Everyone wants to stay ahead of the competition. Whether it’s your favorite sports team, your next door neighbor whose house always looks perfect, or your business! Competition is a reality for everyone every single day. And It’s nearly the holy grail for us to know the secret of how to get ahead of your competition in business. 

But figuring that out for you and your business is an individual process. It starts with figuring out just WHO your competition is, then evaluating what they do better than you, then coming up with a plan to fix your shortcomings. And within that, comes your website and the SEO going into it to make sure you outrank your customers. Did you realize you have direct, indirect, substitute, and organic competitors online? Some you may not even realize you’re competing with!

This article will go through the different types of competitors online and give you six tactics for how to identify and improve your website for your SEO campaign so you can earn more clients.


4 Types of Competition

1. Direct Competition

Your direct competition offers the same product or service and service the same community as your business. Direct competition are the main guys you think of when you think about who you want to beat in business. Some examples include multiple dentists in the same city, or even fast food places like Chick Fil A and Popeyes. Both of these are competing to fix people’s teeth or get them a similar lunch. They likely have a similar bottomline and overhead operating costs. Your direct competition are those businesses that your customers consider before buying with you. 

From an SEO perspective, your direct competition are the websites you compete with for keywords and customers. It’s still likely to be a business close to yours in location and one that offers the same products and services. So you need to use SEO to help your website stand out.

2. Indirect Competition

Indirect competition sells products or services similar to yours, but just different enough. Or they’re in a different city or community so they don’t take your customers. To keep with the fast food analogy, Jersey Mike’s sandwich shop is different enough from Wendys to be considered indirect, in that they have different products but might have a similar audience. You could also consider indirect competitors plumbers and places like Lowes which would enable someone to make the fix themselves. 

For SEO, indirect competition it comes down to making sure your keywords are optimized so you can attract the customers you want. Ranking real estate is highly competitive and you want to make sure you rank for all the keywords you can rank for depending on your business. Again, as a plumber, you want to try to rank for the types of services you offer and the products you include in those services so you can beat out the chain stores that people might visit without thinking just because they’re the bigger brand. 

3. Substitute Competition

Substitute competition or substitute products are competitors that offer something different from what you offer, but could take the place of your product by providing an equal alternative. It means marketing costs often go up because suddenly the market share is bigger because there’s lots of alternatives for the consumer to choose from. An example is a coffee shop on one corner and a boba tea shop opening up on another. Both offer drink options that could satisfy a need for caffeine in the morning. And as one ups their marketing budget to try to outperform the other, it ups costs of operation. More substitute products mean more competition and rivalry within a certain location. 

4. Organic Competition

Organic competitors can be a mixture of the three listed above and show up on the search engine results page. When SEO companies start referencing a business’s organic competitors, it’s important to explain what this means and that there can be an overlap with the competitors they have already identified themselves. The client may question some of the organic competitors and become defensive, especially if that list of competitors include some that weren’t on their radar before or can be indirect and substitutes. This is why it’s crucial to effectively explain what organic competition is and to target keywords that have the right intent for your client’s business.


Benefits of Finding Your Competitors for Search

Knowing your competition whether it be organic, direct, indirect, or substitute is important for various reasons. You need to know what you’re up against in the market and in your area. But the benefits to finding your competitors in the search landscape opens up a lot of possibilities.

This can help you know your strong suits on your website. Where do you rank high where your competitors fall out of the 10 results. It can also show your weak points where you might need to add more keywords, resources, and expertise to boost your site authority. Also being aware of your search competition can help clue you in when new entrants come to the market who might quickly pass up your positions which would translate to stealing your business in the real world. 

Being aware of your website traffic, standing, and any changes that happen also clue you into the SEO world. Google releases thousands of updates every year, with several big updates in recent months that have led to a lot of search volatility. Rankings can change by the day or by the week, which means you could be passed up by your competitors over one update. Knowing your website standing in search and SEO helps you identify changes in the search landscape and opens up new opportunities for growth. 

Most importantly, finding your competitors for Search helps you stay on top of the strategies they’re using. Maybe one campaign or page has boosted their search volume and rankings, and it provides opportunities for you to grow that you might not have thought of. This is a key strategy for content marketing and keyword research, all crucial to growing your presence online. 


7 Tactics On How to Find Your SEO Competitors

So, with all of that, we now want to help you find your SEO competitors. These tactics work no matter your industry or location. 

