How to do an SEO competitor analysis
No matter what you do in anything, be it marketing, sport, baking, if your competitors are beating you, then there is a method behind their achievements. While being beaten is sometimes about superior intellect or creativity, with SEO it is all about cunning and looking at what others are doing, and working out the best combination of various factors so that you can do it better.
It is very rare for a website to get position #1 simply by mistake. SEO takes months of hard work and research to nail the best strategy and make sure that you are secure in your rankings, and the best way to get ahead and stay ahead is by conducting a regular competitor analysis.
So, while it may be tempting to conduct a huge competitor audit in one sitting, the likelihood is that once you’ve gone through everything and been able to apply all your findings, they could be out of date and your competitors have found the next idea. So the best thing for you to do is select a section of your site which has historically struggled to gain momentum organically, where you know there is considerable search volume and competitors are dominating.
Now, this may sound simple, but you need to select your competitors. When doing this, you should only think about your competitors who rank in top positions only. While you may have selected competitors as a business in general, you only want to be analysing competitors who you want to beat in the rankings. H&M wouldn’t be conducting an SEO competitor analysis on Primark, as an example.
What you need to do is conduct a simple Google search for products or services on offer, and see who is appearing on page 1. Don’t just limit yourself to this list either, use different keyword combinations or conduct different searches using different words, and write down each competitor on page 1.
After you’ve done this a few times, take a look at your list and see who is showing up the most. Hopefully, you have a list of 3-5 websites which keep cropping up. These are the sites you should start to be analysing and are the direct competitors you need to be working on.
The next step here involves using specialised tools. The best and most recommended of these tools can be pricey, but they are well worth it. By using tools such as SEMRush or AHRefs, you’re able to simply insert your competitor’s websites and find out every keyword they are ranking for, where they are ranking, how many searches these keywords get, and what URL ranks for those keywords.
This is where your original list of keywords blows up into a mixture of variants and new keywords which you maybe didn’t consider before. It also allows you to see how popular the keywords are as well, and maybe change your views on what direction you want to go in with your business.
What you need to do is then sift through the list and find out where your competitors are being most successful, and pull a list of the ones you want to be targeting. With all this, you’ll also collate the URLs each keyword ranks for, and hopefully, you see a pattern of the same sets of URLs appearing.
If you aren’t actually sure what keywords you should be looking for, start by undertaking some keyword research so you can get a better idea of what keywords you should be targeting.
Now you have these URLs, you can start looking at what on-page and off-page content your competitors have. On-page content in the content that you see actually appearing on a website, things like page titles and copy. Off-page is the content that you see appearing in Google, called the page title and meta description. What you should notice when reviewing this content is that the keyword you are most interested in appears throughout.
Now, compare all this content to what you have on your site. How do the page titles compare? Which competitor has used the keyword your targeting? Does your competitor have a copy on the page, and if so how much? And what sort of keywords are mentioned?
The easiest way to do this is to conduct a SWOT analysis of your competitors so you can compare each next to each other. This will help you find clear areas where your pages may not be of the same quality as your competitors, helping you to already highlight areas for improvement.
Depending on your sector, you may find that a mixture of product/service pages come up alongside blog and other informational content, which can help you with your next steps as you look more towards creating a content marketing strategy so you can implement your findings to have maximum impact.
Content should be a major part of your analysis, but there are other factors which can help you out when wanting to be up there with your competitors. Technically, there isn’t much you can do to copy competitors as so many sites are built on different platforms, but there are some smart things that can be done to any site.
The biggest win here technically is adding structured data or schema to your site. Schema allows you to present added information to users in the SERP (search engine results page) which could entice them to click on your site over a competitor.
Schema allows you to show things such as price, whether items are in stock and ratings. These small elements can go a long way in catching potential customers’ attention, and give them more information that will help them decide if they want to click through or not.
Technical tweaks can sometimes be overlooked as underrated SEO tactics, so it’s well worth looking beneath the surface to see what is there for you to take advantage of to help bolster your SEO campaign.