You are previewing The Art of SEO, 2nd Edition.

The Art of SEO, 2nd Edition

Cover of The Art of SEO, 2nd Edition by Eric Enge... Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc.
  1. The Art of SEO
  2. Dedication
  3. Foreword
  4. Preface
    1. Who Should Read This Book
    2. Conventions Used in This Book
    3. Using Code Examples
    4. Safari® Books Online
    5. How to Contact Us
    6. Acknowledgments
  5. 1. Search: Reflecting Consciousness and Connecting Commerce
    1. The Mission of Search Engines
    2. The Market Share of Search Engines
    3. The Human Goals of Searching
      1. Who Searches and What Do They Search For?
    4. Determining Searcher Intent: A Challenge for Both Marketers and Search Engines
      1. Navigational Queries
      2. Informational Queries
      3. Transactional Queries
      4. Adaptive Search
      5. How Publishers Can Leverage Intent
    5. How People Search
    6. How Search Engines Drive Commerce on the Web
    7. Eye Tracking: How Users Scan Results Pages
    8. Click Tracking: How Users Click on Results, Natural Versus Paid
      1. Distribution of Search Results and Traffic
      2. Different Intents and Effects of Listings in Paid Versus Natural Results
      3. Interaction Between Natural and Paid Search
    9. Conclusion
  6. 2. Search Engine Basics
    1. Understanding Search Engine Results
      1. Understanding the Layout of Search Results Pages
      2. How Vertical Results Fit into the SERPs
    2. Algorithm-Based Ranking Systems: Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking
      1. Crawling and Indexing
      2. Retrieval and Rankings
      3. Evaluating Content on a Web Page
      4. What Content Can Search Engines “See” on a Web Page?
    3. Determining Searcher Intent and Delivering Relevant, Fresh Content
      1. Document Analysis and Semantic Connectivity
      2. Measuring Content Quality and User Engagement
      3. Link Analysis
      4. Evaluating Social Media Signals
      5. Problem Words, Disambiguation, and Diversity
      6. A Few Reasons Why These Algorithms Sometimes Fail
    4. Analyzing Ranking Factors
      1. Negative Ranking Factors
      2. Other Ranking Factors
    5. Using Advanced Search Techniques
      1. Advanced Google Search Operators
      2. Bing Advanced Search Operators
      3. More Advanced Search Operator Techniques
    6. Vertical Search Engines
      1. Vertical Search from the Major Search Engines
      2. Universal Search/Blended Search
    7. Country-Specific Search Engines
      1. Optimizing for Specific Countries
    8. Conclusion
  7. 3. Determining Your SEO Objectives and Defining Your Site’s Audience
    1. Strategic Goals SEO Practitioners Can Fulfill
      1. Visibility (Branding)
      2. Website Traffic
      3. High ROI
    2. Every SEO Plan Is Custom
    3. Understanding Search Engine Traffic and Visitor Intent
    4. Developing an SEO Plan Prior to Site Development
      1. Business Factors That Affect the SEO Plan
    5. Understanding Your Audience and Finding Your Niche
      1. Mapping Your Products and Services
      2. Content Is King
      3. Segmenting Your Site’s Audience
    6. SEO for Raw Traffic
    7. SEO for Ecommerce Sales
    8. SEO for Mindshare/Branding
    9. SEO for Lead Generation and Direct Marketing
    10. SEO for Reputation Management
    11. SEO for Ideological Influence
      1. Advanced Methods for Planning and Evaluation
    12. Conclusion
  8. 4. First Stages of SEO
    1. The Major Elements of Planning
      1. Technology Choices
      2. Market Segmentation
      3. Where You Can Find Great Links
      4. Content Resources
      5. Branding Considerations
      6. Competition
    2. Identifying the Site Development Process and Players
    3. Defining Your Site’s Information Architecture
      1. Technology Decisions
      2. Structural Decisions
    4. Auditing an Existing Site to Identify SEO Problems
      1. Elements of an Audit
      2. The Importance of Keyword Reviews
      3. Keyword Cannibalization
      4. Example: Fixing an Internal Linking Problem
      5. Server and Hosting Issues
    5. Identifying Current Server Statistics Software and Gaining Access
      1. Web Analytics
      2. Logfile Tracking
      3. Google and Bing Webmaster Tools
      4. Search Analytics
    6. Determining Top Competitors
      1. Two Spam Examples
      2. Seeking the Best
      3. Uncovering Their Secrets
    7. Assessing Historical Progress
      1. Maintain a Timeline of Site Changes
      2. Types of Site Changes That Can Affect SEO
      3. Previous SEO Work
    8. Benchmarking Current Indexing Status
    9. Benchmarking Current Rankings
    10. Benchmarking Current Traffic Sources and Volume
    11. Leveraging Business Assets for SEO
      1. Other Domains You Own/Control
