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The Importance of Benchmarking in SEO
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Earlier this year when we launched our annual top 100 marketing buzzwords list, the phrase in the number five position could have easily topped the list and chances are that if this list of buzzwords was updated at the halfway point of 2009, "benchmarking" could very well be in the top position. Especially as it pertains to online and SEO.

Online marketing and SEO is still fairly new which makes benchmarking in the online sense new to many as well. Marketers need to benchmark their performance against competitors. Marketers have been doing this in the offline world for quite some time, but benchmarking online performance against competition is something that has only transpired over the past decade or so.

Benchmarking and SEO

Benchmarking - the process of comparing your efforts against that of other businesses in your industry. Benchmarking involves measuring your current practices (best practices), comparing them against your competition, identifying, understanding and adapting practices that are effectively being used by your competitors.

With the rise of the digital world comes new marketing efforts, new metrics to track progress and new ways to compare how your business measures up to others in your industry. The importance of being able to benchmark your own web properties against other players in your industry can provide a great advantage when developing online strategies and SEO initiatives. The search engines and organic search present a whole new list of items to measure against. From keyword placement to traffic and conversions, the ability to compare and measure data against your competition with regards to online efforts is something new to many traditional marketers. The digital world moves fast and benchmarking efforts often have to be adjusted to ensure that you are accurately meauring and comparing items against competitors that are a true indication of the make up of your industry. Items such as viral efforts, social networks, blended search, upstream and downstream may impact how you benchmark the success of your website vs. that of your competitors.

When benchmarking your online marketing and SEO efforts, there are a number of areas to focus on. Many of these items can be applied to both B2B and B2C SEO benchmarking practices.

15 Items to Consider for SEO Benchmarking

The list below, outlines different ways to benchmark your site vs. your online competition. Of course this is specific to online, but it is worth mentioning that effective benchmarking should factor in online and offline to paint a true picture as to how tou measure up in your industry.

Where note, we have included helpful tools that can be used to help with the benchmarking.
  1. Branded Presence (try Google Trends. Compare branded searches such as this one for Bing, Google and Yahoo)

  2. Upstream and downstream traffic on your web site vs. your competitors sites. (try compete.com or Hitwise data)

  3. Online History/Online Presence (try a Wikipedia search for your brand vs. that of your competitors. Pepsi vs. Coke?)

  4. Social Media Presence (search for your competitors on Twitter or Facebook)

  5. How does my website rank against competitors in the shopping results against all websites? (product keyword search in Google)

  6. How does my online news releases match up against competitors in the news results of Google, Yahoo or other news aggregators? (Google News, Yahoo News search)

  7. How do my videos match up against competitors in YouTube, Yahoo Video and other video aggregator sites for given search terms and in overall visibility? (YouTube, MetaCafe, Yahoo Video)

  8. How much time do people spend on my website versus competitive websites? (Hitwise)

  9. What percentage of visitors to my competitor’s website are new and what percentage are loyal? (Hitwise)

  10. Which search engines drive traffic to my website versus competitive websites? (your analytics, Hitwise, Compete)

  11. What are the differences between the profile of my online audience, and that of my competitors’ online audience? (Hitwise)

  12. What are the differences between the search terms I use to drive traffic to my website, versus the terms my competitors use? (your analytics, competitor's meta data)

  13. How does my on-page optimization stack up to that of my competitors? (your analytics, competitor's meta data)

  14. How much traffic does my competitor receive from Paid vs. Organic search campaign? (Hitwise)

  15. Comparison of mentions in industry blogs and notable sites (industry blogs)
The Internet is a very competitive environment. As a result, benchmarking has become even more important. Benchmarking in SEO is more of a performance type of benchmarking. However it should be noted that there are different types of benchmarking that include:
  • Process benchmarking
  • Strategic benchmarking
  • Product benchmarking
  • Performance benchmarking
  • Best-in-class benchmarking
For marketers, benchmarking is a critical tool that can be used to develop strategy and identify areas of opportunity. In the Search industry people say that rankings are dead. While benchmarking involves more than just rankings, you are in essence rating your website and online marketing efforts with that of your competition. As humans, we tend to rank items to help us compare these items. The ability to compare or benchmark allows us as marketers to make necessary improvements to our own processes and to gain a true measure of how we stack up to our competition so that we can provide the best service to our desired audience.

Best practices are established for a reason. Those who execute these best practices efficiently and are able to measure against these best practices will continue to have the most success whether online or offline.

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posted by Jody @ Wednesday, July 15, 2009  
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Home: Kelowna, BC, Canada
About Me: SEO guy by day, family man 24/7.
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