When a business undertakes a search-engine optimization program, whether it's performed in-house, or outsourced to a SEO service, the focus (and this is a good thing) is on the website. It is one area where you can feel in control. Once a site is launched, it is up to the company to determine how well its website performs against other sites, regardless of whether they are using ethical SEO techniques or not. Read more now on Chris M. Walker
The assumption is that, apart from any changes made to a company's website, and, if one is used, its SEO services, the company has no control over the search engine results. This is usually not the case. You or your SEO company can often have a direct impact on search engine rankings by monitoring your competition and reporting their SEO techniques to the major search engines if they fall outside of what is commonly referred to ethical SEO. While I do not like the term "ethical", "ethical search engine optimization" has become a standard phrase for white hat SEO techniques. I will use this phrase throughout the article.
Let's start by defining competitors. Most companies have at least one or two primary competitors. These are the ones who sell similar products and services and are of a similar size. The SEO efforts of your competitors (or their lack thereof), whether they use ethical SEO techniques or are not, should be monitored regularly. You can rest assured that, as long as they don't have an in-house SEO team or haven't hired a service, they are not using this channel. You can find out a lot about your competitors' sales and marketing strategies by analyzing the keywords they use. You can also check if they're using ethical SEO techniques in their campaign.
Your Online Competitors
Keep in mind that most searchers will not choose between you and your primary competitors. They will consider any company which matches their needs and appears for their search term. Your criteria for a potential competitor should be broadened to include any company offering similar products or services that is ranked higher than you in any keyphrase. Your in-house team or SEO service can identify your primary competitors for tomorrow if they monitor your search engine rankings and analyze the companies above you.