049 SEO: Taking Competitor Analysis beyond Benchmarking with Diana Richardson from SEMRush

by April Buencamino-dy

Diana is the Social Media and Community Manager for the SEO Unit at SEMRush – which means shes pends every day helping site owners improve their SEO performance. She’s been both helping others and doing digital marketing herself–including managing SEO since 2006!

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How Diana got into SEO

Diana attributes her beginnings in SEO to both her mom and her dad. The latter, who worked on the radio and just recently retired, wrote copy and hosted special events that made her want to get into marketing.

After graduating from college with a degree in Communications, she worked at a car rental agency where she realized she loved research. She began to look for a marketing job, and landed one at a company that was moving from print to digital. It was there that she learned SEO, SEM and PPC, and she became hooked.

She keeps herself up to date on all things SEO through continuous learning, experimenting, and experience.

The SEO Platform

Diana says SEO may be seen as a frustrating platform in this age of instant results.

SEO requires patience because it may take a while to see the outcome of what you are doing. It is for this reason, too that people may hesitate getting into SEO, or begin doubting themselves and their strategy.

What is the benefit of doing SEO competitor research?

There are opportunities in doing competitor research, and the obvious one is becoming aligned with your competitors.

Using tools and the data you get from your competitor research, you get handed information such as backlinks, which is a major part of SEO. Backlinks help build your credibility and get your site in front.

Find quality competitor sites and find out who is linking to them. Doing your research will bring qualified backlink prospects to you.

More on competitor research: Keywords

Doing keyword research as part of SEO must include looking at your competitors because it can bring to the forefront, synonyms of keywords you might not have thought of.

It can give you a sense of where your competitors are focused and what kind of content they’re putting out.

Given this, you can take the subject matter and create your own space, and not necessarily go head-to-head with your competitors or get into an already saturated area.

What to avoid when performing SEO competitor research

Doing competitor research has its pitfalls. It can make you think that you have to do what your competitor is doing, when it may not actually make sense for you or your strategy.

It’s important to look at it as a whole and find out who you’re competing against, and also who isn’t your competitor as well.

Your goals may not be the same as your competitor’s, so you have to see the big picture and understand what applies to your digital marketing strategy and what doesn’t.

Insider Tips

If we’ve inspired someone to take their first step with SEO Marketing – what do they need to know to give themselves the best chance of success?

Diana mentions 2 ways:

  1. If you are starting in the field of SEO as a career, don’t be intimidated by the numerous amounts of information. Focus, stay educated, and learn by doing.
  2. If you are a business wanting to invest in SEO, the best place to start is to find someone who can explain SEO to you in a way you can fully understand.

Once you’ve started of course you’ve got to ‘keep optimising’! So what’s your favourite way to improve SEO performance?

To optimise, you have to experiment and keep trying. Keep your eyes on the data. Stick to the foundational strong elements of quality content, fast site speeds, great navigation and breadcrumbs.

Keep testing and stay educated.

If someone listening wants to learn more about SEO is there one cheap/free resource you’d recommend?

Crystal ball time – what’s coming up in the next 6-12 months that we should be getting ready for in SEO marketing?

Diana says that Google’s Core Web Vitals launch has been pushed back to mid-June which gives you more time to prepare your sites.

Because of the pandemic, everyone and every business has gone online and on social media, which is now saturated space. You need to be very creative to stand out, and have to start thinking outside the box. 

Start putting personality on your website and in your social media. More than just being present, you need to be authentically you in order to resonate with your target audience.

Interview Links

Diana on Social media:

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