With new companies launching and marketing teams working tirelessly to top search engine result pages, regular SEO competitive analysis is inevitable. Finding out what competitors are doing can help you benchmark and explore gaps to boost your ranking.
You’ll need to identify key competitors, research their SEO strategies, and develop a plan to help you outperform them. In this piece, we explore how to conduct a complete SEO competitive analysis, including the benefits and important steps you need to take.
What is an SEO Competitor Analysis?
As the name suggests, SEO competitor analysis involves identifying and analyzing your key business competitors for insights about their SEO strategies, strengths, and weaknesses. The goal is to use the gathered insights to identify ways to improve your own SEO antics and rank higher than your competitors.
Ongoing search engine optimization involves optimizing web pages to appear on the first page of results for specific keywords. Result pages can contain millions of websites, but users only check out the first page and tend to choose websites appearing at the top of page 1. As such, it makes sense to research what successful competitors are doing to rank on page one.
A complete SEO competitor analysis lets you discover your top SEO and business competitors and their winning strategies. Once you identify the winning SEO strategies, you can find ways to replicate them and improve your ranking. SEO competitor analysis also allows you to spot weaknesses in the competitors’ strategies, so you can capitalize on them.
A well-structured analysis can help you benchmark your current SEO performance and understand the overall competitive landscape. To perform a competitor analysis, marketers use a wide range of tools, including enterprise SEO platforms and keyword research tools. Popular examples include Semrush, SE Ranking, Ahrefs, and more.
Why is an SEO Competitive Analysis Important?
About 90% of all websites receive no traffic from Google. If your website isn’t getting traffic, your competitors are. Analyzing their strategies allows you to review the search landscape for all relevant keywords and phrases.
You can know exactly how difficult it will be to compete against the successful businesses in your niche. More importantly, it can reveal new keywords, content ideas, and networking opportunities. The insights from a complete SEO competitive analysis can help marketers identify the best ways to improve website ranking for specific keywords. The goal is to rank on page one of search results, so you can be part of the 10% of websites consumers care to visit.
When Should You Conduct an SEO Competitive Analysis?
Your SEO performance depends on your strategies, competitor strategies, and search engine algorithms. As such, it’s always dynamic, especially with new businesses and competitors working day and night to take the same SERP positions you’re competing for.
If your webpage appears #1 for a specific target keyword, it will only remain in that position if you keep improving and evolving. You can’t afford to take your foot off the gas. SEO competitor analysis should be regular to keep up with emerging changes. You should also identify prompts that call for random analysis and improvements.
Here are two scenarios/processes that call for conducting a complete SEO competitive analysis:
- During Content Creation: Before writing new content, research competitors, so you can provide answers that satisfy user search intent better than everyone else. You can also analyze competitors when planning content to gain improved search engine visibility and cover all relevant topics users search for.
- After Your Ranking Drops: If your ranking drops suddenly, you should investigate why. The competitive landscape or search algorithms may have changed, and so should you; otherwise, you’ll be left out. You should also consider an analysis if your page stagnates in the SERP and is not on top of the results.
How to Run an SEO Competitive Analysis
Marketers have unique approaches to SEO competitive analysis, but you can follow basic steps that provide a comprehensive outlook. Below is an overview of the process, including all the important steps in running your SEO competitor analysis:
1. Identify Your SEO Competitors
Your SEO competitors are websites and pages that rank above you for specific keywords. You can identify them by searching for the keywords on Google, Bing, or other engines you use.
An SEO enterprise tool like Semrush also makes it easy to search for competitors. Simply type your website’s URL on the tool’s tab and run it to identify top competitors. List down all top competitors that outrank you for the same keyword, even if they’re not from your niche or country.
2. Decide Who To Compete With
When identifying SEO competitors, focus on the main business keywords you want to rank highly for. Note that competitors may come from outside your niche and aren’t necessarily the big hitters in your industry.
SEO competitors can also be large content libraries like Wikipedia. You don’t need to bother competing with such websites. Focus on businesses that offer the same products and services as yours. You can also compete with websites serving a common audience.
