Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is becoming increasingly important for any online business. What’s the reason? SEO is one of the most important ways for people to find your brand online, and where you rank is critical.
According to Backlinko, the top spot on Google receives a 27 percent click-through rate, while the second page receives only a 0.63 percent CTR.
An SEO competitive analysis (as a supplement to a full digital marketing competitive analysis) will show you what your competitors are doing with SEO and how you compare.
It will highlight your strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to devise a strategy to keep you ahead of them in the rankings (Google and otherwise). In a competitive analysis, you perform five key steps:
- Identify your competitors
- Explore their SEO strategy
- Research their keywords
- Explore their on-page optimization
- Study their backlinks
So let’s get started and learn how to perform competitive analysis in SEO.1.
1. Identify your competitors
Whether you are a new or established business, you should be aware of your competitors. This applies not only to the products or services you sell but also to your search engine ranking – your SEO competitors!
Making a list of your competitors is the first step in identifying them. Examine your keywords and website searches for which you want to rank first and see which websites or companies appear.
For example, in the example below, when searching for ‘SEO trends 2023,’ Wordstream has the featured snippet, while Search Engine Journal has positions two and three. These are your main competitors if you want to rank for this term.
There are also some excellent SEO competitive analysis tools available that can assist you. SEMRush has a competitive analysis tab that will show you other websites that are ranking for the same keywords as yours. Another tool with a competitor option to consider is KW Finder.
This will also help you find sites you may not have heard of or considered, which is a good way to find competitors.
2. Explore their SEO strategy
Examine your competitors’ websites to learn about their SEO strategies. This includes the website structure, content types, and targeted keywords (both short and long-tail).
You should also look at the speed and mobile responsiveness of your competitors’ websites. This can be accomplished with tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights and Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
Knowing these things will help you understand how your website compares in terms of technical SEO to your competitors.
Analyze your competitors’ content
It’s critical to understand not only what types of content your competitors create, but also what content gets the most traffic. Learn the following to aid your SEO strategy:
What are their most popular pages?
Which pages rank for specific keywords?
Which pages generate the greatest amount of traffic?
To find the most popular content in a given niche, use a tool like BuzzSumo. This will assist you in determining what types of content are resonating with your target audience and which topics should be prioritized.
You might be surprised by the content that your competitors use to drive traffic. A blog, a landing page, or even an ebook could be used.
Look at your competitors’ social media presence
When it comes to increasing brand awareness and directing traffic, social media has a lot of clouts.
Examine your competitors’ social media channels. Consider their number of followers, the type of content they share, and their level of engagement. This will assist you in comprehending how your competitors use social media to drive traffic to their websites.
Check your competitors’ rankings for keywords that you are targeting
This will assist you in determining which keywords your competitors rank for and how well they perform.
You should have a list of primary and secondary keywords for which you want to rank. Remember that these keywords can change and rankings can drop, so it’s important to keep an eye on them on a regular basis.
The goal is to rank for your main keywords, but you should also look for low-hanging fruit, which is relevant but have low competition, so you can move up the rankings.
3. Research their keywords
You may be doing well for your primary keywords, but what about the ones for which you rank but are at the bottom of page one of the SERP?
Pay attention to those keywords because incorporating them into your content may help you overtake your competitor and land a position ahead of them.
You should also consider any keywords that your competitors may have lost but still have a high search volume. See where they are falling in the rankings, then go to the page and try to figure out why. Then seize the opportunity by creating content that incorporates those keywords.
4. Explore their on-page optimization
Your competitors may outrank you in SEO because they spend time and effort optimizing their pages.
As a result, you must examine the pages that are outranking you. This will assist you in determining why your competitors are performing better in terms of search engine positioning.
Elements you should consider in your analysis are:
Titles are important to Google because they show how relevant a keyword is to a search and are a ranking factor. As title tags tell browsers how to display your page’s title in search results, social media, and browser tabs, make sure they are correct and linked to the right keyword.
Meta-data is required for meta keywords and meta description tags. Both will assist Google in determining the topic of your page. Examine what your competitors are doing to optimize their search results.
Headlines or headings – Google prefers headings and gives h> tags weight when they are related to specific keywords. These can also be used for featured snippets, which will push your content to the top of the page. According to Ahrefs, when Google ignores the title tag, it uses H1 tags nearly 51% of the time instead.
Internal linking structure – Internal links help to direct visitors to relevant content while also providing a lot of SEO juice to your pages. Don’t overcrowd a piece with links; instead, include quality, relevant ones that keep visitors on your site.
Quality content – You can write as much content as you want, but unless it’s good and relevant, no one will read it, and search engines will ignore it. When it comes to content creation, quality trumps quantity. Competitors who rank high may be using blogs to help them become authorities on the subject, so conduct a quick search to find out what they are. If you need some ideas, check out this ‘Guide to Content Ideation’.
Images and videos -Are your competitors optimizing their images and videos for the web and mobile? Are they appropriately labeled with descriptive and pertinent names? To compete, you should do the same.
Structured data and schema markup – Structured data assists search engines in understanding the content of a page and can improve visibility in search results.
URLs – Examine your competitors’ URLs to see if they are doing anything unique. Ensure that your URLs are descriptive, concise, and contain relevant keywords.
Customer experience – Because usability is a ranking factor, examine the layout, navigation, and load time of your competitors’ pages. What is a customer’s overall experience like, and how does it compare to yours?
5. Study their backlinks
Backlinks are essential for search engine optimization and ranking. You can learn a lot from your competitors’ backlink profiles if you use Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz.
However, it is not about the number of backlinks. Quality backlinks are what you want, and they are an excellent addition to any piece of content. In fact, low-quality backlinks can harm your pages and be perceived as spam, so avoid using outreach to simply obtain links from anyone.
For example, if one of your pages is linked from a high-authority site like Wired, it adds authority to your pages and helps them rank higher.
Analyze your competitors’ backlinks to see if you can replicate the ones that are helping them climb the rankings. Are they receiving favorable media coverage or being recommended by a reputable organization or body?
Take note of sites that link to your competitors because they may also link to you. You can always contact them about a new blog or guide that covers a new topic or in a more effective way to obtain backlinks.