Why copying successful industry leaders may be a bad idea for SEO!

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Why copying successful industry leaders may be a bad idea for SEO!

Most often a lot of SEOs tend to focus on copying their competitors, especially the industry leaders, competitors that already hold top positions in search for highly popular keywords, the idea is simple: If search engines decided to position them on top, they must be doing something right. 
Why copying successful industry leaders may be a bad idea for SEO!
Although I highly encourage analyzing your competition, I don't advice "following the leader" by doing the exact same things they did, good or bad, applying it directly without any concern about your needs and current position, this practice is especially true in e-commerce niches where big online shops copy each other, including the negative aspects. 

SEO for e-commerce can be very complex because of the big number of pages, often so many pages that you simply can't optimize them all manually, so you will need to figure out automatization as well as site-wide SEO rules. Often such rules are copied after your top competitors, here is why it isn't a good idea to follow the leader: 

1. Navigation issues 

Just because your top competitors structure their websites in a certain way it doesn't mean you need to follow in their steps.I often witness navigation problems with big e-commerce websites because they've insisted into implementing a certain website structure that created tons of categories, subcategories, and even sub-sub-categories. 

You'll end up with more listing pages than actual products and you'll have cases of categories with just a couple products. 

On the other hand implementing too many filters can also increase the number of listing pages dramatically. Just because your competition has 25 filters per landing page it doesn't mean you need to do the same. And if you do have a similar number of products you need o proper implement canonical tags as well as the no-index attribute for certain filter pages to avoid indexing a huge of filter URLs combinations. 

2. Ignoring website speed

Having a slow website is a big problem for SEO in 2017. The is enough data out there to prove a direct coloration between your website speed and conversion rates and Google couldn't be made it more clear to us! In general, big retailers and online shop ignore website's speed and rarely take it into consideration when it comes to SEO. Most of my clients are surprised when I tell them that website speed needs to become a top priority we have to fix as fast as possible 

Nobody wants to wait anymore. A couple of wasted seconds in loading time can be the difference between positive ROI and bankruptcy. Depending on your niche, you may have top competitors with big old websites that have a good domain reputation but are very slow for the current year. You definitely need to do better and ignore their scores, they won't remain in top positions for very long I assure you, the degrading process may have already been started, lots of popular online shops are slowly losing organic traffic as well as conversion rates because of the slow loading speed. 

3. Sitemap.xml is not enough 

Many of you may think that having submitted the XML sitemap into Search Console will ensure the proper index of all of your pages in Google search as well as other search engines. The fact of the matter is that for most big and very big e-commerce websites out there, an XML sitemap is not enough. 

A clean crawl path is essential. This is why I don't rely strictly on Search Console and my XML sitemap for getting my website's indexed. I always run a Screaming Frog crawl audit before going live with any websites. This will show me any potential crawling problems, dead ends, and errors. 

4. Improper URLs

Another bad influence top websites, especially older domains can have on your online shop are the improper URLs. Just because your top competitors used them doesn't mean such URLs are SEO friendly. 

Have clear, clean and logical URLs. Don't fall for any special characters, strings and another type of nonsense URLs that may be generated. Fix them early because Google tends to ranks a lot better clean URLs that are user-friendly and easy to read. 

5. Other on-page SEO mistakes - tags 

Every time I analyze the competition on a certain niche I'm always careful not to copy their SEO mistakes, especially the on-page SEO mistakes. One of the most common and harmful of these mistakes is the improper use of tags, implementing canonical tags with the wrong source page, using the no-index tag on pages that should be indexable, not using pagination tags or using them incorrectly or having implemented a total mess in terms of hreflang. 

All these mistakes will influence the way your website is ranked in Google and the other big search engine and although Google may be smart enough to figure out some of your mistakes and ignore them you are still going to miss out by not implementing the best SEO practices. 


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Excellent suggestions there really enjoyed the read and it as pointed a few good points for me especially the sitemap. Would you consider SEO Yoast for WordPress pretty good as to help with SEO, keywords and the checklists it provides? Like the meta section at the bottom where you can try get the green light with all the content your inputting and it is keeping track.

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These are some nice points on why the SEO can't be easily copied for the other authors. And that is also one thing many people need to see as well. Not a lot of people know how the SEO done by others is easy to replicate either. So on that point we have to consider how the leaders can change things if they take the right steps. I guess we have to find out things from branding perspective and then decide what may or may not apply.

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Knowing what successful people do is sometimes beneficial because of the adage that there is no need to reinvent the wheel. If those people reach success by doing that procedure or system then we might as well try it instead of innovating which is an experiment for a hit or miss result. When an industry leader talks in a forum, everybody listens because of the probability of hearing something that will benefit their business.

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I think we can copy some of the tricks done by the successful people. But we need to make changes in our own ways. And that should get us to do things effectively. And it may develop some niches but not all niche may work out. So it's different for each one of us. That I can tell you for sure.

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This is the issues many that are interested in becoming successful in SEO ranking always have issues. I mean it does not mean that looking at what they do is not fine but trying to copy how they do it might not work out well. This is the reason I always look for ways to get better at things done by others.

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Really good advice here. I also feel it not only applies to SEO for your sites but in some ways it's good life advice as well. The fact just is that what works for one person isn't going to work for the other, so copying someone's performance to the T isn't exactly going to be the way to reach their level. This is especially so for people that are ranked way above you. The cold, hard truth of the matter is that what applies to big shots isn't going to apply to those at the bottom of the ladder, so you have to find your own way up that ladder.

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You hit the nail on the head.a lot of what these tops leaders got away with some years back no longer work now, so a thorough research should be carried out to get it right or else it be an activity in futility.

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I think it's always a bad idea to try and copy every aspect of successful industry leaders. The problem with this is that you need to remember that these successful industry leaders have other aspects that make them successful and popular amongst its users. Especially things like URLs. These sites were developed years ago when search engine optimisation was totally different so it is definitely a good idea to not copy and do what is best at the current moment.

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Cool tips.
We have been hearing this stuffs over and over again, especially site speed. I really know a website that is not really up to the mark, when it comes to site speed, but it's ranked top in google for most keywords in it's niche. So I think that what matters is really your content, try to be original in your circle

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I liked all the tips as well. I think that what works for some is not going to work for all, and although it may work on one site there is no guarantee it is going to work on all. It is great that this has been recognized, since niche marketing seems to be the key, or one of them anyway.

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Not "following the leader" is very good advice. I tend to tell people don't try to mimic major media outlets. Those companies use tactics like popups and autostart videos that provide for poor user experience and can increase your bounce rate. Major media sites can get away with it because of the massive amount of traffic they attract and their reputation as a news and media publication.

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I agree that you should not be copying the navigational architecture of successful websites but I also agree that a popular website’s architecture can serve as a jump off point for your design. You need not copy, as I said, but it can be your basis for designing your own website. Naturally the design will depend on your needs and the number of pages will be your call. And other than that, imitating some portions of an existing design is not bad at all.

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