In today’s competitive online market, it’s essential to have a search-friendly website in order to achieve higher rankings and increased traffic to your business. While numerous factors influence a website’s search-friendliness, one of the most noticeable examples is how a website’s SEO differs from that of its competitors.
A competitor SEO analysis is a detailed look at another website’s SEO strategies and keyword targets so you can better understand your own strengths and weaknesses. By understanding how one or more of your competitors have implemented SEO, you can improve your own SEO practices and drive more organic traffic to your site.
In this article, we’ll cover how to conduct a competitor SEO analysis and how it can help you improve your own practices, which includes knowing what spammy SEO mistakes to avoid. Let’s look at the top four actions to take when conducting an SEO competitor analysis.
1. Identify the Right Competitors
The first step to conducting a competitor SEO analysis is identifying which competitors you want to analyze. Many business owners immediately think of the competitors they already know, which isn’t all bad.
However, some competitors are right under your nose. You may know the household names in your niche, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best at digital marketing, including SEO.
In order to find the most relevant competitors, you need to know what keywords your competitors are targeting. Start by pulling up long-tail keywords, which are usually four words or longer.
The reason long-tail keywords are good to look at is that they drive conversions, and they’re easier to rank for. Look for at least 10 to 20 long-tail keywords that are relevant in your niche that other websites currently rank in positions one to three for.
Once you have this keyword data, identify the two to five websites that rank the highest for most of those keywords and use them as your competition. This will give you a clear picture of whose content strategies you need to beat.
If, during your keyword research, the top results are currently held by Amazon, Pinterest, Wikipedia, and the like, disregard them. Most businesses aren’t going to be competing with the behemoths; you’re looking for small businesses like your own.
2. Gather Your Competitor’s SEO Data
The second step in conducting an SEO competitor analysis is gathering data about your competitors’ websites. Ahrefs.com is our recommended tool for collecting competitors’ SEO data. After reading this section, you’ll definitely know how to determine if your competitors are investing in SEO.
If you can’t or don’t want to pay for an Ahrefs license, you can also use ubersuggest which is free, or SpyFu which is paid (but costs much less). Plug in your competitors’ domains into your SEO tool of choice, and look at the following info:
- Domain rating. This is a number SEO tools give websites based on their overall topical relevance, content strength, domain history, and backlink authority.
- # of referring domains. This is the number of other domains that point back to your competitor’s website.
- # of DoFollow domains. This is the number of domains pointing to a website where the backlinks are considered “votes of quality” in the search engines’ eyes.
- Estimated organic traffic. This is the estimated monthly amount of traffic your competitor’s site is receiving from search engines.
- Referring domains trend. This metric indicates whether your competition is gaining or losing backlinks over a period of time.
- Organic keywords. This is the amount and nature of the keywords your competition is ranking for. Take notice of the keywords they have a corner on that you do not, which is also called a keyword gap analysis.
- Competitor backlinks. This is the number of links pointing back to your competitor’s site, including the:
- Backlink quantity (Do they have a lot or a few?)
- Backlinks’ domain authority (Is it high or low?)
- Backlinks’ relevance (Are their backlinks coming from industry authorities?)
With this information gathered, you can now look at keyword-specific data. For your own site and that of your top competitors, look at the following:
- Identify the top keywords driving your traffic (excluding your brand keywords). These are all the “natural” keywords people search with, like “top warehouse management systems.” You want to maintain your rankings for these keywords for as long as possible.
- Identify keywords that you are ranking for, but your competitors are ahead of you on. These are your most valuable wins. Let’s say you’re ranking in position seven but your competitor is in position two. By writing a longer blog post that’s thoroughly optimized – two of the 17 on-page factors to boost your rankings – you could capture the number two or number one spot in a few weeks.
- Identify keywords your competitors are ranking for and those they recently lost. With a little bit of extra work, you could easily snag these. Look at the pages they may have been previously ranking for and fill in the gaps on your own website.
- Identify the top pages on your site receiving the most SEO traffic. Are they heavily internally linked? Did you write 3,000 words of content when you’d normally write 1,000? Take note of what’s working so you can replicate it on other pages.
3. Identify Strengths, Weaknesses, and Differences Between You and Your Competitors
After reviewing all of your competitors’ SEO techniques, it’s time to identify the key strengths and weaknesses between you and your competitors. Start by reviewing your competition’s on-page SEO.
This includes their content quality, title tags, page headers, and meta description tags. Does their content flow well and make sense? Is it easy to read and understand at a glance? Are they writing keyword-driven content more often than not?
If so, they have strong SEO–and you have more to go up against. If their pages lack substantive content or don’t make sense when linked together, you have opportunities for easy wins. Be meticulous in your assessment of their content, as it gives you a clear picture of what to work on yourself.
After looking at their on-page SEO, you want to check out the rest of their site. Do you have an easy time navigating their site and locating information? Have they created one page per topic–making it easy to understand the products and services they offer? These are all site usability factors, which Google cares more about every year.
Another way to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors is through an analysis of their other content. Do they have an FAQ page, a support center, downloadable guides, and other content assets?
If so, they’re likely driving traffic through SEO but converting leads into customers through these other channels. Take stock of the topics they’re speaking to their customers with and see if it’s relevant to your niche, too. Consider how you may be able to produce content that’s higher quality than theirs–SEO and otherwise.
4. Track Your Success
The final step to conducting a competitor SEO analysis is monitoring the success of your own website’s SEO practices. Based on what you learned and implemented from your competitors, see if the changes are working.
To do this, you can use tools like Google Analytics, SEMrush, and Ahrefs to track data on your website. This data can help you understand what strategies are driving the most traffic and conversions for your business as well as identify any areas in which you should improve.
By tracking your own SEO efforts and success, you’ll be able to identify the best practices that work for your business. This allows you to create an even more effective SEO strategy going forward, so you can put questions about whether or not SEO is still worth it to rest.
Take time to conduct SEO competitor analyses on a regular basis. This can be anywhere from six months to one year, but don’t neglect it.
The Bottom Line
Combing through large amounts of data is enough to make anyone break a sweat. Include the fact that it’s your competitor’s info, and you’ll see why every business owner needs plenty of emotional and mental resilience.
If you’ve made it this far, pat yourself on the back. Few people know how to conduct an SEO competitor analysis, let alone glean enough insights to make it actionable. Let’s review the essentials:
- An SEO competitor analysis helps you find opportunities to strengthen your own SEO efforts. You can’t know your keyword gap unless you know what others are ranking for first.
- Identifying your most relevant competitors often goes beyond household names in your niche. Look at who is capitalizing on SEO, not just who has a similar product or service.
- Collect your competitors’ SEO data, including their backlinks, content quality, current rankings, and amount of traffic.
- Look through the strengths, weaknesses, and differences between your site and those of your competitors. Remember that you don’t need to rank for every keyword, but should differentiate your business in several areas.
- Conduct an analysis at least once per year to see how well you’re doing against competitors and adjust your strategies accordingly.
Need Help with SEO?
If you’d like help ranking higher in Google, contact us today for a free SEO quote.