BLOG
Click to hear an audio recording of this post

Wondering why your competitors are ranking higher in Google search results for most of your targeted keywords?

Most likely, they have a robust SEO strategy and looks like it’s working. 

You may also have your SEO strategy in place. But if your competitors are outperforming you consistently, you might as well check what they’re doing.

Sometimes tracking your competitors’ practices can reveal a treasure trove of information that can help you improve your SEO performance that can result in more revenue for your business.

So let’s discuss why and how to perform competitive analysis for SEO and outrank your competitors. If you need help with this you can always reach out to our SEO agency and we can help you with it.

What is SEO Competitor Analysis?

When you analyse your competitors’ SEO strategies and practices to know what’s working for them and what’s not — this process is known as SEO competitor analysis. 

Ideally, you would analyse the SEO processes of successful competitors so that you can learn from their success recipes. At the same time, you’d also want to know the areas where they’re vulnerable.

Accordingly, you’d improve your SEO practices to enhance the performance of your SEO strategy.

Why Bother About Competitor Analysis for SEO?

Whether you’re just starting with SEO or already ranking on top of the search results in Google for your targeted keywords, there will be other sites that are targeting the same or similar keywords. Hence, you need to keep a tab on their SEO efforts. 

Besides, here are some of the key reasons to conduct SEO competitive analysis. 

Gives you an Idea of Competitive Landscape

The easiest way to lose a game is by not knowing who you’re playing against. 

When you perform SEO competitive analysis, you’d get to know the level of competition in your industry. Also, you’ll be able to identify the key competitors for the keywords you’re targeting.

Provides Insights for Success

By analysing your competitors’ SEO strategies, you will better understand why some of them are generating outrageous amounts of organic traffic and conversions. Thus, you can learn from their strengths and capitalise on them.

At the same time, you will also understand why some of your competitors are struggling. This serves as a red flag and educates you about the practices you should avoid. 

Helps you Find Gaps 

There’s nothing like a perfect SEO strategy or campaign. There could be a few SEO practices that you might be doing right while some may need improvement. 

When you compare your SEO strategy to the competitors who are consistently ranking higher in search results, you might discover the gaps in your strategy. And you’d want to work on these gaps to see how it affects your rankings. 

Additionally, you may also come across a few SEO weaknesses of your strong competitors. This is where you can improve upon and convert it into an opportunity to one-up with them.

How to Conduct Competitor Analysis for SEO?

The most organised and quickest way to conduct SEO competitive analysis is by using the competitor research tools. Most of these tools are comprehensive SEO solutions with many more functionalities other than competitor analysis.

That said, here’s how you can perform an effective competitor analysis for SEO. 

Discover Your Actual Competitors

The very first step is knowing your SEO competitors.

You may already know some of the biggest brands in your industry and end up considering them as your organic search competitors. However, you might be in for a surprise when you conduct SEO competitor research. 

The ones that you think of as your competitors and the actual rivals may not be the same. 

A beginner’s way to find them is by searching your niche keywords on search engines and checking the ranking domains one by one. But that’s feasible only if you’re looking at a few keywords. 

But popular sites rank for thousands of keywords. So if you want to conduct a thorough SEO competitor analysis, you’d need a sophisticated SEO tool.  

For example, let’s perform the SEO competitor analysis for Cascade. It’s a SaaS (Software as a Service) company specialising in strategy planning & execution software. 

Here, we’ll conduct the competitive SEO analysis of Cascade’s competitors using Ahrefs all-in-one SEO toolset.

First, Let’s take a look at the SEO overview of Cascade so that we can compare it with the competitors’ SEO profiles.

Cascade overview

As you can see, it shows Cascade’s key SEO parameters such as: 

  • Ahrefs rank
  • URL rating (UR) and domain rating (DR)
  • Number of backlinks and referring domains
  • Number of organic keywords 
  • Organic traffic and its value

Now let’s find out the SEO competitors.

There can be plenty of competitors offering similar services. However, you don’t need to track all of them. You need to identify your top three to four SEO competitors and analyse their SEO strategies. 

Here’s a list of Cascade’s competitor domains in Australia.

competing domains cascade

However, not all of them are relevant for our analysis.

Some of them are government agencies and other software providers that rank for common keywords. But if you check the percentage of common keywords, it’s negligible. 

Moreover, they’re also not operating in the same business domain as Cascade. Hence, we don’t need to track their SEO strategies.

So we shortlisted three main business competitors with the highest common keywords percentage. They are:

actual SEO competitors

For this guide, we’ll limit our SEO analysis to these three competitors. Here’s their domain overview.

clearpoint strategy overview
OnStrategy Overview
achieveit overview

When we compare them with Cascade’s SEO overview, it’s evident from the overview that ClearPoint Strategy and OnStrategy are stronger SEO competitors in all the key aspects such as DR, backlinks, organic traffic & keywords, etc. 

