The Internet is crowded, so you will need to use some SEO competitor analysis tools to help your business compete. You need to know what the competition is doing.
Besides offering a great product or service, you also need a solid digital marketing strategy to promote your business, and that all starts with SEO.
This guide will break down the steps for using SEO competitor analysis tools successfully. We’ll start by showing you how to identify your SEO competitors, analyze their SEO strategy, and create a long-term SEO game plan for your business that keeps you ahead of the competition.
Identify Your SEO Competition
Most businesses know who their biggest industry competitors are, but do you know your SEO competition? Hint: they may not be the same! Chances are, there are several SEO competitors who may not even be related to your industry but are trying to rank for the same keywords in the SERPs.
Start by developing a comprehensive list of who to focus on. Look at both your industry competitors and those who are targeting the same keywords as your business. Here’s how to get started…
- Conduct an online search for your main products and services and add any competitors with repetitive top listings.
- Search Google for your primary keywords and make note of the high-ranking domains (or enter those keywords into a competitor analysis tool to see what it discovers).
- Ask your friends, family, and clients who they consider in their decision-making process.
- Develop a list of 5-10 competitors (depending on how competitive your market is).
Consider The Strength Of The Competition
In theory, it’s possible to outrank anyone in any specialty for the keywords you want, but there are still some monoliths out there that might make it difficult. There are professional competitor analysis tools out there like Ahrefs, Spyfu, and SEMrush that can tell you a lot about your competitors. It’s all about investing your time and effort wisely.
So before you begin your analysis you should consider a few things about your competition, including:
- Domain Authority
- Search engines they are indexed in
- Backlinking profile
- Active social media channels
- Traffic sources and volume
- Online Directories they are listed in
- Alexa ranking
It will take a lot more resources to outrank a competitor that has a much stronger SEO profile. For the most efficient use of time and resources, try putting your efforts towards outranking the competitors who have a weaker SEO profile but are ranking for the target keywords you are after.
Once you’ve used the competitor analysis tools to obtain a robust and realistic list of your competition, use this 5-step template to analyze each competitor’s SEO strategy.
Step 1: Competitor Keyword Analysis Tools
The first step is to determine what types of keywords your competition is targeting throughout their site. Keyword competitor analysis tools look at the title tags of each of your competitor’s main website pages including their Home Page, Main Product Pages, and About Us Page.
Don’t forget to consider the order which the keywords are listed. Keywords your competitors place towards the beginning of the tag are likely considered to be more important.
Once you have done this for all your competitors compile a spreadsheet of all the “important” keywords used by your competitors. Add in a column for Search Volume and Competition (the number of pages in Google for each term) using a tool such as Wordtracker (free trial available) or AdWords Keyword Tool.
Remember that you’ll get the most bang for your buck by focusing on keywords with high search volume and lower competition. Can you identify any keywords with a high search volume that your competitors are overlooking?
Finally, don’t forget to record your competitors’ ranking for each phrase as well as your own. This way you can keep track of any changes for future analysis.
Step 2: Content Competitor Analysis
Now it’s time to look at your competitors’ content. You’ll want to determine the type of content being published, how often they update it, and how this content works towards the overall branding on their website. This is an important step for getting inspiration, improving on good ideas, and filling in any gaps where important information may be missing.
Go through each website and note:
- Themes and keywords in the main headings (H1, H2, H3, etc.)
- The level of branding incorporated throughout content
- Internal linking structure and link anchor text
- Call to action statements
- Types of content such as product pages, blogs, resource tools, case studies, etc.
Familiarize yourself with the competition’s content strategy so you can improve upon it! Take inspiration from their best practices and focus on filling in the gaps. This way your content provide the most value to your customers and your SEO strategy.
Step 3: SEO Technical Competitor Analysis Tools
It’s time to get technical… if that’s your thing. We use multiple competitor analysis tools to do a compete technical SEO audit but we’ll start you off easy with a few simple technical tests that you can do no matter your skill level!
- Google each competitor by name and look at how their website is listed. Do they use schema markup data? Do their blogs have authorship? Do they have videos or images indexed?
- Select 5-10 key website pages from each competitors and search the URL in Google. Are all of their pages being indexed?
- Do a site:url.com search function to see if Google is listing their most important pages (Home, Main Products, etc.) first. Do you see major site pages at the top or do you see less important pages first?
- If you know how to read HTML, take a peek at their source code. Does it look clean and optimized?
- Open a few pages on their website and see how long each page takes to load. Does it seem faster or slower than your website? Page speed optimization is critical to online success.
- Check for a 404 page by adding a few letters after their domain (ex. www.name.com/sdfo). Does a custom 404 page come up to redirect visitors to the website when they enter a wrong URL? Does this page look like the rest of the site?
- Check for a sitemap.xml by adding /sitemap.xml to the end of their domain name (ex. www.name.com/sitemap.xml).
- Look for an HTML sitemap in the footer of their website – these help visitors find a page they can’t see in the navigation.
These small technical details are great for giving you an idea at how well your website is optimized in comparison to the competition. If you want to perform a more detailed server audit, use the checklist posted in our Site and Server Related Issue Checklist.
Step 4: Competitor Link Analysis Tools
For this step you want to find out how popular your competitors’ websites are in the online world. You may need some additional analysis tools such as www.semrush.com.
To conduct a quick backlink analysis, consider these 3 areas:
1. Competitor Backlink Analysis
Look at the size and composition of each or your competitors’ backlinks:
- Number of backlinks gives you a very brief overview of their backlink profile.
- Number of unique domains gives you a better picture at how many sites are linking to their site (ex. Are the 4,000 backlinks coming from only one website or from 4,000 different websites?).
- Backlink profile growth rates tells you which competitors are steadily acquiring new backlinks and which competitors acquired the bulk of their backlinks at once (this may indicate purchased links).
- Detailed backlink analysis (if you have a detailed tool) breaks down which pages receive the most backlinks, what type of anchor text is used on which pages, and what percentage of links are images or no-follow links.
2. Different Types of Backlinks
Take a look at the type of websites that link to your competitors’ site. Remember that not all links are created equal. You want to determine how strong your competitions’ backlink profile is compared to yours – and see if there are any missed opportunities you can capitalize on!
Here are a few things to look at:
- Forums they participate in.
- Associations and organizations they are members of.
- Conferences or events they are sponsoring.
- Blogs where they’ve written guest posts (why not inquire to guest post yourself?)
- Purchased or spam links.
3. Link Acquisition Strategy Assessment
Pay attention to how your competitors are creating new backlinks, and how quickly they’re doing it. It can be helpful to gauge how aggressively they’re working to acquire new links.
Keep an eye out for these “link bait” strategies.
- Guest blog posts that promote the post on their own blog as well.
- Viral content such as videos that have potential to be linked to by many.
- Free tools or widgets that are shared across multiple websites.
- Interviews with industry leaders that are often promoted across multiple sites.
- Contests which naturally lend themselves to sharing and traffic generation.
Step 5: Long Term SEO Strategy Planning and Assessment
Depending on your availability and resources, it may be beneficial to monitor your competitors and revisit this checklist every 3-4 months.
When you do so, examine these big picture trends:
- Are there any major new competitors?
- Have any competitors made significant changes to their website?
- Can you spot any major changes in competitor strategy?
- Are any competitors offering new services?
- Have any rankings changed significantly?
- Have any backlink profiles grown or decreased?
- Overall, how do you compare to your competitors based on these changes?
The key is to compare your SEO strategy against the competition to get a better idea at how you’re positioned. Emulate what you see working for them and avoid what isn’t!
To find more SEO and digital marketing tips, visit the blog on our website!
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