Conducting a thorough SEO competitor analysis allows you to develop a more effective and informed SEO strategy that aligns with industry trends, best practices, and your brand’s unique strengths.
Here, you’ll find:
- What an SEO competitor analysis is
- Why it’s important
- How to find out who your SEO competition is
- The steps to conduct an SEO competitor analysis
- Which analysis tools we recommend
Focusing on your own brand’s mission is key, but not keeping an eye on your competitors is a risky move.
After all, if you can’t see how fast your competition is going, they’re more likely to lap you in the race.
That’s where a competitor analysis comes in. By learning how to analyze what your competition is doing, you can adjust your marketing strategy to dominate the search engine algorithms and get your brand to the top of the search engine results page (SERP).
Let’s dig a little deeper into what an SEO competitor analysis is and how it can help you stay on top of your game.
What is an SEO competitor analysis?
An SEO competitor analysis is the process of evaluating and comparing the search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, types of content, and performance of your website with those of your competitors.
The goal of this is analysis to gain insights into what your competitors are doing well in terms of SEO, identify areas where you can improve your own SEO efforts, and ultimately enhance your online visibility, organic search rankings, and organic traffic.
Why is an SEO competitive analysis important?
Conducting an SEO competitor analysis truly does wonders for your overall SEO strategy. Not only can they provide valuable insights to help you improve your own rankings, but knowing the competitive landscape can also help you improve your online visibility and outrank your competitors.
Here are some key reasons why an SEO competitor analysis is essential to success:
Benchmarking and comparison
Competitor analysis allows you to benchmark your website’s performance against your competitors’. By understanding how well your competitors are doing in terms of search rankings, traffic, and other metrics, you can do a gap analysis to determine where you need to catch up or excel.
Identifying competitor keyword opportunities
Analyzing your competitors’ strategies helps you identify untapped opportunities in your industry or niche. You can discover target keywords they might not be targeting, content gaps they haven’t addressed, and areas where you can provide unique value to your audience.
Learning from successes and mistakes
Studying your competitors’ sites means you can learn from their successes and mistakes. If they are ranking well for certain keywords or have a popular content piece, you can gain insights into what works. Conversely, if they are struggling in certain areas, you can avoid making the same mistakes.
Competitor analysis helps you discover relevant keywords that you might not have thought of. If your competitors are ranking for top keywords, it’s a signal that those keywords are important for your industry.
Content strategy enhancement
Analyzing your competitors’ content can give you ideas for creating high-quality, relevant content that resonates with your audience. You can identify topics they’ve covered, assess the depth of their content, and find ways to offer a unique perspective.
Link building opportunities
Understanding your competitors’ backlink profiles can help you find valuable link-building opportunities. If they have backlinks from reputable sources, you can try to get similar links to boost your site’s authority.
Effective strategy development
Like anything in digital marketing, a well-informed SEO strategy is more likely to succeed. Competitor analyses provide you with data-backed insights that can guide your decision-making and strategy development process.
Regularly analyzing your competitors’ performance allows you to track your progress over time. If you’re consistently outperforming your competitors, it’s a sign that your SEO efforts are paying off.
Who is your SEO competition?
You probably already have an excellent idea of who your business competitors are. But these are hardly the only companies you need to consider when fighting for the coveted top spots of Google search results. During your SEO campaign, you may be facing competitors who don’t belong in your niche.
For example, if you want to rank high for the “best flowers in LA,” you aren’t just competing with the local florists. You could be fighting against designers and review sites, making your climb to the top spot twice as tough.
The truth about SEO competitors is simple: They’re top-ranking companies for the keywords you’re targeting — even if they aren’t your business competitors.
Luckily, competitive research is relatively easy. All you need to do is enter your keywords into the search field (always with search intent in mind) and see what pops up on the first few pages.
You want to analyze the competition so you can:
- Strengthen your keyword search
- Improve your content
- Capitalize on your competition’s weaknesses
- Find out what works and what doesn’t in your industry
All’s fair in love, war, and SEO, so you shouldn’t feel guilty about finding inspiration in your competitors’ campaigns.
