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How to get the Most out of an SEO Competitive Analysis

How to get the Most out of an SEO Competitive Analysis

Creating an SEO competitive analysis is an important part of your business’ overall performance in search engines. It helps to understand where your website falls in terms of SEO visibility. While this data is helpful to understand, I like to focus my efforts on the “how”. What I mean by that is, how are the competitors in your industry outranking you.

By analyzing at more established brands online, you can see the strategies they take to increase their organic search performance. If these strategies make sense to pursue for your business, then you can emulate this.

But where should you look? With so many parts of SEO, and so little time, you always want to as efficient as possible and that means starting with the parts of SEO that will get you the best results.

Before that, let’s take a look at an important distinction – business competitors vs. SEO competitors:

The Difference Between Business Competitors vs. SEO Competitors

The difference between business competitors vs. SEO competitors is an important one to understand, because, more often than not, they are not the same:

Business Competitors are the biggest competitors in your industry that most closely relate to the products or services you sell. This is usually a broader definition that spans beyond SEO and even the digital marketing sphere.

SEO competitors are websites that perform well on search engines and rank well for relevant keywords. These don’t always need to be businesses – they could be publications, review sites or blogs.

Usually, when you think “competitor”, you’ll think of business competitors. It’s certainly great to understand your company’s SEO performance compared to business competitors, but take note of the companies that perform well on keyword searches – those are the websites you need to beat out in search engines. Ideally, the best competitors will be both SEO competitors and business competitors.

3 Areas to Look to Understand a Competitor’s SEO Strategy

Once you get a sense of which competitors to include in your SEO competitive analysis, it’s time to start diving into how they’re performing, and get a sense of the strategies that are working for them. Anyone that knows SEO, there are a lot of elements that affect a website’s performance in search engines. Here are a few areas to look into and examine when looking into your competitors:

Backlink Profile

Start with the backlink profile to see how your competitors are gaining backlinks. If you’re using a tool like SEMrush, Moz or Ahrefs to scrape backlinks, then you’re familiar with the columns you’d see on the Excel sheet you’ll download. There are a few columns I like to look at to get a better understanding of a competitor’s backlink strategy:

Target URL

The “target URL” is the URL of your competitor’s site that other websites are linking to. This is a good starting point because it lets you know which content is valuable or useful to their audience. Take note of the types of pages they are – service pages? blog posts? whitepapers? It’ usually helpful to categorize them. Then, you can dive into the “why”, or the reason websites are linking to that page. A lot of this depends on which websites are linking, which leads me to my next column.

Source URL

As mentioned, usually there’s a reason websites link, and to determine that reason, it’s helpful to know what type of websites are linking. By looking at the source URL column, you will see the websites that have the backlinks to your competitor’s website. Much like the “target URL” column, I find it helpful to categorize the websites linking. This will help us determine (generally) which types of websites to target for your own website. The real thing to look at again is the “why”. Why are these types of websites linking? This reason will ultimately determine whether or not this strategy will work for your website.

Keywords

The second area I like to look at are the keywords ranking on competitors sites. After all, this is the foundation of any SEO campaign! However, “keywords” are a pretty broad area of focus, so I will share a few specific things to look into.

Much like backlinks, you should come equipped with tools. Keyword monitoring tools like SEMrush or SERPs make it easy to track the position of your keywords, and the average monthly search volume. However, a free alternative to these tools would be to use Google Search Console, which has keyword data in their analytics

Types of Keywords

Which types of keywords are they ranking well for? Are they transactional (bottom-of-funnel) or informational (top-of funnel)? Transactional keywords rank for product or services pages and informational keywords rank for blog posts and articles. It’s important to get an understanding of the ratio between the two. Just remember that transactional keywords will likely lead to more tangible revenue – these keywords are “buyer-ready”, meaning your users readier to make a purchase online.

Keyword Implementation Tactics

Where are the keywords being used on the page? This reveals a lot about a company’s keyword targeting strategy. For example, if a keyword is in the title tag, it’s obvious that keyword is important to their keyword targeting strategy.

Keyword Gaps

This involves comparing keywords your competitor is ranking on that you are not. You may be surprised how many keywords you’re completely missing when you do this comparison! If you find keyword gaps, it’s probably time to create a page that targets that topic – or if you have an existing page about that topic, it’s time to optimize it.

Content Analysis

The last area I’ll look at is the content. Again, this is very general, so I’ll give you a few specific areas to look at.

Page Length

This is the number of words that are on the body copy of a page. There have been many studies that highlight the correlation between high word count pages and better keyword rankings. If you have a service similar to what your competitors have, do a word count comparison. It’s also worth doing the same thing for searches of your target keyword – the word count of top results should give you an understanding of the word count you’ll need to rank among the best.

Media

A page can be so much more than just copy. Video and images have their place in SEO. An interesting, engaging video or infographic can make a difference in keyword rankings for a page. Beyond videos and images, make note of any interactive content.

Content Quality

This is something Google takes into its algorithm, so it’s important to factor this into the bigger SEO picture of analyzing competitors. This can be tough to measure – unfortunately, there’s no data for a competitor’s Google Analytics. Instead, I’ll look at a competitor’s social media channels to see the engagement content gets on there. Pay attention specifically to the comments – a lot of positive comments will indicate good, quality content.

Start Your SEO Competitor Analysis

Hope these tips were helpful in creating a sound SEO competitor analysis! For more SEO competitor tips, please follow me in LinkedIn, as I post on my blog regularly.

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