If you feel like you’re doing all the right things, but you can’t get a heads up on the competition, then it could be that your competitor analysis isn’t being carried out correctly.
Unless you’re lucky to be so niche, no one else does what you do; you will have competition. There is nothing wrong with a little healthy competition. It can force you to do better in all aspects of your work, from the quality of the product or service to your customer service and satisfaction.
You might sell a great product, but if your competitor has more information than you, price comparisons or better delivery, customers will ultimately go elsewhere.
The good news is that most of them aren’t paying particular attention to getting their SEO strategy right for all the websites out there. That means a few tweaks in the right direction can be everything is moving you towards that coveted spot at the top of Google. Let’s look at them in this blog post.
What is SEO Competitive Analysis?
SEO competitive analysis compares your SEO with SERP competitors, finds strengths and weaknesses, & making changes accordingly…
It’s not so different from standard competitive analysis, but instead of looking at the overall marketing strategy, you are looking at Google’s position.
Did you know that two-thirds of all organic Google clicks to the top 5 results? What does that mean for you? In simple maths, if you’re in position 6, you have less than a 33% chance of a click, which diminishes exponentially with every dropped position.
Another staggering fact is that 90% of web pages get no traffic whatsoever! In simple terms, that means that someone else is getting it!
If your competitors are doing a better job of optimising content than you are, you won’t get the visibility you need. That’s where SEO competitor analysis comes in handy.
You can view a competitor as a pain in the arse or a valuable source of info. People beating you in the SERPs are, in fact, a wealth of helpful information. If you find out what they are doing and do it better, you can get your share of relevant web traffic. So how do we go about doing this?
What You Should Know First
- Who are your ‘actual search competitors are? It’s not always who you might think
- Which keywords they are receiving organic traffic for.
Why Should I Do A SEO Competitor Analysis
A competitor analysis can show you:
- Areas of improvement in your SEO strategy
- Your current SEO performance
- competitor gaps or weaknesses
- competitors’ content and winning strategies
Even if you are already at the top of a search result for your most important keywords, you need to constantly monitor your SEO performance to make sure your competitors’ content doesn’t outrank you.
When Should I Do A SEO Competitor Analysis?
Your SEO performance doesn’t is always relative to your competition. Your existing content may be ticking away nicely, but someone else starts doing it much better.
All of a sudden, your rankings can tank. Search engine algorithm changes, new competitors and other SEOs working to outrank you, you can’t be complacent when it comes to SEO.
Regularly analysing your competition to see where you stand (compared to them) will help you identify areas for improvement before they negatively impact your rankings.
What are some of the areas you can look at?
- Plan your content: see what the competition is writing about or their most popular pieces of content, and put your own spin on it. Write a better version.
- Writing content: regularly having a plan for new content can ensure your page answers user search intent better than your competitors.
- If you have a sudden ranking drop: find out what your search competition is doing to outrank you. What’s changed? Has the competition updated its content?
- If the SERPs have changed: If another domain has outranked you for the top position for specific organic keywords, then an SEO competitor analysis can help you fathom out why and emulate it.
- What is the domain authority of your site compared to others
- How many backlinks come to your site?
- Are those backlinks from high-authority websites?
If an SEO competitor has higher domain authority than you, you could have difficulty beating them, but it’s not impossible. This is where keyword gaps can come in.
Look at long-tail or slightly less popular terms that still get some keyword volume. As you start to build authority, you can successfully target the more challenging keywords.
How to Run A SEO Competitive Analysis
There isn’t a one size fits all rule here, but there are a few steps you can follow.
- Identify your competitors
- decide who not to compete with
- look at your competitor’s top pages
- Look at Keyword research
- Consider technical SEO
- Look At On Page SEO
- Utilise Search Features
- Consider a backlinks strategy
Let us do a deep dive into these topics.
Identify Your SEO Competitor’s Websites.
The first thing to do is make a list of who you think your SEO competitors are. You could focus on websites that rank highly for any of your primary target organic keywords.
With an SEO competitive analysis, you should remember that your biggest competitor might not always be the one ranking #1 for your chosen keyword groups.
Another critical thing to remember is that SEO competitors are not the same as direct business competitors. SEO Competitors are websites competing for the same organic search positions as you. This means that you will have different competitors based on each individual topic of your content, although you usually find that those competitors will frequently overlap.
Finding who these are is the first step of your analysis. So if your business has different areas of focus, make sure you identify the main competitors for each niche. A great way to do this is to utilise a platform like SEMRush, giving you accurate data on your SERP competitors.
Identify Potential Strengths and Weaknesses
What are the strengths and weaknesses of your site versus your competitors? Every site has flaws, even the massive ones. You could ask your staff or customers what they think of your site.
- Do your competitors have quality content?
- Is your content more comprehensive and thorough?
- Do your SERP competitors focus on product pages but not have any supporting pages?
