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SEO Competitor Analysis: How and Why to Do It

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Published: June 17, 2021

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When you want your website to be more visible and rank higher than others in your space, you need a search engine optimization (SEO) competitor analysis. This type of evaluation is essential for pinpointing strengths and weaknesses in your site and staying ahead of the competition. Find out how to do competitor analysis SEO and discover why this tactic is critical to your website’s success.

What Is Competitor Analysis in SEO?

An SEO competitor analysis is an evaluation of all the keywords, backlinks, and other optimization factors that your website’s competitors use. After preparing an SEO competitor analysis report, you can use the insights to inform your own website’s SEO strategy.

Image via Unsplash by mjessier

Essentially, this type of analysis lets you avoid developing an SEO strategy from scratch. Instead, it gives you a behind-the-scenes look at what’s working for your competitors so you can build on their proven tactics.

Why Competitive Analysis Is Important

When you do SEO, focusing solely on your own website’s visibility and ranking can be tempting. However, SEO doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The success of your SEO strategy is highly dependent on how your competitors’ websites perform and the tactics they use. That’s why it’s essential to perform competitive analyses regularly.

Besides, even if your site currently ranks at the top for the critical keywords in your portfolio, there’s no guarantee that it can maintain the same position tomorrow, next week, or next month. It’s important to keep an eye on your competitors so you can identify and address threats before it’s too late.

Who Are My Actual Competitors?

When you’re new to competitive analysis, you might struggle with figuring out what other domains your website is up against. You might naturally assume the biggest companies in your market are also your strongest competitors in terms of SEO. Although there may be significant overlap, it’s important to survey the landscape instead of making assumptions. To identify your biggest SEO competitors, keep these tips in mind:

  • Review your “money” keywords: First, pinpoint the other sites competing for the keywords that drive the most conversions and the biggest return — otherwise known as “money” keywords. By maintaining your competitive edge against these sites, you can get maximum value from your SEO strategy.
  • Evaluate long-tail keywords: Next, focus on sites competing for the same long-tail keywords. On an individual basis, these keywords may generate less value. However, they can have a big impact on your portfolio and SEO strategy as a whole.
  • Consider niche competitors: Then delve into the sites that stand out as strong competitors, but only in specific areas. These sites won’t be at the top of your list, but you should still monitor them regularly.
  • Know which websites to ignore: Some highly authoritative sites may outrank yours, but if they address a completely different intention or if they’re simply too big or expensive to compete against, don’t waste your resources.

What Do I Need To Beat the Competition?

Once you identify your website’s biggest competitors, you need to know what it’s going to take to get ahead of them. Fortunately, a good competitor SEO analysis can answer this question and provide you with a roadmap for your strategy. A detailed evaluation can also tell you which topics to focus on, which keywords to target, and where to build the most effective backlinks.

Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses

As you learn how to do competitor analysis in SEO, you’ll quickly find how helpful this tactic is for identifying strengths and weaknesses in both your competitors’ and your own websites. You can find strengths and weaknesses in many key areas of SEO, including:

  • Keywords: Has the site lost important keywords or begun ranking for new ones?
  • Links: Does the linking structure, depth, and breadth follow best practices for SEO?
  • Backlinks: What’s the total number of backlinks and linking domains? Are the links from high-ranking or spam sites?
  • Content: How high-quality is the website content? Does the site have a lot of thin content or a lack of supporting pages?
  • Authority: How authoritative are the pages and the domain? Does the site have many authoritative backlinks?
  • Technical Issues: Can you identify major technical issues, such as mobile usability or slow page speed?

Analyzing Types of Content

If you’re wondering what to include in a competitor analysis, ranking factors like content are the ideal place to start your evaluation. First, compare the types of content on your website and your competitors’ sites. How do product, blog, and how-to pages compare in terms of rank and quality?

Then identify your content weaknesses compared to competitors. For example, other sites in your space may have a more active blog or more how-to pages to support product pages. Your competitors may also produce completely different types of content, such as videos or podcasts. If you don’t yet have a plan to publish a wider variety of content, now might be the time to factor it into your marketing strategy.

What Is Keyword Competition?

On the surface, keyword competition seems like a straightforward concept. It essentially refers to how difficult it is to rank for a keyword. However, gauging keyword competitiveness can get complicated quickly, as measuring the difficulty level goes beyond just calculating the popularity of the search term.

Instead, you also have to get a read on the entire industry landscape to assess how tough it would be to rank for a search term. In other words, you need a competitive SEO analysis to evaluate keywords effectively.

Understanding Keyword Competition Analysis

A keyword competition analysis is a deep dive into how two or more sites compare in terms of critical SEO factors. Naturally, a look at how the sites use specific “money” and long-tail keywords is critical to this type of evaluation. Ultimately, a keyword competition analysis provides a complete overview of the landscape, including strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.

