When a company undertakes a search engine optimization program, whether it is performed in-house or outsourced to an SEO service, most of the attention (and rightly so) is focused on the company Web site. This is the one aspect where there is a feeling of control—once a Web site is released into the wild, the company will have to see how its site fares against all the other Web sites out there, whether the other sites are using ethical SEO tactics or not.
Apart from changes made to the company Web site, the assumption is often that the company and, if it is using one, its SEO service, has zero control over what appears in search engine results. However, this is not usually the case.
Often, you or your SEO service can have a direct effect on search engine results by monitoring your competitors and reporting them to the major search engines when the SEO techniques used on their site fall outside what is popularly referred to as ethical SEO. (Please note that while I believe that the word "ethical" is tossed around too often, "ethical SEO" has become the standard phrase to describe white hat techniques, and so it is the phrase I use throughout this article.)
To start with, let's define competitors. Almost every company has at least a handful of other companies that it considers to be primary competitors—the ones that sell the same products and services, that are of similar size, and so on.
It is important that the SEO efforts of these competitors, whether they are using ethical SEO techniques or not, be monitored on a routine basis. If they have not hired an SEO service of their own, or if they have not started doing SEO in-house at all, you will have peace of mind knowing that the use of this channel, for the moment, is yours.
If your competitors begin an SEO campaign, with or without an outside SEO service, you can learn much about their sales and marketing tactics by evaluating the keyphrases that they target. And you can also investigate whether they are using ethical SEO practices in their campaign.
Your Online Competitors