5 Steps to conduct an SEO competitor analysis
While analyzing your competition, look for weaknesses or gaps you could fill. If the competitor ranks high for the same keyword, find out where they make mistakes or seem to come up short. Improve your efforts in those sectors, and you could come out on top. Here’s how to do it.
1. Identify their keywords
To strengthen your keyword search, you need to figure out which short- and long-tail keywords your competitors rank for. This can help you find new keywords to target, keyword gaps, and specific keywords with high search volume that they aren’t using enough. It can also help you understand what works in your specific industry.
Doing all that is fairly easy, thanks to numerous analysis tools that help you examine another website and its keyword rankings. (We’ll dive into that more below.)
These programs also allow you to see how well your website ranks for some keywords compared to the competition. You could discover money keywords that you’ve overlooked.
2. Analyze their content
Since content is the pillar of SEO, you need top-notch ideas. An excellent place to get them is to analyze what the competition is doing.
How do you figure out how well their content is working? Find out which content got the competitor the most links. Achieving high-quality backlinks is imperative to ranking high with search engines and developing and maintaining domain authority.
Some link checker tools to help with competitor backlink analysis and your own link-building strategy include:
Once you find the competitor’s top content, check it for flaws. Maybe the word count is too low, the info is outdated or not in-depth, or their imagery is low-quality.
Take advantage of the information you’ve gathered to create similar content, only better. Your goal is to come up with the content that offers significantly more value to the target audience.
You don’t always need to go deep into content analysis. By using the above tools, you can simply get inspiration for tweaking your content strategy.
Pro tip: While it’s natural to cover similar topics to your competition through content, don’t simply imitate. You don’t want to look like a mere copycat (or dip into plagiarism territory), so make sure the content you publish follows your brand’s own voice and tone.
3. Find dead pages
Sounds spooky, but this is a critical step in your analysis. A “dead page” is simply a webpage that can’t be found on the server. Often called an “error 404 page” or a “404 page”, these pages often contain valuable linking opportunities that you can now take advantage of. Here’s a quick step-by-step to follow:
Seeking out dead pages is a time-consuming yet highly effective way to take advantage of your competitor’s mistakes. This part of the competitor analysis involves finding dead pages on your competition’s website that other companies have linked to.
The first step to finding dead pages is to identify your competitors. These are the websites you’ll want to analyze. Next, use website crawling tools to help you scan their website and identify the dead pages. Simply enter the URL of your competitor’s website, and the tool will scan it for various types of issues, including dead pages.
Once the scan is complete, the tool will provide you with a list of URLs that are broken or dead. These can include pages with 404 errors, 500 errors, or other issues. Review the list to identify pages that are relevant to your industry or content strategy.
Not all dead pages are created equal
Some dead pages might not be worth pursuing action on. Filter the results based on relevance, potential traffic, and importance. Focus on pages that were previously popular, had high backlinks, or contain content that aligns with your strategy.
Depending on the nature of these pages, you have a couple of options to help drive more conversions:
Repurposing – If the content is still relevant and valuable, you can recreate it with your own unique insights and updates to make it better than the original.
Creating new content – If the dead pages are not directly relevant to your content strategy but you see an opportunity to provide valuable information, create new content around those topics.
Once you find dead landing pages and determine which topics you want to pursue, you can reach out to those who have linked to this content, show them the page isn’t working, and provide them with a link to your content instead. (If you already have a relevant article, great! If not, write one up and publish it, then send it away.)
Links to dead pages can really affect a website’s ranking factor. That’s why people are more than happy to replace them with live alternatives.
