If you’re looking to increase your site’s ranking position and visibility on Google and other search engines, then it’s time you considered SEO competitor analysis as one of your key strategies.
Your competitors can serve as the source of a pool of data from which you can draw valuable insights to improve your SEO strategy… and stand out from the crowd in your niche. In other words, you can beat your strongest competitors at their own game by researching their website SEO performance.
In this post, you’ll learn 7 ways to effectively spy on your competitors and rank top for your most important keywords. You’re going to discover how to do website SEO analysis of your top competitors with ease.
What is SEO Competitor Analysis?
This refers to the process of researching your competitors’ SEO strategies in order to use the insights you gain to improve your website’s organic traffic. Through this process, you can discover your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. And then leverage your discovery to make necessary improvements to boost your site’s performance.
Pulling up vital SEO metrics of your competitors lets you understand the entirety of their marketing assets from links to content and keywords.
Why is it important to research your competitors’ ranking strategies?
A comprehensive competitive analysis can help you rank higher, generate more organic traffic and acquire more leads. In addition, it helps you to discover relevant SEO opportunities that you might have otherwise missed.
For example, you can:
- Discover your competitors’ strengths and learn from them
- Find their weaknesses and capitalize on them
- Discover better approach to rank higher than your competitors
- Identify the key SEO tasks to prioritize
Generally, competitive analysis helps you to escape the rat race and start using strategies that are already working in your niche. It saves you months and even years of frustrations over poor website’s ranking.
What are the important steps involved in the process?
There are several ways to carry out competitive SEO analysis. In this post, we’re going to cover 7 simple ways to have a full grasp of what your competitors are doing well that you can learn from and even improve on.
Ready? Let’s get started.
1. Identify your competitors
The first step you want to start with in your SEO competitor analysis is identifying who your actual competitors are. Your competitors in this regard are not necessarily people who’re into the same business like you. Here, you want to focus on websites that are competing for your desired keywords.
For example, let’s say you offer “home cleaning services.” In this case, you’d be keen on securing a top spot for keywords like “home cleaning services + (maybe in your town or city).” So, we can have, for instance, “home cleaning services in Dallas.” Your competitors would then be businesses that’re ranking for the same keyword – not necessarily the real rivals you know. Those ones may not even own a website.
To find your top SEO competitors, you can head on to Google and search for the keywords your potential customers are likely going to use when searching for your type of business. This allows you to see those that are ranking top 10 on the SERP (search engine result page). You may have to repeat this process a number of times for different keywords that are relevant to your business.
Needless to say that there are some limitations associated with this approach. The method is based on intuition rather than on data. Relying on intuition about the keywords potential customers are searching for could be counterproductive. You can use one or a combination of two or more competitive analysis tools to get an accurate insight on what people are searching for and the websites ranking high for it. The most commonly used keywords are the ones with high search volume.
Once you’re clear on who your real competitors actually are, you can enter the top five on a spreadsheet. This is where you’re going to enter all the data you get throughout the process of your research.
2. Analyze competitors’ SEO performance
The fact that your competitors are occupying higher ranking positions should tell you one thing: they’re doing something better than you are. So, now, you want to figure out exactly what makes them stand out.
You want to uncover the metrics that give them competitive advantage over you. To do that, you’re going to analyze certain relevant statistics and SEO metrics. They include:
- Number of pages indexed for each site
- Number of referring domains
- Estimated organic searches
- Estimated number of keyword ranking, and so on.
The number of pages a site has says a lot about its size. You can check for the number of pages each of your identified competitors using Google. To do that, head over to Google and type in “site:domain.com.” Replace the “domain.com” with whatever site you intend to analyze. You can repeat the same process for each site. From the results, you can determine where you’re standing among your competitors.
Meanwhile, determining competitors’ referring domains, organic searches and keyword ranking cannot be easily determined manually. Ahrefs Batch Analysis Tool, for example, can help you analyze the online landscape of your competitors at once.
Add whatever results you get to your spreadsheet. Enter every result you get at each level of your analysis to Excel.
Backlinks are external links coming from other sites. Google recognizes backlink as an important organic ranking factor. For example, when one site links to another, it means they are passing trust and authority to that site. When a particular site receives lots of high-quality backlinks overtime, Google increases the site’s visibility and position in the SERPs.
By studying the backlink growth of your competitors, you want to find out how many sites are linking to them. Knowing the frequency, quality and quantity of backlinks your competitors receive can inform an improved strategy in your own link building efforts.
Also, backlink research allows you to know where your competitors are getting their links. You may want to focus on sources that are common to all your competitors. These are the sources you would want to target.
There are two types of backlinks:
- Nofollow link: This type of link doesn’t necessarily pass any value but they are important to have a diversified link profile. The Nofollow backlink takes the structure: <a href= https://yoursite.com” rel=”nofollow”>.
- Dofollow link: This signposts high-quality links coming from authoritative sites. You can have a respected and well-known site linking to your site. This type of link boosts the relevance of your site and helps you rank higher. The structure is: <a href= https://yoursite.com”>
However not every dofollow link is beneficial to your site. Google can penalize or even de-index your site if the dofollow links come from link farms or shady websites.
To do a competitive backlink analysis, you can use tools like SEMrush’s Backlinks Analytics, Ahrefs, etc. You can determine if your competitor’s links are of high quality, based on the volume of the links in relation to the number of referring domains.
Once you know the link building strategy of your competitors, you can see how they compare with yours. This would help you to understand where you’re currently standing. You can use Google Search Console to find all your backlinks.