      2. Partnerships On and Off the Web
      3. Content or Data You’ve Never Put Online
      4. Customers Who Have Had a Positive Experience
      5. Your Fans
    12. Combining Business Assets and Historical Data to Conduct SEO/Website SWOT Analysis
    13. Conclusion
  9. 5. Keyword Research
    1. Thinking Strategically
    2. Understanding the Long Tail of the Keyword Demand Curve
    3. Traditional Approaches: Domain Expertise, Site Content Analysis
      1. Include Competitive Analysis
    4. Keyword Research Tools
      1. Things to Keep in Mind
      2. Keyword Research Data from the Engines
      3. Keyword Research with Tools
      4. Other Tools of Interest
    5. Determining Keyword Value/Potential ROI
      1. Estimating Value, Relevance, and Conversion Rates
      2. Testing Ad Campaign Runs and Third-Party Search Data
      3. Using Landing Page Optimization
    6. Leveraging the Long Tail of Keyword Demand
      1. Extracting Terms from Relevant Web Pages
      2. Mining Keyword Research Tools
      3. Identifying Long-Tail Patterns
      4. Editorial Content Strategies for Long-Tail Targeting
      5. User-Generated Content Strategies for Long-Tail Targeting
    7. Trending, Seasonality, and Seasonal Fluctuations in Keyword Demand
    8. Conclusion
  10. 6. Developing an SEO-Friendly Website
    1. Making Your Site Accessible to Search Engines
      1. Indexable Content
      2. Spiderable Link Structures
      3. XML Sitemaps
    2. Creating an Optimal Information Architecture (IA)
      1. The Importance of a Logical, Category-Based Flow
      2. Site Architecture Design Principles
      3. Flat Versus Deep Architecture
      4. Search-Friendly Site Navigation
    3. Root Domains, Subdomains, and Microsites
      1. When to Use a Subfolder
      2. When to Use a Subdomain
      3. When to Use a Separate Root Domain
      4. Microsites
      5. When to Use a TLD Other than .com
    4. Optimization of Domain Names/URLs
      1. Optimizing Domains
      2. Picking the Right URLs
    5. Keyword Targeting
      1. Title Tags
      2. Meta Description Tags
      3. Heading (H1, H2, H3) Tags
      4. Document Text
      5. Image Filenames and alt Attributes
      6. Boldface Text
      7. Avoiding Keyword Cannibalization
      8. Keyword Targeting in CMSs and Automatically Generated Content
      9. SEO Copywriting: Encouraging Effective Keyword Targeting by Content Creators
      10. Long-Tail Keyword Targeting
    6. Content Optimization
      1. Content Structure
      2. CSS and Semantic Markup
      3. and Microformats
      4. Content Uniqueness and Depth
      5. Content Themes
    7. Duplicate Content Issues
      1. Consequences of Duplicate Content
      2. How Search Engines Identify Duplicate Content
      3. Identifying and Addressing Copyright Infringement
      4. How to Avoid Duplicate Content on Your Own Site
    8. Controlling Content with Cookies and Session IDs
      1. What’s a Cookie?
      2. What Are Session IDs?
      3. How Do Search Engines Interpret Cookies and Session IDs?
      4. Why Would You Want to Use Cookies or Session IDs to Control Search Engine Access?
    9. Content Delivery and Search Spider Control
      1. Cloaking and Segmenting Content Delivery
      2. When to Show Different Content to Engines and Visitors
      3. How to Display Different Content to Search Engines and Visitors
    10. Redirects
      1. Why and When to Redirect
      2. Good and Bad Redirects
      3. Methods for URL Redirecting and Rewriting
      4. Redirecting a Home Page Index File Without Looping
    11. Content Management System (CMS) Issues
      1. Selecting a CMS
      2. Third-Party CMS Add-ons
      3. Flash
      4. Flash Coding Best Practices
    12. Best Practices for Multilanguage/Country Targeting
      1. Targeting a Specific Country
      2. Problems with Using Your Existing Domain
      3. The Two Major Approaches
      4. Multiple-Language Issues
    13. Conclusion
  11. 7. Creating Link-Worthy Content and Link Marketing
    1. How Links Influence Search Engine Rankings
      1. The Original PageRank Algorithm
      2. Additional Factors That Influence Link Value
      3. How Search Engines Use Links
    2. Further Refining How Search Engines Judge Links
      1. Additional Link Evaluation Criteria
      2. Determining a Link’s Value
    3. The Psychology of Linking
      1. Why Are Links Created?
      2. How Can Sites Approach Getting Links?
    4. Types of Link Building
      1. Using Content to Attract Links
      2. Marketing Content for Link Acquisition
      3. Directories
      4. Incentive-Based Link Requests
      5. Direct Link Requests
      6. Manual Social Media Link Creation
      7. Gray Hat/Black Hat
    5. Choosing the Right Link-Building Strategy
      1. Outline of a Process
