SEO Competitor Analysis: A Step-By-Step Guide

Ciprian on Tuesday, May 2, 2023 in SEO

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If you want to climb up the search engine results pages (SERPs), it’s helpful to do a competitive SEO analysis to learn where your competition ranks and for what keywords. When you know what your competitors are doing well at and what opportunities they’re missing out on, you can use those insights to increase your own rankings. A proactive approach to SEO competitive analysis helps you understand:

  • Where keyword opportunities are
  • What types of content users respond to for specific keywords
  • What SEO strategies are working for competitors in your space
  • Where you should focus your time to optimize for conversions
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What is SEO Competitor Analysis?

Competitor analysis SEO is the process of identifying any related website that ranks higher than you on SERPs for search terms related to your product, service, or company. Learning about what’s working for your competition enables you to apply those insights to your own SEO strategy.

Your business might have done competitor analysis for everything from product development to marketing strategy. But it’s important to be aware that your main business competitors may be different from your main SEO competitors. That’s why an SEO competitor analysis can help you identify the brands to pay attention to for SEO strategy.

Use this SEO competitor analysis guide to learn about the benefits of competitor analysis in SEO and how to execute it effectively.

1. Identify Your SEO Competitors

The first step in a competitive SEO analysis is to learn who your competitors are. The goal for this stage of your SEO competitive analysis is to analyze your target competitors based on the search terms you’re targeting. This will help you learn more about who you’re up against, including:

  • Their current business initiatives
  • What content drives traffic for them
  • How they’re positioning their product in the market

2. Compare Your Rankings and Content with SEO Competitors

Next, spend time analyzing your target keywords so that you know your biggest competitors are in search. You’ll likely discover several previously unknown competitors scaling the SERPs for your top keyword targets. Consider these different kinds of competitors:

1. Direct competitors: These are likely competitors you know about who provide similar services/products/software you do. For example, say you’re a window manufacturer that sells a type of uPVC window. When you search that specific type in a search engine like Google, you’ll likely see other retailers of that window type pop up in the results.

2. Indirect competitors, including content creators and publishers: These are brands or websites outranking you who are not your direct competition. They can be news sources, social media sites like Pinterest, content creation sites like YouTube or individual bloggers. Going back to the window type example, you may find articles on DIY blogs or in online news sites that mention that type of window in the SERPs.

These indirect competitors are still worth considering when you’re doing your competitive analysis. You must understand where your competitors are outranking you on the SERPs and what kind of content is performing for the keywords you’re targeting.

While it’s smart to focus on companies you already know are your competitors, make keywords your basis for analysis. This will allow you to identify the full scope of brands, publishers, and bloggers competing with your content. That way, you can gain more insights into the type of content ranking for those keywords.

You’ll also want to find keywords that competitors are ranking for that you’re not. This is called a competitive content gap analysis. Using this knowledge, you can integrate high-value keywords into your own SEO strategy.

3. Discover Content Opportunities Where You Can Outrank SEO Competition

Approach your response to your SEO competitive analysis using the SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) framework. See:

  • Your competitors’ strengths
  • Their weaknesses
  • Opportunities to replicate their strengths and capitalize on their weaknesses on your own site
  • Where your competitors are outperforming you and ways to improve upon those areas

The biggest rule of a successful competitive analysis is to never assume anything. Base your SEO campaign on hard facts obtained from three main channels.

  • Consider the data channels available to you. You can analyze the competitive landscape using tools such as Google Ads. You can use Google Sheets to pivot large quantities of data and mine for trends. Advanced SEO platforms can automate SEO competitive analysis and discovery, deepening your insight into your competitive landscape.
  • Conduct off-page and on-page analysis. This involves studying your competitors’ backlinks, anchor texts, social media strategy, tools used, content and page-by-page traffic figures. When you discover your competitors’ backlinks, you can reach out to those same websites to see if they’d link to your content, as well, or even swap out competitor links for yours. You can incorporate the successful on-page optimization strategies of your competitors on your own site for target keywords.
  • Analyze your competitor’s marketing strategies. These include past and present digital marketing programs and changes in website traffic before and after implementation of those marketing programs.

Analyzing the competitive landscape typically involves a lot of up-front effort. SEO competitor analysis is an ongoing process that should be completed continuously since the SERPs are highly dynamic. The more you focus on SEO competitor analysis, the better you can ensure you don’t miss out on opportunities to boost your own rankings. 

4. Create or Optimize Existing Content Based on Your Discoveries

Once you discover keywords, your competitors rank higher for, it’s important to determine whether your site needs to be optimized or whether you need new content for SEO. Your site may have technical issues like slow site speed or broken links that could be hindering your search engine results. Or, you may not have enough high-quality content that’s optimized for conversions.

Google’s algorithm changes periodically. Pages ranking on page 1 this month for a keyword may drop to page two or worse the next. That’s why monitoring page rankings and updating content accordingly should be a crucial part of your content and SEO strategy.

Analyze where your pages rank for target keywords and look for opportunities to optimize existing content based on your findings. Pages that rank on page 2 for target keywords are usually the best opportunities for optimization. These keywords are called “striking distance” keywords because they have a high potential to generate more traffic if they’re better optimized and make it to page 1.

If your target keywords are ranking too far outside of the striking distance, it may be time to create new content that addresses your customers’ needs.

When you’re creating new content, look at your competitors’ top-performing content. Then, identify ways you can significantly improve upon it, whether it’s by using newer data to better inform a piece of content, adding in visuals that create more engagement or doing a deeper dive on the topic that uses more industry knowledge or original research. Then, promote your new content to a similar audience your competitors targeted.

This strategy can help you:

  • Reach a newly interested audience
  • Get you linked on more sites, some of which may even swap out a competitor’s link for your better piece of content on their site
  • Establish you as an authority in your space

Whether you choose to optimize existing pages or create new content, these strategies can help you rank higher on Google SERPs.

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