You can use a specialized backlink monitoring tool like SEMrush’s Backlink Audit. This software gives you a comprehensive overview of your link building growth over time. Importantly, it can help you detect toxic links before you’re penalized by Google.
Here are a few simple ways to increase your dofollow links:
- Create valuable and relevant content that solves specific problems. For example, “how to posts” with infographics or video can drive more backlinks to your site
- Build relationships with industry influencers and authorities in your niche. Tell them about a blog post or guide on your site that they may want to link to.
- Write guest posts on authority sites
4. Track Traffic inflow to competitors’ sites by country
Now that you’ve discovered the link building strategy of your competitors and the sources of those backlinks. What you are looking at right now is significantly different. You want to identify the countries where your SEO competitors are generating most traffic. Why is this important? By tracking traffic breakdown by country, you’re able to discover where opportunities lie.
To effectively get this done, you need a competitive analysis tool like Ahrefs or any other one you prefer. Ahrefs shows you the countries that you need to start targeting. For example, if the result of your results reveals that your competitors get most of their traffic from the U.S. then, you can begin to start creating content that’s relevant to the American market.
This kind of analysis can even reveal much richer metrics. For example, you might want to consider creating a bi or multi-lingua website if your rivals are getting a considerable amount of search traffic from non-English speaking countries.
Meanwhile, it’s needless to say that you shouldn’t focus only on search traffic. It’s important to consider the traffic value. Traffic value is the amount you would have spent if you were paying for the traffic via Google Adwords. You can arrive at the traffic value by multiplying the total number of traffic by the cost-per-click (CPC) equivalent in paid advertising.
5. Spy on your competitors’ organic keywords
You want to carry out an in-depth SEO keyword analysis of your competitors’ websites. You can track keywords and pull a wide-range of relevant information from your competitors’ products to their best performing content.
This form of analysis is based on existing competitor performance to find out their keywords with high search volume. The idea is to identify valuable keywords that your competitors are currently ranking highly for but which you are not. With such immense available data, you can easily bridge the gap that exists between you and your top competitors.
You can plug competitors’ websites into your database. And check real time data on the keywords are driving most organic traffic, as well as the ones they’re paying to rank for. Interestingly, Google has useful tools like Google Keyword Planner that enables you to spy on competitive keywords based on the existing content and pages on their websites.
This tool is very useful but it won’t capture the vast array of data you need to make an informed decision. For example, Google Keyword Planner has since removed the ability to see the exact keywords generating traffic (both free and paid) for your competitors including their search volumes.
Due to this limitation, it’s recommended to use a tool that allows you to have a comprehensive view of your competitor’s SEO keyword strategy. Some of the tools on the market can help you run the organic keyword report for each domain. That way, you can gain insights on important keywords you can rank for, their search volumes, click-through-rates (CTR), ranking history, backlinks and so on. You can also see the keywords with high keyword difficulty and implement an effective strategy to beat the odds.
6. Spy on your Competitors’ Content Strategy
Content drives traffic. If you want to beat your competitors at their own game, then you have to study the content gap that exists between your site and theirs. What kind of content are they creating that you are not? Proper understanding of the content strategy of the top performing websites in your niche can be a great eye opener to take your business to the next level online.
How do you spot their top content?
Top content can be determined by the value the searchers and other sites pass on it. You can discover this by looking at which content earned most links over a defined period of time. Backlinks (external links) are important indexes to measure the relevance or otherwise of a piece of content.
You also want to know the relevant keywords that are common across the top sites. Check for their search volumes, keyword difficulty, long-tail keywords, and so on. Long-tail keywords allow Google to understand the intent behind every search. This analysis helps you determine the keywords top content is ranking for. And the volume of traffic they generate.
Based on your results, you can find your competitors’ most popular content. Knowing the content topics can help you review your content strategy. And improve on the existing content on your competitor’s site. For example, you can include deeper expert views, include infographic and support your own content with adequate data that are valuable to your readers.
After creating your own content, you can then target those referring domains that passed on loads of links to your competitors.
So, how do you go about researching your competitors’ content strategy?
Checking for the content gap manually can be really daunting. So, it’s not recommended to do that without a customized tool designed for that purpose. You can achieve some cool results with Ahrefs Content Gap Tool and Moz’s Link Explorer. You can however decide to use any tool that you’re comfortable with. The important thing is to discover the killer content of your rivals and replicate what’s working for them. And even make it much better.
7. Find Your Competitors’ PPC keywords
What you want to do is take a deep look into your competitors’ paid search efforts. Most times, businesses combine both SEO and PPC (Pay-per-Click) to have a strong foothold online. PPC is usually used as an alternative method to gain visibility for certain keywords a business is finding difficult to rank for organically. So, you want to find out the PPC keywords your rivals are investing in.
Why should you bother to even spy on their paid keywords?
PPC keywords can help reveal highly profitable keywords. So, what you want to do is see how you can possibly integrate these keywords into your SEO strategy. But before you do that, you should carefully find out the conversion rate for each of these key terms. That would help you identify which ones to pay more attention to.
Similarly, you should learn from your competitor’s paid ads. Paying attention to their marketing copy can inform a more creative way to create your title tags and description to boost conversion rate.
You can find competitors’ PPC keywords PPC keywords by using PPC keywords report in Ahrefs Site Explorer.
Following through each of the steps discussed can help you make well-informed and data-driven decisions that will ultimately improve your SEO strategy, and ultimately improve your overall organic search visibility and position.
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