site. This information can be used to strengthen your position in Google search results.
One of the most useful features of Google Webmaster Tools is its sitemaps function, which shows Google what pages you have on your website in order to index them. if you don’t submit this index you’re unlikely to get as much traffic as if you do. In order to create a sitemap for your website you can use XML Sitemaps and upload it to Google Webmaster Tools.
As well as showing Google what pages you do have on your website you can also use Google Webmaster Tools to prevent access to certain pages. So, for example if you have a private login area you might not want search engines to access these pages. You can use the Crawler Access feature to block Google from crawling or taking data from these pages.
WHEN SHOULD I SETUP GOOGLE WEBMASTER TOOLS?
Even if you have no idea how to use Google Webmaster Tools and don’t have time to learn right now, it’s a good strategy to set it up as soon as possible in order to start collecting data. Data that you have collected will be available to you in the future, but if you decide to wait to implement Webmaster Tools you can’t go back and collect data from the past.
Not only is Google Webmaster Tools free, but it’s also pretty simple to set up, made even simpler with our SOP template that you can download above. The SOP gives you step by step instructions on how to connect your website to Google Webmaster Tools in order to start measuring your website immediately.
Broken links can sometimes happen accidentally if a page or post on your website has been deleted, moved and not redirected or if an outbound link on another site no longer exists. They can be difficult to find and fix if you don’t regularly check your site so to save time, you can use a plugin, which checks your site and fixes the broken links automatically. Alternatively, you can outsource the task and systematise fixing the broken links on your site.
A broken link checker will search your entire site for issues and invalid web pages. This SOP will show you how to use both a plugin for your WordPress site, or to use a link checking site. Both options will help you find broken links and achieve the same positive results for your site.
Another method that we have added to the most recent version of the SOP is to use Google Webmaster Tools to find broken links. This is probably the most reliable and thorough method to use, although you do need to connect your site to Webmaster Tools, which you can do simply by following the SOP. The crawl will specifically show errors of bad searches or links that have clicked on your site that you can then correct. The console also provides a date for when the error was first seen and allows you to fix in bulk if you have a major issue on your site.
WHY ARE BROKEN LINKS SO BAD?
If you have affiliate or outbound links that are embedded into your blog posts or resource pages on your website, they may break without your knowledge, and could provide your customers with a bad user experience (ouch!).
This kind of thing has probably happened to you personally, even on well-developed websites. A blank screen or PAGE NOT FOUND message can be frustrating and distracting and may cause some of your customers to leave and not return. Apart from upsetting your audience, it will also affect your ranking within search engines such as Google and Bing.
You should always be aware of potential problems that harm your website’s SEO, as this is often one of the best ways to build your site through organic traffic, so that in the future you don’t have to rely on expensive advertising or marketing tactics.
Sometimes, a dead link can bring up a 404 page. If you see a 404 page it means that the URL you are looking for cannot be found. To prepare for potential 404s, (and sometimes they happen, even on the best kept site) some sites will create an attractive looking 404 page that might redirect a customer to another page, or offer them a free download.
You can also track how many times your 404 page has been clicked which may be a cause for concern. You can easily see 404s if you have the Redirection plugin installed on your WordPress website. From the Redirection dashboard, you can easily setup a redirect for defunct links.
HOW CAN I FIND BROKEN LINKS?
There are many different ways to find broken links on your site, and sometimes you may want to use more than one in order to thoroughly check your site. Having used all of these, I’ve noticed that some links are found by some services, but not in others.
Here’s a rundown of the different options detailed in this SOP for fixing broken links:
WordPress and Chrome Plugins to Fix Broken Links
Using a plugin will allow you to find broken links and instantly fix them within the WordPress dashboard and is therefore one of the most convenient ways to fix broken links.
For all those Google Chrome extension fans out there (like me!), there are now several extensions out there that can scan individual pages, find broken links and provide you with a short summary of problems. The one included in this SOP even highlights the page with traffic light colours (red for warning for example) and allows you to export the results as a .csv file.
This method is great if you want to check a few pages of a website, but not really feasible for checking a whole site with hundreds of pages and links.
External Broken Link Checking Sites
Using an external link checking site will provide you with URLs that you then have to fix manually. There is a space within the SOP where you or your freelancer can fill out the broken links and add the correct URLs to replace them with. If you’re using Google Webmaster Tools, you can also download the problem links in a .csv file.
Once you’ve checked your site to find broken links, there are several different options you can take to fix them, regardless of whether you use a WordPress plugin or use a link checking website. If the page no longer exists, you may want to remove the link completely, or link to another page.
Once you’ve downloaded this SOP from the top of the page, and decided on the method of fixing links, you can begin checking your site regularly. Set a reminder for yourself or your freelancer to check the site routinely. I personally check all of my sites at least once a week using one or more of the options above.