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.
What is Competitive Analysis in SEO?
Competitive analysis is a fairly simple concept. When it comes to SEO, you want to know what techniques your competitors are using, what keywords are they ranking for, what’s their backlink profile, and what’s working and what’s not.
So competitive analysis is just that. You’re using your competitors as sources of information to better understand the most successful elements of their strategies and how you can incorporate them into your own.
You don’t have to learn from your mistakes; you can learn from them. The process can save you a lot of time and resources, allowing you to build on their existing work and research. Of course, you can expect that your competitors are doing the same to you, iterating on your SEO strategy. This allows you both to look at the existing data with fresh eyes and to continue improving.
Competitor analysis in 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.
Identify your SEO competitors
The first step in a competitive SEO analysis is knowing who your competitors are. The goal of this step of your SEO competitive analysis is to analyze your target competitors based on the search terms you are targeting. This will help you learn more about who you are up against, including:
o Your ongoing business initiatives
o What content drives traffic for them
o How do you position your product in the market?
When dealing with a large number of competitors, this step of a competitive analysis can seem daunting. Technology like Explore in Conductor can give you a bird’s-eye view of the most recent SEO competitor research to see how all of the content in your domain is performing against your competitors. You will be able to discover topics or areas of content where your competitors are outperforming you and vice versa.
Compare your rankings and content with SEO competitors
Then spend time analyzing your target keywords to learn what your top competitors are searching for. You are likely to discover several previously unknown competitors that are matching the SERPs with your top keyword targets. Consider these different types of competitors:
- Direct Competitors – These are likely competitors known to you that provide services/products/software similar to what you offer. For example, let’s say you’re a kitchen supply store that sells some type of kitchen appliance. When you search for this gadget on a search engine like Google, you’ll probably see other retailers for this gadget appear in the results.
- Indirect competitors, including content creators and publishers: These are brands or websites that outperform you and are not your direct competitors. They can be news sources, social networking sites like Pinterest, content creation sites like YouTube, or individual bloggers. Going back to the kitchen gadget example, you can find articles on cooking blogs or online news sites mentioning this type of gadget in the SERPs.
These indirect competitors are always worth considering when doing your competitive analysis. You need to understand where your competitors are outperforming you in the SERPs and what type of content are performing for the keywords you are targeting.
Create or optimize existing content based on your findings
Once you discover the keywords your competitors rank higher for, it’s important to consider whether your site needs to be optimized or if you need new content for SEO. Your site may have technical issues like slow speed or broken links that could hinder your search engine results. Or, you may not have enough high-quality content optimized for conversions.
Google’s algorithm changes periodically. Pages ranked on page 1 this month for one keyword may drop to page two or worse the next. This is why monitoring page rankings and updating content accordingly should be a crucial part of your content and SEO strategy.
Analyze your page rankings for target keywords and look for opportunities to optimize existing content based on your results. Pages that rank on page 2 for your target keywords are usually the best opportunities for optimization. These keywords are called “attack distance” keywords because they have a high potential to generate more traffic if they are better optimized and reach page 1.
If your target keywords are ranking too far out of striking distance, it might be time to create new content that meets the needs of your customers. You can use Conductor’s content tips to help you improve the quality of your content.
When creating new content, look at your competitors’ top-performing content. Then identify ways you can make it significantly better, whether it’s using more recent data to better inform a piece of content, adding images that create more engagement, or going deeper into the topic using more industry knowledge or original research. Then, promote your new content to a similar audience that your competitors are targeting.
This strategy can help you:
o Reach a newly interested audience
o Link you to more sites, some of which may even trade a competitor’s link for your best content on their site
o Establish yourself as an authority in your space
Whether you choose to optimize existing pages or create new content, these strategies can help you rank higher in Google’s SERPs.
Discover content opportunities where you can beat the SEO competition
Address your response to your competitive SEO analysis using the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) framework. Watch:
o The strengths of your competitors or your weaknesses
o Opportunities to replicate your strengths and capitalize on your weaknesses on your own site
o Where your competitors are outperforming you and ways to improve those areas
The most important rule of a successful competitive analysis is to never assume anything. Base your SEO campaign on hard facts from three main channels.
Depending on the size of your site and the number of active competitors, you will want to rerun a competitor analysis every six months to one year. Parts of it you should perform every month to remain competitive. Keep an eye on changes competitors are making so you can react to their strategies quickly.
A competitive analysis will never technically be complete, whether it is watching for new pages, new keywords, or a rise in search features such as featured snippets. As sites evolve and search results evolve, keeping an eye on your competitors means you will hopefully stay one step ahead of them.