Why and How Should I Conduct a Competitor Analysis for SEO?
You mention SEO or competitor research analysis, and most people begin to feel overwhelmed. I would be surprised if you felt any different. It can seem like a daunting task, especially with the world of SEO changing so quickly.
Your competitors can actually be your greatest allies if you allow them to be.
Instead of starting from scratch, you can figure out their strategy, replicate their successes and improve on their weaknesses. You might even find a hole in the market and boost your own content.
In this article you’ll learn how to find your competitors, discover what they are doing and learn how you can replicate their wins. So you can outrank, boost your traffic and start attracting more of your dream clients online.
Table of Contents:
- What is Competitor Analysis
- Why is competitor analysis important
- How to do to competitive analysis in 5 Steps
What is Competitor Analysis
Competitor Analysis or Competitive Research Analysis is a strategy where you identify your competitors and research their content strategies. By doing this, you will learn your competitors’ strengths, understand your industry better, and it will allow you to improve your own marketing strategy.
Competitor analysis is not about copying or stealing marketing, content or keyword strategy. Rather it is an investigation that allows you to understand strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and what to avoid. You can use this learning to do things better than your competitor and (with a little luck) overtake them in the SERPS.
The goal is to get a panoramic view of what you’re up against and improve on your own unique value.
Why is SEO Competitor Analysis Important?
It’s almost impossible to have a successful marketing strategy without research.
Marketing is like a house. It may look beautiful outside, but if the foundations (research) are not robust, the whole house (marketing strategy) will come tumbling down. You can’t build a strong and stable house without knowing the ground that it sits on and the foundations that will carry it.
You can’t create a marketing strategy without knowing where your opportunities lie – and you find this in quality research.
Analysis takes the guesswork out of your marketing strategy and empowers you to confidently aim for success.
Every brand can benefit from regular competitor analysis.
By performing a competitor analysis, you’ll be able to:
- Identify gaps in the market. For example: finding keywords with high search volume that haven’t been targeted by other SEOs in your space
- Understand how your existing or potential audience is interacting with your competition
- Discover new ideas that provide an edge or advantage over your competitors
- Create real, measurable strategies to expand or rank
How to Do a Competitor Analysis in 5 Steps
1. Identify your competitors
To conquer a mountain, you first need to know which one you are going to climb. When it comes to competitor analysis this means figuring out who your competitors are. So how do you do this?
Identify the type of competitors you want to go after:
- Direct Competitors offers the same products and services, aimed at the same target market and has the same goal as you. They are often geographically similar.
- Indirect Competitors is another company that offers similar products or services, but the end goals are different. As such, they would not satisfy the same customers’ needs or solve the same problem.
When comparing your brand, you should focus on your direct competitors. Now, this doesn’t mean you should forget about indirect competitors altogether. Often they will be ranking on similar pages as you or may begin to expand into your market.
So how do you find your competitors? From free to paid, there are a range of tools including:
One of the best tools on the market for competitive analysis is SEMRush. While it is a paid tool, they offer some of their functions for free with only a limit on how many queries a month you can make.
With RSPCA pet insurance as an example, The Organic Research Tool shows you your main competitors and their traffic.
Take all this data and drop it into a spreadsheet. Remove any duplicates and then sort the document by the competition level column. The competitors that have filtered to the top of the list are more likely to be direct, and indirect competitors lower on the list.
From here, you will be able to delve deeper into their backlinks, keyword rankings, content and keywords difficulty.
2 Examine your competitors’ websites
Pull individual metrics for each competitor
Now that you’ve identified your competitors, you can begin to delve into the key metrics for each site. The level of your competitors’ web assets will affect their domain authority, which is a ranking factor for SEO.
For each competitor, find the following metrics and note them into your spreadsheet:
- Organic keywords: the number of keywords the domain ranks for
- Organic monthly traffic: the total estimated traffic the domain gets
- Domain score: the overall authority of the website from 1 (low) to 100 (high)
- Link sources or referring domains: the number of domains that link back to the site
An ideal tool for this is Ubersuggest. It offers an overview of the website’s health and offers a free plan with comprehensive tools.
