How to perform SEO competitor analysis to outrank your competitors
Outranking your competitors on Google’s first page goes beyond publishing killer content and hoping you rank.
Unfortunately, your blog post or web page may join the 90.63% undiscovered content on Google.
It’s critical to conduct a thorough SEO competitive analysis to succeed in organic search rankings. You can do this by analyzing the competition’s SEO strategies and improving on their content gaps.
This article reveals a few practical ways to perform a competitive SEO analysis for a top spot on search engine rankings.
What is SEO competitor analysis?
An SEO competitor analysis involves researching your industry’s competitive landscape and evaluating the SEO competition – particularly the biggest players or those next in line, to improve your website SEO.
It helps you unravel questions like:
- Who are your main competitors?
- What keywords or key phrases should you target?
- What are your target audience’s pain points and how can you solve them?
- How can you improve your backlink profile?
Overall, you’ll figure out what the competition is doing right and identify and capitalize on their weaknesses for a competitive edge in organic rankings.
However, the SEO competitive analysis technique to use differs largely on the kind of SEO you’re analyzing.
What is on-page SEO competitor analysis?
On-page SEO competitor analysis gives you insights into what happens on the competition’s website. You’ll get info about their keyword usage, keyword density, article structure, metadata, meta tags, search intent, and overall content.
Competitor analysis tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Screaming Frog can help with measuring keyword difficulty, search volume, and ranking value.
What is off-page SEO competitor analysis?
Off-page SEO competitor analysis, on the other hand, gives you insight into what’s happening off the competition’s website that’s helping them rank. This analysis can help you get insights into how the competition is generating links and other marketing techniques they use to boost brand awareness.
Four ways to start your SEO competitor research
While it might sound straightforward, it isn’t always easy to figure out what the competition is up to. So, where do you start?
Here are four trusted ways to begin your search.
1) Perform competitor keyword research
Your business will not always rank No. 1 on Google’s search engine result pages (SERPs). But keyword research can help you identify similar competitors and how to outrank them. By running a keyword gap analysis on rival websites, you can identify relevant keywords, and use them to curate search terms that relate more to your buyer persona.
If you have a limited or non-existent budget, consider free tools such as Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner to identify ranking keywords. The results could even be filtered by search volume, location, seasonality (commercial value), and search intent.
But, for a better and faster approach, use third-party keyword research tools such as SEMrush, or Ahrefs to identify competitor keywords and finetune your keyword strategy. Export your list of keywords and other necessary keyword information to a spreadsheet and create content around them.
Keyword gap analysis aside, you must do an SEO content comparison, too. Why? The SERPs are unique; two users may have the same query in mind, but different intent and thus will desire different results. The Google SERPs account for this by producing different results with different search intent on Page 1.
For example; A “chocolate” query brings the following results:
The user intent behind the ‘chocolate’ query might be to learn of the history of chocolate, find recipes that include chocolate or check out chocolate brands. Whichever way, if you manufacture or sell chocolates, or are an affiliate to a chocolate brand, you must streamline your target keywords to capture intent at each stage of the buying cycle.
That said, you can do an SEO content comparison by analyzing the:
- Sponsored results on the SERPs which appear at the bottom of your screen or in the Google Search Graph.
- Featured snippets, “People also ask” boxes, images, carousels and other types of content assets that enhance the SERP visual experience.
- Listings that come up in an organic search for your focus keyword.
This will help you identify content gaps in competitor content that you can leverage in your content strategy.
2) Analyze other elements of competitors’ sites/pages
The next step in analyzing your competitors’ SEO is to check out their other competitor website and page elements. We talked about how you should check out the keywords they use on their sites. Consider the following things at this stage, too:
- Headlines: Are your competitor’s headlines compelling enough to entice a click? Could you improve their headlines?
- Content assets: Check out their content graphics. How relevant are they? Are they branded, stock images or just screenshots? Do they use images, screenshots, videos, or a combination?