- Do they create one type of content or a variety of topic
Decide Who Not to Compete With
Not every SERP competitor is relevant to you. In fact, some you just aren’t going to outrank. If you sell just about anything, chances are Amazon will surpass you. Other sites like Pinterest and Wikipedia will outrank most sites due to their very high domain authority. Your best bet is to focus on the competition you have a chance with & optimise your content accordingly. So how do we do this?
Look At Your Competitors’ Top Pages
When looking at any competitor, it’s good to identify their most popular pages. Look at:
- which competitor pages get the most traffic
- which pages have the highest percentage of overall traffic
- Which pages rank for which keywords?
Don’t use guesswork. Software like Ubersuggest can give you this information in seconds.
There’s a multitude of stuff to be done around keyword research when you perform an SEO competitor analysis. Let’s cover some of them here.
Identify Close Keyword Gaps
It’s a valuable strategy to find keywords that you rank for but not as well as the competition. Semrush’s keyword gap tool can help you identify keywords you share with competitors, but they outrank you. An excellent place to start is with keywords, where you are only slightly behind. Another super quick way to see where you appear for any search queries is in the Google search console.
The Keyword Gap tool from Semrush is an excellent keyword research tool for identifying your competitors’ shared keywords and any opportunities you may be missing. To use this keyword gap analysis tool, enter your site and up to four competitors to view an overview report, which then shows you keyword opportunities for you:
Look for any keywords your competitors are ranking for
but you are not.
- Why do they rank for some search queries, and you don’t?
- Is there better supplementary content for those keywords?
- Is there an exceptionally high volume of backlinks to those pages which rank higher?
- What can you do on your website to target those keywords?
Which Keywords Are Worth Your Time?
Not all keywords are worth the same effort. You should focus your efforts on keywords relevant to you, with a high search volume, and are not too difficult to rank for. Wasting hours on low competition keywords, for example, with no search volume, is a waste of effort. Free software like Ubersuggest is a quick way to do this and boss your search traffic.
Lost And Declined Keyword Research.
You also want to make sure you research any keywords that your competitors have recently lost. Focus on those with the highest search volumes first.
Research any pages used to rank for specific keywords and see if there is a reason they don’t anymore — it could be a wide range of issues, from a technical problem to a spam issue.
Keywords – Competitor Lost Rankings
If your competitor has significantly lost rankings for specific organic keywords, it can be easy to capitalise on this and turn them into your wins. The SEMRUSH Organic Research tool can help with this.
Have a look at where SERP competitors are declining search rankings. This can offer you some opportunities to take advantage of, particularly when the competitor hasn’t noticed their losses and isn’t actively working on fixes.
New Ranking Keywords
Analysing new keyword rankings is another important aspect of competitive analysis. You should aim to do it regularly for SEO purposes.
Keep an eye on any new pages or rankings your competitors are earning. For eCommerce sites, it could be an insight into any new products suddenly gaining popularity.
Technical SEO is something you want to get right because if you’re missing those important elements of proper markup, even the best content will be at a disadvantage. Let’s address some of those technical checks here.
Technical SEO, Keywords & content are the three crucial elements of any SEO competitor analysis process. Technical SEO means reviewing technical aspects of your site compared to your competitors and fixing any technical SEO issues that could cause your rankings to fall.
Does the website have any technical issues which could hamper its search appearance? If you both have technical SEO issues, the first thing to do is fix your own. We can perform a free, no-obligation website audit if you wish. We use a combination of SEMRush, AHRefs & Screaming Frog to serve over 100 site checks.
- duplicate content
- broken links
- 404 pages
- HTTPS implementation
- missing images
We use these tools to benchmark and regularly monitor our client sites. Let’s look at a few in detail
- Title Tags – Although Google sometimes rewrites title tags for the search results based on a query, it mainly adds the site name to the title tag or emphasises specific keywords being searched for. Look at the title from the title tag and the title as Google changes it for specific keyword searches.
- Meta Description Tags – Google may not always use the description set in the meta-description tag, but you should consider what is in the description tag for competitor analysis purposes; this often gets overlooked. Sometimes a well-written description tag can be the difference in a couple of positions.
- Meta Keywords Tag – These are now essentially useless because Google pays no attention to them. However, t can give some intelligence into the keywords your competitor is targeting for that page. Sometimes it is helpful as the competitor may have used this strategy for non-Google search engines.
- H1s and other Headings – Google passes importance to <h> tags for SEO purposes. Ensure your site uses real <h> tags and not cSS or text sizes to emulate headings. A quick way to check this is to use the Chrome browser, right-click your heading and select ‘inspect’. Is the title wrapped in something like this? Every page should contain a single h1 tag that signals to the search engine the primary topic of your page.
<h1 class="header">I am a header</h1>
- Featured Snippets – Google can use headings for featured snippets to compare with competitors and see how they are using <h> tags and if it impacts their search features. The placement can also make a difference. Try running a few tests.
- Breadcrumbs / URL Structure – Utilising breadcrumbs and a strong URL structure can help Google understand the content hierarchy of your site and rank it accordingly. If you make sure your own is solid and error-free, it can be an advantage over your competitors.