Next, we need to analyse the competitors’ organic traffic trends. 

competitor average organic traffic

As we compare the average monthly organic traffic for the last two years, we can see that OnStrategy had its monthly traffic at a peak between September to November 2020.

At the same time, they saw their lowest traffic in the last two years during November 2021.  

Moreover, when you conduct competitor analysis for SEO, you would also want to know the regions from where your SEO competitors are pulling the majority of their web traffic. 

Here’s the country-wise traffic breakdown of OnStrategy. 

onstrategyhq-countrywise-traffic-breakdown

Thus, we have the basic traffic analysis such as total visits and the top five traffic source countries. Out of the 55k monthly visitors, nearly 24k are from the U.S. That’s almost 43% of the website traffic.

Now, conduct a similar analysis for each of your SEO competitors. 

Then, compare it with your web traffic data and look for the gaps. If your site is not attracting visitors from the regions where your competitors are, you can audit your content strategy and target the regions accordingly.

Thus, you can tap the unexplored markets and get the traffic, leads, and sales from those regions.  

Look for Keyword Gaps

While doing the competitor keyword gap analysis you may come across some keywords that you and your competitors both target. 

On the other hand, you may also discover keywords that your competitors are targeting and ranking for but you don’t. These are the keyword gaps. 

keyword gap supple

Here’s the list of keywords that competitors rank for but Cascade doesn’t. 

keyword gap competitor analysis

The keyword gaps are opportunities to extend your business’s reach and get more traffic, leads, and conversions to your site. 

So once you find your keyword gaps with each SEO competitor, add them to your keywords list. 

Next, start creating quality content around those keywords. Ideally, you should aim at creating better content than all of your competitors that rank for that search query.

For instance, OnStrategy’s content ranks on the first page of Google search results for the keyword “strategic development”. 

Content gap competitor analysis

Find and Analyse Top Content

At this stage, aim at discovering the top-performing content on your SEO competitors’ websites and evaluate them. 

By analysing these pages, you would know:

  • The pages that rank for various long-tail keywords/and those keywords 
  • The pages that attract maximum visitors
  • The pages that generate quality backlinks, etc.

For instance, take a look at the top pages of OnStrategy. Most of these pages rank between number one to five for specific keywords in Google search results. 

Top pages competitor analysis

Likewise, find out the top-performing content of all the competitors and evaluate parameters like:

  • Content topics: The range of topics they cover through content. Compare and see if there are content gaps. They could be your future content ideas. 
  • Content quality: Check how comprehensive and actionable content they publish.
  • Content structure: Pay attention to the structure of content. For example, the headings and subheadings. The idea is to keep it simple and skimmable.
  • Visuals and other engaging elements: Analyse the use of images, infographics, gifs, videos, etc. within their blog posts. Content with visuals generates more social shares and backlinks. 
  • Content length: Do they publish short-form or long-form content? Check the average word count of their blog posts. Detailed content usually performs better.
  • Content formats: See how they leverage different content formats such as blogs, guides, ebooks, whitepapers, reports, newsletters, videos, webinars, podcasts, etc.  

The above research will help you identify areas where your competitors are outperforming you or — are weaker than you. Take inspiration from what they are doing great and create better content than them.

However, always keep in mind that the content that addresses the search intent — the user’s intention while searching for a query — most satisfactorily along with the above considerations will definitely perform. 

Besides, you can also check your competitors’ popular pages that get maximum social shares.

Top content competitor analysis

This can help you know the social media platforms that your competitors use to distribute and promote content. 

A backlink (or inbound link) is one of the most crucial ranking factors in Google’s algorithm. The inbound links from high authority sites add to your website’s reputation and influence. 

That is why evaluating a competitor’s backlinks is an important aspect of conducting a competitor analysis for SEO. It helps you understand the sources of inbound links on your competitors’ sites. 

For example, here is the backlink profile for OnStrategy. 

Backlink profile competitor analysis

You can see the web pages and domains that have linked to this page along with the anchor text used for linking. 

Similarly, analyse the backlink profiles of all your SEO competitors and make a list of the high authority websites that link to all your competitors but not you. Then you can also start link building outreach to these sites.

Also, consider researching the broken backlinks of your competitor’s website. You may reach out to those referring domains to remove the links to the non-existent pages and replace them with your valuable content.

For instance, OnStrategy has a few broken backlinks since those pages are either redirected or don’t exist anymore.

broken backlinks competitor

Additionally, here are a few domains that have removed the links directed to these pages on OnStrategy’s site.

onstrategyhq-removed-backlinks

Once you have the list of broken and removed backlinks from all the competing websites, you can start contacting the referring sites to replace the dead links by linking to your relevant content.

Here, the idea is to find the gaps in backlinks between your site/web pages and that of your competitors. Then capitalize on the opportunity and get them to link to your content.

Sometimes you may lack relevant content that can be linked. This is an opportunity to create content that can earn links from the sites that link to your competitors.

Thus, backlink profile analysis can also guide you in your content creation efforts.  

Finally, you also need to study how your competitors link internally to their content and web pages. It helps search engines understand your website easily.