      2. Link-Building Process Summary
      3. Putting It All Together
    6. More Approaches to Content-Based Link Acquisition
      1. A Closer Look at Content Syndication
      2. Leveraging User-Generated Content
      3. Creating Link Bait/Viral Content
    7. Incentive-Based Link Marketing
      1. Helping Other Sites Boost Their Value
      2. Offering Customer Discounts/Incentives
    8. How Search Engines Fight Link Spam
      1. Algorithmic Approaches to Fighting Link Spam
      2. Other Search Engine Courses of Action
    9. Social Networking for Links
      1. Blogging for Links
      2. Leveraging Social News and Tagging Sites
      3. Forum and Social Network Participation
      4. Offline Relationship Building
      5. Some Success Stories Using YouTube
      6. Social Media Tips for More Sites
      7. Social Media Summary
    10. Conclusion
  12. 8. How Social Media and User Data Play a Role in Search Results and Rankings
    1. Why Rely on Social Signals?
      1. Social Media Signals Provide New Tools
    2. Social Signals That Directly Influence Search Results
      1. Tweeted Links Are Similar to Web Page Links
      2. Facebook Shares/Links as a Ranking Factor
      3. Facebook Likes Are Votes, Too
      4. Google+ Shares as a Ranking Factor
      5. Google +1s Are Also an Endorsement
    3. The Indirect Influence of Social Media Marketing
      1. Social Search Features from Google and Bing
      2. Summary of Social Sources to Consider
    4. Monitoring, Measuring, and Improving Social Media Marketing
      1. Best Practices and Recommendations for Social Media Marketing
      2. Claim Key Profiles
      3. Deciding on a New Social Network
      4. Tracking Social Media in Your Web Analytics
      5. Tools for Measuring Social Media Metrics
    5. User Engagement as a Measure of Search Quality
      1. How Google and Bing Collect Engagement Metrics
      2. Potential User Engagement Signals
      3. Voting Mechanisms
    6. Document Analysis
      1. Poor Editorial Quality
      2. Reading Level
      3. Keyword Stuffing/Lack of Synonyms
      4. Ad Density and Offensive Ads
      5. Sameness
      6. Page Speed
    7. Optimizing the User Experience to Improve SEO
      1. Step 1: Build a Survey
      2. Step 2: Send It to Your Customers/Potential Customers
      3. Step 3: Record Responses and Leverage Them to Build What the People Want
    8. Additional Social Media Resources
      1. Social Media Blogs
      2. Tools
    9. Conclusion
  13. 9. Optimizing for Vertical Search
    1. The Opportunities in Vertical Search
      1. Universal Search and Blended Search
      2. The Opportunity Unleashed
    2. Optimizing for Local Search
      1. Foundation: Check Your Local Listings
      2. Introduction to Local Business Profiles
      3. Local Agency Management
      4. Optimizing Your Website for Local Search Engines
    3. Optimizing for Image Search
      1. Image Optimization Tips
      2. Optimizing Through Flickr and Other Image Sharing Sites
    4. Optimizing for Product Search
      1. Getting into Google Product Search
    5. Optimizing for News, Blog, and Feed Search
      1. RSS Feed Optimization
      2. RSS Feed Tracking and Measurement
      3. Media RSS (mRSS)
      4. Other RSS Optimization Considerations
      5. Blog Optimization
      6. News Search Optimization
    6. Others: Mobile, Video/Multimedia Search
      1. Mobile Search
      2. Video Search Optimization
    7. Conclusion
  14. 10. Tracking Results and Measuring Success
    1. Why Measuring Success Is Essential to the SEO Process
      1. The Tracking Cycle: Produce, Launch, Measure, Refine
      2. How to Establish a Proper Baseline
      3. Using Analytics as a Business Case for SEO
    2. Measuring Search Traffic
      1. Basic Overview
      2. Selecting the Right Analytics Package
      3. Valuable SEO Data in Web Analytics
      4. Segmenting Search Traffic
      5. Referring Sites
      6. Using Analytics Dashboards
      7. A Deeper Look at Action Tracking
      8. Separating the Analytics Wheat from the Chaff
    3. Tying SEO to Conversion and ROI
      1. Attribution
      2. Setting Up Analytics Software to Track Conversions
      3. Segmenting Campaigns and SEO Efforts by Conversion Rate
      4. Increasing Conversions
      5. Determining Project ROI
    4. Competitive and Diagnostic Search Metrics
      1. Search Engine and Competitive Metrics
      2. Site Indexing Data
      3. Link Building, Link Tracking, and Link-Based Metrics (Including Anchor Text Analysis)
      4. Ranking
      5. Shelf space
      6. SEO Platforms
      7. Crawl Errors
      8. Tracking the Blogosphere
      9. Tracking Your Blog(s)
      10. Search Engine Robot Traffic Analysis
      11. Web Traffic Comparison
      12. Temporal Link Growth Measurements