1. Ask Your Clients

Step one to finding your SEO competitors is to ask the customers you already have. Or as you add new ones, ask during the onboarding phase. Ask your customers what went into their decision to choose you over someone else. This will tell you far more than anything else. Your customers chose you for a reason, especially as a provider of SEO to help build their business. So it’s important to understand why. You can do this in a survey, during monthly phone calls, or any customer interaction. Learn what you can from the wins you’ve already made. 

2. Identify Keywords & Conduct a Google Search

The next step involves some traditional SEO work. But it starts with just doing a basic Google search of your company. We reference Google here because that’s our main focus. But search for your company, your services, and your location. See what you rank for well. Then search who else ranks for those same keywords and terms in your area. Create a list of the companies who rank for your focus keywords then identify who is a direct, indirect, or substitute competitor. They’re all organic competitors because they came up in your Google search. These steps help both you and your clients to better understand keyword intent and if you’re targeting the right terms for your business. 

In this step, don’t forget Ads! Ads don’t play into SEO, but it helps you know competitors in that space so you can further look into their business to see if they’re a competitor or not. If they’re paying for an Ad space, there’s a good chance they’re trying to rank for organic terms as well. 

3. Look Into the Local Map Pack

Next step beyond the organic results in Google’s top 10 comes from the local map pack. Map packs go beyond the organic SERP listings and show geographically where your competition is located. The local map pack also has organic listings where you can learn and see who outranks you. Then click to see more results with the map. 78% of local search traffic results in a purchase. It’s well worth your time to try to optimize your local search results if you service a specific area. 

4. Review Directories

Google has one “directory” in Google My Business, or Google Business Profiles. But there are dozens of other valuable local directories and business directories that you need to check out as well. Searching these directories can uncover valuable information and competitors that should be on your radar as a business or an SEO provider. Google is a good starting place, but don’t forget the other directories out there like Yelp, Yellow Pages, or Thumbtack depending on the industry.

5. Utilize Tools

Now it’s time to start using some SEO-specific tools. The importance of this step cannot be understated. Tools like Semrush and Spyfu for keyword research helps you understand keywords. They help track keyword volume, trends, search terms related to your business and location. Keywords are foundational to your SEO efforts, so it’s important to spend the time learning the keywords best for implementation on your website. Then there’s other tools like Ahrefs is another all-in-one SEO tool that helps you learn about your competitors, keywords, backlinks, etc. 

These tools crawl thousands and thousands of websites every day and have an expensive database of keyword data. Combining your own research with machine learning from tools like Semrush and Ahrefs helps you find gaps in your competitor research or even find new organic competitors neither you nor your client even know about. 

6. Social Mentions

Another step we haven’t talked much about is social media. Perform another search on social media to see what businesses are mentioned in your specific vertical. Today people search for recommendations online or in community forums. Use social media or social listening tools to see if your customers or target audience is having conversations on these kinds of websites. It can also give you a better understanding of how your customers are talking about your industry and types of products. 

7. Rinse and Repeat (and Watch Out for New Entrants)

While this last step may seem obvious, SEO never stops. The search landscape constantly evolves. These steps aren’t just a one and done solution. But you need to do this regularly and watch for any new entrants into the landscape who might try to outrank you and steal your customers. In highly competitive fields and markets you might need to do this every month or more frequently. Less competitive or more rural markets might need to do this less frequently. There’s no magic number, just make sure you repeat these steps to stay ahead! 


It’s Crucial to Find Your SEO Competitors

Businesses grow and evolve every year. Think, since the start of the pandemic, the business environment has evolved drastically. That means the search landscape changed drastically as well. And it continues to shift every single week. So you need to regularly understand your competition so you don’t fall behind.

Boostability helps partner agencies to grow their business by adding a valuable SEO product as a white label SEO provider, but also helps them to understand the competitive landscape for their customers. This article outlines how to conduct this for your own business as a digital services provider or how to do it for your clients. 

If you want to learn more about white label SEO program and how you can take advantage of it for your business and customers, contact us at Boostability today!



Kristine is the Director of Marketing at Boostability. She brings a decade's worth of communications strategy work to the company. Kristine has a Masters Degree in Leadership and Communications from Gonzaga University and graduated from BYU with her undergrad in Broadcast Journalism. She's worked in television news, public relations, communications strategy, and marketing for over 10 years. In addition to being a part of the marketing team, Kristine enjoys traveling, sports, and all things nerdy.