- Sites they link to. Are they high-quality links or low-quality links? How is their internal linking strategy — are there any or is it non-existent?
- UI/UX design. Is it clean or clustered? Is their site lagging? Page speed is a critical Google ranking factor. Fifty-three percent of visitors abandon a mobile site taking over 3 seconds to load.
- Meta title: Is your competitor’s meta title compelling enough to entice someone to click on it? Could you improve on their title?
- Meta description: Is your competitor’s meta description compelling enough to entice someone to click on it? Could you improve on it?
It’s easy to check these elements manually. Just go to their sites and make your observations for each element. To see the meta title and meta description, input your target keywords in the Google search box. You should see search results displaying multiple meta-titles (in blue in the screenshot below) and meta descriptions (enclosed in red box):
The goal is to improve each of these elements to get your website to outrank the others. But this presupposes that you need to conduct an SEO audit of your site, too.
For instance, if you see your page speed isn’t up to par with theirs, you’d use a better web hosting service. We recommend a few hosting platforms based on first-hand experience and reviews from top brands. Bluehost, DreamHost, and SiteGround are some of the best web hosting platforms.
Pro tip: During your own site audit, take note of broken links, too. These may also affect your ability to outrank your competitors. Just use your preferred SEO tool to identify these broken links and rectify them.
3) Check your competitors’ backlinks
Backlinks indicate to search engines that other sites find your content trustworthy enough to link to it. That’s why high-quality backlinks influence organic rankings. To ensure you build a strong link profile, consistently check the backlinks of your competitors.
The more competitive your niche is, the more quality backlinks you’ll need from high domain authority websites to rank at the top of the SERPs.
You can check your competitors’ backlinks with an SEO tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush. Head to the Backlink Analysis section in SEMrush or Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. Enter one of your competitors’ domains into the search bar to see a list of their top 10 linking domains.
In this section, you can explore other filter functions to explore your competitors’ backlink profiles more in-depth.
For example, you can filter your results by country, domain type, or anchor text. This filtering gives a better idea of how your competitors get their backlinks and sources.
If they outrank you, you may want to imitate their backlink strategy. You could ask the authoritative websites with your competitors’ backlinks for guest post opportunities. This can help you generate backlinks on those same sites, too.
4) Analyze your competitors’ social media presence
Social media plays a crucial role in content promotion. The more exposure your website content gets on social media, the higher the chances authoritative sites will link to your site. The result? You achieve high search engine rankings.
So, monitor your competitors’ social accounts, too. Determine:
- Posting frequency
- Content forms posted
- Content engagement
Social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite helps you keep tabs on competitors’ posts and engagements across social media. If you see a specific content performing well, you might want to create similar content on your site, and promote it on social media. Chances are, it will do well on social media, too.
You may also complement your social media strategy with email marketing. Give a free offer to your target audience in exchange for their information. Then, distribute your blog post or brand offers through email. The best email marketing software will also help you automate most of these functions.
Use your information to outrank your competitors on Google
You want your website to rank high in Google search engine results pages. But you can’t create a website, make content, and just expect the site to appear at the top of SERPs.
You need to perform SEO competitor analysis to see how your competitors are doing, too. When you know where they stand, you can craft SEO strategies that can help you outrank them.
You learned several ways to perform an SEO competitor analysis:
After curating your list of competitors, run a keyword competitor analysis. This will provide you with a database of keywords including organic keywords and niche keywords for your content strategy.
Then, analyze and understand other key metrics such as their site and content structure, social media strategy and link profiles.
Follow these tips so you’ll understand your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Once you fill the SEO gaps you’ve identified, you’ll outrank your competitors in no time.
Matt Diggity is a search engine optimization expert and the founder and CEO of Diggity Marketing, The Search Initiative, Authority Builders, and LeadSpring LLC. He is also the host of the Chiang Mai SEO Conference.