    5. Key Performance Indicators for Long-Tail SEO
      1. Tracking Duplicate Content
    6. Other Third-Party Tools
      1. SEO for Firefox
      2. UrlTrends
      3. SpyFu
      4. SEMRush
      5. Covario Organic Search Insight (OSI)
      6. Covario Organic Search Optimizer (OSO)
      7. Searchmetrics Essentials
    7. Conclusion
  15. 11. Domain Changes, Post-SEO Redesigns, and Troubleshooting
    1. The Basics of Moving Content
      1. Large-Scale Content Moves
      2. Mapping Content Moves
      3. Expectations for Content Moves
    2. Maintaining Search Engine Visibility During and After a Site Redesign
    3. Maintaining Search Engine Visibility During and After Domain Name Changes
      1. Unique Challenges of Domain Name Changes
      2. Pre-move Preparations
    4. Changing Servers
      1. Monitoring After Your Server Move
      2. Other Scenarios Similar to Server Moves
    5. Hidden Content
      1. Identifying Content That Engines Don’t See
      2. Identifying the Cause of Non-Spidering
      3. Hidden Content That May Be Viewed as Spam
    6. Spam Filtering and Penalties
      1. Recognizing Low-Quality Domains and Spam Sites
      2. Competitors Can Report You
      3. Duplicate Content
      4. Basic Rules for Spam-Free SEO
      5. Identifying Search Engine Penalties
      6. Reinclusion/Reconsideration Requests
    7. Content Theft
    8. Changing SEO Vendors or Staff Members
      1. Potential Problems
      2. Documenting SEO Actions and Progress
      3. Rapid Training
      4. Cleaning Up
    9. Conclusion
  16. 12. SEO Research and Study
    1. SEO Research and Analysis
      1. SEO Resources
      2. SEO Testing
      3. Analysis of Top-Ranking Sites and Pages
      4. Analysis of Algorithmic Differentiation Across Engines and Search Types
      5. The Importance of Experience
    2. Competitive Analysis
      1. Content Analysis
      2. Internal Link Structure and Site Architecture
      3. External Link Attraction Analysis
      4. What Is Their SEO Strategy?
      5. Competitive Analysis Summary
      6. Using Competitive Link Analysis Tools
      7. Competitive Analysis for Those with a Big Budget
    3. Using Search Engine–Supplied SEO Tools
      1. Search Engine Webmaster Tools
    4. The SEO Industry on the Web
      1. Blogs
      2. Forums
      3. Communities in Social Networks
    5. Participation in Conferences and Organizations
    6. Conclusion
  17. 13. Build an In-House SEO Team, Outsource It, or Both?
    1. The Business of SEO
      1. Understand Your Market Opportunity
      2. Get Buy-in Across the Organization
      3. Lay the Groundwork
      4. Motivate Resources That Don’t Share Your Goals to Help You
      5. Progress Through the Stages of SEO Maturity
      6. Build an SEO team
    2. The Dynamics and Challenges of Using In-House Talent Versus Outsourcing
      1. The Value of In-House SEO
      2. The Value of Outsourced Solutions
      3. Leveraging SEO Knowledge in an Organization
    3. The Impact of Site Complexity on SEO Workload
    4. Solutions for Small Organizations
      1. In-House SEO Specialist
      2. Outsourced Agency/Consultant/Contractor
      3. Working with Limited Resources/Budget
    5. Solutions for Large Organizations
      1. Contracting for Specialist Knowledge and Experience
      2. Applying SEO Recommendations Intelligently
    6. Hiring SEO Talent
      1. How to Select the Right SEO Practitioner
      2. Pitching the Person
      3. Sample Job Opening
      4. Making the Offer
    7. The Case for Working with an Outside Expert
      1. How to Best Leverage Outside Help
    8. Selecting an SEO Firm/Consultant
      1. Getting the Process Started
      2. Preparing a Request for Proposal (RFP)
      3. Communicating with Candidate SEO Firms
      4. Making the Decision
    9. Mixing Outsourced SEO with In-House SEO Teams
    10. Building a Culture of SEO into Your Organization
    11. Conclusion
  18. 14. An Evolving Art Form: The Future of SEO
    1. The Ongoing Evolution of Search
      1. The Growth of Search Complexity
      2. Google’s Dominance
    2. More Searchable Content and Content Types
      1. Engines Will Make Crawling Improvements
      2. Engines Are Getting New Content Sources
      3. Multimedia Is Becoming Indexable
    3. Personalization, Localization, and User Influence on Search
      1. Determining User Intent
      2. User Interactions
      3. New Search Patterns
      4. Growing Reliance on the Cloud
    4. The Increasing Importance of Local, Mobile, and Voice Recognition Search
      1. Local Search
      2. Mobile Search
      3. Voice-Recognition Search
    5. Increased Market Saturation and Competition
    6. SEO as an Enduring Art Form
    7. Conclusion
  19. Glossary
  20. Index
  21. About the Authors
  22. Colophon
  23. Copyright

