In a recent post at Search Engine People, Wayne Barker notes that keeping up with SEO trends can be truly challenging, even for those who work within the industry. Staying current can be even tougher for small businesses that operate without much of a marketing budget, let alone an SEO or PPC budget. The landscape becomes even more competitive when you consider how many marketers are already giving away so much of their best stuff on their blogs.

So how can a small business get ahead in such a crowded space? Barker advises that the best way to contend with bigger players is to first understand why they rank so well in your niche or industry.

Here are some tools he suggests you use to check out your competition:

Google Alerts. By setting up free Google Alerts based on saved search terms, you can see who and why certain sites are mentioning your competition. Use that information to develop potential linking or marketing opportunities.

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