How to conduct an SEO Competitor Analysis: The Complete Guide (Step-by-Step Process with Checklist)
An Introduction to SEO Competitive Analysis:
In this day and age of cut-throat online competition, having a strong online presence is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity. And when it comes to achieving that coveted top ranking, SEO is the name of the game.
When it comes to boosting your website’s ranking on search engine result pages (SERPs), search engine optimization (SEO) is your secret weapon.
But what is the key to a successful SEO strategy? The answer lies in conducting an in-depth SEO competitor analysis. By analyzing your competitors’ online presence, you can gain valuable insights into their top-performing keywords, backlinks, and content strategies. With this knowledge, you can take your SEO strategy from mediocre to magnificent.
But, how do you ensure that your SEO strategy is effective? One way is to conduct an SEO competitor analysis. In simple terms, competitive analysis is a process of analyzing your competitors’ online presence to identify their strengths and weaknesses. By doing this, you can gain valuable insights and leverage them to improve your own SEO strategy.
Now, you may be wondering why conducting an SEO competitor analysis is important. The answer is simple – it allows you to identify your competitors’ top-performing keywords, backlinks, and content strategies. With this knowledge, you can make data-driven decisions to improve your website’s ranking on search engine result pages (SERPs).
However, conducting a comprehensive SEO competitive analysis is not a simple task. It requires the use of multiple tools and a step-by-step process to ensure that you are covering all the necessary aspects.
Importance of Conducting SEO Competitor Analysis
Conducting an SEO competitor analysis is important for several reasons. First, it allows you to identify your competitors’ top-performing keywords and content strategies. This information can be used to improve your own website’s ranking on SERPs.
Second, it helps you to identify potential backlink opportunities and build a strong backlink profile. Backlinks are an important ranking factor, and by analyzing your competitors’ backlink profiles, you can identify high-quality websites that are linking to them.
Finally, conducting an SEO competitive analysis can help you to identify gaps in your own SEO strategy. By comparing your website’s SEO metrics to those of your competitors, you can identify areas for improvement.
Need for Multiple Tools for Comprehensive Analysis
Conducting a comprehensive SEO competitor analysis requires the use of multiple tools. These tools include keyword research tools, backlink analysis tools, and website analysis tools.
One of the most critical aspects of conducting an SEO competitor analysis is analyzing your competitors’ overall metrics. These metrics provide you with valuable insights into the performance of your competitors’ websites, allowing you to identify opportunities and threats, and make informed decisions.
The following are some of the key metrics that you should consider analyzing:
This metric provides you with an idea of the strength and authority of your competitor’s websites. The higher the domain rank, the more authoritative the website is likely to be.
Number of backlinks:
This metric gives you an idea of the number of websites linking back to your competitor’s websites. The more backlinks a website has, the more authoritative it is likely to be.
Estimated organic search traffic:
This metric provides you with an idea of the amount of organic search traffic your competitors’ websites receive. Analyzing this metric can help you identify potential opportunities and threats.
Number of ranking keywords:
This metric gives you an idea of the number of keywords that your competitors are ranking for. Analyzing this metric can help you identify new opportunities for keyword research.
Overall, these metrics can be helpful for sales enablement, lead generation, and marketing. By analyzing these metrics, you can identify potential opportunities for lead generation, identify potential gaps in your marketing strategy, and develop a plan to outgrow your competitors.
Analyzing your competitors’ content velocity is another crucial aspect of conducting an SEO competitor analysis. Content velocity refers to the rate at which your competitors are publishing new content. Analyzing this metric can help you identify potential opportunities and threats.
For example, if your competitors are publishing content at a high rate, it may be challenging for you to outrank them. On the other hand, if your competitors are not publishing content frequently, it may be an opportunity for you to outgrow them by publishing more content.
Identifying your competitors’ top keywords is another essential aspect of conducting an SEO competitor analysis. By analyzing your competitors’ top keywords, you can identify potential opportunities for keyword research, and develop a plan to outrank them.
For example, if your competitors are ranking for high-volume keywords, you can develop a plan to outrank them by creating better content, optimizing your website, and building high-quality backlinks.
Outranking your competitors for these keywords can also hurt their traffic, which can be a significant advantage for your website.
Analyzing your competitors’ backlinks is another crucial aspect of conducting an SEO competitor analysis. By identifying where your competitors are getting their backlinks from, you can identify potential opportunities for building high-quality backlinks to your website.
For example, if your competitors are getting backlinks from authoritative websites, you can reach out to these websites and ask them to link back to your website. Alternatively, you can create better content than your competitors and ask the publisher to replace your competitor’s link with your link.
Analyzing your competitors’ branded searches can provide you with valuable insights into their brand strength. By identifying the number of branded searches that your competitors are getting, you can determine whether your competitors have a strong brand compared to yours.