Determining Top Competitors

Understanding the competition should be a key component of planning your SEO strategy. The first step is to understand who your competitors in the search results really are. It can often be small players who give you a run for your money. For example, consider the previously mentioned credit card search in Google (Figure 4-1); Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover Card all fail to reach the #1 position in the Google results.

Instead, affiliate players dominate these results. Affiliates tend to be the most adept at search engine optimization and can be the most lax in abiding by the search engines’ terms and conditions.

Two Spam Examples

Affiliates that cheat tend to come and go out of the top search results, as only sites that implement ethical tactics are likely to maintain their positions over time. You can help expedite the cheaters’ fall from grace by reporting them to Google at, or better yet, via the dashboard in your Google Webmaster Tools account (where your report will carry more weight).

How do you know whether a top-ranking site is playing by the rules? Look for dubious links to the site using a backlink analysis tool such as Open Site Explorer. Since the number of links is one factor search engines use to determine search position, few ethical websites will attempt to obtain links from a multitude of irrelevant and low-quality sites.

This sort of sleuthing can reveal some surprises. For instance, here are examples of two devious link schemes:

  •’s short-lived nemesis was, which came out of nowhere to command the top two spots in Google for the all-important search term gift certificates, thus relegating to the third position. How did do it? It operated a sister site,, with a free hit counter that propagated “link spam” across thousands of sites, all linking back to and other sites in its network.

    Sadly for, Stephan Spencer, founder and president of the e-marketing agency Netconcepts, outed the company in an article he wrote for Multichannel Merchant back in 2004 (, and Google became aware of the scam. The end result? The site was knocked down to only two pages in the Google index, as shown in Figure 4-9.

  • was a thorn in the side of, outranking the latter for its most popular product, the Ionic Breeze, by frameset trickery and guestbook spamming (in other words, defacing vulnerable websites with fake guestbook entries that contained spammy links back to its own site). As soon as The Sharper Image realized what was happening, it jumped on the wayward affiliate. It also restricted such practices in its affiliate agreement and stepped up its monitoring for these spam practices.

