Are You Winning or Losing In Google?
by John Gergye

When comparing how youíre doing against competitors in Google,
are you winning, losing or just holding your own?  

Donít know? Doesnít surprise me.  

For awhile I didnít know either. Sure I was keeping an eye on 
what I THOUGHT was my prime competitor. Only thing is before
I started keeping track, I didnít realize he was more or less 
drifting off into the sunset. Or, that there were two newer 
sites I should have been watching. Ooops.  

So yes, most of us have no clue if weíre winning the Google 
rankings battle much less the war. Yet Iíve discovered keeping 
score is so simple. Hereís all you need to do:

Identify the Competition
Track PageRank
Ferret Out How Many Pages in Google
Gauge Both Quantity and Quality of Inbound Links
Track Traffic 
Keep an Eye on Them

Thatís it. Thatís all that counts really. To start...

:: Identify Your Competitors
Not hard. Just identify the top 5 competitors in your niche that
you want to outrank.  

One way to do that, is to take the five or six keyword phrases 
you are looking to rank well for and see who is in the top 10 
for each. Since anyone can rank well for one keyword, doing 
this for multiple keywords will spotlight those who show up 
repeatedly. This highlights them as the stiffer competition.  

Then repeat this every three or four months to make sure no 
one new has slipped in under the radar.  

:: Track PageRank (PR) 
Once again take those same five or six "must-win" keywords you 
want to come out on top for.

Use the Google toolbar < > to track 
the PR of competitorsí pages optimized for those prime keywords.

Google Toolbar Tip: I realize some have no clue on how to coax
Googleís tool bar to give up PageRank. So hereís all you do. 
Simply hold your cursor in the green bar area itself. Get it in 
just the right spot and a little pop up box will appear that 

"PageRank is Google's measure of the importance of this 
page (4/10)"

In this example the PR is 4.  

Note the target keywords and the PR for pages featuring them 
on a spreadsheet.

:: How Many Pages in Google? 
Again pretty simple if you have this tool:  
< >

In the left hand column youíll see it asks "How well optimized 
is your website?"

Now I donít give a ratís behind about mine, necessarily, but I 
do care about those pesky competitors.  

  Enter the competitorís URL.  
  Stick in a guess-timate for how many pages are on their site. 
  Hit the "check now" button. 

The result will show you how many pages theyíve got in Google, 
FAST, altaVista, and Inktomi. While I track all of them - you
should at least track the number of pages in Google.  

:: Gauge Quantity and Quality of Inbound Links
Not all links are created equal in Googleís eyes. Links from 
High PR sites are worth more. So you want a read on both the
quantity and quality of your prime competitionís inbound links.

Since itís more inclusive, you may want to use FAST to find out
the total number or quantity of inbound links. 

Hereís how. Using FAST < > put: 

in the search box. All pages linking to
will be returned.  

Youíll see something like "1 - 10 of 135 Results for" at the top of the page of FAST 
listings which would tell you there are 135 sites that link 
to that site.

Google on the other hand will only reveal inbound links from 
sites with a PR 4, or higher. BAM! Thereís your take on quality.

While you can do the same with Google as you did with FAST, 
Google makes it even easier.  

Go to the advanced search page 

Scroll down until you see a heading that says "Page-Specific 
Search".  Stick into the search box labeled: 
"Links   Find pages that link to the page". Click "Search".

At the top of the page of search results youíll see a result
summary line like the following:

"Searched for pages linking to   
Results 1 - 10 of about 21."  

The above would indicate there 21 high quality links to your 
competitor. Subtract the internal links from pages within the 
web site in question to determine how many high quality sites 
actually link to your competitor. 

Record the count of all links, plus high quality external links 
on your spreadsheet.

:: Track Traffic
Use either Alexaís Toolbar < > or 
visit Alexa  to grab traffic stats.

While far from perfect since it can be manipulated, you can 
still get a decent estimate of traffic as measured by users with 
the Alexa toolbar visiting the sites.  

To keep it simple just track the Alexa traffic rank.  

Then to close the loop...

:: Keep an Eye on Them
Use a page monitoring service like Change Detect 
< > to watch competitor sites like 
a hawk. This free service makes the process automatic and will 
email you whenever the site you're monitoring changes. It gives 
you another means of checking whether a competing webmaster is
actively improving his site or asleep at the switch.  

Okay, now the easiest way to recognize trends is to graph whatís
going on. Youíll be able to see right away, if the trend is your
friend or not.  

If any competitor is getting more of anything, youíre going to
have to match them or risk falling behind. Donít be blindsided.

** Track your closest rivals.  
** Compare your stats to theirs.  
** Act or react accordingly.

Itís easy and doesnít take more than 20-30 minutes a week 
with the methods provided above. Doing so gives you the 
marketing intelligence you need to improve your Google ranking, 
or at least, to hold your own no matter what your competitors 
are doing.

How much is more traffic worth to your business? Take John
Gergyeís Search Engine Quiz and get a special report "Coming
Out On Top" with 49 tools that make it easy to get more traffic.