- Find the 404 pages on the competitor’s website by using Ahref’s Site Explorer or ScreamingFrog
- Use Dead Link Checker to verify that the links to this page aren’t working
- Recreate content and offer the website owner to link to your article instead of your competitor’s 404 page
4. Analyze their website
If your competition is ranking high for your favorite keywords, see if you can find some flaws in their website design. From there, you can focus on making your website better and nullifying your competition’s efforts. Things to pay attention during a competitor audit include:
- Site structure – How the content is organized on the website (subdomains, internal links, etc.)
- Site speed – How fast do pages load? Can you make your website’s loading speed better?
- Mobile-friendliness – How good does the website look on mobile devices? Are all the necessary features available to mobile users?
- User interface – Is the site easy to navigate? What about hreflang (which, as Semrush explains, tells search engines the relationship between pages in different languages on your site)?
You can crawl the entire site to find out how your competitors structure subfolders, use internal links, and take advantage of on-page SEO. These tools can help:
5. Look at their Google Business Profile
For local companies, a Google Business Profile (formerly a Google My Business page) can be a highly important SEO tool. Ask yourself: What is our competition doing to look appealing on this page?
- Do they update the page regularly?
- Do they use images?
- Are there reviews?
- How many people are following the page?
If any of these components are lacking, you can capitalize on mistakes and hone your profile page accordingly. If they do a great job maintaining this page, see what you can do to mirror them.
10 SEO competitor analysis tools we use
There are a lot of options out there when it comes to tools you can use for SEO competitor analysis. And each one on this list features unique capabilities that can help you on your competitor analysis journey.
Semrush is an SEO standby – and for good reason. This multifaceted tool has a slew of key features to help with SEO competitor analysis including domain overview, organic research, backlink analysis, and more.
SpyFu is another popular digital marketing tool that provides features for SEO competitor analysis. It focuses on competitive intelligence, keyword research, and PPC analysis.
BrandVerity is primarily known for its brand protection and compliance monitoring solutions, but it has some key features geared toward SEO competitor analysis as well such as affiliate program compliance and data and reporting.
iSpionage is typically focused on PPC advertising, but this tool has plenty of features you can use for SEO competitor analysis.
From keyword monitoring to ad copy and landing page analysis, iSpionage’s suite of capabilities can help take your SEO to the next level.
Ahrefs is a comprehensive SEO tool known for its robust features. When it comes to SEO competitor analysis, Ahrefs provides a wide range of tools and data to help you understand your competitors’ strategies and identify opportunities for improvement.
BuiltWith is a tool primarily focused on web technology and website profiling rather than traditional SEO competitor analysis. However, it can provide some useful insights that may indirectly support your SEO efforts.
Chief among these is BuiltWith’s ability to analyze which Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) your competitors are using. This information is relevant to a website’s speed and performance, which can impact a site’s SEO.
Also known as Surfer, this tool focuses on on-page SEO analysis and optimization rather than traditional SEO competitor analysis. It provides various features to help improve the on-page SEO of your website by comparing it to top-ranking pages in search results.
BuzzSumo is a content research and social media analytics tool that primarily focuses on content discovery, social engagement metrics, and influencer identification.
This tool has a ton of features that can support your SEO efforts, especially in terms of content strategy and social media engagement.
SparkToro is a unique audience intelligence platform co-founded by Rand Fishkin, one of the co-founders of Moz.
While it primarily focuses on audience research and understanding your target audience, it can indirectly support SEO competitor analysis by providing insights into audience behavior, preferences, and where they engage online.
Frase.io is an AI-powered content optimization platform designed to help content creators and marketers improve their content’s search engine rankings.
While it primarily focuses on content optimization, it does offer some features that can support SEO competitor analysis by providing insights into your competitors’ content strategies.
Analyzing your SEO competition through a competitor analysis can help you gain valuable insight into what works in your industry. It’s win-win: You can see what they’re doing right and determine ways to follow suit, and you can also capitalize on their mistakes or areas where they fall short.
Looking at what your competition is doing isn’t just a smart trick: It’s an integral part of a solid search engine optimization strategy.
Want to learn more about analyzing your SEO competition? Let’s talk.
This article has been updated and was originally published in May 2020.