If you’re not sure what competitive analysis is, it’s simply the process of studying your competitor’s SEO strategies and comparing them to yours. There are several benefits to performing an SEO competitive analysis, which we will explore in more depth below.
But first, let’s look at what an SEO competitor analysis is, ensure we know what to look for when performing an SEO competitor analysis, and the steps to take when performing one.
What is an SEO competitor analysis?
An SEO competitor analysis is a small, but powerful audit that can provide your business with vital information on your competitors’ web presence. This will give you details of their SEO tactics, keywords, website performance and more so that you can adjust your own SEO plans accordingly and gain a competitive advantage.
By understanding where your competitors are falling short, you can ensure that your website ranks above theirs on SERPs and reap the benefits of increased organic traffic. Don’t underestimate the importance of SEO competitor analysis because it could be the key to driving your business forward.
Who are your competitors?
Regarding search engine optimization (SEO), part of staying ahead of the competition is knowing who they are.
You may already know your main competitors, but did you know there’s a difference between direct and indirect competitors? And, did you know that by assessing what your indirect competitors are ranking for, you can get an idea of what content is in Google’s and users’ favor?
The four types of SEO competitors
When doing an SEO competitor analysis, you’ll find there are four types of competition:
- Direct: Direct competitors are those who sell the same product or service as you.
- Indirect: Indirect competitors don’t sell the same product or service as you, but rank for the exact keywords you’re targeting.
- Niche: Niche competition is from companies that don’t target your exact keywords, but may try to rank for phrases or keywords closely related to those for which you rank. For example, if you are a contractor, niche competitors might rank for “home building supplies” instead of “contractor” but may also have contractor services listed on their website.
- Replacement: Replacement competition is competitors who offer a different product or service than you, have the same pain points, but address them differently. Replacement competitors are the most challenging to identify and are the most dangerous to your business because they potentially solve the same problem as you do.
By assessing who your competitors are, you can begin to do an SEO competitor analysis.
Initiating an SEO competitor analysis and acting on it
Here is a quick guide on how to do an SEO competitor analysis and what to do after it is complete, plus we’ll use Nike as an example:
Identifying your competitors
To start monitoring your competitors, you first need to identify who they are and the best way to do so is conduct keyword research and identify essential queries. Ideally, you’ll use an SEO analytics tool such as Oncrawl to do so. Plug in a keyword for which you want to rank and a list of websites that rank well for it will show up.
With Nike, they would input keywords such as basketball shoes, athletic apparel, and sports gear. Oncrawl’s analytics tools would then give them a list of competitors who rank for the same keywords. That list would include companies such as Reebok, Adidas, and New Balance.
Content gap analysis
Once you’ve identified your competition, you’ll want to perform a content gap analysis. The idea is to find keywords your competitors are not using so you can focus your strategy on optimizing their potential and ultimately rank for them.
For example, perhaps Nike can see that Reebok is ranking for tennis shoes, basketball shoes, golf shoes, and running shoes, but not for soccer cleats. Nike has now found a gap in Reebok’s content for which it can then write copy and rank higher on search engine pages.
Find the highest return on investment (ROI) keywords your competition ranks for and focus on those. Trying to rank for every keyword your competition ranks for would be extremely time consuming and not necessarily the best use of your resources. Instead you should try to find the ones essential to your business or the ones for which your competitors don’t rank highly.
Nike might find keywords such as “badminton socks” or “rollerblade wheels” that Reebok doesn’t rank for. However, those keywords are not going to draw many visitors to their site. Nike would want to stick to more popular keywords that have variations of “shoe,” “equipment,” “shirt,” etc.
Creating and implementing your strategy
Now that you have the keywords you want to rank for, you can create a strategy. Create a list of the top keywords you need to use on your site, and put them in a spreadsheet, or use the built-in functions of SEO analysis software tools. Once you have identified the keywords you’ll focus on, start publishing content containing those keywords. Be careful not to engage in “keyword stuffing” because search engines are trained to look for that tactic.