This is how OnStrategy links its internal pages.

internal backlinks competitor analysis

If you analyse the anchor text and the linked resource, you’ll understand that they’ve linked some content to encourage further reading on the topic. At the same time, they’ve used the highlighted content as lead magnets by offering them as freebies.

Accordingly, you can appraise your internal linking strategy and optimise the value of your content assets by using them as content upgrades or lead magnets. 

Moreover, you can also offer more value to your readers by linking contextually relevant content on various pages of your site. 

According to a study by Ahrefs, the first URL in the search results gets 26% of the traffic when there is no featured snippet in the search results. 

However, when there’s a featured snippet in the results 8.6% of the traffic is diverted to the snippet and the first URL ends up with 19.6% traffic.

Featured Snippet CTR

Moreover, it’s easier to take over your competitors’ featured snippets position as compared to replacing them from organic rankings. 

But before you can target the snippet position you need to know:

  • The keywords for which the competitors earned or lost featured snippets
  • The total number of featured snippets each of your competitors rank for

Getting back to our hypothetical SEO competitive analysis, here’s a sneak peek into OnStrategy’s earned and lost featured snippet position for specific keywords between November and December 2021. 

onstrategyhq-featured-snippets-position-changes

Here, you can see the keywords and the content that recently earned or lost the snippet position. You can target both.

For the newly added snippet, check their content and create better content or update the existing one. 

To optimise for featured snippets, ensure that you:

  • Create content that answers search queries accurately 
  • Have a well-organised outline for content
  • Add more value than your competitors. For example, using rich media, examples, statistics, infographics etc.
  • Create research-based content, etc. 

Track Competitors’ PPC Keywords

You can get some valuable insights into your SEO competitors’ marketing strategy by analysing their PPC keywords and ad spend. 

For instance, if they have been consistently bidding on some PPC keywords, they might be getting good returns on their ad spend. 

For example, AchieveIt has 15 sponsored keywords. 

ppc keywords competitor analysis

However, not all paid ads generate similar results. 

For instance, the keywords — “portfolio management strategy” (red box) and “corporate planning” (blue box) — both have high search volume. But the former attracted 31.9% of the entire paid traffic while the latter failed to attract any traffic to their site. 

So with such detailed analysis, you can define your strategy for Google Ads and decide your budget. 

Thus, you can track all your competitors’ Google ad spend and the list of their sponsored keywords and include them into your list of paid keywords to see how profitable they are for your site. 

Analyse Website Design and User Experience 

With every major algorithm update, Google has been emphasising more on User Experience (UX). 

Simply put, what matters the most to your users is what matters the most to Google. So if your website is slow or difficult to navigate, your bounce rate — visitors leaving the web page or site without any further action —  will increase.

For instance, if a web page takes five seconds to load the bounce rate can go up to 38%. This would negatively impact your search visibility and rankings. 

Consequently, it can result in decreased website traffic, leads, and sales. Hence, you don’t want to leave any stone unturned to provide an impeccable UX and web design to your users.  

So it makes sense to spy on successful SEO competitors’ site structure and user experience. 

Here’s what you need to check:

  • The visual appeal and design elements of the site
  • Placement of CTAs (Call to Action buttons)
  • Site speed and design responsiveness
  • Mobile usability
  • Website structure and navigation, etc.

For example, we analysed ClearPoint Strategy’s homepage design and UX. Let’s take a look.

website-design-ux-clearpoint

This is what we found:

  1. Starting from the top, the homepage header (yellow box) is decluttered yet contains the links to the key sections and pages of the website that a user may need.
  2. They’ve used eye-soothing colours throughout the page. 
  3. Good use of visual elements in the middle section (red box). It catches the attention of visitors.
  4. The CTAs (blue arrows) are evenly distributed throughout the homepage so that users can directly visit those pages without having to scroll up and down.
  5. Navigation is easy — users can go from the top of the home page to the bottom in three or four scrolls.
  6. They’ve placed a client testimony video (green box) in the middle of the page. It provides social proof to potential customers.

Further, we also audited their site speed and mobile usability with the help of Supple’s free SEO audit tool

clearpoint-website-ux Analysis

ClearPoint Strategy scored well for desktop and mobile site speed. But the site is not optimised for mobile devices

Similarly, you need to analyse all the competing sites. 

Again, the idea is to find the gaps in your web design and UX by analysing competitors’ sites. This would help you outperform them on their strengths and avoid mistakes. 

Also, consider keeping an SEO friendly or flat site structure. This can help you optimise your crawl budget for SEO. In simple words, it helps the Googlebot to scan your site pages easily and index them.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the basics of conducting a competitor analysis for SEO, it’s time for some action. 

Implement the above tactics to track how the top-ranking competitors are using SEO strategies, find gaps in your practices, and fill the gaps.

Also note, that competitive analysis is not a one-time task, it’s an ongoing process that will only get better with time. 

 

Enter Your Website & get an instant SEO Report for FREE