If the volume of branded searches is meaningful, it may be worth creating an “alternative page” and going after keywords like “Competitor Alternatives” or “Competitor Reviews” to capture some of their traffic.
Additionally, analyzing branded searches can help you determine your competitors’ brand strength. If your competitor has a significant volume of branded searches, it indicates that their brand is strong and well-known.
On the other hand, if your brand has a low volume of branded searches compared to your competitors, it may be an indicator that you need to work on improving your brand awareness.
But how can you leverage this information? If your competitor has a strong brand presence, it may be challenging to compete head-to-head. However, you can create alternative pages and target branded keywords like “Competitor Alternatives.” By doing this, you can attract users who are searching for your competitor’s brand and position your brand as a viable alternative.
For example, if you’re a web design agency and your competitor has a high volume of branded searches, you can create a page targeting the keyword “competitor alternatives” and provide a comparison of your services versus your competitor’s. This can help you capture users who are actively looking for alternatives to your competitor and potentially convert them into customers.
Analyzing branded searches can also provide insights into user intent. For example, if users are frequently searching for your competitor’s brand name along with the word “review,” it could be an indication that users are looking for reviews of your competitor’s product or service.
You can use this information to create content that addresses user intent and provides valuable information to users searching for reviews.
To analyze your competitor’s branded searches, you can use marketing software tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs. These tools can provide you with a list of branded keywords that your competitor is ranking for, as well as their search volume and difficulty score.
By analyzing this data, you can identify opportunities to create alternative pages and target branded keywords.
How to Conduct an SEO Competitor Analysis: A Step-by-Step Process
1. Crawl a competitor’s website to understand its structure:
To gain an edge over your competitors, it’s crucial to understand their website inside and out. And one way to do this is through site crawling. There are several great tools out there for this, such as Lumar, Screaming Frog, and SiteBulb.
By performing a site crawl, you can gain a wealth of information about your
- competitor’s website, including its architecture
- page inventory,
- on-page elements such as title tags and meta tags.
However, it’s important to note that site crawling is a technically advanced tactic, so beginners to SEO may find it challenging. That being said, site crawling can be incredibly effective in uncovering technical issues that may be holding back your competitor’s website.
So, if you’re looking for deeper, actionable insights, site crawling is definitely worth considering.
2. Check the indexed page count:
Start by finding the number of pages indexed by Google. This can be done by searching “site:competitor.com” on Google Search. The number of pages indexed can give you valuable information about:
- The quantity and quality of the content present on their website.
- How Google is indexing their website, as compared to yours.
- The authority and indexation power of the website in question.
- The size of their website in comparison to your own, to gauge the extent to which you need to expand your site.
By digging deeper, you can gain even more insights specific to your vertical. For instance, if you’re running an e-commerce store, you may want to know how many products your competitors have. Click around their site to see if they use subfolder architecture for products and repeat the Google search.
This tactic can help you understand the depth of your competitor’s online revenue model and identify any gaps in your offerings.
3. Evaluate your rivals’ keyword rankings:
By analyzing the keywords they use to generate the most traffic to their website, you can identify potential keywords to incorporate into your own site. SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Moz are excellent tools for this purpose, providing a list of a website’s top keywords by search volume.
By keeping an eye on your competitors, you can uncover opportunities to enhance existing pages and create new content that resonates with your target audience.
4. Analyze their top-performing organic pages:
By using tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs, you can determine which pages have the highest number of ranking keywords. This information provides various benefits, such as identifying new keywords for your pages and generating ideas for new content.
By manually examining these pages and deconstructing their on-page elements, you can gain a deeper understanding of how your competitors are achieving high rankings for multiple keywords. This knowledge allows you to evaluate the value of your competitors’ pages and consider ways to replicate their success on your own site.
Additionally, this process is an excellent starting point for conducting a keyword gap analysis to identify where your website falls short in comparison to your competitors. By leveraging this information, you can make informed decisions about how to improve your website’s SEO performance and outrank your competitors.
5. Which specific content categories are driving organic traffic?
To gain a better understanding of the type of content that drives organic traffic to your competitors’ sites, it’s important to examine the “pages” report in tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs. By doing so, you can identify the specific types of pages that generate the most traffic, such as:
- Blog posts
- Resource guides
- Product/service pages
Knowing the page type is crucial because it allows you to assess the value of your competitors’ traffic. For instance, if most of their traffic goes to pages with low purchase intent, then their traffic may not be very valuable. Therefore, it’s essential to analyze websites that have both high-quality content and sales pages to gain a complete understanding of the pages you need on your site.
By evaluating your competitors’ content and page types, you can determine which strategies work best for your niche and adapt them to improve your own site’s performance.
