SEO is crucial for businesses of all types and all sizes without a doubt.
Even more importantly, SEO is growing in importance: 82% of organizations say that SEO is becoming more effective. 42% of respondents in that study confirm that this increase is also growing by the day.
If you’re already familiar with on-page SEO, technical SEO, and everything in between, but want to take your SEO to the next level, take time to dig into SEO competitor analysis.
Competitor analysis, put simply, is good sense. SEO can be complicated. No one said that ranking for certain high-volume, “money” keywords was easy.
However, you can demystify and simplify this to a large extent by analyzing what your competitors are doing.
Your competitors have probably already invested a large amount of time, money and effort in SEO.
Why not benefit from their investments by using their SEO to learn about audience sentiment, social trends, organic interest, and more?
In the end, your SEO campaign will get off the ground faster, cheaper, and easier if you include competitive analysis at the start.
So how exactly do you conduct as SEO competitor analysis? Let’s break it down step by step.
Identify Your SEO Competitors
The first step in conducting an SEO competitor analysis is to identify your true SEO competitors. Many businesses don’t know who their real world competitors are, let alone their SEO competitors.
Business competitors who compete with you for market share in your specific niche. SEO competitors are the businesses which fight you for positions on SERPs and organic traffic.
You will need at least three competitors to run an actionable SEO competitor analysis.
There are a few different ways you can identify them. Probably the easiest is to put yourself in the shoes of your clients and run some Google searches.
Think of the top five search terms that users will make when looking for your products or services.
Then run Google searches for each of these, noting the top five ranking websites for each, and also any relevant local results.
Compile these together, take out the repetition, and you will have your top SEO competitors.
Take your list of competitors from the first step for the backlink analysis.
You can conduct an analysis of up to 10 competitors, but you should stick to three-to-five for your first analysis. This number will give you a solid picture of what is going on.
Backlinks are one the most important ranking factors. It is very useful to know what your competitors’ link profiles look like.
You will then be able to use this data to build your own, even more effective link building strategy.
At our agency we use Ahrefs to analyse the link profiles of sites, although there are other tools like Majestic that you can use for this also.
For more on exactly how we do this, check this competitor analysis template.
Conduct Keyword Analysis
Of course, it wouldn’t be SEO without keywords! Obviously if you are looking to gain insight from competitors’ SEO, you will need to get a clear picture of the keywords they are ranking for.
There are two main ways you should conduct keyword analysis of your competitors:
1) Reverse engineer keywords
This may very well be something you are already doing as part of your SEO keyword research. Of not, then you should be!
You can use an SEO tool like Ahrefs to see which keywords any given domain is ranking for. Enter your competitors’ domains and note their highest ranking keywords.
2) Identify content gaps
As part of your keyword analysis, you can see more than just the keywords your competitors are currently ranking for. You can also find critical content gaps.
These are the content assets which users are searching for the most. Assets like this have the potential to drive a large volume of organic traffic to your site.
Identify the content gaps for each of your competitors’ domains using the ‘Content Gaps’ function on Ahrefs.
Analyse Your Competitors’ Content
Particularly if you work in a highly competitive niche, you can be fairly sure that your competitors’ content game will be strong.
You can learn much about great content strategy and tactics by looking at the content they are putting out.
Use your SEO tools to generate an overview report of your competitors’ sites (or their blog sub-domain if they use one). Here, you can see which pages are receiving the most organic traffic, what content assets are ranking for which keywords, and how much traffic they are generating.
This will not only give you a picture of the content assets you should be including in your content marketing strategy, but also how strongly your competitors are performing in this area.
This information will give you an idea of how much room there is to overtake them with great content marketing.
Finally: Include Traffic Analysis
When most SEOs conduct a competitor analysis, they will leave it at steps one through four above.
However, there is one final step that can be highly beneficial and really round off a comprehensive SEO competitor investigation: traffic analysis.
This will give you extra insight into the results your competitors are getting from their SEO and content marketing strategies.
It also helps to highlight not only your competitors’ strengths, but also their weaknesses, which represents great opportunities for you.
Use a tool like SimilarWeb to run extrapolation tests and delivery (reasonably accurate) traffic stats for your competitors’ sites.
This gives you details on factors like website audience, top countries, marketing channels, top referring websites, social traffic and paid searches or ads.
All of these steps will tell you what you need to do in order to overtake your competitors and help you make critical decisions about your own strategy. Good luck finding those opportunities!
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License: Creative Commons 3 – CC BY-SA 3.0
Attribution: Alpha Stock Images – http://alphastockimages.com/
Original Author: Nick Youngson – http://www.nyphotographic.com/
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