Identifying Different Keyword Types

If you know SEO, then you’re already familiar with some common types of search terms. For example, “money” keywords typically drive revenue, while long-tail keywords relate to much less common but much more specific searches.

To improve your SEO strategy and get greater value from your efforts, it’s helpful to think of these keyword types in terms of the intent that drives these searches. After all, if you target important keywords with content that focuses on the wrong search intent, then your efforts won’t hit the mark.

As you identify keywords to target, take the time to clarify the search intent for each. That way you can ensure low-intent searches lead prospects to introductory information about your brand and products, while high-intent searches take customers to product pages or an e-commerce site.

To match keywords with the right search intent, you need a few essential pieces of information. You need to map out your customer journey, understand which keywords go with each step of the journey, and determine how competitive these keywords are.

Researching Competitive Keywords

To streamline this part of the process, create a spreadsheet that charts the key stages of your customer journey. For most businesses, the stages include awareness, consideration, conversion, and retention.

Next, do some brainstorming and think about the search terms that the average customer would use at each stage. At the awareness stage, prospects often have more general questions and seek out content with a wide scope, such as ultimate guides. At the consideration stage, prospects tend to have more specific questions about your product, including how it compares to competitors. The conversion stage usually includes high-intent searches with terms like “buy” or “price.”

In many cases, your insights into your customers’ thought processes can provide you with a great list of keywords to research. However, you can also use tools to supplement your brainstorming sessions. Some of the most popular keyword research tools include:

  • Quora: Features actual questions that people have about your brand, products, or industry.
  • UberSuggest: Provides search term suggestions for various keywords, including the volume and estimated competition level.

Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting Keyword Competition Analysis

Even once you’ve compiled important keywords and matched them with your customer journey, keyword competition analysis can be complex and time-consuming. But by following these steps, you can learn how to do SEO competitor analysis successfully and start outperforming other websites in your space.

1. Gather Competitors’ SEO Data and Strategy

Take your list of competitors and collect SEO metrics for each one. Create a chart that shows these metrics:

  • How many keywords the site ranks for.
  • The number of visits the website receives every month.
  • The site’s domain rank on a scale from 1 (lowest) to 100 (highest).
  • How many external domains link back to the site.

Then take some time to determine how competitive each of these websites really is. To gauge site and SEO health, look at metrics like bounce rate, traffic sources, and top referrers for each competitor on your list.

2. Identify High ROI Keyword Opportunities

Now that you have a sense of which competitors to prioritize, you can take a deeper dive into their keyword strategy. Use a keyword research tool (see below) to identify which keywords your competitors rank for, and add them to your chart.

Remove the keywords that are too difficult to compete for and therefore not worth your resources. Then take a closer look at the remaining keywords. Which are relevant to your own SEO strategy, and which would provide the best return on investment (ROI)? For maximum impact, group the best keywords into topical clusters.

3. Determine Where to Beat Competitors

At this point, you have insight into your competitors’ SEO strategy, and you’ve identified some of their keywords that you want to target. Next, you need to know what to do to beat them. Here’s how to leverage their weak points:

  • On-Page SEO Factors: There are a couple of important ways to beat your competitors with on-page SEO. You can publish high-quality content, which has internal and external links, covers important keywords, and lots of social shares. You can also provide a better user experience by ensuring that your website keeps visitors more engaged.
  • Off-Page SEO Factors: Although there are fewer types of off-page factors, they’re just as important overall. Focus on backlinks, or the number and quality of domains that link to your site. To outperform competitors, you need more backlinks from higher authority domains.

Tools for Competitor Analysis

To get the best results from your efforts, you need the right tools. The most powerful tools for competitive SEO analysis include:

  • Ahrefs: When you use Ahrefs, you can check competitors’ backlinks, research their organic traffic, and analyze their paid traffic. You can also keep track of all the keywords that matter since the tool monitors over 150 million.
  • Alexa: With Alexa, you can find competitors more easily by identifying other sites that capture the traffic you want. You can also benchmark your site against competitors, evaluate the content they publish, and increase your share of voice.
  • Moz: From domain authority (DA) and page authority (PA) to keywords and backlinks, Moz has the data you need to stay on top of the competition. This tool also provides a search visibility score to help you benchmark your efforts.
  • SEMrush: With SEMrush, you can determine how competitors attract traffic — so you can capture some of theirs. This tool also reveals their top pages, keyword strategies, and advertising methods.
  • SpyFu: When you use SpyFu, you can collect tons of helpful information about your competitors. This tool gives you access to everything from their organic keyword rankings to the keywords they target with Google Ads so you can develop a more competitive strategy.

No matter what tool you use, it’s important to make competitor analysis SEO an integral part of your marketing strategy. With these tools and tactics, you can improve website performance, identify problem areas, and stay ahead of the competition.

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