Site with only two pages in the index

Figure 4-9. Site with only two pages in the index

Seeking the Best

Look for competitors whose efforts you would like to emulate (or “embrace and extend,” as Bill Gates would put it)—usually a website that consistently dominates the upper half of the first page of search results in the search engines for a range of important keywords that are popular and relevant to your target audience. Note that your “mentor” competitors shouldn’t just be good performers; they should also demonstrate that they know what they’re doing when it comes to SEO. To assess competitors’ competence at SEO, you need to answer the following questions:

  • Are their websites fully indexed by Google and Yahoo!? In other words, are all their web pages, including product pages, making it into the search engines’ databases? You can go to each search engine and type in to find out. A competitor with only a small percentage of its site indexed in Google probably has a site that is unfriendly to search spiders.

  • Do their product and category pages have keyword-rich page titles (title tags) that are unique to each page? You can easily review an entire site’s page titles within Google or Yahoo! by searching for

    Incidentally, this type of search can sometimes yield confidential information. A lot of webmasters do not realize that Google has discovered and indexed commercially sensitive content buried deep in their sites. For example, a Google search for confidential business plan filetype:doc will yield a lot of real business plans among the sample templates.

  • Do their product and category pages have reasonably high PageRank scores?

  • Is anchor text across the site, particularly in the navigation, keyword-rich?

  • Are the websites getting penalized? You can overdo SEO. Too much keyword repetition or too many suspiciously well-optimized text links can yield a penalty for over-optimization. Sites can also be penalized for extensive amounts of duplicate content. You can learn more about how to identify search engine penalties in the section “Content Theft” in Chapter 11.

  • Are they spamming the search engines with “doorway pages”? According to Google: “Doorway pages are typically large sets of poor-quality pages where each page is optimized for a specific keyword or phrase. In many cases, doorway pages are written to rank for a particular phrase and then funnel users to a single destination” (

Uncovering Their Secrets

Let’s assume your investigation has led you to identify several competitors who are gaining excellent search placement using legitimate, intelligent tactics. Now it is time to uncover their secrets:

  • What keywords are they targeting? You can determine this by looking at the page titles (up in the bar above the address bar at the top of your web browser, which also appears in the search results listings) of each competitor’s home page and product category pages, then by looking at their meta keywords tag (right-click, select View Source, and then scour the HTML source for the list of keywords that follow the bit of HTML that looks something like the following:

    <meta name="keywords" content="keyword1, keyword2, ...">
  • Who’s linking to their home page, or to their top-selling product pages and category pages? A link popularity checker can be quite helpful in analyzing this.

  • If it is a database-driven site, what technology tricks are they using to get search engine spiders such as Googlebot to cope with the site being dynamic? Nearly all the technology tricks are tied to the ecommerce platforms the competitors are running. You can check to see whether they are using the same server software as you by using the “What’s that site running?” tool at the top-left corner of Figure 4-10 shows a screenshot of the results for

    Sample Netcraft output

    Figure 4-10. Sample Netcraft output

    While you are at it, look at “cached” (archived) versions of your competitors’ pages by clicking on the Cached link next to their search results in Google to see whether they’re doing anything too aggressive, such as cloaking, where they serve up a different version of the page to search engine spiders than to human visitors. The cached page will show you what the search engine actually saw, and you can see how it differs from the page you see when you go to the web page yourself.

  • What effect will their future SEO initiatives have on their site traffic? Assess the success of their SEO not just by the lift in rankings. Periodically record key SEO metrics over time—the number of pages indexed, the PageRank score, the number of links—and watch the resulting effect on their site traffic.

    You do not need access to competitors’ analytics data or server logs to get an idea of how much traffic they are getting. Simply go to,, or and search on the competitor’s domain. If you have the budget for higher-end competitive intelligence tools, you can use or

    The data these tools can provide is limited in its accuracy, but still very useful in giving you a general assessment of where your competitors are. The tools are most useful when making relative comparisons between sites in the same market space. To get an even better idea of where you stand, use their capabilities to compare the traffic of multiple sites. In this mode, you can get a pretty accurate idea as to how your traffic compares to theirs.

    You can now get this type of data directly from Google as well, using Google Trends for Websites. The output of this tool is just a summary of Google traffic, but it is a much larger data set than is available from the other products. Figure 4-11 shows an example of the output from Google Trends for Websites.

    Google Trends for Websites

    Figure 4-11. Google Trends for Websites

    Note that tools such as Alexa, Compete, and Quantcast do have other unique features and functionality not available in Google Trends for Websites.

  • How does the current state of their sites’ SEO compare with those of years past? You can reach back into history and access previous versions of your competitors’ home pages and view the HTML source to see which optimization tactics they were employing back then. The Wayback Machine ( provides an amazingly extensive archive of web pages.

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