3. Evaluate Keyword Difficulty
You should evaluate keyword difficulty before trying to emulate your competitors’ strategies. While you can beat anyone, outperforming some competitors may require a lot of resources.
Consider competitor domain authority, domain country, domain age, search engine indexing, backlink data, catalog listings, traffic volumes, social signals, and even Alexa rank. This will help you identify competitors you can outperform sooner and those you need more time and resources to beat.
4. Find Keyword Opportunities
When analyzing competitors, pay attention to the keywords they rank for, but you don’t. These are the keyword gaps you should be closing. You can use an SEO enterprise tool to conduct a term frequency-inverse document frequency (TF-IDF) analysis.
Term frequency is how often a keyword appears on a page, while inverse document frequency is how often a keyword is expected to appear on the page. TF-IDF analysis allows you to identify low-competition keywords and use them to populate your pages.
5. Identify Weaknesses To Exploit
All businesses, including the most popular brands, have weaknesses that you can exploit. It could be a piece of content that’s short or less thorough. You can expand on it to provide better coverage.
Sometimes it’s a lost keyword ranking that you can focus on to outperform the competitor for the specific search phrase. Consider new keyword ranking, technical SEO issues, and the type of content the competitor posts to identify gaps or areas you can perfect.
6. Analyze On-page SEO Factors
Using your SEO enterprise tool to analyze on-page and content factors can help you identify how competitors optimize their sites for better ranking.
Focus on on-page elements like the title tag, meta description, headers and sub-headers, URL structure, HTML tags use, content length, keyword use and distribution, image optimization, videos, and topical relevance. Google bots pay attention to these attributes when crawling pages. Analyze on a page-by-page basis and capture the best practices.
7. Review Competitor Backlinks
Backlinks are crucial search ranking factors as they indicate authority. If your website has many backlinks from other credible sources, it shows people trust your content enough to link to it. You can use an SEO competitor analysis tool to list all the backlinks your competitors receive.
Use the information to identify backlink opportunities and build your network. Research the backlink sources to find those relevant to your audience. You can also look for backlink gaps to exploit.
8. Examine Site Structure and UX
User experience and site structure are among the elements Google ranking algorithms evaluate when providing search results. You can examine how competitors structure their websites, how fast their pages load, on-page elements and features, and overall UX.
You can also analyze the competitor’s click depth, orphan pages, and page-rank distribution. Optimize your sitemap for better crawling and prioritize page speed optimization to reduce bounce rates. Consider making your site more mobile-responsive.
9. Analyze Content Types
Website content includes articles and blog posts, product descriptions, images, videos, infographics, podcasts, and more. You can analyze the traction your competitors get from each type of content they publish.
If the competitor has a video channel with little to no views, it could mean they don’t optimize that type of content. You can start a channel and optimize it better to get more traction from that vertical. If Google lists video results for your primary keywords, consider creating optimized videos.
10. Review Social Media Use
Social media intersects with search engine optimization, and many companies leverage it to drive website traffic. You can review how competitors use social media and determine if you can emulate their practices. If they’re not maximizing social media, it’s an opportunity to get even more active and build authority from that angle. Track brand mentions and user sentiments from popular social media hubs like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
11. Consider Tracking Ad Spend
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising has become more effective recently than in the past. Google today provides more positions for sponsored ads/pages, which get priority listing in SERPs. Highly optimized adverts can increase click-through rates and drive traffic to your website.
You can track competitor ad spending to determine if you need to invest in search engine marketing. If you’re still getting beat on SERPs after doing everything, matching your competitor’s ad spend dollar-for-dollar might be the missing link.
SEO Competitive Analysis Key Takeaways
Conducting a complete SEO competitive analysis can help you identify what you must do to outperform your competition and position your brand as the best solution among customers. You need regular analysis to keep tabs on the dynamic competitive landscape in your niche. Use the reviews to draw practical insights that you can use to strategize and improve your own search ranking.
Note that new competitors are bound to enter the market, and past competitors may fall off, so you should work with the latest research data to stay on top of things. Consider investing in an SEO enterprise tool and working with professional SEO companies such as Boostability. Learn more about how Boostability can help with white label SEO!