How to Perform an SEO Competitive Analysis
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a fundamental part of any online marketing strategy. But in order to do it effectively, you need to have an idea of how your competitors are using it, and where you can gain an advantage. That’s where SEO competitive analysis comes in.
Below, we’ll review the benefits of an SEO competitive analysis, guide you through the basic steps, and advise you on where to look for expert help.
Why SEO Competitive Analysis is Important
This type of audit gives you a clear picture of competitor SEO performance, breaking down where they lead in the rankings, and where they’re focusing their efforts. You’ll be able to compare your own SEO performance, identifying what you need to improve upon and what opportunities you have to dominate.
Here’s a quick summary of the main benefits of SEO competitive analysis:
- Learn why your current SEO strategy is underperforming (or the opposite)
- Identify missed opportunities to dominate search results
- Discover who is competing against you for the same keywords
- Stay up to date on emerging competitors and their strategies
* Note: If you’re using PPC advertising, you’ll find that an SEO analysis is quite similar to a PPC competitive analysis, even containing some of the same steps. However, its application is focused on organic search engine rankings.
Basic Steps of SEO Competitive Analysis
Identify Your Competitors
The first step in an SEO competitive analysis is identifying what websites are competing with yours for the same keywords. This can be done by entering your top keywords into search engines and documenting what domains show up on the first page. You can also use an SEO analysis tool, such as Semrush, Ahrefs, Serpstat, or SpyFu.
It’s important to note that your SEO competitors will likely differ from your market competitors to some degree. While there’s bound to be overlap, they are not always the same. It’s not uncommon for websites and businesses outside of your market to end up in the rankings for the same keywords.
Also, be careful to exclude sites that aren’t real (or worthwhile) competitors. For example, Wikipedia is a major site that would be hard to outrank, and they aren’t going to detract from your traffic. Focus on sites that actually have the potential to “steal” clicks from yours.
Note Top Pages
After you’ve figured out who your main SEO competitors are, you’ll need to determine which of their website pages are the most popular in the search engine results. One of the aforementioned analysis tools can help you pull up the top pages for each website, listing traffic and the number of keyword rankings for each page.
Research Keyword Gaps & Difficulties
Next, it’s time to identify where your competitors have weaknesses, and where you can gain an edge. This requires analyzing the specific keywords that they currently rank for, how well they’re ranking, and how that compares to your own rankings.
A good analysis tool will be able to tell you what “keyword gaps” exist between you and your competitors. That is, keywords that you don’t share. Once you know where gaps exist, you can determine which of those untapped keywords present the most opportunity. Good gap keywords to pursue will be those that can yield strong (and relevant) traffic without being especially difficult to rank for.
Keywords that are shared between you and your competitors will also need their difficulty evaluated to determine what it will take to rank higher. This difficulty can be determined by noting total keyword traffic, your competitor’s domain authority, their share of traffic volume, and a variety of other factors. While some keywords may be too difficult to outrank your competitors for, others may have minimal barriers to the top-ranking slots.
Look for New Keywords
Additionally, it’s important to keep a pulse on what new keywords your competitors are starting to pursue and rank for. You can do this by zooming in on “keyword position changes” and filtering according to the most recent results. This will allow you to track developing trends, and get a head start on your own SEO efforts before your competitors can get a stronger foothold.
Assess Content Optimization
Once you have a grasp of the keywords at stake, you’ll need to take a closer look at what competitor content is ranking for them. Are they product pages? Blog posts? How-to guides? Pages describing individual services? Does this type of content seem to be the most effective way to address the site visitor’s search intent? This information is critical for shaping your own SEO and content strategy.
A number of other factors should be examined as well:
- Publishing frequency
- Relevance to keyword topics
- Word count or video length
- Level of content detail
- Url structure
- Page metadata
- Headline lengths, keywords, and HTML tags
Evaluate Website Structure
Looking at your competitors’ ranked pages, you must also pay attention to the site structure as it relates to “crawlability” and user experience. Search engines prioritize websites that offer easy navigation for both search engine crawling (scanning) bots, and human users. Factors such as loading speed, mobile responsiveness, and layout clarity can all make an impact.
Do your competitors’ pages excel in these areas? Or are they ranking well despite having a clunky and confusing website? If the latter is the case, then you may be able to outrank them simply by having a faster, clearer, and more mobile-friendly website.
Your SEO analysis tool should be able to pinpoint which websites are providing your competitors’ backlinks. Those are links that direct back to the competitor website, sending traffic from one site to theirs.
Backlinks are critical for building domain authority and improving keyword rankings. Understanding which backlink sources are the best drivers of rankings will help you choose which websites to reach out to for backlink requests. If you can offer a higher quality backlink than your competitors, you may be able to take their spots.
Probe PPC Investments
What if you’ve adjusted your strategy based on all of the findings above, but still can’t outrank your competitors organically? It’s time to look at their PPC investments for the keywords in question.
Many websites pay money for PPC ads in search results, even when they dominate the organic rankings. Knowing what they’re spending to get those top ad slots can give you valuable insight as you formulate your own strategy.
Get Expert Help Conducting Your SEO Competitive Analysis
Following the steps above can be easier said than done if you don’t have the technical skill. If you want to get the most out of your SEO competitive analysis, it’s best to have it done by professionals.
Getting help from an expert digital marketing team is the easiest and most effective way to perform an SEO analysis. Having specialists who are familiar with the industry’s best methods and tools will give you the key to the right solutions.
Vivid Studios offers complete digital marketing services to businesses throughout Southwest Florida, from SEO and PPC, to website development and content creation. Our team is poised to tackle all of your marketing needs from every angle, building a bulletproof strategy that propels your company to the top of your niche.
We are currently based in Sarasota, serving clients throughout the state. If you’d like help from a team that understands what it takes to grow a business in Florida, contact us today.