Search Engines favour websites that have authority (domain authority) and backlinks as it shows they are a reputable source. If you have less you may find yourself at the back of the race before you have even begun.
The great news is you can still win even if you are behind. The number of new referring domains tells you where and how they are acquiring new links. This means that you know exactly how to replicate this success to get ahead.
Overall SEO Metrics
Apart from the link profile, some key metrics will give you a sense of just how competitive your SEO targets are. Treat this website audit as an opportunity to close the gaps on your own website to increase domain authority and rank higher.
Some of the information you want to focus on are:
- Average monthly visits
- Page views, bounce rate, time on site
- Traffic by geographical location
- Sources of traffic
- Traffic demographic
For this, I would recommend Followme or SEMRUSH.
- An advantage of SEMRush is it has multiple tools that can be used within your competitive analysis research.
- For Follow Me, all you need to do is create an account, opt for a free plan. Type in one of your competitors and collect the key metrics. It’s that simple.
At this point, you’re armed with a thorough SEO analysis of your competitors. You know how well their website is optimised, whether you have holes to plug in your own website and what backlinks they have to increase their domain authority.
You can now delve a little bit deeper into their content. Reviewing your competitors’ content will help you understand their content strategy. It will offer clues on how your audience is responding and how to structure your own content.
What types of content do they produce:
- Case studies
- Buying guides
Look at not only the types of content but what are their best pieces of content. Finding their highest ranking content will show you the best keywords to rank for and what topics appeal to your audiences.
If you are trying to find out how competitive the market is for a particular subject. Buzzsumo will be your saviour. It allows you, free for a month, to compare your content to your competitors across platforms. You can also track topics so you can find a specific angle that has not been covered yet.
Aside from content types, also look at the frequency and quality of production.
- Are they posting daily, weekly, or monthly?
- Do they only post in-depth articles?
- Is there a focus on quantity or quality?
- Do they have lead generation type content such as download or contact?
- What is their sign-up process?
4. Review social media feedback and performance.
Social networks are a goldmine for understanding the customer and the level of interaction your competitors have with the market.
Here is how to conduct a competitor analysis using social media:
- Analyse how the company responds to questions
- Browse mentions and hashtags to evaluate overall conversations using Tweetdeck.
- Follow real-time reactions of your competitors’ audience. You can use Tweetdeck
- Impact of specific hashtags – Twitter Reach
- Read the latest reviews. These could help identify weaknesses you could improve upon.
- Use the Pages to Watch feature to monitor how similar pages engage with their audiences.
- You can also see what other brands your fans like by typing “pages liked by people who like [your page name]” in the Graph Search box.
- What types of visuals do they use? Are they leveraging new Instagram features such as Reels or Live stories?
- Estimate cost of promoting posts
- Are they partnering with influencers? Who and Why?
- BuzzSumo: Compare your content to your competitors.
5.Benchmark your business with SWOT analysis.
Now that you’ve lined up several direct competitors, benchmark your own business against theirs to see where you can improve. Analyse yours and their businesses from the perspective of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
Your analysis should cover the following areas:
- Brand positioning
- The customer experience (UX design)
- Pricing strategy
- Audience Engagement
- Off-page and Technical SEO
- Content strategy
- Shipping strategy
- Discounts/Promo strategy
To get answers for each section, ask the following questions:
- In which areas does this brand excel?
- Can you identify anything that they do better than you?
- Where can they improve? (i.e. regularity of social media posting)?
- What areas have they missed? (e.g., do they use a Paid media channels)?
- How can you do better? For example, can you optimise your content for keywords?
Contrast the competitors’ weaknesses against your strengths. Pay attention to the opportunities they are missing. Is there any way you could capitalise on them?
Strengths and threats, on the contrary, will help you better gauge the overall market conditions and entry barrier — and prepare you to conquer it.
How does your business stack up?
In the world we live in, competition is inevitable. But when you understand how you stack up against your competition, it gives you the unique ability to improve your business and your marketing strategy. Not just for the benefit of your business, but for your customers too.