6. Quality of content and on-page optimizations:
Examine the top-performing pages in tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs and conduct a manual review of them. This involves analyzing several aspects of their pages, such as:
- The length of the content
- Use of images and videos
- The quality of the content, including how informative and in-depth it is
- Optimization of page titles and subheadings
- The visual appeal of the site/page
- Types of call-to-actions used on their pages
- Use of internal and external links
Despite the availability of advanced SEO tools, it’s still necessary to conduct a manual review to gain a deeper understanding of the quality of your competitors’ sites.
By examining the above factors, you can identify strengths and weaknesses in your competitors’ content and on-page optimizations. This information can help you develop better strategies to optimize your own website and enhance its overall performance.
7. Evaluate the power of their backlinks:
Analyze the links at the page level rather than the domain level. This allows for better insight into the types of links that are working in your industry.
We recommend using Ahrefs, a paid tool that provides comprehensive backlink analysis. In the “Backlinks” report, filter for “One Link Per Domain” and “DOFOLLOW” only to get an accurate picture of your competitor’s backlink profile.
Here are some factors to consider when analyzing the report:
- What types of links are pointing to these pages? (e.g., press mentions, forum comments, directory listings, blogger reviews, etc.) This information can help you identify the types of links you need to target for your own pages.
- How frequently are these pages receiving new links? This helps to determine what a natural link acquisition pattern looks like for your industry.
- Are there opportunities for you to acquire the same links? With additional research, you can identify potential link opportunities for your site.
Analyzing your competitor’s backlink profile is crucial in understanding the level of competition in your industry and can help you formulate an effective link acquisition strategy.
8. Analyze their “branded search” profile:
Branded search refers to the number of times Google users search for your company’s name or product. This is a crucial factor for search engines to determine the quality of a website, but most SEO professionals tend to ignore it.
There are several sources of branded search, such as:
- Widespread market awareness
- Offline advertising (TV, radio, print, etc.)
- Online advertising (influencers, video views, social ads, etc.)
To obtain this data, I prefer using Ahrefs Keyword Explorer.
It provides not only accurate search volumes for the brand’s main keywords but also for other related keywords. This helps us to assess the overall popularity of a brand and its specific products.
9. Reporting on Your Competitive Analysis [Downloadable Template]
We compile all our discoveries in a Google Sheets template that compares our website with three competitors.
You can download this template for free here.
This SEO Competitor Analysis Template Will Help You:
- Analyze your competitors’ on-site SEO to gain valuable insights such as publishing frequency, content types, and targeted keywords.
- The tool’s various features include discovering unknown competitors, monitoring keyword rankings, and finding new keywords.
- Connect your Google Search Console to the tool for a broader understanding of your website’s traffic-driving keywords over time.
- Identify link-building opportunities and stay on top of your backlinks profile.
- Create customizable Activity Plans unique to your website’s search needs and incorporate competitor SEO analysis into your progress tracking and KPIs.
- By using insights gained from SEO competitor analysis, you can work on your marketing strategies to boost your website’s SEO.
- Improve your content to better suit user search intent by creating valuable content, adding engaging content formats, and improving on existing content.
- Spy opportunities for missing content types and answers with Google’s “People Also Ask” feature.
With the power of competitive analysis, you can gain valuable insights to improve your website’s SEO and climb up the rankings. Identify link-building opportunities, monitor keyword rankings, and find new keywords with the tool’s various features. Improve your content to better suit user search intent and work on your marketing strategies using insights gained from SEO competitor analysis.
However, having access to this information alone is insufficient; it’s crucial to analyze it. We spend a considerable amount of time examining the data and creating actionable insights from it.
Here are a few examples:
- Knowing how much content you should produce
- Knowing the number of links you need to acquire
- Determining whether to adjust prices, offer coupons, giveaways, etc.
- Knowing how long it will take to outperform your competitors in SEO (THIS IS ESSENTIAL)
- Spreadsheets are hard to read, especially when working with a client or internal leadership team. It’s best to present this information in a slide deck with visual aids to help with your findings. You can check out our SEO proposal sample, which is proven to be effective, and even get a free copy.
A thorough analysis should be implemented during the execution phase of your campaign. Our team uses a straightforward matrix in Google Sheets that contains all of our findings and is readily available to add to a client’s project plan.
If you’re using our project management system, we record our notes in the “Actions” tab, allowing us to evaluate internally and create an action plan based on our findings.
Summarizing Competitive SEO Strategy:
In conclusion, conducting a thorough SEO competitor analysis is essential for any successful SEO campaign. By following the step-by-step process outlined in this guide and using the provided template, you can gain valuable insights into your competitors’ strategies and use them to inform your own.
But remember, while understanding your competitors is important, it’s equally important not to get lost in the weeds. Don’t obsess over their every move or get sidetracked by irrelevant details. Stay focused on your own website and your own goals, and let your newfound knowledge of the competitive landscape guide you toward success.
So take a deep breath, gather your team, and put these insights into action. By incorporating them into your project plan, you’ll be well on your way to achieving SEO domination!