Avoiding keyword stuffing is even more essential now because of Google’s Helpful Content Update to their algorithms. The Helpful Content Update is another attempt by Google to provide information that is useful to people instead of useful for search engines. Keyword stuffing essentially means creating a website that is more focused on checking boxes for Google’s algorithms rather than being something useful that people want to find. Now, however, content creators must provide value on their websites for Google to rank you higher; it’s no longer a question of just having the right number of keywords.
Going back to our example of Nike, here, they would gather up all the top keywords that Reebok doesn’t rank for (or doesn’t rank highly for) and get them organized in a spreadsheet. Then, Nike’s team of marketers and content writers would begin writing copy for “soccer cleats” or whichever other high-visibility keywords they think they can outrank Reebok for.
By looking at the top-ranking pages, you can get an idea of what kind of content resonates with users and Google. You can then develop your own content strategy to help you rank higher in search results. One of the ways you can keep track of your rankings is by using SEO rank tracking tools.
After your competitive analysis you should have everything you need to create your own content strategy that will allow you to rank higher on SERPs. You should now have enough information to:
- Identify your competition so you can monitor their next moves and implement ideas into your content strategy to counter them.
- Generate new ideas and try new tactics based on what your competition is doing or not doing.
- Find your own weak points and create a content strategy that addresses them.
- Test and refine any ideas you come up with based on your competitor analysis to ensure they are giving you the results you want.
What can we learn from an SEO Competitor analysis
Now that we have done an SEO competitor analysis, let’s look at the main takeaways.
Identify your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses
One of the main lessons from conducting a competitive analysis is that you can identify your competition’s strengths and weaknesses. This information can be precious in helping you to improve your own website’s SEO strategy. In addition to finding your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, you can use this information to:
- Better understand your own strengths and weaknesses.
- Spots trends within your industry.
- More fully understand your market and your target audience.
- Set benchmarks for future business and sales goals.
Competitive link data
The data on what links to competitors’ websites and where they point is invaluable for any SEO campaign. This information can help with strategic link building and developing relationships that could lead to backlinking opportunities, which every marketer wants.Thankfully, there are tons of AI SEO tools that can help you quickly identify your competitor’s links and help you create your own link building strategy.
Identify gaps in your content
By examining your competitors’ keywords, you can determine whether there are any gaps in your own content. This is particularly important at the top and middle funnel, where brand recognition and customer acquisition are essential.
When you understand how your competition uses their keywords and what keywords they use, you’ll have a “big picture” understanding of how to shape your website. Then, writing blog posts and other supporting content to fill these gaps and answer any questions your customers may have will be much easier.
Learn from their mistakes
By studying your competition, you may be able to learn from their mistakes. For example, if they are making errors that negatively impact their rankings, you can avoid making the same mistakes and give yourself a better chance of achieving a higher rank.
Online reviews left by customers have quickly become one of the deciding factors for people when they purchase products or services. Customer reviews are a fantastic, data driven marketing tool for businesses, and there is no better place to find them than on independent third-party websites.
These sites offer behind-the-scenes analysis tools that help demonstrate how customers feel about your competitor’s service approach and what is being talked about online when someone searches for their name or brand in Google. It also means you can track where links come from, which will be easier next time.
Local SEO benefits
Many local businesses rely more heavily on customer reviews, as well. In addition to a competitor analysis showing how customers feel about your competitors, local SEO competitor analysis can also show if they have a local SEO presence. If your business relies on foot traffic and your competitors are not utilizing their Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business), that can be a huge advantage.
Find new opportunities
Another benefit of conducting a competitive analysis is that you may find new opportunities on which you can capitalize. For example, by studying your competition, you may discover new keywords or strategies that they are using to achieve better rankings. You can then use these exact keywords and strategies on your own website to try to achieve similar results.
Aesthetic or functional awareness
You can see if certain design elements stand out by checking your competitor’s websites. Perhaps they are emphasizing words or products that give them an edge. You can also see if their site loads faster: site speed is becoming a factor for consumer satisfaction.
Overall, you can gain many benefits from conducting an SEO competitive analysis. By taking the time to study your competition, you can develop a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to SEO. This knowledge can improve your website’s SEO strategy and position you ahead of the competition.