- Mobile Performance – Do a quick check on your competitors by visiting them on mobile and looking around their pages. If you have a strong, error-free mobile presence and they don’t, then you can take advantage of this.
- Mobile Speed – How well optimised is the website for a seamless mobile experience? With Google’s mobile-first indexing approach that rolled out in 2015 and more than half (58%) of all Google searches conducted using a mobile, any online business should make sure their pages are mobile-friendly.
- Page Speed – With the 2021 Google Page Experience update, site speed is now a direct ranking factor. Pages should take no longer than three seconds to load. 47% of visitors expect a page to load within two seconds or leave.
Utilise Search Features
Many overlook search features in the search engine results when analysing a competitor.
Ranking a bit further down in search results might be great for some search queries. It might not be so great if search features, such as featured snippets, videos, news articles, and products, dominate the search results. And there are the ‘people also ask’ and, of course, images. You may need to work on those keywords to rank number one while creating content that shows in features.
Some types of content can play a great role in serps. If Google shows these content types in the search results for your main keywords, then you can try to appear in these search features and dominate the results.
Choosing Featured Snippet to Focus On
If you decide that your site’s best chance to rank in featured snippets, look at your organic competitors and see what featured snippets they have and find keywords for them. Next, look at the URL for that landing page and see if you have a similar URL that is a good fit for taking over the featured snippet.
How Can You Get The Featured Snippet?
Featured snippets can be easier to take over from a competitor than position one rankings. Google wants to show featured snippets that are accurate, concise, and answer the user query.
As you look at competitors’ featured snippets, look at how you can adjust your own content for pages ranking in the same results pages to take over the featured snippet.
This topic honestly deserves its own blog post, which I will write soon, but in the meantime, Neil Patel has this handy guide to getting featured snippets.
Have A Thorough Linking Strategy
Google places value not just on links from authoritative referring domains but also on your internal links structure. The internal side of things helps Google crawl your site
Internal Linking Strategy
Internal linking and the overall structure of your website will help Google crawl and index your site. Good website architecture is a critical part of any SEO Campaign. If your competitor lacks a good internal linking strategy, making sure yours is solid will help you move up the ranks.
Internal linking helps search engines find and index the pages on a site. Google’s best practice is to use clear, descriptive anchor text (link text) for internal links. A robust internal link structure helps both users and search engines to navigate your site.
Strategies like organised clusters of content and breadcrumb navigation can boost your overall linking strategy. This image from Search Engine Journal shows how sites can be structured.
Your Site structure influences the user experience and how easily search engines can crawl it. A good place should have a simple, clean structure that allows for unimpeded, easy crawling. It’s also helpful to examine your crucial target pages’ depth in the site architecture. Ideally, a vital page should be no more than four clicks away from the homepage.
Review Your Backlinks
Reviewing your backlinks is an essential part of any competitive analysis. Suppose your competitor has a better backlink profile and high-quality backlinks from authoritative websites. In that case, you could have a harder time competing with them until you can amass a similar backlink profile. Not all links are created equal!
What Are High-Quality Backlinks Vs Low-Quality Backlinks?
Google changed how it handles low-quality links with the Penguin update back in the 2000s. It’s not the number of links you have but their quality. If you have thousands of spammy backlinks, they won’t help your cause.
Always focus on high-quality backlinks, such as essential news sites, high-profile sites, or experts in your market.
When looking at competitor backlinks, consider:
- Are they recommended high-profile sites in your industry?
- Can you get similar links by request?
- Have they received PR in news organisations? If so, cancan get yourself into similar stories?
Tru to look for gaps in your backlinks, especially links multiple competitors have from the same websites. If those sites link to many of your competitors, it is often possible to acquire links too.
Check backlinks to the internal pages of your competitors too. Links to internal pages are just as important. Some of their best-performing pages could have inbound links that are a significant factor in those pages ranking well.
Backlinks – Follow Vs NoFollow
Check if your backlinks are ‘follow’ versus ‘nofollow’ links. Google technically; doesn’t use nofollow links. There are still some schools of thought that suggest they help. At the very least, they can send traffic to your website from other sources. Think social media. This is a typical source of nofollow backlinks.
SEO Competitor Analysis. Why It’s never ‘set and forget.’
Regularly analyse each aspect of competitor sites in your market, and don’t forget that SEO competitor analysis is an ongoing process.
Things change regularly. Site migrations, new pages, algorithm changes and new search features. Revisit periodically and see what has changed since your last deep dive.
It may not always be something competitors have done recently. It could have been something they were doing better, but a Google algorithm update has rewarded them. This. is why you should try to stay ahead of the game.
Depending on the size of your website and the number of competitors, you may want to redo a competitor analysis every six to twelve months. Keep an eye on any changes your competitors are making monthly, though, so you can react to their strategies quickly.
A competitive analysis will never be complete, whether by watching for new pages, new keywords, or search features like featured snippets. As sites and search results change, keeping an eye on your competitors means you will hopefully stay one step ahead.
Want help with Your SEO competitor analysis or generally want to do better on the search engines, get more relevant search traffic? Speak to our friendly team today & let’s get you found!